Food often plays a pivotal role in movie plots, as any dedicated moviegoer knows. Take one prime example: the 1992 film "Como Agua Para Chocolate" ("Like Water for Chocolate"). The main character, a Mexican woman named Tita, uses her cooking to influence and enhance people's emotions. When she's not allowed to marry the man she desires -- and her sister marries him in her place -- her sadness creeps into her recipes and all the wedding guests are overcome by grief during the wedding banquet.
On another occasion, Tita uses a meal to pour her love into the man she yearns for, and again it has a profound effect on both him and the other diners. The meal acts as more than just an aphrodisiac; it consummates her passions.
On the next 10 pages, we'll explore other movies in which food plays a fundamental role. Any idea where we'll be stopping first?
The Whistle Stop Café, with its signature fried green tomatoes and an atmosphere that's welcoming to those down on their luck, could practically be considered a character in and of itself in the 1991 movie "Fried Green Tomatoes."
But "food" plays an even greater role in the film, if you can stomach looking at it like that. When Frank Bennett meets his untimely demise at the hands of Sipsey, Big George supposedly cooks up more than chicken that night. A key scene shows Grady the sheriff -- who would later charge Idgie and Big George for murdering Bennett -- chowing down on that very same mystery meat.
Don't worry, the food (mostly!) gets better from here.
In the 2000 movie "Chocolat," the sensual side of cocoa is a major plot component. Vianne Rocher and her daughter open a chocolate shop in a conservative French town that doesn't take kindly to the new arrivals and their decadent business -- especially since the shop's opening coincides with Lent. The town, and most of all its mayor, see the whole operation as sinful. Gradually, though, Rocher's caring nature and gastronomical goodies win over the hearts of most everyone, including new arrival Roux, played by Johnny Depp.
We'll be sticking around in France for the next one, sampling gourmet delicacies from the culinary capital of the world.
In the 2007 animated movie "Ratatouille," Remy is a rat who dreams big, and his ultimate dream is to be a gourmet chef. When he unexpectedly winds up in the sewers underneath the kitchen of a swanky Parisian restaurant, he pairs up with the restaurant's new garbage boy, a lad by the name of Alfredo Linguini. The two collaborate with Remy directing his human assistant, allowing the rat to cook up all the delicious dishes he could ever hope to concoct alone. This works for a while, but eventually the secret comes out when a cranky food critic demands to meet the head chef, and it's discovered that Remy's been running the show. Luckily, however, it all works out in the end, as with most Pixar flicks.
On the next page, we'll sweeten things up for a bit.
In this 1971 classic, Willy Wonka puts five children to the test after each finds a golden ticket in a Wonka chocolate bar. After a tour of his extraordinary chocolate factory, Wonka ends up choosing Charlie Bucket -- a boy with no money, disabled grandparents and few prospects -- to run his incredibly secretive and fantastically fabulous business.
Charlie was again chosen as Wonka's heir in the 2005 remake "Charlie and the Chocolate Factory" after Augustus took another tumble into the chocolate river, Violet again inflated like a blueberry, Veruca was deemed a bad egg for the second time, and Mike was once more shrunk down into a tiny TV-sized figure. But at least kindly Charlie still came out on top.
On the next page, we'll read about a movie that doesn't have such an ideal ending.
The 1973 movie "Soylent Green" has become an ongoing joke in pop culture reference, receiving nods in comedy shows like "Futurama," "News Radio" and "Saturday Night Live." The movie dramatized a futuristic scenario where overpopulation and food crises force the food industry into developing interesting alternatives to traditional crop methods. In other words: They start feeding people human meat.
The movie closes with the tantalizing cliffhanger: "Soylent Green is people! We've gotta stop them somehow!" Whether that aim is ever achieved is unknown, but apart from the cannibalism, do the food industry secrets sound familiar?
On the next page, we'll explore some of the dubious choices made by the food industry in our own heavily populated world.
"Food, Inc." was released in 2008, immediately garnering much critical acclaim. The documentary explores different facets of modern American food production, likening the process not to traditional farming, but to a factory assembly line. The film calls multinational corporations to task for detrimental activities like homogenizing crop diversity and spurring a health crisis of epidemic proportions. The film thoroughly details the negative effects experienced by the end consumer, the workers and the animals involved in the never-ending cycle.
