Bill Daley marks the conclusion of the NYC Food Film Festival at the Chicago Tribune with two things. One, he notes that there will be a Chicago version November 18-20, but that none of the films have been announced yet. (We can, ahem, assure you that there will be a Chicago presence there, both video and food-wise.) Second, he asks around the office for food movie suggestions, and gets back a list of worthy but mostly well-known suspects— Tampopo, Big Night, Mostly Martha, and so on. These are all examples of a minigenre that’s appeared in recent years, the food-obsessed movie that’s literally about making, and luxuriating in, food. But we don’t think that that’s the only kind of food movie out there.
For us, the real food movie isn’t one where food is front and center, but where it’s an underlying current in the lives of the characters. The closest suggestion to this kind of food movie on the list is Cheryl Bowles’ suggestion of Goodfellas; she cites the prison scene with Paulie shaving garlic with a razor, but there are scenes throughout the entire movie where food and hanging out in restaurants and bars and occasionally torching them for insurance cash are woven into the fabric of the character’s jumpy, violent lives. A couple of others we’d put in that category:
• Gran Torino All you need to know about the difference between Clint Eastwood and his neighbors is that they’re fixing a big extended family Hmong feast, and he’s sitting on his porch with a Budweiser and a Slim Jim. Before anything else, their food is what breaks down his barrier with his neighbors.
• The In-Laws “Shel, they make a chicken sandwich on a hard roll down here, it’s out of this world…” If someone’s shooting at Peter Falk and Alan Arkin in this 1979 comedy, it’s almost certainly the case that something to do with food is coming out of Falk’s irrepressibly chatty and random mouth at that moment. Let’s just say, we’ve met the type.
• Modern Times Seeing this Charlie Chaplin classic some months back was a reminder of how keenly Chaplin felt the prospect of starvation even when he was long since wealthy and famous— the whole movie is built around food, not as a gourmet choice but as necessity, from the automatic eating machine in the factory to all the emotional meaning inherent in the act of a man being able to provide his girl with the makings of a meal.
What food-as-part-of-life movies would you suggest?