Why aren’t there any good Thanksgiving movies? I mean, there’s one, obviously, in Jodie Foster’s oddball (and lovable) Home for the Holidays. If you haven’t seen it (and you should), Holly Hunter stars as a woman dragging her feet into middle age as she raises a teenage daughter (Claire Danes) and must suffer the indignity of a trip home to spend Turkey Day with her eccentric parents (Charles Durning and Anne Bancroft). The cast is extremely funny, the script an obvious jumping-off point for all sorts of improvisation—mostly at the hands of Robert Downey Jr. as Hunters ne’er-do-well brother Tommy. Is the film heavy handed? Yep. Is some of the comedy so broad as to strain credibility? Absolutely. And yet… how would you describe Thanksgiving with the family?
Here’s a clip. Language warning, kids.
Anyway, long story short, you should see it. Holly Hunter and Robert Downey Jr. have wonderful chemistry as sniping/loving siblings, and it’s all the more impressive when you realize that, given the timeline, Downey was most likely high as a paper kite the entire time.
If you can think of any good Thanksgiving films, dear readers, feel free to leave a comment. And Free Birds doesn’t count.
Here’s this week’s pre-Thanksgiving, pre-Black Friday, pre-“let’s try that whole winter thing one more time” What to Watch.
12 Years A Slave (Savoy 16 & Carmike 13): Chiwetel Ejiofor gives a career-making performance as Solomon Northup, a man forced into slavery after being a freeman for most of his life.
Why to Watch: Right off the bat, it’s about time people started seeing Ejiofor for the amazing actor his is. If you didn’t see him as Denzel’s partner in Inside Man, or as the villain in Joss Whedon’s Serenity, you missed out. (And I know you didn’t see his performance in David Mamet’s Redbelt, so go rent that ASAP.) 12 Years A Slave is undoubtedly going to be a film that is tough to stomach. Slavery is a dark time in the history of the United States. This does not mean that the stories of the people who suffered acts of inhumanity should be silenced. Steve McQueen, who directed the films Shame and Hunger (both with Michael Fassbender, who appears here as a repellant slave owner), knows how to tell the story. He also knows that film can be a powerful tool in the right hands—a mirror reflecting even our most disappointing and haunting moments.
Thor: The Dark World (Savoy 16 & Carmike 13): The hammer-wielding Marvel hero is back to save the day. And the earth. And Asgard. And probably other things.
Why to Watch: Chris Hemsworth has done a fine job portraying the Asgardiandemigod in both Kenneth Branagh’s Thor and Joss Whedon’s The Avengers. He’s an imposing physical specimen, sure, but it turns out he can also act. But, for all of Hemsworth’s flowing hair and shiny armor, the real draw here is Tom Hiddleston as Thor’s malevolent brother Loki. Hiddleston has turned this character into a breakout role, and it’s no surprise that his sly humor steals the show. Add to this mix the always interesting Christopher Eccleston as the film’s Big Bad, and you have quite the confluence of things to cinematically geek out about.
Enders Game (Savoy 16 & Carmike 13): Ender Wiggin is a twelve-year-old boy who must learn to be a leader in order to save his planet from invasion in an intergalacticwar.
Why to Watch: I read the novel Ender’s Game at the end of my junior year of high school. For me, as well as many others, it is considered a classic of Young Adult literature. I love the military tactics of the book, and they translate well to the screen. It’s also incredibly gratifying to see that the virtual reality practice games are displayed exactly as I pictured them in my mind. Asa Butterfield proves to be a compelling star in a film that asks a lot of the audience, including what it means to be a soldier and what it means to be humane. Also, you have to be intrigued by a movie that has, in its supporting cast, Sir Ben Kingsley, Oscar-winner Viola Davis, and Harrison Ford. Recommended viewing for Young Adults of all ages.
All Is Lost (The Art Theater Co-Op): Robert Redford stars as a man fighting for survival while stranded at sea.
Why to Watch: The strength of this film is its setting; at sea anything can happen. While the pacing of this film might seem slow at times (when compared to, say, a Vin Diesel movie), watching Redford escape out of the various situations he encounters is harrowing. There is little dialogue, and in this type of film that’s perfectly fine. You don’t need him to tell you how he feels. He doesn’t need a volleyball to talk to in order for him to seem relatable. A career achievement for Redford, who is never less than compelling. See this fantastic film.
Showing pretty much nonstop at the Art.
Dallas Buyers Club (The Art Theater Co-op): This film features a couple of likely Oscar contenders in Matthew McConaughey (as protagonist Ron Woodruff) and Jared Leto (as his transgender business partner, Rayon). McConaughey is having a career renaissance right now, from Magic Mike, Killer Joe, and Mud on through to this film and this winter’s The Wolf of Wall Street. And it should be pointed out that there has been quite a bit of buzz about Leto’s performance as well. It just might be that the former teen pin-up and part-time rock star finds himself up for some gold as well. The trailer is a knock-out, and I can’t wait to see this at The Art.
The Hunger Games: Catching Fire: There’s a good chance some of you might have heard of this little indie darling. Made on a shoestring budget, largely financed by collecting and cashing in aluminum cans, this small but gutsy group of— Nah, I’m just kidding. This sequel is almost guaranteed to be a crazy, out-of-the-ballpark hit. The numer of Oscar winners has been increased a bit, with Phillip Seymour Hoffman joining returning vets Jennifer Lawrence, Donald Sutherland, Stanley Tucci, Elizabeth Banks, Woody Harrelson, Lenny Kravitz, the other Hemsworth, and the other kid who’s not the other Hemsworth. Join the streaming, screaming lines at midnight, if you dare. It might be worth going just to see how ridiculous the clothes are. (I’m looking at you, Tucci.)
Oldboy: (Looooong exhale.) OK. Of all the films coming out this winter, this mightjust be the toughest sell. And action film directed by Spike Lee. A remake of Oldboy? Let me repeat, with appropriate disbelief: they’re remaking OLDBOY?!? And, for all that, I can’t wait to see what happens. In this remake of the Korean cult classic, Josh Brolin stars as a man imprisoned for two decades only to be suddenly released. Who did this to him? And why? It’s an all-out assault to find answers and get revenge. Will the film work? How close will it be to the original? Couldn’t tell ya. But I can’t wait to find out.