Friday, 23 November 2012

November's Monthly Five

As a Brit I have always been inrigued by Thanksgiving as it is obviously not something I have ever celebrated which is why I have to rely on the medium of film to find out what it's all about.  So to celebrate Thanksgiving here is my top five Thanksgiving films.

5. The Ice Storm (1997)

Ang Lee directs this tale of a Thanksgiving in 1973 suburban Connecticut.  The narrative follows two dysfunctional families as they navigate through the changing political and societal changes of the early 1970s. The way they deal with said changes involved alcohol, adultery and sexual experimentation and thus lead to an entertaining and dramatic piece of film making.

It is a very interesting film and has a fantastic cast made up of Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tobey Maguire, Christina Ricci and Elijah Wood.  It also stars the fabulous Allison Janney who is brilliant as the hostess of the key party.  It is very funny, smart and interesting and worth a watch.

4. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)

Planes, Trains and Automobiles is a 1987 John Hughes comedy starring Steve Martin and John Candy.  Martin plays Neal Page a stressed out advertising executive who meets Candy's Del Griffith a sweet, talkative shower curtain ring salesman.  The two end up on a three day travelling trip from New York City to Chicago so Neal can spend Thanksgiving with his family.  

John Hughes was a great writer, director and producer and this Thanksgiving tale is no exception.  It is a very funny comedy as to be expected but what makes this film better than the average comedy is that Hughes gives the characters real depth and something for the audience to connect to.  A very sweet film with great humour and perfect for a relaxed Thanksgiving viewing. 

3. Hannah and her Sisters (1986)

A Woody Allen film from 1986 which follows a large family over the period of two years with the film starting and ending with a Thanksgiving dinner.  The cast is unbelievable in this film which is vast and includes Woody Allen himself as usual.  Other actors include Michael Caine, Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey, Dianne Wiest, Carrie Fisher, Max Von Sydow and Julia Louis-Dreyfuss as well as many others.

An interesting exploration of families and relationships and has all the signature Allen moments of dialogue heavy intellectual debate and awkward moments.  This film is widely seen as Woody Allen's best film, it is well worth a watch and is an interesting and enjoyable film.    

2. What's Cooking? (2000)

What's Cooking? is a British/American co-production comedy-drama directed by Gurinda Chadha .  The film follows four separate families during the Thanksgiving festivities and has a large ensemble cast made up of Mercedes Ruehl, Kyra Sedgwick, Julianna Marguilies, Joan Chen, Dennis Haysbert and the brilliant Alfre Woodard.  The thing I find so interesting about this film is that the four families are ethnically diverse which Chadha is known to show in her films such as Bend it Like Beckham and Bhaji on the Beach.  Here we have a Vietnamese, Latino, Jewish and African American families all celebrating the holiday in their own way.

Obviously when families come together for the holidays in films you expect the sparks to flair and each family have their own issues to deal with which leads to hilarity and an enjoyable film to watch.

1. Home for the Holidays (1995)

Home for the Holidays is a brilliant comedy drama from 1995 directed by Jodie Foster about a family celebrating Thanksgiving.  The children are grown up and are all now adults with problems of their own which they bring back with them and inevitably lead to comedic and dramatic moments.

The Larson family are the definition of dysfunctional but there is also a lot of affection there too.  The cast is made up of high quality actors Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr, Anne Bancroft and Charles Durning.  When a film's director has a background is acting you are generally assured to get an exploration of character and an actor's film.  One demonstration of this is that they are believable as a family and you get a sense of in jokes within shared looks between family members that give the characters depth.  Another reason this film got the number one spot was the way Robert Downey Jr's character is represented.  Downey plays Tommy the son who is gay but what I love about this film is that it is not what defines his character and it is rather his personality traits that the family have issue with.  It is refreshing when films do this and in 1995 when there were less gay characters in mainstream cinema this is no small feat.  Jodie Foster does a great job directing a talented cast and the result is an enjoyable and entertaining Thanksgiving movie.

Honourable Mentions to: Grumpy Old Men (1993) and Scent of a Woman (1992).  

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