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Give Thanks for Cinema: Great Films about Food


Give Thanks for Cinema: Great Films about Food


Words by Kelsey Salamone

Screen Shot 2012-11-22 at 6.41.48 PM

It's Thanksgiving Recess, and we BU students have suddenly found ourselves with some much needed free time. And while I'm sure that most of us are planning on cooking during the next few days, if you find you can't fit some culinary time into your schedule (or just don't have the energy), don't worry! You can always get your food fix another way -- by watching some of my favorite movies about cooking. First of all, if you're stuck babysitting your cousins over Thanksgiving, you can't go wrong with "Ratatouille," a delightful Pixar film about a talking rat named Remy who is able to achieve his lifetime dream of cooking in Paris by befriending a garbage boy named Linguini. And although the animated picture might seem childish (it definitely qualifies as "family friendly") I promise that you'll enjoy watching it too.

A similarly heartwarming film is "Julie and Julia," a movie which addresses both the life of famous chef Julia Child, and that of the more obscure Julie Powell. A struggling writer living in New York, one year Powell decides to cook every recipe in Child's classic Mastering the Art of French Cooking, along the way having struggles and successes that are similar to those Child experienced while studying in France. In "Julie and Julia" both Meryl Streep (who plays Child, and received an Academy Award nomination for the role), and Amy Adams (Powell) deliver great performances, and ultimately the film brims with an appreciation for food and the enjoyment of eating.

I'm sure that most of you have heard of "Julie and Julia" and "Ratatouille," though -- they're recent hits. A great, older film about the restaurant business is "Big Night," which depicts the life of two brothers, chef Primo (played by Tony Shalloub) and restaurant manager Secondo (Stanley Tucci), as they run their failing Italian restaurant, "Paradise." In the end, "Big Night" is a drama with wonderful comedic interludes, and a must-see for anyone who is a fan of Italian food.

Another drama about the restaurant business is the great independent film,  "Dinner Rush." Starring Danny Aiello and Edoardo Ballerini as a father and son pair in Tribeca, the film takes place in one tense evening in their restaurant as cuisine mashes with organized crime, and is marvelously dramatic for being so relatively unknown.

But maybe you want some real drama--instead of scripted action? Try the documentary "A Matter of Taste," a ridiculously developed film that depicts a decade of British chef Paul Liebrandt's career, as he continually struggles to find work and cook sophisticated cuisine in New York City.

Another documentary about the restaurant business is "El Bulli: Cooking in Progress," about the strange methods of notoriously odd chef Ferran Adrià, the owner of the famous elBulli restaurant (now closed), and his efforts to create a completely unique menu before his restaurant's next season.

But perhaps you want a documentary that you can relate to? How about "Pressure Cooker," a movie that's not about professional chefs, but high school students. "Cooker" depicts the life of Wilma Stephenson, a teacher of a high school culinary class in Philadelphia, who is harsh when pushing her students to improve, but ultimately helps them receive scholarships for college.

Another great documentary flick is "Step Up to the Plate," a film about famous French chef Michel Bras, owner of the Bras hotel-restaurant, who is preparing to hand over his business to his son, Sebastien.

A film that similarly deals with family and the restaurant business is the documentary "Jiro Dreams of Sushi," which depicts the life of 85-year-old sushi master Jiro Ono and his two sons as he begins to consider retirement.

And if those images of sushi make your mouth water, and you feel like watching more movies about asian cuisine, try the classic "Eat Drink Man Woman." A Taiwanese film directed by Academy Award winner Ang Lee, "Eat Drink Man Woman" tells the tale of a master chef and his three unmarried daughters, and how their family dynamic changes as the women form new relationships.

Or if you have a sweet tooth, why not try the delectable yet tense "Kings of Pastry," in which French chefs compete for the Meilleur Ouvrier de France, a prestigious craftsmen award. In the end, the dramatic documentary proves that baking is not an inferior form of cooking, but in fact a complicated and thrilling art.

Another film that you could consume for dessert is the classic, romance flick "Chocolat," in which a young mother (Juliette Binoche) opens up a chocolaterie in a small French town, in the process changing the lives of its residents and falling for a gypsy named Roux (Johnny Depp).

One other movie that contains desserts and romance is the dramedy "Waitress," about a woman named Jenna (Keri Russell) who works as a waitress and is unhappily married to an abuser named Earl (Jeremy Sisto), but makes a connection with her doctor, Jim (Nathan Fillion), after she learns that she is pregnant. Oh, and along the way she bakes a lot of delicious looking pies!

My final recommendation, and another chick flick about food, is the German film "Mostly Martha," (later remade into the inferior American "No Reservations"), about a dedicated female chef whose life begins to unravel when she is forced to take in her niece and deal with a new, unconventional sous-chef.

And if none of these options sound appealing, you can always just choose a classic -- all 23, nostalgic minutes of "A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving" are currently on YouTube.