My dear friend Nanette is a movie lover. Don’t call her during the awards shows; she’s busy with her tally seeing if she agreed with the voting academy. When we watch movies together, other than the plot lines and characters, we notice very different things. She always hears the soundtrack and I almost never even notice it. What I DO notice are the costumes, make-up and set design. Especially in movies that have anything culinary as a theme.
Sometimes the food plays a role like an actor would, advancing the plot through its presence on the screen. Sometimes it’s an actor playing a chef that is the focal point. In some cases it is both. Of course there are scenes surrounding food which are engraved in everyone’s mind – the rotting wedding cake of Miss Havisham in Great Expectations, the deli scene from When Harry Met Sally, Andy Garcia making gnocchi in Godfather III*, the food fights in Animal House and Blazing Saddles and so many others. But these movies are MORE than that to me for LOTS of reasons.
With that in mind, here is a list of food-centric films to get you through the hot weather. Available on Netflix in streaming format unless otherwise noted. This is just a jumping off point – there is SO much more out there including Netflix original series Chef’s Table and Anthony Bourdain’s The Mind of a Chef. Pop that popcorn and settle into the A/C and cool off.
Chef – Jon Favreau’s pet project is wonderful. And I LOVED this soundtrack so much I bought it. What I loved most is a chef finds his love of food again as he finds his love of life. The scenes in New Orleans are so reminiscent of taking my son there for the first time.
The Big Night – Stanley Tucci AND Tony Shaloub? YES! I find both of these gents to be hilarious and the movie is just as good. Two brothers argue about everything when it comes to their restaurant, their food and the critic coming to eat.
Murder by Death (DVD only) – Everyone and their brother is in this flick – Peter Falk, James Coco, Peter Sellers, Nancy Walker, and Dame Maggie Smith to name a few. While the food isn’t CENTRAL, scenes at the dining table are laugh out loud funny in this spoof of Agatha Christie stories.
The Hundred Foot Journey (DVD only) – What is NOT to love about this film? Dame Helen Mirren as an uptight, snobbish pain in the ass does everything in her power to quell the culinary dreams of an immigrant Indian chef until she realizes HE HAS IT. The book was stunning and film is a pretty decent adaptation.
Chocolat – Juliette Binoche brings magic to a sexually, emotionally and spiritually repressed town in the form of sweets at the beginning of Lent. Johnny Depp’s gypsy is romantic and fun and Dame Judy Dench’s cantankerous old broad is fabulous. Watching battered wife Lena Olin learn to temper chocolate is beautiful.
Fried Green Tomatoes (DVD only) – The book is terrific and the film is just as good. Intertwined timelines around a southern diner with a strong female driven cast make this a must watch for the food. I especially love the food fight and BBQ scenes.
Jiro Dreams of Sushi – this one is in my queue. I haven’t had the time to properly devote myself to this documentary project yet. 85 year old sushi chef Jiro profiled in the best way possible. (I know, how can I call myself a true foodie if I haven’t seen it yet…30 lashes with a wet noodle).
*did you ever notice in The Godfather Part I that whenever there are oranges in a scene someone dies or at the very least gets shot? Not that every time someone gets shot there are oranges (hello, Sonny?) but every time there are oranges, something is going down.