What’s the most important part of the holidays? As far as I’m concerned, the answer is always food. Sure, there’s all that giving of thanks and a sense of family togetherness, but what would that be without turkey? I acknowledge that this would be more appropriate a topic for Thanksgiving, as I had initially planned it, but The Muppets proved too distracting. With Christmas on Sunday and everyone planning to eat until they collapse (be it from glazed ham or potato latkes), it seems like another good moment to indulge in some culinary cinema. the
Here are five fantastic films about food, often entirely ridiculous and usually delectable enough to whet your appetite. And if you stick around, I’ll even include a couple of my favorite Christmas-themed short films.
Meltdown, by David Green
Short filmmaker David Green really understands the comic potential of food. His recent Ham Sandwich is a hilarious tale of time travel and deli meats that you should absolutely take the time to watch. However, I’ve got a bigger place in my heart for his first film, 2009’s Meltdown. With David Cross as a heroic ham sandwich, Green takes us inside a refrigerator to find a climate crisis. Someone has set the fridge to the coolest setting, and a terrifying glacier from the freezer is descending upon the unfortunate foods below. Once an orange gets sucked into the chill, everyone panics:
A Matter of Loaf and Death, by Nick Park
Wallace and Gromit are great lovers of food. From their very first appearance they’ve been on the hunt for the best cheeses, even going as far as the moon (made of Wensleydale) in A Grand Day Out. Most recently, however, they found themselves in the bread business. 2008’s Oscar-nominated A Matter of Loaf and Death combines their distinctive sense of culinary humor with the excitement of a murder mystery. Complete with complex stop-motion baking contraptions and endless silly jokes, this is another great showing from Aardman Animation.
Hunger, by Peter Foldès
In the midst of this celebration of ham and cheeses, here’s a brief diversion into a darker portrayal of joyful gluttony. This creative Canadian short from 1973 is a sharp satire of consumerist values, showing one man’s descent into greed and excess. The more he eats the larger he gets, though without the absurd humor of Monty Python-esque obesity. The hypnotic electronic soundtrack blends with the eerie visuals, a very early use of computer animation. Harrowing and more than a little scary, Hunger is a dark reminder of our sometimes mismanaged priorities and indulgences.
Food, by Jan Švankmajer
This strange and biting satire is one of my all-time favorite short films. Jan Švankmajer is the master of creative stop-motion animation and has inspired countless other filmmakers, from Terry Gilliam to the Brothers Quay. Made in 1992 just before the dissolution of his native Czechoslovakia, Food is a critique of the mechanistic socialist system that had governed East Central Europe for decades. Švankmajer divides his point into three segments: Breakfast, Lunch and Dinner. Each has its own eccentric idea, but all of them possess the same confrontational imagery and sharp wit. While conceived in the 1970s and produced two decades ago, it still strikes home today.
Food Fight, by Stefan Nadelman
I didn’t initially intend for this post to become a celebration of stop-motion animation, but in hindsight it really seems inevitable. Why hire actors when you can just let the food perform for itself? This particular short takes that to the next level, using food as a stand in for entire national armies. Food Fight sends cheeseburgers, pretzels and kebabs flying at each other with unexpected violence to illustrate almost a century of international conflict. It’s inspired, well executed, and exceptionally creative. (The animator/director has also put a cheat-sheet of who’s who up on the short’s webpage.)
Treevenge, by Jason Eisener
What if Christmas trees are actually sentient beings that we brutally enslave every year without realizing the terrifying implications? Frankly, I’m surprised there isn’t a larger environmental outcry against this deforestation. Talented and mildly deranged Canadian filmmaker Jason Eisener directed this grindhouse-style short to answer that burning question. Subtitling the shrieking trees to document their agony, Treevenge’s somewhat slow-burning first half bursts into sudden carnage once the trees finally decide to take their vicious revenge on humankind. Typically hilarious, extremely violent and in my opinion more fun than Eisener’s Hobo with a Shotgun, this will be the most raucous 16 minutes of your holiday.
Peace on Earth, by Hugh Harman
Rudolph be damned, this is the greatest American Christmas-themed animation. The premise: in a post-apocalyptic world, cute little animals still celebrate the holiday even though there are no humans left. And so when two young squirrels reach the lyric “peace on earth, good will to men” in “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing,” they’re a little confused. What are men? Their elderly rodent grandfather tells the story of humanity’s extinction, a tale of self-destruction filled with the horrific imagery of World War One. Less blatantly religious than the inferior 1955 remake and more powerfully animated, Peace on Earth is a classic of the form.