Food in film may be the trending topic for fall. Witness these two items that arrived in my email box within days of each other:
Fine Cooking magazine reported there was a Best Food Porn category at the NYC Food Film Festival, which closed Sunday. But there's apparently a Chicago Food Film Fest coming in November (no details yet beyond the dates, Nov. 18-20, on the Festival/Fest website). FamilyFarmed.org and SnagFilms are conducting a Good Food Film Countdown to determine the best food films of all time. Film and food fans who vote for their top documentary and fictional food film will be entered to win free food and environmentally safe products for a year.
All this got me thinking about food and film, whether food provides the context for the entire movie like "Ratatouille" or "Babette's Feast" or "Eat Drink Man Woman" or just illuminates a vivid scene or two — think "Tom Jones" or "Five Easy Pieces." Then there's the concept of food porn which suggests movies ranging from one extreme to the other, from "Chocolat" to "Last Tango in Paris," whose famous butter scene with Marlon Brando probably has the nation's dairy councils still reeling. Here are 10 films to consider. Be warned: Some of these movie links may not be safe for at-work viewing.
1. "Mostly Martha": The simple spaghetti that Mario serves Martha's niece. A dish, and a scene, that brings home the comfort, love and healing power of food. — Colin McMahon.
2. "The Cook, the Thief, his Wife and her Lover": Largely set in an elegant restaurant called Le Hollandais, this violent, colorful 1989 film from Peter Greenaway ends in a culinary shocker that may turn you vegan on the spot. Helen Mirren shines as the much-oppressed Georgina. — Bill Daley
3. "Tampopo": Talk about food porn — art-house moviegoers never thought about eggs the same afterward. — Mark Caro
4. "Big Night": Celebrating the passion of cooking. Primo (Tony Shaloub), talking about the ersatz-Italian (but very popular) Pascal's: "Do you know what happens in that restaurant every night? Rape. Rape. The rape of cuisine." — Phil Vettel
5. "Chocolat": Left the movie craving a box of fine chocolates but would have settled for a monster-size Hershey bar. Stat. — Denise Joyce
6. "Goodfellas": The prison garlic scene with Paul Sorvino is delightful. — Cheryl Bowles.
7. "Nine ½ Weeks": Mickey Rourke and Kim Basinger make food as porny as you can get without crossing the Brando-butter line. — Phil Vettel
8. "National Lampoon's European Vacation": I love the scene when Audrey has a nightmare about a constant stream of food coming and she keeps getting fatter and fatter. I also love Clark's line: "Hey look kids, there's Big Ben, and there's Parliament" over and over. Does that make me low-brow? — Matthew Wood
9. "Dinner Rush": The sausage and peppers and the line from the chef when one of his line cooks does not respond correctly: "You should have only one answer when I ask you a question: 'Yes, chef. No, chef. I don't know, chef.'" — Colin McMahon
10. "Marie Antoinette": The towers of food. — Christopher Borrelli
In case you are wondering, Fine Cooking's film is called "Dinner for Two: An Edible Valentine in Three Acts." Here's how the press release describes it: "Part food porn, part how-to, the short film documents the making of a three-course meal and includes romance, suspense, and murder."
As for the food film contest, the first round of voting runs until Oct. 31. The list will be narrowed from 170 films to five non-fiction and five fiction films. Then, until Nov. 28, voters will pick one of the top five ranked films in each category to determine their favorite food flick.