We’re a culture drowning in Christmas movies, most of which are awful, but Thanksgiving has its share of terrible movies, too. Sitcom actors past their prime aren’t above mugging in an ugly sweater, no matter what the holiday, for a paycheck, or in a few cases (we’re looking right at you, Tim Allen) because they enjoy the screams of audiences realizing they’ve been lured into yet another smug, saccharine cinematic torture chamber. Seriously, we’re pretty sure Allen lives off those. Those Home Improvement checks can’t be helping him make the rent.
Anyway, for those of us who don’t live in Hollywood, there doesn’t seem to be a lot in the way of movies for us. Fortunately, a few good ones can in fact slip through, and we’ve identified the people who could most use a viewing of these. But don’t hesitate, these are fun for the whole family.
Well. Sorta. You might want to put the kids to bed.
For the Weary Traveler
Our Pick: Planes, Trains, and Automobiles
Traveling on Thanksgiving week is a collection of tortures. You can drive, and be stuck on roads for hours in epic traffic jams, paying through the nose for gas, or you can be stuck in a pressurized cabin with a screaming baby for hours on end, with only your slowly dying iPod for company. Or maybe you’re riding Amtrak, and learning why even the prospect of being molested by a TSA official who might actually be a simian instead of human, intelligence-wise, seems more appealing to people.
Hence, while waiting for a switchover, or the jam to clear, we recommend popping in a DVD of Planes, Trains, and Automobiles. John Hughes, a man who has clearly had his share of bad trips (in the non-medicated sense), manages to find everything that’s real, and aggravating, about getting home to the people you love. As bad as your trip is, it can’t be worse that Steve Martin and John Candy’s suffering.
For The Person Miserable At Home, Wanting To Hate the World
Our Pick: The Ice Storm
Let’s face it, some of us don’t have families to go back to on Thanksgiving. All we’ve got is our cold empty apartments and facing down a straight month of cheery happy people getting all in your face about how awesome it is to have somewhere to go over the holidays, and the inability to get drunk except on the weekends, the only joy in the lonely life forced on you by the California Highway Patr-
We’re getting off topic. Point is, the holidays can really kinda suck.
So why cheer up? Watch something brilliant and depressing instead. Ang Lee’s dissection of suburban anomie, The Ice Storm, will fit the bill, and it even has a pretty Criterion Collection edition for you. This movie of key-trading, sexual failures, and silent, endless recrimination is a classic of the ’90s, and one of the highlights in both Lee’s career and cinema’s ability to depress you thoroughly. Enjoy. Er, well, to the best of your ability.
For Those Who’d Gladly Trade Families
Our Pick: Home for the Holidays
Let’s face it, some of us who have families don’t want them. We look longing at the depressed guy in the walk-up with a bottle of Grand-Dad as a bus takes us to a dinner full of people you can barely believe you’re related to, much less want to admit it. Oh, look, there’s the closeted nephew with a female friend pretending to be together. There’s your aunt who starts with the sherry at eleven in the morning. There’s the grandmother who hasn’t understood what’s going on since you were born.
Fortunately, there’s somebody to share your pain with, aside from Jose Cuervo. Holly Hunter and Jodie Foster, namely, in Home for the Holidays. Anybody with a family they’d rather not discuss can relate to Hunter, newly fired with a daughter ready to bone her boyfriend over Thanksgiving, not quite willing to put up with her insane/irritating family. Although it’s unlikely your gay brother will bring home a hook-up for you, although it’d be nice of him. Unless you’re married, then that’s just awkward.
For Those With Unconventional Families
Our Pick: What’s Cooking?
Maybe your family is the traditional nuclear one. Maybe it’s quantum, or non-Newtonian, or any other number of random words we remember from our high school physics classes. Either way, most Thanksgiving movies probably aren’t aimed at you, which is why we recommend What’s Cooking?, a somewhat obscure indie that takes the highly popular “shotgun” approach to telling Thanksgiving stories.
Being as it’s a late ’90s indie, it’s required by law to feature four different stories centered around a theme. We’ve got a Vietnamese Thanksgiving, a Jewish Thanksgiving, a Latino Thanksgiving, and an African-American Thanksgiving that, thankfully, Tyler Perry didn’t write. So, no matter who you are, there’s something for you that lacks Tim Allen and crappy sweaters. And that’s something we can all give thanks for.
What’s your favorite Thanksgiving film?