Although Thanksgiving is and forever will be my favorite holiday, I must admit that it has yet to really impact popular culture in the way that Christmas has. There’s no Thanksgiving music channel on XM. There’s no “Twenty Days of Thanksgiving” marathon on TCM. Nonetheless, there are a few movies that will go down well with stuffing, loud relatives and the like.
Scent of a woman””Whatever you’re doing for Thanksgiving break, it is probably a lot more relaxing than chauffeuring an angry Al Pacino, which is how Chris O’Donnell’s character spends his Turkey Day in this picture. Pacino is hilariously miscast as a Southern-fried Colonel, and the plot is one of the most absurdly overcooked, awards-show-ready narratives in existence. But “Scent of a Woman” is still great as a guilty pleasure, and watching O’Donnell’s insane Thanksgiving break will make yours look positively luxurious by comparison.
Planes, Trains, and Automobiles”” In which Steve Martin’s uptight businessman relies on John Candy’s boisterous salesman to get home in time for turkey. Martin, one of the most sublimely zany comics of his era, reminds us that he is also a perfectly capable straight man, and Candy, gone too soon, reminds us what an inimitably hilarious performer he was. He also delivers one of the greatest one-off lines of all time: “Six bucks and my right nut says we’re not landing in Chicago!”
Hannah and Her Sisters”” Woody Allen has made just about one masterpiece for each year I have been alive. Of those masterpieces, “Annie Hall” is widely regarded as the best. I beg to differ. Both it and “Manhattan” are eternally wise and witty contributions to the American cinema, but this 1986 gem is, I think, Woodman’s strongest work. Optimistic but still realistic, this perceptive drama traces the love lives of the three titular siblings over several years. It is an honest, delicate, affirming picture about the struggle to be happy, and it concludes with “”you guessed it”” a warm and joyous Thanksgiving dinner.
An American Tail”” Hanukkah, the Jewish Festival of Lights, falls in the midst of Thanksgiving this year, which means I will have the distinct pleasure of washing down my turkey with that most delicious of dishes, the latke. If you gentiles wish to get into the Hanukkah spirit, watch this Walker family classic, an animated musical about Fivel Mousekowitz, a young, cute-as-a-button Jewish rodent journeying to America with his family. If “Oliver and Company” and “Fiddler On the Roof” had a kid, it would be this movie, folks.
Thankskilling”” Intended for a slightly different demographic than the previous film, this terrifying slasher flick turns the tables on Thanksgiving convention. Here, the TURKEY is the one doing the cutting up, and the humans are on the receiving end. Made on the cheap and unabashedly full of sex, violence and profanity (“Gobble, gobble, mother”…well, you get the idea), this is not one to watch with your Thanksgiving dinner companions, unless you happen to be spending the holiday at Quentin Tarantino’s house.
Happy Thanksgiving, everyone! Now Oscar season begins in earnest.