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Overrated/Underrated: Thanksgiving Themed Films

November 23, 2010

Family, both precious and burdensome, as seen in the Thanksgiving Day themed film The Ice Storm

Thanksgiving is merely days away. Soon there will be twitter feeds filled with bitterness, cooking disasters and hopefully a few cogent moments of true gratitude. In any event, it’s time to sift through the myriad of classic turkey day themed films in order to reward/punish a few of them. Enjoy.

Underrated

The Ice Storm – Ang Lee – cast: Kevin Kline, Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Toby Maguire, Christina Ricci, Elijah Wood

Nothing goes better with leftover turkey and fixings than a heartwarming entry from The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Ordinary People™ genre! The Ice Storm – the film adaptation of a Rick Moody novel (I know, right. It totally smells like a Russell Banks novel, except well Banks’ novels usually aren’t peppered with sharply drawn humor) – tells the story of two, affluent nice white families in Connecticut (no less) slowly melting down as many of the early 70s excesses finally make it to the suburbs. The Ice Storm is adept at getting the audience to care about extremely comfortable characters’ whose misery is largely self inflicted – a hallmark of The Unbearable Whiteness of Being Ordinary People™ genre – while also feeling smug at their reversals of fortune. But by far the most compelling reason to view the film is the fateful late night rendezvous between Elijah Woods’ character and a guardrail. Though I suppose that depends entirely on how one feels about Mr. Woods.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles – John Hughes – cast: Steve Martin and John Candy

From the hilarious cameo of Hughes’ previous leading man – Kevin Bacon – to the poignant final scene, which is set unforgettably to Blue Room’s rendition of “Every Time You Go Away” (written by Daryl Hall, people!) this movie is charming. Sure, Martin is at his absolute snarky worst, but he’s not the heart of the film, nor the the character, which the audience is asked to identify with. That job is for John Candy, who gives a truly incredibly performance as Del. Seriously, if the the last scene doesn’t make you shed a few big, juicy happy tears, I just don’t know what to tell you. RIP Johns Candy and Hughes!

OVERRATED

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving

I adore Charlie Brown cartoons as much as the next person, but I can really do without the yearly reminder that Thanksgiving is a time to reflect on our blessings and the joys of pet ownership; even if those pets happen to serve you toast, pretzels and popcorn for T-day dinner. Every time the scene of Charlie Brown ranting about the food comes on, “Where’s the mashed potatoes?” I feel like reaching through the screen, grabbing him by his potato head and saying, “What do you expect from a dog and a bird?” Good grief!!!

Home for the Holidays – Jodie Foster – cast: Holly Hunter, Charles Durning and so forth

Harnessing the awesome power of every joke uttered by an Evening at the Improv comedian doing a Thanksgiving themed bit, famed thespian Jodie Foster helms this overcooked turkey. No gravy can cover the taste of this bad meat. Nor can the impressive cast salvage the wreckage. If Clue and Noises Off were set at a Thanksgiving day feast, Home for the Holidays is the likely, unlikable result.

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15 Comments leave one →
  1. aliciamaud permalink
    November 23, 2010 8:51 pm

    I drove an hour from where I was living lonely in VT to see the Ice Storm, solo. Watching the movie made me freezing cold, so I bought a hot tea on the way out and walked out of the dark theater and into…an ice storm. It was a brutal ride home concentrating on the drive and remembering flashes of the Nixon mask and Ricci’s perfect and pudgy little digits around her dad’s neck for what I supposed would be her last piggyback ride/little girl moment. I haven’t watched again for fear it would cloud that first-view experience.

  2. November 23, 2010 10:38 pm

    Toby’s growing up fast… he’s not up to his Spiderman physique, but clearly the pants aren’t keeping up with his growth spurt!

  3. November 23, 2010 10:39 pm

    @Redlami. LOL. Yeah, those pants are seriously high.

  4. November 23, 2010 10:46 pm

    No Pieces of April, Katie Holmes shout out?

  5. November 23, 2010 10:50 pm

    Here’s one. I adore Pieces of April, finding it neither overrated nor underrated, for the purposes of this blog series.

  6. November 23, 2010 10:53 pm

    remembering flashes of the Nixon mask and Ricci’s perfect and pudgy little digits around her dad’s neck for what I supposed would be her last piggyback ride/little girl moment. I haven’t watched again for fear it would cloud that first-view experience.

