This holiday season, Jen and Dave wax sentimental over the meaning of Thanksgiving and the movies that make them most thankful for great cinema, dysfunctional families, good food, jazz hands and witchcraft.
Jen: So, Thanksgiving. The time of year we celebrate family and togetherness and stuff.
Dave: Pie. It's Pie Day.
Jen: Yes, it’s pie and mashed potatoes and stuffing and cranberry sauce day. Unless you're Eli Roth, in which case it means a little something different.
Dave: If you're Eli Roth it means you should be skipping that meal with whoever you were going to be with and working extra hard to get that Thanksgiving slasher movie to MY EYES ASAP. He OWES me that movie. I didn't do anything to merit it, but I feel entitled anyway.
Jen: Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving is made for you: Festivity AND blood in one movie!
Dave: Nothin' else I need except the pie.
Jen: Well, until Roth delivers his holiday treat, what are some films that make us thankful for things that don’t involve bleeding turkeys and killers with giant carving knives?
Dave: White Material. And here's why: Claire Denis is one of the greatest filmmakers alive right now. Her movies cover so much territory, from Beau Travail, which was her adaptation of Herman Melville's Billy Budd, to Trouble Every Day, an allegory about disease and pharmaceutical corporations, to The Intruder, about this guy who travels the world in search of a heart, to 35 Shots of Rum, about this really loving family in Paris. All her movies are tough as nails; whether they're gentle and loving like 35 Shots or brutal like Trouble Every Day was, full of these sexually cannibalistic vampire people.
Jen: Lovely. So this Thanksgiving, Claire Denis is the filmmaker you're most thankful for.
Dave: She makes Art Films. Like Capital “A” Art Films. She's not for everyone. But she's amazing and, on a personal note... I get emails from readers who want to bust me for liking genre films, like horror movies and Nicolas Cage ridiculousness and Jackass but no one ever really says, "Thanks for introducing me to the odd work of Apichatpong Weerasethakul, Dave."
Jen: But you have to believe there's at least ONE person out there thinking it.
Dave: There'd better be. Because here's what I hate, what I'm never thankful for: the mushy middle. Tepid Oscar-bait movies. Dramas where weeping stands in for real emotion. Boring romantic comedies. That stuff is like a dental hygienist scraping your teeth. Give me the low-lows and the high-highs and then I'm happy.
Jen: What movie makes you most thankful for Thanksgiving itself?
Dave: There are none, really. But Planes, Trains and Automobiles is the best.
Jen: You know what movie makes me most thankful for Planes, Trains and Automobiles? DUE DATE. Because Due Date proves you can't just copy the formula and throw in a few jokes and conjure an instant comedy classic.
Dave: Somehow, even though it’s not tied to any holiday I think of Babette's Feast as a sort of Thanksgiving/Christmas-y movie because it has to do with people loving each other with food.
Jen: That, and 9 1/2 Weeks.
Jen: When I was little, the movie that made me thankful for nature was Pocahontas. It taught me to love all the colors of the wind.
Dave: I was a grown man when Pocahontas came out and I had the best argument with some guy about it. He claimed that it was teaching children to be pagans. And after I stopped laughing in his face, I explained to him that he was absolutely correct and that more children needed to run around in Wiccan covens.
Jen: Agreed. Speaking of covens, most movies about Thanksgiving try to make you appreciate your own messed-up families. Pieces of April, Hannah and Her Sisters, Home for the Holidays… each one about a dysfunctional family that still loves and spends the holiday together. The problem with movies about Thanksgiving, though, is that they’re all about families fighting and a lot of them are annoying to watch.
Dave: You know what movie is about Thanksgiving and totally awful? The Myth of Fingerprints. This uptight family has stiffly angry fights at Thanksgiving. A singularly irritating movie. Made me appreciate all the drunkards sitting around listening to Willie Nelson that constituted my own childhood Thanksgivings.
Jen: Looking to this holiday season, I think the best Thanksgiving movie to see with the ones you love… is 127 Hours. The movie that makes you appreciate being able to be with family instead of in some cave hallucinating that they’re there with you. Makes you thankful that you don’t have to cut off your arm to be with the ones you love-hate.
Dave: And I think that the best Thanksgiving movie to see is Unstoppable.
Dave: Unstoppable is a badass movie. It's got train violence, it's got kids in peril, it's got people being dumbly heroic. It's got a REAL derailment. They shot a real train derailing for it. It's very loud. And it made me hungry. When I see a movie that gets me all excited about destruction I wind up hungry.
Jen: If anything, Unstoppable made me appreciate the other upcoming films we can turn off our brains for and still be delighted by. For example: BURLESQUE! In fact, I think one could read Burlesque as a modern-day Pilgrim story.
Dave: I see it in a few days but I'm not enthusiastic about it. I don't think anything about it will make me thankful for anything. But please tell me why you feel this way.
Jen: Xtina is the wholesome girl fresh off the bus/Mayflower making a pilgrimage to the West/Hollywood to learn from wise old dark-haired Cher. They learn to live and sing in harmony and form their own family.
Dave: A dance-family?
Jen: Yes. A sing-song dance family. And instead of bonding over roasted turkey, they share SEQUINS AND JAZZ FINGERS!
Dave: According to this Armenian magazine I once flipped through in my dentist’s office, Cher is like the 7th most powerful Armenian in the world.
Jen: Really? Only the 7th?
Dave: #1 was some business tycoon with an eye patch.
Jen: So this holiday season, we recommend seeing White Material, Unstoppable, Burlesque and 127 Hours.
Dave: But not Tangled. Tangled is a bore. For the 50th Disney animated feature you'd think they would have really pulled out a big gun. But it's kind of an afterthought. It won't make you thankful for Disney.
Jen: Agreed. Tangled will make you thankful for the classic Disney Princess movies that came before.
Dave: Cinderella, Snow White, Sleeping Beauty, Beauty and the Beast. That's the stuff.
Jen: And that other family holiday flick this season, Harry Potter and the Deathly Hallows Pt. 1 will make you thankful for...?
Jen: But of course. This Thanksgiving, eat some turkey and cast a spell with the ones you love the most!