image

Next Wednesday is March 17th, a.k.a. St. Patrick's Day. In its native country, Ireland, it's both a religious holiday commemorating the life of the nation's patron saint and - not until more recently than you'd think - an official celebration of cultural heritage and national pride.

Where I'm from, on the other hand, (The United States, specifically Boston, Mass.,) it's a holiday where we - regardless of Irish descent or lack thereof - write ourselves a license to engage in acts of public drunkenness without fear of social reprisal as a tribute to archaic ethnic-caricatures of Irish-American culture.

It's in this spirit (and the spirit of not really wanting to write the 951st Oscar Recap piece anyone will have read by this point) that I bring you this brief list of the Five Best Drinking Movies of All Time. Perhaps they will aid in your own St. Paddy's revelry in the coming days. Providing you're conscious, of course.

#5. Beerfest (2006)

This almost feels like cheating, since everything about Beerfest, from its 80s guy-comedy channeling to its very title are evocative of a film that exists for no other reason than to appear on lists like this. I should find something more clever, less well-known, less obvious at least... but, damn it, the thing is just too funny. A send-up of underground sports movies from the Broken Lizard comedy troupe, it follows a team of Americans as they prepare to compete in a high-stakes drinking game competition in Germany. There's a running subplot about ancient family conflicts over a stolen recipe for a legendary beer recipe, but the main draw is seeing games of quarters, beer pong and the like treated like something out of Bloodsport. It's not quite as good as Club Dread - I.M.O. the Lizard crew's high water mark, but it's pretty damn close at points.

#4. The Thin Man (1934)

Ask your grandparents about this one. Based on the final novel of detective fiction legend Dashiell Hammett, it's a comedic mystery with William Powell and Myrna Loy as the husband and wife team of Nick and Nora Charles - he a retired detective, she a wealthy socialite - who solve a murder mostly against their will, and largely to amuse themselves. That's more or less the "hook" of the whole enterprise: Nick and Nora are comfortably wealthy, deliriously in love and really don't want to do much more than flit about in luxury, trade witty banter, screw like wild monkeys (presumably; this is, after all, a movie from the early 30s so you have to read between the lines) and imbibe a rather astonishing amount of high-end cocktails.

That last part is why it's on the list, of course, but also what makes this particular movie franchise (in its day one of the most popular of all film series) so fascinating to revisit. Today, of course, just about everyone will recognize Nick and Nora as (at best) what you'd call "functioning alcoholics," but in 1934 the concept of alcoholism as a disease (as opposed to just another symptom of poor behavior in the lower classes) was largely alien to Western culture. Alcoholics Anonymous wouldn't be founded until a year later, and it would take almost a decade before it was taken seriously. As such, what was in its day an exceptionally well-refined rendering of what was an expected behavior of the leisure class (i.e., the Charleses are too well-off for their boozing to hurt them) is somehow funnier today, where one can easily recognize them as the wealthy progenitors of every "substance-abusing-accidental-heroes" duo from Cheech and Chong to Harold and Kumar.

This was so popular in its day that they made five sequels, and they're all pretty good for the most part (though the alcohol consumption eventually reduced greatly as society changed post-WWII.) I know there's a wholly understandable hesitancy to hit up much older movies, but believe it or not most popular cinema made before the late 40s actually plays much more modern than stuff made in the 50s and early 60s. One of these days that'll be an article of its own, but for now give this series a look and see for yourself.

RELATED CONTENT
Comments on