Cocktails And Movies’ Take Out Theater: “L.A. Confidential”

by Mike Reyes

In honor of Gravity’s best picture snub, we share with you another snub that deserves immortality 


1998 was the year that movies changed for me. Instead of being something that Dad would have to set aside time to take me to, it became something my friends and I did for fun… so long as he dropped us off, and they us picked up. My tastes started changing (My friends and I were rejected from seeing Dark City, because we forgot you actually had to have your guardian stay with you through the film), my career as a student film reviewer continued to bloom, and it was the first year that I actually watched The Oscars.

This year was a special one though, as I’d seen Titanic and was in awe of the marvel that it created. I was interested in seeing the grand slam it was going to score that night, and it was exciting. You have to understand, at the time I was a bit of a Titanic fan. I’d taken my first girlfriend ever to see it, I actually enjoyed it, and I walked away with a crush on Kate Winslet. All in all, I couldn’t see a reason for the movie not to be rewarded. As time passed, my relationship with said girl broke up and I scrutinize the film a little more. As I look back on who was actually nominated that year, I kind of wonder though: why did Titanic out of all movies sweep as many awards as it did?

Thankfully, two awards were not swept up by the Ship of Dreams, and they were Best Adapted Screenplay and Best Supporting Actress. Those went to Brian Helgeland, Curtis Hanson, and Kim Basinger – respectively; and they earned them for a little movie that I’d get to see once it hit Pay Per View. It would change me If Who Framed Roger Rabbit sparked the fire that made me love Detective Noir stories, L.A. Confidential fanned the flames into a fire strong enough to burn down the whole city of Los Angeles.

La_confidentialThe Film

L.A. Confidential
Directed ByCurtis Hanson
Year Released: 1997
Starring: Russell Crowe, Guy Pearce, Kim Basinger, Kevin Spacey, Danny DeVito, James Cromwell, and David Strathairn
Rating: R
Runtime: 2 hours 18 minutes
Studio: Warner Brothers

L.A. Confidential focuses on Los Angeles in the golden era of the 1950’s. The War had been over for a good half decade, and Cold War paranoia hadn’t ramped up to its height just yet. Behind every doorway, every commercial, every news story’s beautiful facade was something more sinister. This comes out to play as Detectives Bud White (Crowe), Edmond Exley (Pearce), and Jack Vincennes (Spacey) investigate what will be referred to as “The Nite Owl Case.” What looks like an open and shut shootout turns out to be something a whole lot more sinister. Something that leads our heroes to do some very un-heroic things. Something that would involve a high priced call girl (Basinger), her lush life pimp (Strathairn), a gossip pushing gadfly (DeVito) and even Mickey Cohen himself. By the end of this case, not everyone will be out alive, but everyone will have their hands dirtied.

If you need an example of a perfect film, you either come to this or you go to The Shawshank Redemption, because this film is twelve courses of five star cuisine, topped off with the best chocolate mousse you could think of and a bourbon as a night cap. There is not one frame of fat on this picture, as it sets itself up with an effective voice over by DeVito himself, and carries itself through with consistent momentum and panache to finish with a perfect final frame. And sure, you know most of the casts names nowadays, but back in ’98 a lot of them were just breaking in. Russell Crowe and Guy Pearce were two Australian unknowns who made an indelible impression (as Americans) in this film, and Kevin Spacey (fresh off a Best Supporting Actor win for The Usual Suspects) basically made a down payment on his Best Actor Oscar with this performance. This trio radiates brute force, keen intellect, and charm to spare (respectively) and they only further compliment each other’s performances. Even the Supporting Cast, unofficially lead by Basinger, leaves a mark. Characters like Pierce Patchett, Sid Hudgens, Lynn Bracken, and Captain Dudley Smith all glue together this web of intrigue, as our three leads continue to dig into the one case everyone wants to leave closed.


Adapted from the novel by James Ellroy (who crafted a whole series of these narratives surrounding Captain Smith and his boys in blue), Helgeland and Hanson recreate the Los Angeles that we thought existed in the 1950’s, only to show us the imperfect (and sometimes frightening) reality the town embodied. Dante Spinotti’s cinematography paints a film that occupies the crossroads of Film Noir and Reality, borrowing from each and bringing the story to life visually in the lush world of Color. As beautifully as the film was shot, it wouldn’t be half as convincing without Jeanine Oppenwall and Jay Hart’s masterful Art Direction and Set Design. All three were nominated for the big gold guy, and all three were robbed by James Cameron’s historical romance juggernaut. Even legendary composer Jerry Goldsmith, who writes a theme for this film that still stick with me to this day as the official theme of all things Noir, was passed over in favor of a pre-self plagiarizing James Horner.

It’s a shame when movies like L.A. Confidential and Gravity lose out to a film that probably had a bigger Oscar campaign, as well as true story that ties into historical tragedy. But in a unique sense, that’s a victory itself. Neither film will have to justify its victory, but instead will be touted as the underdog that almost made it. After all, everyone questions a Winner. If they didn’t, it wouldn’t be as satisfying to win. Regardless of The Academy’s attitude towards the film, L.A. Confidential is a film whose legacy of excellence will, much like the heart of Celine Dion, go on and on.

To tie into this week’s film

The DrinkFishermans Blood

Fisherman’s Blood

The Drink’s Description, from Fox News Magazine: “…a San Francisco-inspired Bloody Mary complete with clam juice and plenty of horseradish.”


  • 1-1/2 ounces horseradish vodka
  • 3 ounces Clamato-Water Mix
  • 1 ounce lemon juice
  • 2 dashes Tabasco
  • Pickled cherry tomatoes
  • Mustard Powder
  • Old Bay seasoning

Horseradish Vodka:

  • 4 ounces horseradish, shaved with a microplane
  • 1 bottle vodka
  • White peppercorns

Clamato-Water Mix:

  • Tomatoes
  • Clamato
  • Malt vinegar
  • Salt and pepper, to taste


Combine the ingredients for the horseradish vodka in a gallon-size container. Allow to steep for 48 hours, then remove horseradish and peppercorns.

For the Clamato-Water Mix, first blanch the tomatoes and peel. Quarter the tomatoes and place in a food processor. Add a small amount of water and blend. Strain out any solids. To the remaining liquids, add half the amount of Clamato (in relation to the tomato water). Add a spoonful of malt vinegar and 1/4 teaspoon of salt and pepper each, or to taste. Blend thoroughly.

Mix the ingredients of the Fisherman’s Blood in a mixing glass. Add ice and shake gently. Rim a specialty/tulip glass with mixture of salt, pepper, mustard powder and Old Bay. Pour drink into tulip glass. Garnish with a pickled cherry tomato.

Thanks to Fox News Magazine for the awesome recipe, and thanks to all of you for sticking around for another installment of #TakeOutTheater. Have a suggestion for a movie, drink, or pairing we should feature? Send it to us through Facebook, Twitter, the Comments section below, or email us.