The Automat, a documentary tells the story of Horn & Hardart’s famed Automats—dining destinations.  The Automat is available for streaming on HBO Max and for rent on Apple TV and Amazon Prime.

Feast on These Films for Thanksgiving

By: Anthony Stoeckert

Find creative comfort in some great movies without moving (other than grabbing the remote) – Writer Anthony Stoeckert for Arts News Now shares some streaming favorites just in time for this Thanksgiving Weekend!

Thanksgiving is all about spending time with loved ones, expressing our appreciation for the good things in life and, of course, food. It’s a busy holiday, especially for those brave people who host family and friends on the big day, but it’s also an ideal time to settle in your favorite chair with a blanket and a glass of wine and enjoy a good movie. There are some popular movies Thanksgiving-set flicks (Home for the Holidays, Planes, Trains and Automobiles, a whole bunch of Hallmark movies), but I especially like movies about food, family, and friendship that at this time of year, even if they aren’t set on Thanksgiving, and here are a few of my favortites:

Big Night, a 1996 delight stars Stanley Tucci (who co-wrote and co-directed) and Tony Shalhoub and is available for rental on Apple TV and Amazon Prime.

Big Night. This 1996 delight stars Stanley Tucci (who co-wrote and co-directed) and Tony Shalhoub (who at the time, I still called “The guy from Wings”) as brothers who own an Italian restaurant on the Jersey shore in the 1950s. Their business is struggling and Secondo (Tucci) is desperate to keep it open while Primo (Shalhoub) is the chef/artist who refuses to compromise. There are wonderfully funny scenes (including one involving a customer who orders a side of spaghetti to go with her risotto) and joyful cooking as the brothers prepare a fest for the eyes. There’s also disappointment, heartbreak and an ending that is remarkable and deceptively simple. No one utters a word, but so much is said.

Big Night is available for rental on Apple TV and Amazon Prime.

Streep in Julie & Julia is available on Hulu with a subscription and for rent on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.

Julie & Julia. Meryl Streep won her third Oscar for playing Margaret Thatcher in 2011’s The Iron Lady. It was a lazy choice, with voters taken in by the so-called importance of that forgettable movie. Streep should have won two years earlier for her remarkable portray of Julia Child in Nora Ephron’s delightful adaptation of Julie Powell’s memoir about cooking each of the recipes in Child’s classic cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking. Amy Adams plays Powell and is fine, but Streep lights up the screen. She’s a force of nature—strong, smart, funny and determined, but also human. Streep goes beyond doing an impression of Child and makes her so real. Tucci shows up here too as Child’s husband. Making this movie especially poignant is the fact that Powell recently passed away.

Julie & Julia is available on Hulu with a subscription and for rent on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.

Mystic Pizza. This movie is best-known for its pre-star performance from Julia Roberts, but her co-stars are equally good. The movie is about three young women who work in a pizza restaurant in a seaside town in Connecticut. Annabeth Gish plays Kat, who plans on studying astronomy at Yale, while her sister, Daisy (Roberts) is less ambitious and just wants to live in the moment. Lili Taylor plays their friend, Jojo, who’s so afraid to commit to Bill (Vincent D’Onofrio) that she fainted at their would-be wedding. Meanwhile, Daisy and Kat meet love interests of their own, which leads to some touching moments between the sisters. Especially fun are the scenes involving a visit from a food critic. And keep an eye out for a young Matt Damon in a small role.

 

Mystic Pizza is available for streaming on HBO Max and for rent on Amazon Prime and Apple TV.

Always Be My Maybe. Here’s proof that a tried-and-true formula can made fresh with smart writing and good acting. Ali Wong and Randall Park play Sasha Tran and Marcus Kim, childhood friends who spent a night together after Marcus’ mother dies, and haven’t seen each other in years. Marcus has stayed in San Francisco, helping his widowed father and playing in a band, while Sasha has gone on to become a celebrity chef. Sasha returns to San Francisco for the opening of her newest restaurant. They reconnect and are clearly perfect for each other, but if you think that will happen easily, then welcome to your first rom-com. Along the way, there’s bonding over food and one of the best celebrity cameos you’ll see, which I won’t spoil even though the movie is four years old.


Always Be My Mabe is available for streaming on Netflix.

The Automat isn’t about fine food, but  how people like Mel Brooks (above), Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Colin Powel talk lovingly and nostalgically about the Automat’s baked beans, macaroni and cheese, and creamed spinach, making it ideal when thinking about Thanksgiving.

The Automat. This delightful documentary from director/produce Liza Hurwitz and writer Michael Levine tells the story of Horn & Hardart’s famed Automats—dining destination where customers entered a nickel into a machine and were rewarded with food, and which were a sensation in Philadelphia and New York for decades. This movie isn’t about fine food, but after hearing people like Mel Brooks, Ruth Bader Ginsburg, and Colin Powel talk lovingly and nostalgically about the Automat’s baked beans, macaroni and cheese, and creamed spinach (yes, creamed spinach), your mouth will be watering. There’s also a lot of talk about pie, which makes it ideal for Thanksgiving. My favorite moment is when Brooks, who is in his mid-90s, tells Hurwitz not to tell his mother that he loved the Automat’s ham and cheese sandwich.

The Automat is available for streaming on HBO Max and for rent on Apple TV and Amazon Prime.

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