Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. There isn’t the pressure to give presents or receive presents or even really to do any decorating. The weather is usually pretty great, and there isn’t really much to it beyond eating delicious foods, which gives families the opportunity to fill the day with their own traditions. Screenwriters don’t seem to see Thanksgiving in such a rosy light, though. It’s often used as a backdrop to extreme familial angst or epically awful road trips or both. You don’t often have your entire extended family hanging out in the dining room, and I guess the temptation to make the occasion wrought with attention is just too great to resist. On the bright side, that means there are a number of movies set around Thanksgiving.
I sprung the following Thanksgiving titles on Rockford yesterday as we drove. Here’s what he thought:
“You want the bird? Go in the alley and eat the bird.”
Rockford says: “The little movie that could! This was a low-budget film that really took us all by storm. I first saw ‘Rocky’ when I was 6 years old. ‘Rocky’ I and II were some of the movies that stand out the most from when I was that young. What I remember about ‘Rocky’ was, it was the first movie I saw where you had a protaganist that came from such a difficult and/or meager existance. It was also one of the first movies that I remember seeing where the protagonist mirrors where he’s from so much. Rocky is Philadelphia and Philadelphia is Rocky. Where else is there a statue of a movie character? ‘Rocky’ is gettig up before the dawn, slogging to work, and doing everything you can to suport the ones you love. You just keep putting one foot in front of the other while also trying to better yourself.”
Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987)
“Those aren’t pillows.”
Rockford says: “This is a movie that I did not fully appreciate until I entered the world of business travel. This was one of the first movies to — in a fun but real way — point at the new business-travel culture that was emerging in the 1980s and the problems that came with it. The fact that we’re always in some kind of vehicle and what happens when all of those modes of trasnportation for whatever reason completely crap out. That aside, it’s a very well-done buddy comedy that features two of the best comedians of their era opposite one another. Without giving anything away, it also has a very poignant twist. It’s a movie about getting home to be with the people that you love.”
Grumpy Old Men (1993)
Rockford says: “Oh, is that Thanksgiving? I guess it is Thanksgiving.
It’s a story about frenemies. It’s built on the idea that the people we know the best are oftentimes our friends and our mortal enemies. What makes ‘Grumpy Old Men’ successful for almost all viewers is the universals of parent-child and friend-to-friend relationships. It’s fun watching Burgess Meredith tell Jack Lemmon to stop acting like a putz. These guys are still acting like children, because to each other that’s how they still are.”
Addams Family Values (1993)
“You sent us to camp. They made us sing.”
Rockford says: “This is a Thanksgiving movie? Really??
I know you like the pinball game, but I don’t remember the movie. I remember going to see it on a date with you. It has the honor of being our second-date movie. That’s all I really have to say about that.”
Nobody’s Fool (1994)
“Mr. Sullivan, you’re wearing a necktie. Are you in trouble with the law again?”
Rockford says: “Boy I haven’t seen that in a long time. Up until ‘Nobody’s Fool’ I wasn’t really a fan of realism in film. I could appreciate it, but didn’t really enjoy it. Here’s a tale of a broken and bitter man who lives by his own set of rules that have developed through years of disappointment, discouragement and failure, and this is a brief glimpse into his life complete with the bad stuff and the good stuff.”
Pieces of April (2003)
“I’m the first pancake.”
Rockford says: “Yeah, family is hard. This is another example of kind of, family warts and all. It’s the anti-John Hughes experience. The holidays brought to you by every painful holiday you’ve experienced. You have the peace-keeping father, who placates his daughter; a caustic mother-daughter relationsship; and it all kind of comes to a head around the Thanksgiving dinner table. The beauty of this film is that is shows what family is — taking these gritty, not-so-great pieces of each other and accepting them and wrapping your arms around it. It’s seeing love and kindness in places where you might not expect it.”
Happy Thanksgiving! I hope your tryptophan haze is brief but delightful.