1. Are there really any true "Thanksgiving movies"?
There have been plenty of lists made throughout the history of blogs on the best Thanksgiving movies (I'll be sampling some below). But are these movies just normal movies that are either set at Thanksgiving or have a scene taking place during the holiday? Here is a surprising answer from Glenn Heath Jr. at Denver.com:
What about movies centered on this gut-busting day of gluttonous excess and genuine thankfulness? Does Thanksgiving have its own equivalent of A Christmas Story or Halloween? Aside from Jodie Foster’s fun but lackluster Home for the Holidays, the answer is resoundingly no.
While Thanksgiving is criminally underrepresented compared to the likes of Halloween and Christmas, it still provides the backdrop for some truly great films, some of which are entirely founded around the principals of selflessness and giving.
He goes on to list some relatively dark and serious titles, not family-friendly-festive kinds, including "The New World" and "Hannah and Her Sisters."
In agreement with Heath's answer is Drew Magary at NBC's Popcorn Biz:
There’s no real definitive Thanksgiving movie. It’s not like Christmas, when you know you’re gonna watch “A Christmas Story” and you know darn well you AREN’T gonna watch “It’s A Wonderful Life.” Too many people spend Thanksgiving watching football or heading out to see NEW movies, and thus the holiday is left without a perennial movie favorite. In fact, most Thanksgiving-themed movies are AWFUL, almost always featuring a bunch of annoying family members getting together to annoy each other. I get enough of that in real life, thank you. I don’t need “Pieces of April” to drive the point home.
The closest thing we have to a classic Thanksgiving film is the late John Hughes’ “Planes, Trains, and Automobiles."
For more picks for great turkey day movies, head over to my list of 10 Documentaries to Watch on Thankskgiving at the Documentary Channel Blog. And see what everyone else says is the best or one of the best Thanksgiving movies over at Movies.com.
2. What are the best Thanksgiving-themed movie scenes?
If there aren't any true Thanksgiving movies, how about some true Thanksgiving scenes? I've always been very fond of Christina Ricci's rant about the holiday's history in "The Ice Storm," mainly because that was always me as a kid. The scene is on K. Thor Jensen's list of The Best Thanksgiving Scenes at UGO, which also includes another Ricci moment, from "Addams Family Values," and TV shows like "Buffy the Vampire Slayer," but here's his pick for the top honor:
Jodie Foster's second directoral effort, Home For The Holidays is a great portrait of exactly how dysfunctional Thanksgiving can play out. When Claudia Larson flies home to spend the first Thanksgiving in a long time with her battling brood, all kinds of issues spring up around the table. It's all punctuated by one of the most intense holiday fights of all time, climaxing with the turkey itself being used as a weapon. What a waste of a beautiful bird.
That scene fits with a Thanksgiving-themed list by Monika Bartyzel at Movies.com of 8 Great…Awkward Movie Moments at the Dinner Table, which includes films not set on the holiday but certainly relative to it. Among her picks are "Shampoo," "Meet the Parents" and "American Beauty." Here's one of my favorites, even if it's not as family based as some other more appropriate to the holiday:
Many unpleasant dinner moments rely on an “other,” an outsider who disrupts either the social balance of the group, or the host’s expectations. This is no truer than the celebration dinner scene in Rushmore. Jason Schwartzman’s Max treats his crush’s boyfriend with obvious hostility, intermingling pompous maturity with a purely adolescent tantrum. And awkward though it may be, the scene is, perhaps, more impressive for how well Luke Wilson’s Peter handles the verbal battery. Sure, Max is a kid, but he’s a ridiculously annoying one who easily slips under the skin and annoys those in close proximity with true skill.
3. What movie moments are you thankful for this year?
At Cinema Blend, the whole staff compiled together A Movie Fan's Thanksgiving: What We're Thankful For This Year (there's also a TV version and a pop culture version). Included is much love for Ryan Gosling, "Drive," Steven Spielberg and dogs, whether it be a van full of puppies or the animal characters in films like "The Artist," "Hugo," "Beginners" and "50/50." From their intro, something I will try to consider tomorrow:
It's sad but true that we really do need a national holiday set aside to remind us of what we have to be thankful for, and it might be even more true when you write about movies for a living. Week after week we find ourselves complaining about the latest new crappy release, or looking forward to something only to have it disappoint us. Even when we write good reviews, there are lots of caveats and "despite this" phrases. We get into writing about movies because we love them, only to work in a job that requires us to write about them critically.
4. Should we also be thankful for this week's new releases?
I've only seen "Hugo" and "The Artist" among this week's new releases, so I can't totally speak for how much greater or worse this year's crop is than usual (I don't like "The Artist" all that much). But many are noting this is indeed a release date to be thankful for, with a cornucopia of great films to choose from (or see all of).
After a month filled with bad movies (“Jack and Jill,” “J. Edgar,” “Breaking Dawn”), the film gods reward us with a Thanksgiving weekend in which all the new releases are great.
If you’re a football fan, you probably don’t care that this year’s Thanksgiving-weekend movie menu is much, much tastier than last year’s.
But folks who won’t be parked in front of the TV after the Thanksgiving meal tomorrow (or furiously planning strategy for a Black Friday shopping trip at midnight; oh, the insanity!) might be cheered by the fact that this could be the best group of Thanksgiving movies ever.
5. Any new Thanksgiving classics being introduced this year?
The answer to this is yes, and here it is, Larry David's Thanksgiving Special, via Funny or Die: