Monday, November 19, 2007

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Thanksgiving is my favorite holiday. The family, the food, the fact that it's all about gathering and has nothing to do with presents. To me, Thanksgiving is about coming home or creating home. It's about finding the family in your life, whether or not they are related to you, and celebrating that. It's about needing people and creating for people. For me, when Thankgiving is at it's best, it is the most joyous of all times.

In light of my affection, I think the Thanksgiving movie category is much underappreciated, whilst Hollywood churns out crappy Christmas flicks ad nauseum. So I have made a list of my Top Five Thanksgiving film recommendations. Led, of course, by a film I mention FAR too often:

1. Home for the Holidays, 1995

"On the fourth Thursday in November, 84 million American families will gather together... And wonder why."
Everything goes wrong in Claudia Larsen's life on the day she is boarding a plane to return to her childhood home for Thanksgiving. The next 36 hours are spent coping with craziness, trying to understand her family and reevaluating her life. Features: Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Gerldine Chaplain. Robert Downey Jr., Dylan McDermott, David Strathairn

Because her family is crazy. And wonderful. And totally familiar to everyone no matter how close or distant your own family is. It is to dysfunctional families what Big Fat Greek Wedding is to huge families. Probably not child appropriate. Very funny. Very life affirming. Very oh-my-god-someone-gets-what-it's-like-to-deal-with-my-family. One of my favorite films of all time.

"Nobody means what they say on Thanksgiving, Mom. You know that. That's what the day's supposed to be all about, right? Torture." - Claudia Larsen (played by Holly Hunter)

2. Pieces of April, 2003

"She's the one in every family."
21-year-old April Burns (Katie Holmes) who lives with her boyfriend Bobby (Derek Luke) in a dilapidated tenement on New York City's Lower East Side. April has never been on good terms with her mother, Joy (Patricia Clarkson), but Bobby convinces her to host her family for Thanksgiving. Features: Katie Holmes, Derek Luke, Oliver Platt, Patricia Clarkson, Alice Drummond, Lillias White, Isiah Whitock, Jr., Sean Hayes. Patricia Clarkson was nominated for an Oscar for Best Supporting Actress for her role as April's mother.

Because sometimes family sucks. Sometimes the people who come through for you are not who you would expect. And that's wonderful. And human. And SO what Thanksgiving is all about as far as I'm concerned. Not child appropriate. Ultimately very positive and life affirming, but takes it's time getting there.

April Burns: "I'm the first pancake."
Evette: "What do you mean?"
Eugene: "She's the one you're supposed to throw out."

"Once, there was this day... this one day when... everyone realized they needed each other." - April Burns (played by Katie Holmes)

3. The House of Yes, 1997

"Enter at your own risk."
The movie is based on the play of the same name, which is written by Wendy MacLeod. Set on Thanksgiving Day 1983, the film involves NYC student Marty Pascal (Josh Hamilton)'s return to his family's suburban Washington D.C. mansion to introduce his fiancée, Lesly (Tori Spelling), to the family—including his mother (Geneviève Bujold), brother Anthony (Freddie Prinze, Jr.), and twin sister Jacqueline (Parker Posey), who prefers to be known as "Jackie-O", due to her obsession with the former first lady. The holiday begins a rapid downward spiral from the moment Jackie-O learns her brother is engaged.

Because nothing says "neurotic holiday" like Parker Posey doing the slo-mo beauty queen Jackie-O wave to an imaginary crowd from her living room couch. Not for the faint of heart. Not appropriate for kids... or most grandparents... or, well, A LOT of people. Not a happy movie, but brilliantly, bitingly funny.

"Now if you'll excuse me, I'm going to go baste the turkey and hide the kitchen knives." - Mrs. Pascal (played by Geneviève Bujold)

4. Addams Family Values, 1993

A comic Gothic horror-type family tries to rescue their beloved uncle from his gold-digging new love. Featuring: Anjelica Huston, Raul Julia, Christopher Lloyd, Joan Cusack, Christina Ricci, Carol Kane, Peter MacNicol, Christine Baranski, Nathan Lane, and (everyone's favorite bubble-brain vampire in a far more wholesome role) Mercedes McNab

Because my all-time favorite on film Thanksgiving moment is Wednesday Addams chastising the yuppies for the plight of the Native Americans. Not a Thanksgiving film but has that great Thanksgiving scene. Essentially positive... appropriate for children old enough not to misinterpret the humor.

"We cannot break bread with you. You have taken the land which is rightfully ours. Years from now my people will be forced to live in mobile homes on reservations. Your people will wear cardigans, and drink highballs." - Wednesday Addams (Christina Ricci, in the role she was born to play)

5. A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving, 1973

Peppermint Patty invites herself and her friends over to Charlie Brown's for Thanksgiving, and with Linus, Snoopy, and Woodstock, he attempts to throw together a Thanksgiving dinner.

Because it's the classic I've watched since I was a child. Perfect for all ages!

Charlie Brown: "I can't cook a Thanksgiving dinner. All I can make is cold cereal and maybe toast."
Linus van Pelt: "That's right. I've seen you make toast."

What other holiday presents you with such an array of wacky options?

On the Big Day, my sister and I are also going to watch Clue. 'Cause it is also about people who are connected to each other coming together for a big meal... just under slightly different circumstances. And, anyway, Tim Curry rocks. And so does Madeline Kahn.

I LOVE Thanksgiving.


  1. Most of my family has come Home for the Holidays, the youngest flew in tonight, he met the S.O. He said to S.O., "Welcome to the Family." Well S.O. isn't a legally binding part of "The Family" yet, and come this Thanksgiving, he may reconsider...LOL But all the same, I will still spend Thursday morning watching Holly Hunter and wonder which family is more dysfunctional, her Movie Family or mine, I seriously think it's a toss up!

  2. I think that's why I love that movie. It's like I get to sit there and feel this wave of relief - like, "See? Other people have insane families, too. Otherwise they wouldn't be able to write movies like this."

    I think the S.O. NEEDS a big ol' dose of crazy family. Maybe that's what his life has been missing all these years. :)

  3. I've never seen Numbers 1 and 2, but I've always wanted to. I need to get on that! Thanks for posting these, Marisa.

  4. Oh, you should Tracey - I think you will like them! Pieces of April can be a bit of a tearjerker at times - just so you know.

    Funny thing - I saw a review of "Home for the Holidays" on another woman's blog and she said "It will make you look at your own family and be greatful for how normal they are." or something like that. And here I thought the great thing was that everyone can relate to it because families ARE crazy. hmm. Maybe that's just MY family. erg.

  5. i haven't seen the first three any of the films on this list! thanks for introducing them. i've heard of "the house of yes" so this is yet another impetus for seeing it.