I'm going to be making my monthly appearance on KPBS radio's These Days this Wednesday morning from 10 to 11 and this hour will combine two passions of mine -- food and movies. Since the Academy Awards will be on next week, we decided to do a show about food films.
In anticipation of the food movie hour, I thought I'd throw out some of the movies I've enjoyed that celebrate food. Some are obvious, some you might have seen years ago but may have forgotten, and some may be new to you. And, help me jog my memory with those I may have left out!
- Julie and Julia: 2009, directed by Nora Ephron (Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci) Based on Julie Powell’s blog/book of the same name and Child’s book, My Life in France, written with nephew Alex Prud 'homme. Most of my friends agree we'd have rather spent the two hours, or more, just with Julia/Meryl, but still a delicious movie.
- It's Complicated: 2009, directed by Nancy Meyers (Meryl Streep, Steve Martin, Alec Baldwin). Forget the ridiculous plot. I want Meryl's house and garden and I want to make croissants with her.
- Big Night: 1996, directed by Campbell Scott (Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalhoub and cast of thousands) Remember the big dish, Timpano, which you can buy at Lotsa Pasta in Pacific Beach? A feast!
- Eat Drink Man Woman (Taiwan): 1994, directed by Ang Lee – remade into Tortilla Soup in 2001 with Hector Elizondo about Mexican-American family. The former is one of my very favorite movies. I love the scenes in which the father prepares multiple complex Chinese dishes for his daughters. Woks sizzle, cleavers fly, crustaceans and chickens give it up for the sake of a sumptuous family meal. The remake is fine, a close parallel with the Taiwanese family film, but there's just something so much more poignant about the original.
- Babette’s Feast: 1987, based on novel by Isak Dinesen (Karen Blixen) set in 19th-century Denmark. The setting is grim and as restrained as you can get, setting us up for the stunning opulence of the dishes Babette prepares with her winnings.
- Mostly Martha: 2002 German – remade in 2007 into No Reservations with Catherine Zeta- Jones and Aaron Eckhart. I think Mostly Martha is the better film, showing us a woman chef who must take in her niece following her sister's death and learn how make a family, not just food.
- Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory: 1971, based on Roald Dahl's book, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory. (Gene Wilder, Jack Albertson, Peter Ostrum) Charlie breaks my heart. Grandpa Joe is my hero. And Willie Wonka? Gene Wilder's Wonka is marvelously nuts. But what I want is a dip in the chocolate river and plenty of Everlasting Gobstoppers. It's the world's greatest candy factory! I like this version more than Tim Burton's 2005 remake, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory with Johnny Depp.
- Chocolat: 2000, French, directed by Lasse Halstrom (Juliette Binoche, Johnny Depp, Judi Dench, Alfred Molina, Leslie Caron, Lena Olin). France. Chocolate. Johnny Depp. Mmmm.
- Like Water for Chocolate: 1993, based on Laura Esquivel’s novel. You can't not want to learn to cook after seeing how these women transform the people around them with the food they prepare and the spirituality that infuses it.
- Soul Food: 1997, directed by George Tillman, Jr. (Vanessa Williams, Vivica A. Fox, Irma P. Hall, Nia Long, Brandon Hammond). One of the great family movies and, oh, the Sunday night dinners. But the family begins to disintegrate with Big Mama's illness. Can a great meal bring them back together?
- Last Holiday: 2006, directed by Wayne Wang (Queen Latifah, LL Cool J, Gerard Depardieu, Timothy Hutton) Yes, it's a silly silly movie, but I love Queen Latifah and her character's passion for food. And Gerard Depardieu is the quintessential French movie chef.
- Sideways: 2004, directed by Alexander Payne (Paul Giamatti, Thomas Haden Church, Sandra Oh, Virginia Madsen) Oh, the angst. Oh, the Pinot Noir!
- What’s Cooking: 2000 (Mercedes Ruehl) Taking place in LA’s Fairfax district, four families of different ethnic groups celebrate Thanksgiving in between dealing with family conflicts.
- Ratatouille: 2007, directed by Brad Bird (Pixar) – Parisian Remy the rat wants to be a chef. That rodent can cook!
- Christmas in Connecticut: 1945 (Barbara Stanwyck, Dennis Morgan, Sidney Greenstreet, Reginald Gardiner, SZ “Cuddles” Sakall) This movie actually made me hungry for kidneys. But America's top food writer Elizabeth Lane (Stanwyck) can't cook! No, she can't cook.
- Waitress: 2007, directed by Adrienne Shelley (Kerri Russell) Sweet, heartbreaking on so many levels. All about the pies!
- Dinner Rush: 2001, directed by Bob Giraldi (Danny Aiello, Polly Draper) Food and the mafia. It's New York's Little Italy so why not?
- Woman on Top: 2000 (Penelope Cruz) Motion sick Chef Penelope starts out in Brazil then goes to San Francisco and ends up a TV celebrity chef. Uh huh. But it's a fun romp.