Photos | Metro-Goldwyn-Mayer Studios Inc. / Universal Pictures
From left: Woody Allen’s Thanksgiving-centric “Hannah and Her Sisters” offers more depth and sweetness than his films usually have, making it one of his best. In “Green Book,” a working-class Italian-American bouncer (Viggo Mortensen) becomes the driver for an African-American classical pianist (Mahershala Ali) on a tour of venues through the 1960s American South.
Since there are few Thanksgiving-themed movies to discuss, I’ve been thinking about what entertainments or entertainers I am thankful for. Sometimes movies can seem too trite a topic to consider in trying times, but on the other hand, the diversion they provide, or the emotional succor they deliver, or the engagement they give us are worth giving thanks for.
Here are some of the movies and people for which I’m thankful. They may not be family (although that would be cool), but they have a place in our lives.
Director and actor Taika Waititi — this dude is a delight. He gave us “Thor: Ragnarok,” and for that I am grateful, but please dig into his earlier films, specifically “Hunt for the Wilderpeople” (2016), an adorable and extremely heartwarming coming-of-age adventure. Waititi himself is a funny actor and just seems generally adorable. At my house we watch the “Thor” outtakes because we like his face and we like his shirts.
We’re also thankful for the time and effort that go into Laika films, and I think we’ve put in almost as many hours watching them as the puppeteers put into making them. “Coraline” has inspired countless drawings in my house and “Kubo and the Two Strings” makes us want to do origami and also cry, sometimes at the same time. (Origami can be frustrating!) They’re such beautifully made, deeply felt works of art, and we do some hardcore appreciating at my house.
My children’s love of Jeff Goldblum was launched with the aforementioned “Thor: Ragnarok,” in which he sports a killer smoky eye and a variety of lame ensembles as The Grandmaster, but their appreciation is more far-reaching every day, which is as it should be, and now he pops up in all sorts of commercials. And of course they realize the guy from “Jurassic Park” is also The Grandmaster and he’s also a jazz musician now. Goldblum is a gift to humanity, and I assume we’re all grateful for him, his weird attractiveness and his inexplicably paced line readings.
When I said there weren’t any Thanksgiving movies, I forgot the Charlie Brown Thanksgiving specials. They bear a moment’s discussion, because you don’t watch a Peanuts special expecting characters to die or vomit, but in this one, they do. Oh sure, there’s the normal Thanksgiving special where Peppermint Patty invites herself over to Chuck’s house for lunch and he ends up serving popcorn and jellybeans. But our DVD includes the educational “Charlie Brown: The Mayflower Voyagers,” which covers the Pilgrims’ arduous journey over here, with the Peanuts gang and longsuffering Pilgrim kids. They don’t gloss over the loss of life, and feature ailing cartoon people lying in bed dying, throwing up from seasickness and eventually having Thanksgiving dinner.
Although his personal life is problematic, the early films of Woody Allen soothe me, and while you hear more about “Annie Hall,” he actually gave us one of our few Thanksgiving flicks with “Hannah and Her Sisters” (1987), which is bookended by Thanksgiving dinners attended by the titular family members. Hannah (Mia Farrow) is a successful actress, devoted mother and enviably well-adjusted, productive woman; those sisters of hers, much less so.
Dianne Wiest rightfully won a Best Supporting Actress Academy Award as Holly, a flighty failing actress who can’t find her place in the world. Carrie Fisher shows up as her frenemy and cofounder of their doomed “Stanislavski Catering Company” and Barbara Hershey gets wooed by both Max von Sydow and Michael Caine at the same time, a claim few can probably make. Allen tempers his usual peevishness with more depth and sweetness than his films usually have, and I have read in an interview that he, of course, regrets giving this film the happy ending that actually makes it one of his best films.
I don’t think it’s a stretch to feel grateful for an experience that gives us pleasure, mental relief or an emotional journey. If you feel grateful for “Star Wars” or “Marvel,” “Downton Abbey” or “Disney,” “Game of Thrones” or “Rick and Morty” or “Sesame Street,” well, I’m right there with you. I’m thankful for the creativity and community of fantasy and fandoms and films.