Intermission: Films about Food that Make You Feel Good

Here in Vancouver we’ve had an unusual winter. It snowed. A lot. More than once and more than an inch. Having grown up on the prairies I’ve had my fill of snow and no, I don’t think it’s magical or wonderful or any other kind of ridiculous things people say when it snows here. It’s gross. It’s mostly wet when it does fall, turns to slippery slush, and then freezes into patches of black ice. Disgusting. As a city we’ve been lamenting as a whole the fact that Spring has been slow to come and is only now arriving in fits and spurts regardless of us willing it to be sunny just one damn day. Rain is in the forecast for the next two weeks.* Vancouver rain=Vancouver grey.

Even though the days are starting to get longer and we no longer feel the urge to hibernate quite so much, if you know anything about Vancouver it’s that people don’t go out when it rains. But doesn’t it rain 90% of the year, you ask? Yes, yes it does. And maybe we’ve become a foodie city because of it. I mean, we’re certainly not known for our outgoing, friend-making nature so perhaps instead we communicate our feelings with food. Food is warm, food is inviting, food is FUN! Vancouver food city = Vancouver fun city? I know, it’s a stretch.

Pick up a pizza and one of these movies, it’s been a long winter:

Babette’s Feast (1987)
The first Danish film to win an Academy Award. French Babette arrives on the doorstep of two Danish sisters and offers to be their housekeeper in exchange for a place to live. She’s an extraordinary cook. Babette wins the French lottery and decides to spend the winnings creating a dinner for the sisters and their congregation. So much more to this movie than just described—it’s a kind of food love story.

The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover (1989)
If you’ve never watched a Peter Greenaway film before this is the one to begin your education. Helen Mirren is magnificent as the Wife, Georgina, who finds herself in a very nasty situation when she begins an affair with a patron (her Lover) of the high-class restaurant her gangster husband (the Thief) has taken over. If that’s not enough, Jean-Paul Gauthier is the costume designer. That, along with a score that has stuck in my head for at least a decade makes this film an art piece.

eXistenZ (1999)
David Cronenberg. That is all. Okay, okay, maybe not all, there is also Jennifer Jason Leigh as a game designer and Jude Law as her security guard/marketing trainee. In the future you will always need some self-defense/PR skillz. While not a food movie per se, I do enjoy the Chinese restaurant scene in which Jude Law’s character finds himself compelled to eat a big bowl of mutant animal soup. It’s gross and yet also satisfying because of the relish in which Law devours the contents of the dish, the leftovers of which are revealed to be pieces of bones that snap together to make a gun. Plus, Willem Dafoe as gas station attendant Gas!

The Big Easy (1986)
Is it wrong to like a movie so bad? Not when it stars ’80s favourites Dennis Quaid and Ellen Barken, I say. Set in New Orleans (“Folks have a certain way o’ doin’ things down here.”), Quaid plays police detective Remy McSwain to Barken’s district attorney Anne Osborne, as they team up to solve a local gangster’s murder. This film presents a likeable cast of characters in an atmosphere rich with all the things you expect to experience in New Orleans, most of all food—there is Étouffée eaten at famed restaurant Tipitina’s, a pizza that Anne must eat to reveal a police report, Remy’s brother devours a muffuletta, and Remy’s family throws a boil and barbecue when he gets out of jail (I won’t totally spoil it for you but Anne must prosecute Remy when he goes to trial on corruption charges, oooooooh).

Napoleon Dynamite (2004)
Tina and tuna casserole.

Julie and Julia (2009)
Wow am I ever glad I only watched this last week because Amy Adams character (Julie Powell) is super annoying.  Meryl Streep as Julia Child in France in the ’50s with husband Paul Child (genial portrayal by Stanley Tucci) is so compelling that I didn’t mind (too much) to have to endure the whiny (“I’m thirty! What have I done with my life?”) Julie character. I’m eye-rolling over here. The premise of the movie is pretty fun though, Julie decides to cook her way through all the recipes in Julia Child’s Mastering the Art of French Cooking in one year and will blog about it as she goes. There is a lot of food in this film, but watch it mostly for Streep’s portrayal of Julia Child as she attends Le Cordon Bleu and embarks on the huge project of writing her first cookbook.

Pulp Fiction (1994)
This movie is chock-a-block with food! That’s right, chock-a-block. From the opening scene in the diner with Pumpkin (Tim Roth) and Honey Bunny (Amanda Plummer), to Vincent Vega’s (John Travolta) “Royale with Cheese”, to Fabienne’s (Maria de Medeiros) blueberry pancakes, it’s a veritable smörgåsbord of food offerings. Food and pulp, what an awesome combination.

Waitress (2007)
Sure I may have watched all four seasons of the TV series Felicity starring Keri Russell, but I never liked it! I do, however, really like this movie starring Russell as Jenna, a woman in an unhappy marriage who works in Joe’s Pie Diner as a waitress inventing pie recipes with fun names like “Kick in the Pants Pie” and “Pregnant Miserable Self Pitying Loser Pie”. Through her journal writing and recipe making we learn of Jenna’s hopes for her future and that of her unborn child. It’s a feel-good food movie.

* Today is the first day of sunshine in a REALLY LONG TIME. It is glorious.

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