DISCLAIMER: This is not a series dedicated to proving men shouldn’t cry, or to suggest ONLY women cry and are therefore inferior. The goal of this series is to dispel the pre-established (yet flawed) notion that being “manly” and being disconnected from your emotions go hand-in-hand. Even the most macho of men enjoy and even shed a tear at films, and the sooner we can admit that the sooner the concept that one sex is better than the other can go away. While the approach to these articles is one of light-hearted comedy, the emotional core is valid. While men might be more hesitant to admit it, movies often times have the potential to make us cry, for example:
November may currently be known as the month before the month of Christmas, but for a select few it means Thanksgiving. A celebration of what America does best: taking things that weren’t ours to begin with, and eating a lot of food. Even if you don’t agree with Christopher Columbus praising, or think that spending time with your family twice in two months sounds like a special level of hell, we can all agree that sitting down to a warm feast of all your favorite dishes sounds great. Whether you come for the turkey, mashed potatoes, or even non-traditional sides like lasagna, food can make or break a holiday. Movies are no different, and there are several movies dedicated to food. Whether it be how good the food is, what the food means to someone, or even food that might have sinister origins, movies about food tap into a need that we all share. As such, we can all relate on some level to the themes of these films, and care about the characters within. Here’s five examples:
1. Cloudy with a Chance of Meatballs
Starting off on the lighter side of things, we have a movie literally about food falling out of the sky. This film is always hunger-inducing, even though it’s an animated tale based off a children’s book. The main character, despite several amazing inventions that the film passes off as not cool enough to garner praise, considers himself unsuccessful. The film dives into exactly what his definition of successful is, after a malfunction results in his ability to not only control the weather but have it create literal manna from heaven. Written by the same guys who gave us The Lego Movie and the Jump Street reboots, this film is 90% jokes. The other 10% is amazing jokes, plus the villain is Bruce Campbell so you know it has my vote.
The film does focus on the protagonist’s father having a poor line of communication with his son. After his wife dies off screen, the father retreats into himself and makes very little effort to connect with his son. Even at the end this isn’t resolved, with a brain-to-speech translator being the only way the dad can even tell his son how proud he is. The film realized late in the game that it had too much on it’s plate and never really resolved that character arch, which is kind of sad.
One of the weaker of the Pixar lineups I feel, yet still fantastic. This movie is a love letter to food. The novelty of a rat who wants to be a chef is front and center, sure, but right next to it is a detailed analysis of why foodies do what they do. Visual representations of mixing flavors, commentary on why you should savor your food instead of horking it down, and a peak into the lives of restaurateurs all mix together quite well. There’s a momentary twist where we learn the main human protagonist is willed a restaurant but the temporary owner tries to hide that from him, but it’s resolved immediately. The film goes out of its way to remove all obstacles that would distract the audience from the food. Even the ending is all about how food is tied to memories and great memories can elevate dining to higher heights.
The part that hits you in the feels is actually one of the antagonists. The food critic, upset that a restaurant he previously denounced was making a comeback, is served a far more simple dish than what he would expect. Initially upset at the lack of pizzazz, one bite transports him to a massive and emotional info-dump crammed into a five-second silent blast of a flashback. Just seeing how that food reminded him of his past brings him to tears, and audience members as well.
3. Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Both Chocolate Factory movies are about food, but the newer version focuses on the food maker, where as the older version focuses on Charlie. While not an opinion on which one is better, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory does an excellent job of dissecting the type of man who would dedicate his life to making treats. The visuals are bright and vibrant, the children are more realistic for a modern audience, and above all we know the motivation for Willy Wonka to act the way he does. Unlike the Gene Wilder version, this one doesn’t have any scenes that give viewers nightmares, which is a plus. (Tunnel scene, anyone?)
Of course the decision to add Daddy-issues to an otherwise simple character is polarizing but I think they did it well. So close to Halloween it’s tough to watch a father allow his son to trick-or-treat, then burn his treasured haul in front of him and laugh. Willy Wonka might reconcile with his father by the end of the movie, but after seeing his childhood trauma, the audience might need a little more catharsis than a simple hug.
Do not watch this film on an empty stomach. In fact, don’t even watch this film if you’re mildly peckish. John Favreau of Iron Man fame gathers up his Iron Man buddies and makes a film about a cook who loves food, frequently makes food, and then realizes he’s happy when he’s making the food he wants to make. The skill and love that you see going into creating the food almost allows the smells of the grill come through the screen. The ingredients are so fresh and vibrant, the sounds are so crisp…I might have to get a sandwich just thinking about it. A very funny movie with a surprising amount of heart, it’s unclear why this wasn’t a bigger box office draw, especially with cameos from Iron Man and Black Widow themselves.
The main B-plot is Favreau’s reconnection with his son, or perhaps his very first connection with him. The unfortunate reality is that to have him connect at the end, he has to be painted as a douche at the beginning. Seeing John basically do everything possible not to spend time with his perfectly behaved son (also from the Iron Man franchise) is difficult to watch, but ultimately well paid off.
Clearly this is the best food movie to watch before your big Thanksgiving meal. The food movie to rule them all, Soylent Green is a thriller/detective story in the near future about the global food supply. A dystopia that sadly sounds more and more realistic, overpopulation and climate change has led to food being supplied by a corporation that perhaps doesn’t have your well-being at the top of their lists. Everyone knows the big twist at the end, but teleporting yourself back before that was spoiled, it was a big twist in an excellent movie.
Sure, finding out that people were being ground up and fed to other people was sad, but the worst part is that there really isn’t a better option presented. If anything, it’s better that the world didn’t know what was in their food, lest they refuse it and starve to death. That’s harsh.