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By D.K. Holm
In Defense of Criticism 

Thanksgiving Movies

 

November 22, 2017



Thanksgiving is not a time for movies. It’s a day for football. And eating. Lots of eating. And getting together with family and friends, and then maybe watching some kind of variety show on the tube late at night.

Yet the few Thanksgiving movies that exist actually tell more about the reality of the holiday than you’d expect. Probably the signature Thanksgiving movie of the small group of them made is Jodie Foster’s Home for the Holidays. It’s another entry in that turgid American tradition of the contrived family get-together, most often set within the context of a wedding (this year’s dull The Wilde Wedding) or a death (August, Osage County). Home for the Holidays picks Thanksgiving as the day when everything in the life of the protagonist (Holly Hunter) comes to a head, when unwelcome people show up and needed people to stay away.

Tendentious as it is with its sexual politics, Home for the Holidays does approach a truth about holidays – we hate our families. We didn’t pick them and we generally don’t like them. We don’t like their nosiness, bossiness, politics, career choices, loudness, quietude, senses of humor or lack thereof, and on and on. Otherwise we would be socializing with them every day instead of on a few hours toward the end of the year, obeying some kind of unwritten mandate passed down by elders.

Thanksgiving has much to recommend it. The smell of the turkey baking. The festive displays. The sense of a group coming together on a united front – until any of them start talking. Then the resentments, the grudges, the long suppressed emotions bubble to the surface, and everyone leaves at the end of the day with yet more incidents to brood and be angry about for the rest of life.

Yet the day could be so much better. I blame it on the educational system. We have ceased to teach civics, ethics, logic, responsibility, debating, teamwork and other bedrocks of a sane society. Instead, mostly thanks to the media, we court selfishness, “winning,” bombast, and ego. Our children are disconnected from us, our parents bemoan the decline of standards, and the television news encourages us to engage in rage-filled and incoherent political feuds.

Forget the past, and think of the future. This year, concentrate on the small things – that boat of delicious gravy, that incredible catch in the last minutes of the game, and the smell of pumpkin pie and ice cream. Be interested in each other. Just for once, this year, can’t we all just get along?

D.K. Holm is the Courier's film and television critic. His published books include "Film Soleil" (Pocket Essentials, 2006), "Quentin Tarantino" (Pocket Essentials, 2005), "Robert Crumb" (Pocket Essentials, revised edition 2005), and "R. Crumb: Conversations" (University Press of Mississippi, 2004).

 

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