Tuesday, November 20, 2007
Thanksgiving double feature
I used to make a point of listening to Arlo Guthrie's brilliant 18 1/2-minute story in song, "Alice's Restaurant," every Thanksgiving. And the movie is on my admittedly short list of favorite Thanksgiving films.
In fact, there's only one other movie on the list: Gurinder Chadha's "What's Cooking?" Chadha is best known as the director of the 2002 film "Bend it Like Beckham," about a soccer-crazy British girl whose traditional Indian parents don't exactly approve of her playing the sport.
"What's Cooking?," made two years earlier, follows four ethnically and racially diverse families on one street in Los Angeles as they go about their preparations for the big holiday meal. It's an appealing mix of serious and light-hearted moments. Food is cooked, family members gather and frayed relationships are exposed.
While the holiday isn't as central to the plot of "Alice's Restaurant," it plays an important role nonetheless. Guthrie goes to visit his friend Alice in Stockbridge, Mass., for Thanksgiving. While there, he decides to take some garbage to the town dump for her. But the dump is closed on Thanksgiving, so Guthrie throws the bags of trash down the side of a cliff.
That act leads to endless complications, which Guthrie relates on his visit to the Army induction center in Manhattan. Well, you just have to listen to the song or watch the movie to get the rest.
While at first glance you wouldn't think these two movies have much in common, they're actually pretty representative of their times. "What's Cooking" takes place in an increasingly mulitethnic Los Angeles, and the Vietnam War and draft are integral parts of "Alice's Restaurant."
Both movies are about the complications that can arise when you get together to celebrate Thanksgiving with friends and family. While there are serious moments, there's also quite a bit of humor in both of them. They make a very appetizing holiday double feature.