Unconventional Thanksgiving Movies
This Thursday, tons of families across America will gather together for the annual Thanksgiving holiday, which as always is beset by lots of Turkey, a football game or even Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade, and depending on your family, a nice seasonal movie. But maybe instead of watching A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving or Planes, Trains, and Automobiles for the umpteenth time, why not spice things up with an unconventional viewing? Our writers have selected three titles which are out of of the ordinary for sure, but certainly reflect the mood of Thanksgiving in one way or another.
Funny People (2009)
Judd Apatow decided to make a film in the spirit of James L. Brooks’ early work for his third directorial effort, Funny People. A lot of people didn’t take too kindly to it, though. Either finding nothing redeemable about the characters or being frustrated by its runtime of nearly two and a half hours, it was poorly received by critics and at the box office. It’s a shame because Funny People is a standout. Just to highlight one aspect, the film features, to date, the last great Adam Sandler performance.
Sandler plays George Simmons, a rich, popular, yet lonely comedian, who in the middle of the film gets invited to his writer Ira’s (Seth Rogen) Thanksgiving dinner. This scene anchors the pathos of Funny People. In the film, Simmons struggles to connect with his friends and family soon after being diagnosed with leukemia. Attending the Thanksgiving dinner is a huge step for Simmons, who delivers a heartfelt speech at the table. He speaks to Ira’s friends, a young group of comedians and actors who are far away from home, trying to make it in L.A., about how time and friends are important. Things slip away. It’s the most beautiful Thanksgiving speech put on film that ends with a testical joke. (Marcelo Pico)
Blood Freak (1972)
For many of us, Blood Freak has become a Thanksgiving household tradition. The movie is about a drifter named “Herschell”, played by Steve Hawkes, a sleepy-eyed cross between Elvis and Jay Leno, who meets up with a woman named Angel. He follows her home and there is a “raging” party going on. Raging, in case, means a bunch of your parents friends drinking what looks like pineapple soda and snorting out of a Vick’s inhaler. Anywho, Angel is a bible freak and starts quoting scripture to Hersch. He’s digging it but Angel’s sister, Ann wants the big galoot all to herself. At some point, Ann gets Herchell high with the help of her dealer, Guy, who laces the joint with something to “get him hooked”.
Cut to Herschell getting a job at a poultry plant where his main task is to eat turkey that has been experimented on with some sort of drugs. Herschell eats the whole goddamn turkey, begins to stumble around and have seizures. His head transforms into that of a turkey's that has some sort of blood thirst. “What in the actual hell?”, I hear you saying. It is all there. Turkschell goes around killing people and trying to drink their blood (really, he just kinda washes his hands in it). At some point, we discover that it’s all been a drug-induced hallucination and Hersch swears off drugs with the help of Angel. Oh, yeah. Throughout the movie, there is a chain-smoking narrator who pops up occasionally (often glancing at his lines on the table in front of him) to guide you through this moral tale. I suppose Blood Freak could be considered a Christian Scare Film, what I do know is it's a Thanksgiving treat that keeps on giving. Please give it a whirl on Thursday; you might regret it, but you’ll never forget it! (Sarah Jane)
The Last Waltz (1978)
This Martin Scorsese-directed concert film features Canadian rock group The Band (Robbie Robertson, Levon Helm, Garth Hudson, Rick Danko, and Richard Manuel) in their farewell performance, shot on Thanksgiving Day in 1976 in San Francisco. The performance celebrates its 40th anniversary this year (although the film came out two years later), but feels just as fresh as ever, and many believe it to be one of the greatest concert films ever made. There's a brief sequence of a typical holiday meal shared amongst the group near the beginning, but after that, its nearly two hours of straight performances, reeling in special guests like Neil Young, Joni Mitchell, Van Morrison, and Bob Dylan.
While The Last Waltz seems like an odd choice to watch with your relatives, there's something about it which recalls the very essence of what the holiday brings about. At a time of year when so many people are too focused on shopping crazes and other superficial matters, the sense of togetherness which defines Thanksgiving tends to be forgotten about. The Last Waltz is, in essence, a document of a group of friends who've decided to call it quits, but out of mutual love, come together for their art to give something back while celebrating what they have and what they've lost. It's an atypical and melancholic way of encapsulating the holidays, but the beauty and romanticism that rises out of each performance makes it an inspired choice for a holiday viewing. (Rob Trench)