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Milwaukee's Daily Magazine for Tuesday, July 22, 2014

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In Arts & Entertainment

Movies with a Thanksgiving flavor


Thanksgiving weekend is a pivotal time for the movie industry.

With schools closed, offices shuttered and millions of Americans trying to avoid their in-laws and / or the throngs at the shopping mall, it's no surprise that many folks flock to theaters. Studios try to capitalize on this by rolling out the big stars and big-budget films.

Solid reviews and a strong opening during Thanksgiving weekend go a long way toward determining whether it will be a happy holiday for studio execs, producers, directors, stars and publicists. If a movie does well, it's champagne and caviar through New Year's. If it tanks, little Jacob and Jessica might not get to go to camp next summer.

Nobody wants to be connected with a turkey at the box office this week and, judging by the racks at the video store, few films want to be associated with the Thanksgiving holiday at all.

Ask a group of friends to name their favorite Christmas film and you'll get a lively 30-minute discussion. Ask about Halloween movies and the conversation can zing from "It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown" to dozens of slasher films.

But, what about Thanksgiving?

Can you name your all-time favorite Thanksgiving movie? The holiday that arrives this week is so intertwined with feasting and football that it's hard to think of movies that set the proper mood.

Have no fear.

OnMilwaukee.com is proud to present a list of Thanksgiving-themed movies that you can watch while the tryptophan works its magic. If you have any other suggestions, use the Talkback feature to spread the word.

In the meantime, enjoy this list and pass the cranberries.

Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987): Directed by John Hughes and starring Steve Martin and John Candy, this film is funny at any time of the year. Martin and Candy play mismatched travelers battling a blizzard and trying to make it home in time for turkey. Martin's encounter with a rental car clerk is a classic. Hughes, who directed "Sixteen Candles," "The Breakfast Club," and Ferris Bueller's Day Off," doesn't do anything to disguise the jokes -- you can see them coming – but, you'll laugh anyway. Look for cameos by Michael McKean, Ben Stein and Kevin Bacon.

Home for the Holidays (1995): A star-studded cast – Holly Hunter, Anne Bancroft, Robert Downey, Jr., and Charles Durning – highlights the directorial debut of Oscar-winning actress Jodie Foster. There is nothing earth-shattering about the plot – Hunter's character, Claudia Larson, returns home to a dysfunctional family that features a gay brother, bitchy sister, meddling mom and a daffy aunt. Though she spends a fair amount of "What am I doing with these people?" soul-searching, Claudia finds comfort in the unconditional love of the family.

Hannah and Her Sisters (1986): It's not a Thanksgiving movie per se, but director Woody Allen's opens and closes his screenplay with holiday feasts and spends the time between showing how the members of one extended family torment each other with their quirks. Michael Caine and Dianne West won Oscars for this, but you'll also see Mia Farrow, Barbara Hershey, Carrie Fisher, Max von Sydow, Maureen O'Sullivan, Daniel Stern and Julia Louis-Dreyfus.

What's Cooking? (2000): A tale of four families of different ethnic groups -- African-American, Jewish, Latino and Vietnamese – as they come together for the holiday. Directed by Gurinder Chadha of "Bend It Like Beckham" and featuring an accomplished cast (Alfre Woodard, Joan Chen, Dennis Haysbert, Lainie Kazan, Kyra Sedgwick and Julianna Margulies).

Pieces of April (2003)
: A lot of critics enjoyed this movie when it came out, but now that Katie Holmes has turned into Tom Cruise's tag-team partner in the tabloids it's hard to think of her as anything else. The plot is her trying to host a Thanksgiving dinner for her splintered family in a tiny apartment.

Tadpole (2002): A coming of age movie set over Thanksgiving. Oscar (played by Aaron Stanford) has a thing for his step-mom (Sigourney Weaver), but ends up sleeping with her best friend (Bebe Neuwirth). You might see this one on the Independent Film Channel.

The Myth of Fingerprints (1997): Starring Noah Wylie…. It's hard to watch Noah Wylie without his stethoscope and hospital scrubs. For better or worse, the guy will always remind us of "E.R."

The Ice Storm (1997):
Kevin Kline is an underrated genius in our book, so we were bound to like this movie that also includes Joan Allen, Sigourney Weaver, Tobey Maguire, Elijah Wood and Katie Holmes. It's set around Thanksgiving, but it's a study of life in suburban Connecticut in 1973.

A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving (1973):
The animation may seem primitive by today's standards, but who cares? It's a classic. Pull up your toast and popcorn, sit down with the kids and watch this classic.

Talkbacks

johnnyhyland | Nov. 20, 2006 at 5:15 p.m. (report)

I think Planes, Trains, and Automobiles might be one of the funniest movies that I have ever seen. Neil Page's (Martin) ability to not lose Del Griffith (Candy) makes you want to cry, but not as much as the tear-jerking ending that results in a calming walk down a northern-suburban street, all the way home. Nice Job Drew.

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