    I have found subsequent viewings of The Ice Storm to be less challenging experience than the first viewing. For starters, the spoilers are a lot easier to take if you know they are coming and it’s easier to drink in the fine performances of Kevin Kline, who deserved another Oscar, and Joan Allen who deserves an Oscar.

  7. November 24, 2010 12:28 am

    Pieces of April is the first movie that comes to mind when I think Thanksgiving movies, which I thought was cute despite Katie Holmes being there- the rest of the cast is just so great (despite the eye-searing whiteness).

    I STILL haven’t seen Planes, Trains, and Automobiles but I guess I really should get on that!

  8. hsofia permalink
    November 24, 2010 1:17 am

    I liked Katie Holmes in Pieces of April. It’s a good little film. And I like that Derek Luke’s character doesn’t die, which I was terrified would happen (the first time I saw it).

  9. November 24, 2010 8:30 am

    The Charlie Brown Thanksgiving special is TERRIBLE. I rewatched it a few years ago and realized it’s truly one of the lesser holiday specials, right up there with Arbor Day.

    But sorry, I love Home for the Holidays. I watch it every year, every time it’s on TV, I don’t get tired of it. And you perfectly explain it: If Clue and Noises Off were set at a Thanksgiving day feast, Home for the Holidays is the likely, unlikable result. ….because I love both Clue and Noises Off! I know lots of people who still have never seen it, so it’s hard for me to think of it as too overrated, Also, growing up, people in my youth group used to watch Planes Trains and Automobiles ten times a year and quote it endlessly, so that one is personally overrated in my life.

  10. November 24, 2010 1:21 pm

    Now, you know I love me some Clue and Noises Off. I do like Home for the Holidays, though every year someone thinks they’ve reinvented the wheel by making the “inspired” suggestion that it be screened immediately after Thanksgiving dinner. Maybe that’s my problem with it.

  11. November 24, 2010 1:23 pm

    I also enjoyed Pieces of April, but like hsofia, my enjoyment was tempered because I was worried about Derek Luke’s character–it seemed just the plot twist most movies would go for. I pictured a slow-motion sequence cutting back and forth between April’s Thanksgiving preparations and her boyfriend’s demise. Thankfully, the movie didn’t go for the cliche I conjured up in my head.

    Am I mistaken, or is Katie Holmes in both Ice Storm and Pieces of April? She needs one more Thanksgiving movie to have it be a trend in her career, I guess!

  12. November 24, 2010 1:42 pm

    @popscribblings – yes, she’s in both. I think The Ice Storm was her feature film debut!

  13. IrishUp permalink
    November 24, 2010 3:27 pm

    I lovelovelove A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving with the firey passion of a child being allowed to stay up late for hir first TV special. Alas fellow Fryers, I had hoped we would always be of one mind! Snoopy’s fight with the lawn chair is pure comedy gold (and a fairly decent representation of me with any folding chair at any time), and I only recently realized that my family’s traditional T-Day menu contains all the dishes in Peppermint Pattie’s rant. Speaking of; Snarky, I don’t recall CB yelling at Snoopy – he and Linus determine right away that all they know how to make is popcorn and toast. Were you thinking of PPs rant when she shows up to the dinner?

    OTOH, I would consider P, T & A overrated for reasons similar to raymondj – far too many people in my social circle consider it A LOT more funny & quoteable than I ever have.

    I guess I would include “Alice’s Restaurant” as underrated. Ok, it’s uneven, and it doesn’t have a well defined theme or message. I can live with that. It makes me laugh, it makes me cry, it makes me love Arlo and miss the hell outta Woody.

  14. November 24, 2010 3:31 pm

    Oh that’s right. It was the terminally ungrateful PP! She was definitely unpleasant! Oops. My bad. Nevertheless, I still think the special is a bit tiresome.

    I agree on PTA. I don’t think everything about it is funny. The more you think about the entirety of the film, the less I would consider many of Martin’s character’s mean spirited antics to be funny, though the film does have a few choice comedy bits. But you’re definitely on to something about the way in which people carry as though the film was freaking Blazing Saddles.

  15. November 26, 2010 11:06 am

    yeah, I though I loved the Charlie Brown special….until I rewatched it! though the folding chair scene is choice, I’ll give you that.

    yesterday I was thinking about traditional Thanksgiving marathons. I think most of my Godfather viewing happened on the day over the years, and most any Bond movie not watched in a theater, I’m pretty sure I saw only on Thanksgiving weekends over the years.

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