Thanksgiving Family Film Guide: What Oscar Screeners to Watch With the In-Laws
As your houseguests settle in for a marathon of awards wannabes, a few words of caution: 'Grandma' is not suitable for every grandma, don't watch 'Truth' with Trump-loving Uncle Jack, and 'Steve Jobs' could offend any Apple fan.
This story first appeared in the Dec. 4 issue of The Hollywood Reporter magazine. To receive the magazine, click here to subscribe.
So you're spending the long holiday weekend with the extended family. Yikes. Once the turkey carcass has been picked over and all the pies inhaled, how will you pass the time? Sure, there's the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade (for folks who enjoy chorus boys and cartoon characters cavorting at 9 in the morning) and the National Dog Show (for anyone who feels a need to measure their own Bouvier des Flandres against the breed standard) and, of course, there's a full menu of football games, from the Philadelphia Eagles facing off against the Detroit Lions to the Chicago Bears versus the Green Bay Packers. But after that, there are three more days to go. So how to fill the time once conversation grinds to a halt?
Fortunately, at least for those in the industry or on its fringes, it's awards season: Finally, serious-minded movies are crowding into the multiplex and, even better, screeners are arriving at the door. But though you'll be tempted to grab the nearest DVD and shove it in the Blu-ray, not every movie in the stack is suitable for the entire family. In fact, you'll need this handy guide:
For Grandma Mae
Careful, now, because titles can be deceiving. Just because Paul Weitz's Grandma stars Lily Tomlin and your own grandma loved Tomlin as Edith Ann, that doesn't mean this movie is right for her. If your grandma's a true firecracker — she is rooting for Bernie Sanders and has Gloria Steinem's new book on her Kindle — then OK, she'll enjoy Tomlin as an acerbic poet trying to raise the cash to help her granddaughter get an abortion. But if your granny is more of a traditionalist — she spent most of dinner picking the kale out of her helping of butternut squash and kale quinoa stuffing — then instead steer her to Brooklyn, starring Saoirse Ronan as an Irish immigrant torn between two lovers in 1950s New York. She'll probably exclaim approvingly, "They don't make movies like that anymore" — except, of course, they just did.
For Uncle Jack
If he had to be told to turn off Fox News and come sit down for dinner, you definitely don't want to be sitting next to him if you're watching Truth, starring Robert Redford. He'll never buy the movie's sympathetic treatment of Dan Rather and producer Mary Mapes. Instead, why don't you set him up in the back den with Denis Villeneuve's Sicario? He'll probably miss the fact that it points to the futility of battling drugs on the U.S.-Mexico border, but it will fuel his Trump-stoked paranoia about the need to build a wall. If you'd just as soon drive him out of the house altogether, pop in Straight Outta Compton and turn up the volume — director F. Gary Gray's re-creation of the early days of the California hip-hop group N.W.A should send him to the nearest exit.
For Cousin Cecilia
She, on the other hand, is committed to MSNBC and won't stop talking about what a great job Rachel Maddow did interviewing Hillary — while refusing her serving of white meat because the turkey isn't free range. She'll be happily outraged by Trumbo's look at the injustice of the Hollywood blacklist and Spotlight's exposé of Catholic Church pedophiles, and Beasts of No Nation probably will send her into a diatribe about how the Western nations have ignored the horrors taking place in Africa.
For Cousin Millie
She certainly looks the worse for wear, what with her late arrival and that half-empty bottle of vodka she was clutching, but, tempting though it might be since the family already is assembled, the holiday's no time for an intervention. Better to delicately suggest watching Amy Schumer in Judd Apatow's Trainwreck with all of you. In between the laughs, she might pick up a few hints about how to get control of her life. And if she seems receptive to the idea that you can turn your life around, you could consider moving on to Love & Mercy, Bill Pohlad's look at the decline and resurrection of the Beach Boys' Brian Wilson. Of course, Wilson was a musical genius, which probably isn't true in Millie's case.
For Nephew Eddie
Yup, we get it. He's an Android fan. He won't stop playing with his Samsung Galaxy S6 edge. He dissed your Apple Watch and treated your new iPod Pro as if it were a serving tray. You're never going to win the argument, though, so if you just want to shut him up, opt for Steve Jobs. Screenwriter Aaron Sorkin's warts-and-all triptych portrait of Apple's co-founder doesn't have any fans among the top brass in Cupertino, Calif. And even if you find yourself quibbling with Sorkin's choices, there's no denying his way with words.
For the Kids
You've already taken them to The Peanuts Movie and an outing to The Good Dinosaur is planned, but right now the little monsters are all at home, bouncing off the walls. So how about treating them to Shaun the Sheep Movie? They'll get a kick out of the silent-movie antics of Shaun and his barnyard friends. And the best news for you: Shaun doesn't have any dialogue (he speaks only in various "baaas"), and that means no cartoon catchphrases for them to run around repeating ad nauseum for the remainder of the weekend. Happy holiday, everybody!