From subsidized corn to food contamination and corporate corruption to concerted greed, "Food, Inc." delivers a frightening reality check about the food that goes on our dinner plates each day. But on the next page, we'll lighten things up with a little gourmet goodness.
The 2009 film "Julie & Julia" tells the story of how French cooking guru Julia Child inspired Julie Powell, an aspiring writer working a dreary day job, to cook every single one of the recipes in "Mastering the Art of French Cooking." Julie blogged throughout her yearlong endeavor and gained a wide Internet audience in the process, with foodies all over following her trials and tribulations.
But the movie doesn't simply detail Julie's culinary journey; it goes into that of Child herself as she decides to craft her soon-to-be famous cookbook of French recipes. Child's aim was to bring the French cuisine she learned to cook following World War II back to the American masses. The result of these efforts -- the hefty "Mastering the Art of French Cooking" -- received a boost after the movie was released. For the first time since it was originally published, the cookbook topped the New York Times bestseller list in the advice and how-to category.
This movie, based off the film "Bella Martha" ("Mostly Martha") was released in 2007. Kate is a chef with a take-no-prisoners perfectionist attitude, but she's thrown off her game when her sister dies and she finds herself the legal guardian of her young niece. A new sous chef named Nick is added to the mix for good measure, and Kate's life seems to be unraveling at the seams. Her niece, Zoe, is grief-stricken and tramautized, and Kate suspects Nick is gunning for her job.
Food plays a big role in several scenes of this movie, such as when Nick coaxes Zoe -- who won't eat anything cooked by Kate -- to sample some of his renowned spaghetti, or when he and Kate almost kiss over a helping of tiramisu. The chemistry between Nick and Kate becomes increasingly obvious to them both, and they forge a romance as early tensions subside. Competition rears its head again, however, almost complicating matters beyond repair, but everything works out as it should in the end.
The 2010 movie "Eat Pray Love" starts out with the main character Liz realizing that even though her life looks perfect on paper, she's desperately unhappy with her current situation and unsure of how to find her proper path. She and her husband divorce, and Liz decides to take a year-long trip around the world to try to sort things out.
She eventually finds love in Indonesia, and before that, spiritual peace in India, but it's her four-month stint in Italy that interests us here. In Italy, she learns to enjoy the simple things in life again, and that features food in a big way. She digs into dishes such as pizza Napolitana; fried artichokes; and a bowl of egg, asparagus, potato and ham salad drizzled with olive oil during her stay in Italy.
Our last stop takes us back to the United States for some good old-fashioned soul food.
Food is fantastic for bringing people together around the dinner table, and the 1997 film "Soul Food" is an excellent depiction of that. The family in the movie is held together by its matriarch, Mama Joe, and she uses her Sunday dinners to keep everyone close. But then a diabetes-related medical issue lands her in the hospital and the surgery planned to amputate her leg goes badly. Big Mama slips into a coma and the family falls to pieces.
Luckily, however, she eventually recovers and food once again comes to the rescue. With the help of Big Mama's 11-year-old grandson scheming to get everyone together, Sunday dinners are resumed and the family starts sorting through its many conflicts and issues.
It's food for the win! Now find links to lots more cool articles on the next page...
HowStuffWorks looks at the popularity of quinoa and how it affected farmers who grew it in South America.
More Great Links
- "A Culinary Tour of "Eat Pray Love"." Smithsonian Magazine. Aug. 19, 2010. (Sept. 27, 2010) http://blogs.smithsonianmag.com/food/2010/08/19/a-culinary-tour-of-eat-pray-love/
- Dennard, Mackenzie. "Like Water for Chocolate." Food in the Arts. (Sept. 27, 2010) http://www.londonfoodfilmfiesta.co.uk/Literature%20Main/Like%20Water%20for%20Chocolate.htm
- Drew's Script-O-Rama Web site. (Sept. 27, 2010) http://www.script-o-rama.com/oldindex.shtml
- "Julia Child." New York Time. Aug. 24, 2009. (Sept. 27, 2010) http://topics.nytimes.com/top/reference/timestopics/people/c/julia_child/index.html?scp=1&sq=%22Julie%20and%20Julia%22&st=cse
- Rotten Tomatoes Web site. (Sept. 27, 2010) http://www.rottentomatoes.com/
- Ruined Endings Web site. (Sept. 27, 2010) http://www.ruinedendings.com/index.php
- The Internet Movie Database Web site. (Sept. 27, 2010) http://www.imdb.com/