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November 22, 2011


DVD of the Week – Movies for the Thanksgiving Season


This is not a list of “Thanksgiving movies.” The holiday doesn’t appear in any of them, and several are from countries that don’t celebrate it. Rather, this is a list of films that feature family and friends coming together to share a meal- because what could be more seasonal than that? Five unconventional recommendations for your Thanksgiving weekend viewing:

Grand Illusion (1937) and They Were Expendable (1945)

In Grand Illusion, Jean Renoir’s great drama of WWI, food packages prompt reminiscences of home for French prisoners of war; the German commandant dines in lonely state. When the officers in John Ford’s WWII Philippines-set They Were Expendable give a dinner party for the nurse one of them loves, the rituals of the table conjure a connection to the achingly distant homefront.

Summer Wars (2009) and While You Were Sleeping (1995)

Summer Wars is an anime feature film about an ordinary young man who must stop a rogue artificial intelligence that has infiltrated Japan’s electronic network. On the surface, it wouldn’t seem a likely match with While You Were Sleeping (yes, the Sandra Bullock romantic-comedy), but actually they have a lot in common. They’re paired in this post for the scene where the lonely outsider shares in a quintessential family meal. An open expression of longing to be part of that family life will follow.

La Boheme (1927)

It’s one of the iconic scenes. A cheap apartment building in the Latin Quarter of Paris, c. 1840. Rodolphe and his friends, carefree young bohemians all, and Mimi, the innocent seamstress. A bottle of wine, a loaf of bread, a few odds and ends found in the pantry. A celebration of life and love and art.

Italian for Beginners (2000) and The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976)

A Danish humanistic comedy-drama and a Hollywood revisionist Western. To be honest I’m a little dubious about watching these two as a double feature; however, as different as they are they have one salient point in common: unlikely friends, brought together by chance and circumstances, share a meal to celebrate journey’s end- and the start of something new.

A Christmas Carol (1951)

Belonging as I do to the school that believes in savoring the current holiday to the full before moving on to the next one, a Christmas movie is normally the last thing I’d recommend for Thanksgiving seasonal viewing. However, I can’t stand against A Christmas Carol as the most perfect expression of the theme of this post. The promise of fellowship in the feast enjoyed by the Ghost of Christmas Present is fulfilled in the Christmas feast Scrooge enjoys with the Cratchits, to the accompaniment of the ultimate literary expression of thanks giving sentiment.


Note: This post was written as part of the Classic Chops Thanksgiving theme week at the Large Association of Movie Blogs.

Wondering where Planes, Trains and Automobiles, The New World, and Pieces of April are in this list? Look no further than last year’s Thanksgiving-themed DVD post.

New releases this week: Conan the Barbarian, The Devil’s Double, Sarah’s Key, Spy Kids 4: All the Time in the World, Super 8

11 Comments Post a comment
  1. Nov 22 2011

    I love The Grand Illusion, directed by the greatest French filmmaker of all time! I also love The Outlaw Josey Wales and Summer Wars, both films that I’d watched for the first time within the last year. But I don’t remember Thanksgiving being in any of those films…
    …maybe I can’t physically see holidays anymore…

  2. Nov 22 2011

    You failed to read my introductory paragraph. :-)

  3. Richard Winters
    Nov 22 2011

    My lady friends at work have requested that I review ‘Plains, Trains, and Automobiles’ for my next Rewind Column. Apparently one of them has actually watched this film with her family every Thanksgiving for the past 16 years. They consider it the ‘ultimate’ Thanksgiving movie and as tantamount to the Holiday as the turkey itself.

  4. Nov 22 2011

    …huh… I don’t remember there being a “family and friends sharing a meal” setting in Josey Wales, but like I said I’ve only watched it once and within the past year. All I remember of it is that there’s a funny “Indian” sidekick character and that it’s a long film.

    When I can come up with some films that contain that story aspect I’ll post here again. :O)

  5. Richard Winters
    Nov 22 2011

    All I remember about ‘Outlaw Josey Wales’ is that it is a long film as well and that Sondra Locke was actually kind’ve attractive and sexy in an odd sort of way. Again, I haven’t seen this film since 1988, so another viewing should probably be in store.

  6. Nov 22 2011

    It’s been a while since I watched it as well (altho not as far back as 1988), but I recall a celebration when Josey and his motley gang make it to Mexico. Hopefully my memory isn’t playing tricks on me.

  7. Richard Winters
    Nov 22 2011

    Yes, I think you are right about that Helen. I know Outlaw has a real mixed bag of reviews. Some don’t care for it and consider it one of Eastwood’s weaker efforts, but those that like it seem to REALLY like it, which makes me think it deserves another viewing.
    Also, in regards to Sondra Locke, I know that her long relationship with Eastwood didn’t end on such a good note and she ended up writing a book about it and she called it ‘The Good, the Bad, and the Really Ugly’.

  8. Nov 22 2011

    I find it to be a terrific film. I own it, which is how I watched it originally, and will watch it again sometime in the near future. I’d say that it’s one of Eastwood’s better Westerns.
    It’s no Unforgiven, not by a long shot. Unforgiven reaches many “best movies ever” list and respectfully.

  9. Richard Winters
    Nov 22 2011

    ‘Unforgiven’ is without a doubt one of the finest westerns ever!

  10. Nov 23 2011

    They make it to Texas, please, not Mexico. This is a film that has really grown on me over the years. As I think of it now it seems really appropriate for a Thanksgiving themed post. There is the meal/celebration when our little family of survivors finds the ranch. And it revisits the original Pilgrims’ challenge of living peacefully with the Native Americans they are displacing. Wales and the Chief reach an accord to share the land’s resources – meaning food – and to give each other life. That’s a great message for the holiday.

  11. Nov 23 2011

    Good to know my memory did not fail me- at least on the essential point. And, that my pick was even more fitting than I realized!