Happy Prohibition Repeal Day! One year from now will be the 75th anniversary of the ratification of the 21st Amendment, which lifted the ban on manufacturing, distributing and selling alcohol in the United States. Always a fan of pre-gaming, I've decided to start celebrating early with a look at some favorite movies that celebrate wine, beer and liquor.
Certainly I am no fan of alcoholism, and I encourage all Americans to drink responsibly. That is why most of these movies (not all, though) are about the appreciation of the taste of alcoholic beverages rather than about getting drunk. Also, I'm sorry to disappoint fans of Strange Brew, but that hilarious brewery-set comedy was shot in Canada and so it doesn't seem to fit the focus of this list.
Sideways (Alexander Payne, 2004)
Imagine what California's wine country would be like if Prohibition were still around. Whatever would be there in place of vineyards would sure be a waste. Just ask Miles (Paul Giamatti), everyone's favorite wine
American Beer (Paul Kermizian, 2004)
This little-seen yet very entertaining documentary (or "bockumentary" as it calls itself) follows five guys as they travel America to tour the country's breweries. Well, it avoids the big name beers, sticking instead to the craft beer industry. In addition to showing you the insides and outs of great-tasting beer-makers like Magic Hat, Brooklyn, Abita, Dogfish Head and Sierra Nevada, it also gives a lot of general background and history on brewpubs, microbreweries and other independent beer businesses. To me, this is the reason we repealed Prohibition: delicious beverages that are to be enjoyed rather than cheap stuff drunk merely to get intoxicated.
The Public Enemy (William Wellman, 1931)
Speaking of cheap stuff made just to get you wasted, imagine not having any choice in what kind of beer you get to drink -- or sell. This is my personal favorite of the '30s gangster movies centered on bootlegging, as it best illustrates the other good reason for repealing Prohibition: "beer and blood -- blood of men!", as Donald Cook shouts at James Cagney regarding his criminal business of distributing contraband brew. Made a year prior to FDR's campaign promise to end Prohibition, The Public Enemy may have contributed favorably to the debate.
Cocktail (Roger Donaldson, 1988)
A guilty pleasure, sure, but no movie celebrates bartenders better than this silly movie starring Tom Cruise as a bottle-tossing smoothie. He almost makes it more enjoyable to buy a drink than to consume one. Nowadays, it's easy to forget we once liked Cruise, and hopefully his insane antics haven't made anyone forget to appreciate the men and women serving us the good stuff. Remember to tip well!
The Thin Man (W.S. Van Dyke, 1934)
Thanks to the repeal of Prohibition, Nick and Nora Charles (William Powell and Myrna Loy) were able to freely enjoy their booze. And enjoy it they did! I think only a Dean Martin movie has more alcohol consumption than a Thin Man movie (there's six, plus a television series). But despite the couple's penchant to get tipsy, they never get too incompetent to solve a mystery.
The Big Lebowski (Joel and Ethan Coen, 1998)
Another mystery movie with an alcohol-loving "detective", The Big Lebowski probably has the honor of boosting sales of White Russians (or Caucasians) in this country and elsewhere. I somehow doubt any other movie has been so favorable to an alcoholic beverage -- except any 007 movie's promotion of martinis, of course.
Superbad (Greg Mottola, 2007)
OK, so this is one of those movies that celebrates alcohol in a bad way. Teens attempting to buy/acquire alcohol in order to get drunk, and maybe even get laid as a result of others' being drunk. But it's a perfect depiction of what we all go through at a time before we learn about the good stuff. Oh wait, I forgot that many people unfortunately don't grow out of it. Still, I experienced a lot of laughs thinking about how I used to drink a lot of hard lemonade when I was younger. An obvious substitution for Superbad would be Dazed and Confused.