Another year, another Oscars ceremony coming up, and still no category for Best Use of Food In a Motion Picture. Where is the justice? Ever since the great Charlie Chaplin made a couple of dinner rolls dance in The Gold Rush, food has elevated the cinema to its greatest moments. From James Cagney taking out his aggression on a grapefruit to Willy Wonka’s fantasy land of sweets, food has helped film portray the full range of human emotions. So instead of watching 4 hours of Hollywood self-congratulation this weekend, spend a few minutes checking out the Top 10 Movie Food Moments.
10. “Elwood and I will come here for breakfast, lunch, and dinner.” – The Blues Brothers
Chez Paul was apparently a real restaurant in Chicago. The version of it they used in The Blues Brothers (they built a replica of the interior for filming) was also the perfect example of the too-fussy French restaurant just asking to be taken down a few pegs. And so, when Jake and Elwood go looking for maitre d’ Alan “Mr. Fabulous” Rubin to fill out their brass section, we know something good is going to happen, and we get the visceral thrill of getting to see them overturn the applecart. One shrimp cocktail, a few glasses of champagne, a failed attempt to purchase a woman and child and a very young Pee-Wee Herman later, and they’re off on the next leg of their Mission from God.
9. Jack Just Wants his Toast – Five Easy Pieces
There’s ordering toast, and then there’s ordering toast the Jack Nicholson way. This 1970 drama was nominated for 4 Oscars, but who can remember anything about it, other than Jacko telling the poor waitress to “hold it between your knees?” The moral of the story: If Jack ever walks into your restaurant, just give him his goddamn plain white toast.
8. Late Night Dinner at Mrs. Scorsese’s – Goodfellas
Mob movies and Italian food go together like meatballs and red gravy. So when it comes time to pick the greatest food scene from a Mafia flick, we’re going to leave the cannoli and take a scene from Marty’s masterpiece, GoodFellas. Although the description of one of the incarcerated gangsters preparing a full Italian feast (complete with razor-sliced garlic in the sauce) is tempting, we have to go with a late night stop at Tommy DeVito’s mother’s place in order to pick out some tools to finish a…business transaction. But what Italian mother would let her son and his friends leave without making sure the boys are well-fed? Oh, and that late-night home cook? Played by Martin Scorsese’s mom.
7. A Chef’s Breakfast – Big Night
A lyrical food movie, with Louis Prima playing the Godot role. Of all of the Italian cuisine featured throughout the film, it’s a simple scene toward the end that captures all you need to know about a chef’s love and respect for food. The next morning, after the climactic feast, a simple egg is cooked on screen, in one take. And you get the feeling that, while the chefs cook the fancy dishes for the punters in the dining room, the true connoisseur can appreciate something so basic. The clip above is from an Italian copy of the movie, but the scene has so few words, it really doesn’t matter. The movie is made all the more satisfying if you know that star Stanley Tucci is a major foodie and F.O.M. (Friend of Mario)
6. In Space No One Can Hear Your Chest Explode – Alien
Bilbo over there has been acting really suspicious lately. And Kane had a run-in with that thing, but he’s been feeling better lately. Maybe things are looking up…you and your buddies get to kick back and enjoy a meal and a few laughs. What could possibly go wrong? Oh, shit!