If your Thanksgiving is anything like mine, it will be a sort of festive anarchy of overlapping dishes, competing cooks, excuses to get even more alcohol into the meal (Grand Marnier-infused cranberry sauce, for example), and quality family time.
Such an event requires preparation, not just of the food, but of the mind and body, and we recommend three things to help: a TV, a DVD player, and a good Thanksgiving movie to remind you that it could be worse but is still worth it. The staff here at View the Vibe spent this morning thinking up our favourite Thanksgiving movies to watch before the big hoopla; a great way to enjoy the calm before the storm…
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Most Memorable Line: “You’re f*cked.”
John Hughes wrote and directed this 1987 classic play on the buddy comedy and road trip movie. Starring Steve Martin as a straight-laced and reluctant man stranded in Wichita with the late John Candy, who plays a travelling shower curtain ring salesman. The movie sees these two men inadvertently form a deep friendship, and the plot twist at the end will surely get some misty eyes! Also, watch out for a surprise Kevin Bacon cameo at the beginning, with the most epic of mullets! Hey, it was the ’80s.
Grumpy Old Men
Most Memorable Quote: Pretty much anything Walter Matthau says, but especially this: “Hey, Snyder! Why don’t you do the world a favour and take your lower lip and pull it over your head and swallow?”
Probably one of the best comedic duos in the history of cinema, Walter Matthau and Jack Lemmon take their usual dynamic to new heights in this 1993 film about, well, two very grumpy and very old men. The movie is pretty much non-stop bickering between the two leads, each simply talking over the other until a new neighbour (played by Anne-Margaret) sees them trying to be on their best behaviour, at least while she’s around. There’s plenty of memorable moments in Mark Steven Johnson’s script, but the film is great mostly because of the experience these two leads bring. There just isn’t really anything like ’em, and you should probably just go ahead and watch The Odd Couple while you’re at it.
Hannah and Her Sisters
Most Memorable Quote…
Hannah: Could you have ruined yourself somehow?
Mickey: How could I ruin myself?
Hannah: I don’t know. Excessive masturbation?
Mickey: You gonna start knockin’ my hobbies?
Comedy legend Woody Allen has only recently made a film that reached the box office earnings of Hannah and Her Sisters, which is arguably one of the last films he did before his tumultuous string of lackluster flicks in the ’90s. Taking place mostly around three Thanksgiving dinners, the film is a funny look into family dynamics and classic Woody Allen relationship dysfunction during a very emotional time of year. It’s packed with all the things that make his movies great, especially pseudo-intellectuals experiencing existential crises, but it also finds space to have some great characters. Often considered one of his best, Hannah and Her Sisters is delightful the whole way through.
The Last Waltz
Most Memorable Quote: “This film should be played loud!”
Martin Scorsese’s documentary is a deeply moving look at The Band’s final concert on Thanksgiving Day, 1976. The film is a who’s who of musicians from the sixties and seventies, including Bob Dylan, Muddy Waters, Eric Clapton, and Canada’s own Neil Young, so keep an eye out for these legends and plenty more. If your family loves a musical accompaniment to their Thanksgiving chaos, then having this playing in the background before or after dinner would be a great distraction!
The Blind Side
Most Memorable Quote: “But it’s Thanksgiving!”
This 2009 film is based on the true story of Michael Oher, a homeless boy who now plays for the Baltimore Ravens, and won Sandra Bullock an Oscar for her performance. While Bullock is certainly deserving of the attention, the real star is Quinton Aaron quietly and powerfully depicting Oher. Our memorable quote comes from the Thanksgiving dinner scene (which makes our own Editor-in-Chief cry every time) that captures how Oher’s presence in his new family helps bring them together: Bullock’s character turns off the TVs and, despite initial protest, makes the family have a nice meal together. Much of the holidays can pass us by in what we take for granted, mainly family and friends, but these sorts of scenes can remind us why the celebrations are necessary. (And we’ll end the love affair with sentimentality there, before we start looking like this T-shirt…)
Home for the Holidays
Most Memorable Quote: “Nobody means what they say on Thanksgiving, Mom. You know that. That’s what the day’s supposed to be all about, right? Torture.”
Perhaps this will hit a little too close to home, but this Jodie Foster-helmed look at a Thanksgiving dinner is wonderful for its accuracy. Fans of films like American Splendor will delight in the flick’s insistence on being quite mundane compared to Hollywood’s usual melodrama (which is probably why it didn’t fare so well with critics). Expect plenty of bickering and questioning why we insist on spending time with our families, but also great performances by the star-studded cast, including a young Claire Danes, Robert Downey Jr., and a complicated Holly Hunter.
Scent of a Woman
Most Memorable Quote: “Hoo-ah!”
Another critically acclaimed film, Scent of a Woman tells the story of a young student who, in order to earn enough money to go home for Christmas, spends Thanksgiving weekend looking after a blind retired Army Ranger, played by an absolutely captivating Al Pacino. The film is a powerful look into the questionable class politics of schooling in the States, but also a life-affirming look at people who are often ignored. Pacino won an Academy Award for his role, and his speech is sure to put your heart in your stomach.
The Ice Storm
Most Memorable Quote…
Philip Edwards: Perhaps you find in books what I try to find in people.
Elena Hood: That sounds vaguely like an insult.
I would not describe this film as uplifting in any sense of the word, but Ang Lee’s The Ice Storm uses the director’s continued exploration of the complexity and subtlety of human emotion. Every character is someone you will want to scream at right up until the end, mostly because they are all emotionally frozen (I wouldn’t call it the most subtle of films, but still), but their story is rather powerful and emotionally resonant. Plus, my inner comic book geek loves the constant references to the Fantastic Four by Tobey Maguire’s neurotic character, Paul Wood.
Pieces of April
Most Memorable Quote: “This way, instead of April showing up with some new piercing or some ugly new tattoo and, God forbid, staying overnight, this way, we get to show up, experience the disaster that is her life, smile through it, and before you know it, we’re on our way back home.”
I know, I know, a film with Katie Holmes as the lead on a best movie list? But trust me, Pieces of April has everything you need in a Thanksgiving movie, all told in little delightful snippets (vignettes for the pretentious). Watching Katie Holmes’ April try to cook a Thanksgiving dinner without an oven is genuinely hilarious, but the clash between the suburban family and the Big City is what I remember Pieces of April for. Roger Ebert was also a fan, saying the movie “has a lot of joy and quirkiness; it’s well-intentioned in its screwy way, with flashes of human insight, and actors who can take a moment and make it glow.” Now why wouldn’t you want to watch that?
Most Memorable Quote: “I can’t believe it. She must think I’m the most stupid person alive.”
What holiday is complete without watching the shaky lines and lives of Charles Schultz’s Peanuts gang? Starring all the usual kids, from mopey Charlie Brown to the tomboyish Peppermint Patty. The movie opens with a Peanuts staple, with Charlie Brown again failing to kick a football. One of the best things about the Peanuts cartoon specials is their familiarity– it’s like meeting up with old friends, which is really one of the best things about Thanksgiving.