Saturday, October 31, 2015

Update: Favorite food-centric motion pictures

UPDATE (10/31/15): In April 2014, I posted a list of my favorite food-centric movies (described below). I've made one change since then, replacing "Mystic Pizza" at No. 10 with "Chef" (also described below). And, I'm curious about Bradley Cooper's new film called "Burnt," about a burned-out chef who tries making a spectacular comeback. If you have thoughts on this list, or have seen "Burnt," feel free to post a comment.

(Originally published 4/28/14)

So far, so good for the versatile Jon Favreau.

His latest film project, "Chef," which he wrote, directed and starred in, won the Tribeca Film Festival award Saturday in New York City for best narrative feature, determined by a vote of festival-goers who cast ballots after viewing the film.

Now, "Chef" is about to go to broader distribution in May where we'll see how it fares with a wider audience.

It deals with a chef who loses his restaurant job then sets out to become a food truck entrepreneur, assisted by his son. It has a strong supporting cast that includes Sophia Vergara, John Leguizamo, Bobby Canavale, Scarlett Johansson, Dustin Hoffman, Oliver Platt and Robert Downey Jr.

I'm looking forward to seeing the film, if for no other reason than watching Sophia Vergara ... I mean seeing how it fares against my personal top 10 movies in which food and/or those who prepare it are central to the plot.

Until then, here's that list:

(1.) "Julie and Julia" (2009) -- Interspersed looks at the life of the iconic Julia Child (Meryl Streep) and NYC blogger Julie Powell's (Amy Adams) real-life effort to recreate every recipe in Julia's famous cookbook "Mastering the Art of French Cooking."

(2.) "Big Night" (1996) -- Italian immigrant brothers (Stanley Tucci, Tony Shalhoub) operate a failing 1950s Jersey Shore restaurant whose worst enemies are their relationship and a successful neighboring restaurant.

(3.) "Eat Drink Man Woman" (1994) -- The Oscar-nominated (Best Foreign Language)  Taiwanese film directed by Ang Lee concentrates on the traditional Sunday dinners a master Chinese chef creates for his three unmarried daughters, each of whom challenges any aspect of traditional Chinese culture.

(4.) "Who's Killing the Great Chefs of Europe?"  (1978) -- This is my favorite guilty-pleasure flick, a comedy-mystery romp starring Jacqueline Bissett as a renowned pastry chef and her on again/off again lover, a fast-talking, fast-food entrepreneur played by George Segal, while all around them someone is killing celebrity chefs in manners that mimic how the deceased cooked their specialties.

(5.) "Ratatouille" (2007) -- This animated gem features Remy, a kitchen rat (voiced by Patton Oswalt) who tries to keep out of sight while mentoring Linguini (voiced by Lou Romano), a bumbling restaurant garbage boy who dreams of becoming a chef. It has everything. including a tyrannical head chef and an evil food critic (voiced by the priceless Peter O'Toole).

(6.) "Babette's Feast" (1987) -- This Danish film won an Academy Award for Best Foreign Language film. Its 19th Century protagonists are the elderly, pious sisters Martine and Philippa Christian whose story flashes back 49 years, then moves forward to their present when Babette appears at their door. She presents herself as a housekeeper, but serves as their cook for the next 14 years, presenting bland foods until one day she creates a masterful French dinner attended by the sisters and other elderly followers of their late father's austere religious group.

(7.) "Sideways" (2004) -- Some people regard this as a film more about wine than about food, but buddies Paul Giamatti and Thomas Haden Church ingest plenty of both in this comedy-drama road trip through California's Santa Ynez Valley wine country. The climactic scene shows Giamatti's character gulping down a 1961 Ch√Ęteau Blanc from a Styrofoam cup, a disgusting act to may oenophiles.

(8.) "Eat Pray Love" (2010) -- Julia Roberts may be remembered for the lobster-eating scene in "Pretty Woman," but she offers a wider menu in this journey of self-discovery based on the book by Elizabeth Gilbert.

(9.) "No Reservations" (2007): The life of Catherine Zeta-Jones, playing the imperious head chef of a trendy Manhattan restaurant, is thrown off kilter when she becomes the guardian of her nine-year-old niece after the girl's mother is killed in a car accident. It's a remake of the German film "Mostly Martha."

(10.) "Mystic Pizza" (1988) -- A group of young actors, some of whom became household names -- or at least very familiar to filmgoers, made this coming-of-age tale of a group of pizza parlor workers in Mystic, CT, a lasting delight. The cast included Annabeth Gish, Julia Roberts, William R. Moses, Matt Damon, Conchatta Ferrell and Lili Taylor.


  1. You forgot Like Water for Chocolate! That's one of the best food movies ever made for sure!

  2. Thanks for the contribution, Michelle. (For the record, I didn't "forget" anything. I merely listed my 10 favorites. Although it's a fine film, "Like Water for Chocolate" didn't make my it.

  3. Bobby Bacala writes (via Facebook):

    I was going to mention " Fried Green Tomatoes" as another foodie flick. True, there's not a lot of cooking in it, bu the title itself is delicious.

  4. Captain Obvious writes (via Facebook):

    I'd consider "The Cook, The Thief, His Wife and Her Lover."

  5. Film Gourmet writes (via Facebook):

    I'd give consideration to the brilliant 1963 film version if author Henry Fielding's "Tom Jones." The banquet scene was arguably the most sensuous "food porn" scene ever.

  6. Anonymous writes (via Facebook):

    Your top 10 was pretty gutsy to include "Ratatouille." not that I disagree, just that I think it was gutsy. Way to go!

  7. Is "Like Water for Chocolate" worth a mention?

  8. BaltoGuy writes (via Facebook):

    Why does no one mention "Diner"? Half of the movie involved food.

  9. I saw Burnt on Saturday night and enjoyed it. It was no Chef for sure, but it had its' ups. My food friend and non food friend liked it as well.

    1. Julie and Julia was by far one of my favorites. It made me laugh and it made me cry and I also enjoyed all the cooking.