Ah, Turkey Day ... my house smells like roasted turkey (although my enthusiasm for eating turkey today has been dampened somewhat by my five-year-old demanding a detailed explanation about just how exactly two happy, alive turkeys with friends and families, dreams and goals, became turkey corpses sitting in buckets of brine in our lean-to laundry room). The pineapple is perfectly suspended in its lime-green gelatin home, the yams are ready to be immersed in butter and brown sugar and pumpkin pie spice -- and I'm slurping down my second coffee of the morning, and banging out this post for you before I get elbows deep in the dressing. I was pondering last night how many movies -- not just movies with Thanksgiving dinner as the centerpiece, but just in general -- have pivotal scenes or themes around eating.
Kevin posted his fave "films for foodies" earlier today, but in honor of a day set aside for stuffing ourselves silly, I thought I'd offer up a little round-up of some of my own favorite movies that focus on eating in slightly unexpected ways. When you're done eating Thanksgiving dinner, why not cozy up with one of these films? They're sure to keep you more awake than yet another football game.
1. House of Yes -- This totally twisted 1997 film is one of my favorite Parker Posey films. Posey stars as a mentally unbalanced young woman called "Jackie-O" due to her obsession with the former First Lady. It's Thanksgiving 1983, and Jackie-O is excited because her twin brother, Marty, is coming home for the Thanksgiving Dinner and bringing a friend. When the friend turns out to be Lesly (Tori Spelling), Marty's new fiancee, Jackie-O is less than pleased, because she wants Marty all to herself -- in a "special" way. The scene where Jackie-O and Marty re-enact the Kennedy assassination in a truly unholy way is one of the funniest darkly comedic scenes in any movie, ever. Spelling, who you might think would be the weak link here, is surprisingly good (actually, I really liked her series NoTORIous, too). If she'd kept herself on the indie film path and kept learning and growing, she might have ended up with a nice little career as a real actress.
2. Shaun of the Dead -- If you're feeling overwhelmed getting your house ready for hoards of relatives to come over and eat in 20 minutes the food it took you hours to painstakingly prepare, chill out with a viewing of my favorite zombie film, Shaun of the Dead. Your day may be stressful, but at least you aren't running from flesh-eating zombies and watching your own mother turn into one. For added fun, give your Thanksgiving feast a zombie theme! Your relatives may never come to your house for the holidays again.
3. 301,302 - Speaking of cannibalism, this South Korean bizzaro horror flick directed by Park Cheol-Su is one of my fave weird films. Story features an anorexic woman and her neighbor, a chef, who strike up an odd friendship. The anorectic can't eat anything her neighbor prepares; ultimately, the chef, at her neighbor's behest, prepares a very ... special dish. I always feel hungry after watching this film. And yes, I do find that rather disturbing.
4. Festen (The Celebration) -- This isn't exactly one of your uplifting films, but if you've got the whole family in the house, and your family has any deep, dark secrets, this might be just the film to bring them out. A family gathers at the hotel they own with lots of friends to celebrate the 60th birthday of the family patriarch. One daughter has just committed suicide, and her twin brother has come to the celebration with an agenda -- to confront his father about the long-kept secret that led to his sister's death. It's dark and a little depressing, but the tension and pacing are perfection, the acting is top-notch, and the ending, which takes place over at the big birthday dinner, is deeply satisfying. If you've never caught this excellent Norwegian Danish* film, Thanksgiving might be just the time for it.
5. What's Eating Gilbert Grape -- This early Johnny Depp flick (post-Edward Scissorhands, pre-Donnie Darko), which also features Leonardo DiCaprio in a performance that marked him as a future "serious actor", centers around a family matriarch, once a beautiful woman, who is slowly eating herself to death. Gilbert Grape (Depp) cares for both his extremely obese mother and his mentally handicapped little brother, Arnie (DiCaprio); enter first love in the form of Becky (Juliette Lewis), and Gilbert finds his life turned upside down. Simple story, great characters, and fantastic performances by everyone involved, make this a must-see film if you've never seen it, and a film you can watch over and over if you have.
6. The Silence of the Lambs -- There's nothing like a little Hannibal Lector to liven up the holidays. The Silence of the Lambs is one of my favorite horror films ever ("It must rub the lotion on its skin!"), anchored by strong performances from both Jodie Foster and Anthony Hopkins. Hopkins is great as the highly intelligent, perfectly civilized doctor -- who just happens to like a little human flesh with his fava beans and a nice Chianti. This is one of the few horror flicks I can watch over and over again and never get tired of.
7. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving -- Okay, this one's a gimme, but it's great to have on hand to keep the pack of children occupied until dinner's ready. Everyone's favorite closet lesbian, Peppermint Patty, invites herself over to ol' Chuck's house for a truly unforgettable Thanksgiving meal. Just don't be surprised if your kids try to convince you that popcorn and marshmellows are perfectly reasonable dishes for your own Thanksgiving feast.
*Thanks to sharp-eyed reader Ben for pointing out that Festen is, in fact, Danish and not Norwegian. Our deepest apologies to Norway and Denmark for getting them confused.