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Pour Some Gravy on Those Cinematic Turkeys

House of Yes
House of Yes; Courtesy of Miramax Films

Greetings and salutations
* my little sweet potatoes …

There's an old joke.  Two elderly women are at a Catskills Mountain resort, and one of them says, “The food at this place is really terrible.” The other one says, "Yeah I know, and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life. Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly ...* -- Woody Allen

Oh, you and your existential conundrums, why fret Wood Man? It’s not the end of the world yet! Speaking of unhappy experiences that are over way too quickly, it’s Thanksgiving Week here in the U.S. of Yay. Time for all us Oversized Yanks to strap our obese children into the back of the old gas-guzzling Griswold Family Station Wagon for a Turkey Trot back to the hometown to celebrate our Imperialist Forefather’s unprovoked invasion of the North American continent. Who doesn’t love this country so good? Wait, don’t answer that question.

The real question is what’s not to like about Thanksgiving? Forget the smallpox-infested blankets and the tyranny and the carrot & raisin salad, what about the whole hanging with the family part of your Turkey Tango? I’ve been thinking after prolonged exposure, those people can be a real pain in our ass, so Poppa H has taken it upon himself to cook up a few Filmic Casseroles for you holiday travelers to take home.

The idea is, after the turkey has been gobbled and conversing with your creepy fringe uncles and cousins has run its course … When the time has come for everyone in your family to “just shut the fuck up,” try stuffing one of Poppa H’s Casseroles of Cinematic Love down their entertainment holes. 9 out of 10 dysfunctional families agree, a good holiday movie works ten times better than Tryptophan, fruitcake or scotch …

Hannah and Her Sisters
Hannah and Her Sisters; courtesy of Orion Pictures

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986)
Woody Allen, the nebbish auteur filmmaker with a penchant for dating girls 1/16th his age drops one of the best holiday films on us (ever) with Hannah and Her Sisters, a beautifully romantic, super funny, family dramedy about the poetic absurdity of love and the neurotic dance we call modern life and death.  Sisters is one of my fave holiday movies because a) it’s a totally underrated pick this time of year b) has the narrative of a Russian novel a c) revolves it’s story around Thanksgiving dinner celebrations over the course of several years.
 
I know it’s an unconventional Thanksgiving choice for some of you Tommy Boys, but if you come from a well-bred academic family that’s into psychotherapy, tweed and the collected works of Norwegian playwright Henrik Ibsen, this pick from the king of New York’s Guilty Bourgeois Set could be right up your erudite alley …

Granted, the Woodster may not be the most uplifting soul in Manhattan but Sisters will remarkably leave your heart soaring with the message that we may not be living in a godless universe after all … Maybe we’re living in a place of love, warmth and possibility where The Marx Brothers mere existence is reason enough to keep living?

Alice's Restaurant
Alice's Restaurant; courtesy of United Artists

Alice’s Restaurant (1969)
Two years after director Arthur Penn shot a million bullet holes through Hollywood’s idea of itself with Bonnie & Clyde, he made the classic Alice's Restaurant, a rambling protest of a picture based on a rambling protest of a song that, to many, encapsulates the long-lost ethos of the 1960’s. Get high tagging along with Arlo Guthrie (a poor man’s Bob Dylan) as he wanders the New England countryside, drops in on a hippie commune run by his friends, Ray and Alice, and decides to stay awhile …

What does Alice’s Restaurant mean? No one knows man, not even the artists. But it’s a true story, look it up. If it still doesn’t make any damn sense (puff-puff-give!)—it’s not supposed to you blockhead, it was the ’60’s!  All you need to know is the film’s centerpiece is a groovy Thanksgiving Day Meal full of flower power and free love that (like most counterculture celebrations) ends in jail time for our rebel hero ... So if you’re the Rebel Family on the Block that passes the Ceremonial Bong around the Thanksgiving dinner table, you’ll love this holiday space-cake of a rambling movie ballad. And if you don’t, don’t worry, you’ll be asleep before it’s over …

Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Planes, Trains & Automobiles; courtesy of Paramount Pictures

Tennessee Williams Without the Poetry
And I’m spent … Grammy Hooker mailed me a 12-pound smoked turkey to nibble in honor of the looming Thanksgiving brew-ha-ha and I think I ate too much … A 4-lb turkey muffaletta was a bad choice.

Mongo needs to lie down but at least I got you started on the road to holiday healing …  Can you smell your Grandma’s jalapeno stuffing already cooking? No?? Your family eats shellfish chowder and nut meg ice cream?? Whatever blows your skirt up (freak), it’s okay with me …* As for Poppa H’s Southern Gothic Thanksgiving, don’t ask: think Tennessee Williams but without the poetry

Until next week, be bad and get into trouble baby …*

More Turkey Day Picks to Click
•    Home for the Holidays (1995) - Dir. Jodie Foster
•    Planes, Trains & Automobiles (1987) – Dir. Hughes
•    Miracle on 34 Street (1947) – Dir. Seaton
•    The House of Yes (1997) – Dir. Waters

Volume 40 Footnotes
•    “Greetings and salutations.” – Heathers (1991): Christian Slater doing his best Nicholson impersonation to a monacle-lovin’ Winona Ryder
•    “There's an old joke...Two elderly women are at a Catskills mountain resort, and one of them says, "Boy the food at this place is really terrible." The other one says, "Yeah I know, and such small portions." Well, that's essentially how I feel about life.  Full of loneliness and misery and suffering and unhappiness, and it's all over much too quickly...” – Annie Hall (1976): Woody Allen’s opening monologue to his runaway Oscar hit.
•    It’s okay with me … – The Long Goodbye (1973): Elliot Gould is a mellow Marlowe with a laid-back life ethos in Robert Altman’s detective-out-of-water classic.
•    “Let’s get into trouble baby.” – Tapeheads (1988): Soul Train host Don Cornelius (as Hollywood Producer Mo Fuzz) to upstart filmmakers Tim Robbins and John Cusack.