With the Oscars being handed out this Sunday, I thought it was a good time to write about movies and their influence on me as far as food is concerned. I want to hear from you too. Movies are powerful tools in the hands of their makers. A movie can influence a generation, tell a story, open your mind to a new way of thinking or simply to provide you with entertainment for a few hours. Obviously cinematic productions can elicit more thoughts and feelings than I’ve listed but these are the qualities I look for when choosing movies on which to spend my time and/or money. I am careful in my choices but I want to make it clear-if the movie centers around food, restaurants or eating, I’m going to be drawn into the story. Does that make me a real foodie? Maybe. It’s ok, I think I was a foodie before the word foodie was invented. (Is it really a word?)
There are a number of movies appearing on my top 10 list of foodie movies plus a few honorable mentions. But if your favorite isn’t on the list, please add it in the comments so I can see if I am interested in them as well. So in no particular order here they are:
Return to Me– the central theme is not about food but it’s partially set in an Irish-Italian restaurant, O’Reilly’s, with lovable characters. Minnie Driver is the lead character and she sings Buona Sera, my favorite Italian song, in the movie. I love it. I have the soundtrack as well as video and DVD copies of the movie. I’m still trying to figure out how to make “Chicken Vesuvio”, the dish they were famous for in the movie. Does it really exist or is it purely fictional?
Willie Wonka and the Chocolate Factory– as a kid I thought this was the very best food movie of all. Who didn’t want to be Veruca Salt and get all we ever wanted including the Golden Goose and the Golden Eggs? And that Mike TeeVee was ahead of his time, that’s for sure. I didn’t want to be Charlie because he was poor and a boy. What can I say? I thought as a child when I was a child. All around great food fun, especially for candy lovers.
Sabrina– the original production with Audrey Hepburn and Humphrey Bogart. I fell in love with Audrey and her attempts to crack eggs with one hand. I still can’t do that at all. I actually believe my oldest boy can. Crazy.
Julie and Julia– I have to include this one because it’s inspired many of us closet foodies to come out in the open and tell the world how we feel about food and then some through the wonderful medium of blogging. I’m somewhat disheartened at the real Julie Powell and her personal life but I’ll forever love Julia Child and her story. One day I’ll have to make Boeuf Bourguignon a la’ Julia Child even though it’s the French version of basically beef stew, correct? Stanley Tucci plays Julia Child’s husband to Meryl Streep giving an outstanding portrayal of Julia herself.
Ratatouille- It’s a Disney animated movie but it’s so cute and depicts the struggle of a sous chef in a French Restaurant. Give it a chance even if you don’t have children. We all need to be given a chance in life to make our dreams come true. The animation is really cute.
No Reservations- a really sweet movie with Catherine Zeta-Jones as a restaurant owner who has suddenly become a mother to her niece and has a newly hired sous chef to contend with as well. Very cute and rather predictable but endearing even if it didn’t win any awards.
My Big Fat Greek Wedding– another movie set mainly in a restaurant but this one is Greek and since I’m part Greek, this is near and dear to my heart. One of our favorite quotes is from Thia Voula when she learns Ian is a vegetarian. She says “What do you mean he don’t eat no meat? That’s ok, I make him lamb.” My whole family repeats a lot of quotes from this film. If you want to know what my life was like before I met Phil and he joined my family, this is as close as you’ll get in a movie. I went through a “frump girl” phase and he came from the quiet, reserved family. We are happy and living out our dreams with our ethnic-rich families.
Lady and the Tramp– I guess I’m a sucker for any movie with spaghetti since it’s my number one comfort food. It has the one classic scene that just makes the movie what it is. Who can resist a movie about dogs?
Anne of Green Gables– this all time classic produced by PBS is worth buying if you love stories of orphans who find love and acceptance in a family. There are many scenes that are centered around food, drink or a meal. My favorite is when Anne’s teacher stops by for a surprise visit and Marilla invites her to stay for dinner. At dessert time, Marilla tells Anne to serve the pudding. Anne finds she forgot to cover the pudding and a mouse met its untimely death in the pudding. She serves up the pudding and just before….well, I won’t spoil it any further. Get it and watch it.
Big Night– this movie was amazing. I just watched it last night because I did not know of its existance before today. I generally stay away from R rated movies but there are exceptions. Big Night is one of them. Sure there was quite a bit of swearing from a few main characters but it added to the charm of who they were. This stars Stanley Tucci and Minnie Driver who are both in other movies on this list. From the beginning scenes where a woman complains about risotto taking “too long” to cook and serve to the ending scene where the brothers, Primo and Secundi, eat breakfast I was glued to the screen. I found in this film an authentic portrayal of Italian cooking/restauranteering in the United States in the 1950s. The struggles to remain true to the old ways are shown with much feeling. It’s a shame that Italian cooking has become franchised to the point of being hard pressed to find a good Italian restaurant where one can get a good meal for a good price. Watch it, that’s all I can say.
A Walk in the Clouds– Rather than the focus being on food, this is more about a family and their generations-owned vineyard with yet another predictable plot of familial struggles and love. Still Keanu Reeves is great in this movie and I love period movies, especially ones set around WWII. I think its a wonderful romantic movie.
Baby Boom– It’s a long forgotten 1980’s movie about a woman who is going to have it all. We learn it might not always work out like we plan but it can sometimes be done. A baby flings spaghetti (see a theme here?) in one very funny and messy scene. Diane Keaton’s character learns how to be a mother and developes her own homemade baby food and turns it into a real business. Great fun and a real 1980s throwback.
Christmas in Connecticut– the original one with Barbara Stanwyck. Classic movie about a single woman writing a magazine column pretending to be a married woman with the perfect home and family situation of the times. Along comes a wounded soldier who desires a home cooked meal and a traditional Christmas and he wants to spend it at her house. This is all set up by her publisher who doesn’t realize she isn’t married. She must now produce the house, the husband, the baby and the food. Hilarity abounds. Rent it and watch it soon, even before Christmas.