Thanksgiving movie menu

November 19, 2007

Between the family infighting, the poor excuses for cooked turkey and the endless hours of golf discussions (that last one could just be my family…), let’s admit it, Thanksgiving can be tough to take sometimes, or at the very least a little overwhelming. Sure, you want to spend some good, quality time with Aunt Jaimie, but isn’t a few minutes enough?

Not to mention that classic Thanksgiving pastime: forcing everyone to watch holiday TV “specials,” also known as The Wizard of Oz with overexcited cousins for the 50th time and counting. Nothing against that time-honored film, of course, but after a while, enough is enough. Not even the strongest can survive a family get-together, underwhelming cooking and back-to-back showings of The Wizard all in one.

So here are some fun suggestions for your own type of holiday menu – a true meal for before, after, or even during (only the very brave need apply) the festivities themselves.

Amelie

Appetizer

Amélie – To put you in that light-hearted, forgiving, “let’s help other people!” mood that you’re going to need for an afternoon and evening of family politics. And to put the wonderful taste of crackling, melted, crème brulée sugar in your mouth – you know, as a sort of buffer against what’s to come…

Entrée (2 options)

Meet the Parents – Humor born out of desperation and tactless behavior all rolled into one. Yep, it’s definitely dinner time. And, of course, unlike any Thanksgiving I’ve ever heard of… Enjoy that extra helping of family disapproval!

Mean Girls – A sort of cleansing, cathartic, just let it all out experience for when the, uh, stuffing really starts flying. They can get revenge so you don’t feel the need to have to.

Side dish

A very special Thanksgiving episode – A quick, painless distraction from the main meal. Your favorite TV show must have at least one of them. Here are some excellent suggestions that span decades – I certainly can’t disagree with the trifle gone very, very wrong episode of Friends and the “I can slay and give thanks!” Buffy choice, at least.

Dessert

Ratatouille – Now that you’ve let it all out (and eaten most of the food, so a film about rats is more of a safe bet), time to bury your sorrows in sugar and butter. It’s gorgeous, it’s fun, it’s animated, and it’s even got cheese. The perfect, delectable end to a hopefully short evening.

Drinks (‘cuz god knows you’re gonna need ’em)

Old School – Unleash your inner college student (or soon-to-be, or currently are, or whatever the case may be) and embrace denial and total oblivion from the real world. Just to clarify: I am not advocating lots of heavy drinking here, but rather watching this film to get the same result, but better! (no hangover, see?)

(Alternative tasting menu for the less humor inclined: go to New York Magazine’s “Pre-Holiday Guide to Downer Films.” I have serious chart envy over this post.)

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The weirdest villains in film

November 14, 2007

In a recent review for the film American Gangster, the LA Times included a fun little photo gallery of what they considered “more unusual choices for organized crime bosses.” Their picks include Jabba the Hut (can’t argue with them there…) and Don Lino (aka, the voice of Robert DeNiro) in the animated Shark Tale.

And while that’s fun and all, what about those other outcasts from the population of ne’er-do-wells whose chosen occupations sadly don’t fall into the realm of organized crime? Shouldn’t they get their say as well?

Here, then, are some of my favorite villainous oddballs:

WARNING: some contain SPOILERS (read with care…)

Bowler Hat Guy (Meet the Robinsons) – Something about those spindly legs just really creeps me out and to top it all off, the true villain is the mechanical bowler hat itself (uh huh, a bowler hat) that’s telling him what to do. Ick.

Yzma and Kronk (Emperor’s New Groove) – The first looks like some sort of waspish spider and has a weird thing for llamas. The second is a sidekick who hums his own theme song and happily cooks spinach puffs right in the middle of an evil plot. And when Yzma cackles evilly as a cute little kitten? Priceless.

The Penguin (Batman Returns) – Okay, true, in Batman, Jack Nicholson’s The Joker is mighty odd and, yes, totally insane. But he’s got a kind of sense of humor (in a creepy way) and, well… it’s Jack Nicholson. He’s his own kind of weird. In any case, unlike the Penguin in the original comics who was rather cool-headed, refined and quite intelligent, the Penguin in Batman Returns is, as the Wikipedia entry puts it, “a physically deformed, sadistic, megalomaniacal monster.” Plus, he hangs around with penguins all the time. Literally. I think that qualifies him.

The Wicked Witch of the West (Wizard of Oz) – She melts and her henchmen are flying monkeys. Enough said.

The Claw (Toy Story) – Who knew the fun selector of children’s stuffed animals could be such a bizarre nightmarish creature? Not forgetting of course that The Claw is also a completely emotionless cult leader who gets his brainwashed followers to chant “The Claw is our master. The claw chooses who will go and who will stay.” And leads them to believe that being “chosen” will take them to “a better place.” Scary, scary stuff.

HAL 9000 (2001: A Space Odyssey) – As an artificial intelligence, this decidedly creepy villain is nothing but a voice and an oddly pulsating red glow. And really, there isn’t much that is scarier and more goosebumpily bizarre than a villain who never, ever raises his voice.

The Emperor (Star Wars) – Why is it that the names of many evil villains begin with a definite article? I suppose we’ll never really know, but I think it’s clear that this villain at least certainly deserves to have a name that begins with an emphatic “the.” With his ghoulish voice and eerie cackle, not to mention that blue lightning thing he can do with his hands, the Emperor is both evil and just plain strange. Darth Vader has got that cool strong man / deep voice in black metal vibe going on, but the Emperor has an omnipresent cowl and cooky sense of humor. He wins.

Assorted Amélie villains (Amélie / Le Fabuleux Destin d’Amélie Poulain) – Perhaps not villains per se, if you want to get technical, but they are all weird and/or mysteriously odd people. So I think they should get their chance too. First, there’s the almost (okay, total) stalker guy from the café who records everything his ex-girlfriend says or does. Then, there’s the obnoxious and cruel grocer who delights in tormenting the boy who works for him and always calls Amélie “Amélie-melo.” And finally, there’s the ghost / possible obsessive picture taker whose eerie mystery haunts the film. Quite the goldmine of weird scoundrels, n’est-ce pas?

No Face (Spirited Away) – Half leprechaun, half “The Blob,” this gold-giving masked spirit vies (successfully, in my opinion) with the witch Yubaba for the title of baddest, largest, most complex, and just downright crazy villain in this spooky Japanese fairy tale.

The Cat King (The Cat Returns) – Pretty much demented, yet still a powerful ruler over, uh, cats, this rotund monarch has “I am CRAZY” eyes, static-style hair and calls the heroine “babe.” And he throws unfortunate palace performers out the window when they can’t make his guest smile. Weird and psychopathic – a winning combination for this list.

Lord Voldemort (pretty much any Harry Potter film) – Let’s recap, shall we? In the first film, he was a face on the back of someone’s head. In the second film, he was a ghost from a diary. In the third film, um… Okay, well, in the fourth film, he was a seriously creepy baby-like creature who transformed out of a boiling cauldron into a noseless man. In the fifth film and (I’m assuming) on, he’s that same snakelike, pasty-faced, noseless man. Yep, I think I’ve made my point…

Dr. Evil (Austin Powers) – This is a bit of a given. And with a medical degree in Evil, he’s earned it.

Honorable mentions: Stay Puft (Ghostbusters), the Black Knight and the Killer Rabbit of Caerbannog (Monty Python and the Holy Grail), coat hanger aficionado Toht (Indiana Jones and the Raiders of the Lost Ark), and potentially Grendel’s mother (the animated Angelina Jolie) in the upcoming Beowulf.