Thursday, November 11, 2010

The Elusive Thanksgiving Movie

When it comes to Halloween and Christmas, Hollywood's got you covered. More than covered. There are backlogs of Halloween movies and Christmas movies so large that it's probably impossible to watch them all in a lifetime, not to mention the fact that more are being made every year.

But here in America, there's a little fourth quarter holiday that's been greatly underserved by the movie studios. I'm referring, of course, to Thanksgiving. While Hollywood continually churns out new material for The Big Two holidays, it virtually ignores Thanksgiving.

The reason for that is simple: money. You can sell Halloween and Christmas all around the world. But Thanksgiving, as I mentioned, is a specifically American holiday. The studios have good reason to fear limited box office returns, as Thanksgiving has little appeal beyond our borders. (I suppose you could sell a Thanksgiving movie to Canada as well, but you'd have to wait until October of the following year. God forbid an American movie open in Canada before the states... unless it's at the TIFF.)

But Thanksgiving movies do exist. They're few and far between, and the trappings of the holiday are usually just background noise rather than a prominent feature. But with such limited options, you have to take what you can get. Here are a few of those rare gems.

Hannah and Her Sisters. This one is often listed as a "Thanksgiving movie" even though the holiday is only on screen for about ten minutes. Still, it's good - Woody Allen in his prime, with great performances from a great cast. (NOTE: Available on Netflix streaming, so cue it up at your leisure on Thanksgiving day.)

Miracle on 34th Street. Definitely more of a Christmas movie, but the first act is set against a backdrop of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade. The parade scenes were shot during the real 1946 Macy's parade, and it's interesting to see the similarities and differences between the parade now and the parade 60 years ago.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Thanksgiving is the motivating goal of this movie, but doesn't feature too prominently until the end. Of the movies listed here, this one may be the most effective at expressing the togetherness that Thanksgiving is meant to represent. It's also funny.

Pieces of April. A slight movie, but good for what it is. One of the few movies to place Thanksgiving front-and-center, as the title character spends the entire run time struggling to prepare a feast to impress her family.

Home for the Holidays. Probably the most conventionally enjoyable movie of the bunch listed here. Another one of the rare instances where Thanksgiving is central to the story. Despite being centered around Thanksgiving, this movie ends up having more of a Christmas vibe.

The New World. I haven't seen this movie yet, but it's my selection for this year's ramp up to Thanksgiving. A non-animated telling of the story of John Smith and Pocahontas. I don't know how Thanksgiving-y this movie is actually going to be, since the events it depicts predate the Puritans by more than a decade. But I've been meaning to watch this movie for a while now, and Thanksgiving is as good an excuse as any.

As you can see, pickings are pretty slim when it comes to Thanksgiving movies. TV is more reliable for Thanksgiving specials and Thanksgiving-themed episodes of regular series. But if it's a movie you're looking for, I hope this list helps.

1 comment :

  1. I don't think 'Home for the Holiday's' has a Christmasy feel to it at all. It screams Thanksgiving to me. The gorging of food, uncomfortable dinner conversation, sitting around the house afterwards until you come up with some excuse to get away...


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