Monday, November 19, 2012

Movie Monday: The Thanksgiving Edition

I'll be honest.

I'm not really a holiday sort of person. Never really have been. Oh, Christmas was fun when I was a kid and we mostly had my Dad's side of the family around. But my Mom's family, or the members of that family I was around the most in my adult years, were dysfunctional in major ways. That included the fact that holiday gatherings were command performances and often not very pleasant experiences. Dealing with those sort of put me off of family holiday gatherings of all sorts.

Even when I was a child and more or less enjoyed holidays, however, I wasn't a fan of holiday movies, especially Christmas movies. They always seem to expect everybody to be all happy and everything, no matter how much family conflict is going on either right out in the open or quietly, behind the scenes.

Oddly enough, however, there are two holiday movies I really like. I think this is because they both acknowledge that holiday get-togethers, whether they involve only biological family or the extended families we build for ourselves as adults, usually include some sort of angst. Something - sometimes a lot of somethings - end up going wrong. And, even if we love our families, there are times when we don't really like them very much.

Both of these films, instead of being constructed around Christmas, revolve around Thanksgiving dinner. The first of these, "Home for the Holidays" (1995), has this scene, which shows a slightly exaggerated (and maybe only slightly exaggerated) picture of what a disaster the actual Thanksgiving dinner can be. I need to drop a warning here that the language in the following scene is probably not for kids:

We never had anything this drastic happen at the table during a holiday dinner, but I can still imagine something like it happening very easily.

And then there is "Alice' Restaurant" (1969), which is based on the song by the same name, from `1967, by Arlo Guthrie. It revolves around the events after a Thanksgiving dinner attended by a large group of friends in the mid-1960s. This original trailer from when the movie was released will explain exactly what those events were. Again, I will put in a language warning:

As a matter of trivia, along with Arlo Guthrie, folk singer Pete Seeger, Officer Obie, and the judge at Guthrie's trial for littering all play themselves in the movie, which is based on actual events.

"Alice's Restaurant" is very much a product of its time, and a viewer today might find it a little dated. But I think it makes my point, that holiday get-togethers are not all roses and sunshine, quite well.

I don't know. It may say something not entirely flattering about me that I have a fondness for both of these films. It might also say something about my view of family gatherings that I had to put language warnings on both of the clips I shared here today. But I really do find both movies more realistic than the many "feel-good" holiday movies we all have to wade through if we watch any television at all this time of year.

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