Great Food & Cooking & Chef Movies

johnliu_gwMay 23, 2012

There is a fascinating, alluring, and sobering movie out now, titled "Jiro Dreams Of Sushi". It is a documentary about 85 year old sushi chef Jiro Ono whose tiny, 9 seat restaurant in a subway station is one of the world's finest sushi restaurants.

There are many layers to this movie, beneath the extravagant food pornography. As each piece of nigiri is placed on the plate, it seems to exhale as it settles, languid and glistening, beckoning the viewer's tongue and lips. Sigh.

Highly recommended, if you like that sort of thing. And from the X-rated photos that get posted here - or is it F-rated? - I think you do . . .

Which set me to thinking. What are some great movies about food, about cooking, about chefs? Fiction or documentary, all are welcome.

I have thought of "Woman On Top" with Penelope Cruz. I vaguely remember there was some cooking going on there, but something was distracting me. Another favorite here is "Ratatouille". The creator of that movie once told me about all the research meals his team had to eat in the great restaurants of Paris. Art is hard, I suppose.

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A nice movie, not a masterpiece but very nice. "Today's Special" written by and starring Aasif Mantvi (from the Daily Show), about an Indian restaurant, also starring the wonderful Madhur Jaffrey as Aasif's character'a mother. Took me a little to realize that before Jaffrey was a great cook and ccokbook author, she was an actress, and she doesn't cook in this movie, either. The cooking and food in the movie is wonderful.

Tops for movies that I love about restaurants and cooking are "Eat Drink Man Woman" and "Big Night".

Here is a link that might be useful: Today's Special

    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 11:17PM
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I have not seen the movie yet. I will some day. You can see trailers on youtube.

It is a very interesting movie. It says a lot about the importance of other element about food, besides taste. After all, all good sushi tastes about the same. There is not much cooking or recipes involved with the making of sushi.

I agree, "eat drink man woman" is a nice movie. I actually learned a few cooking techniques from that movie.


    Bookmark   May 23, 2012 at 11:46PM
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I, too, very much enjoyed, Eat, Drink, Man, woman" and saw it again on Netflix a few weeks ago. So many dishes and pots and pans to wash and oil to drain and store, and stuff to put away, exhausting to watch. You think I missed the point?

There were so many, varied kitchen skills and chopping vegetables was a minor act in this movie.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 12:06AM
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'Julie & Julia' is worth watching for Meryl Streep's portrayal of Julia Child. She nails Julia's slightly screechy voice perfectly.

There is a great extra feature on the DVD of 'Bend it Like Beckham' in which the director, Gurinder Chadha, is cooking with her mother. It's funny in that this accomplished director, once in the kitchen with her mother, becomes like every daughter cooking with her mother--the mom says, 'No, you must do it this way...'--some things are universal.

The 1976 Brazilian movie 'Dona Flor and her Two Husbands' is based on Jorge Amado's novel--a hilarious romp about a young woman widowed by her wild-living party-animal husband. She marries again to a staid, sober (okay, dull) older man only to be then pestered by the ghost of her sexy first husband. The lead character, Dona Flor, is a cooking instructor, if I recall correctly. In the novel are a few recipes, and there is some cooking in the movie as well. Luscious food notwithstanding, I have to say the most delectable dish in the movie is the lovely Sonia Braga. Yum.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 3:57AM
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We just watched on Netflix the Kings of Pastry, not great but a fascinating peek into the French pastry world.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 6:41AM
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Babette's Feast. I remember that there were people re-enacting that feast when the movie came out. One the few times that I love both the Isak Dinesan story and the movie inspired by the story.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 7:04AM
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If you have a taste for the bizarre and don't mind over-the-top vulgarity, consider Peter Greenaway's "The Cook, the Thief, His Wife & Her Lover". It's roughly equal parts brilliance and perversity. Definitely not family fare, though.

And if you're talking about food and cinema, no one who has seen 'Tom Jones' can forget the eating scene. "We are all as God has made us, and many of us much worse."

Here is a link that might be useful: tom jones eating scene

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 9:17AM
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A movie DH and I really enjoyed was Tortilla Soup, which was a re-make of an Asian film. I've forgotten the name of the original movie and if it was Japanese or Chinese, Tortilla Soup is a romantic comedy about a perfectionist chef that's trying to hold on to his senses and his three daughters and his culture.

There is one of the rare Adam Sandler movies that I enjoyed where Sandler plays a chef that knows how to make the perfect sandwich. I don't remember the name of that movie, but I enjoyed it too, even though it was an Adam Sandler movie. It's another romantic comedy.

Obviously, I occasionally enjoy light, fluffy entertainment.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 9:46AM
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I recently viewed "Toast" in my Netflix queue. Interesting biographical film about British chef Nigel Slater. I really enjoyed this - wonderful actors, including the boy who played young Nigel and the young man who played the teenage Nigel. Helen Bonham Carter is priceless as the stepmother. Ken Stott played the kind of father you love to hate.

Highly recommended!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 9:51AM
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"Tortilla Soup" is a remake of the movie we mentioned before, Ang Lee's "Eat Drink Man Woman".

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 9:56AM
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This is a great thread. Thanks, John.

One of my favorite scenes about friends cooking and sharing a meal is in The Big Chill.

Just last night I had my family here for dinner. Mom and I were doing the dishes and I was thinking about how cooking, eating a meal and doing the dishes is the very best way for people to bond.

I also thought of Tom Jones, but Arley beat me to it! I love it when the stem of a pear goes up his nose.

Oh yeah! Another favorite -- the dinner scene in Beetlejuice where the shrimp cocktail come to life.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 9:59AM
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How about Tampopo?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 12:18PM
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Besides Babette's Feast one of my favorites is The Big Night.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 12:28PM
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If you want to watch a food orgy, you should see Daisies (1966 - Czech), which is almost surreal in parts and was banned in Czechoslovakia. However, the last thing I want to do in a movie is watch someone eat. I like watching someone cook, but on TV, I change the channel as soon as the chef starts to taste the food.

Like Water Like Chocolate is interesting because it explains some Mexican food customs, although I do not remember that movie so well now. It is set in Mexico but was filmed in south Texas, which is very familiar to me, and so I can really tell the difference.

The Wedding Banquet (Ang Lee) is a good movie and describes Chinese wedding conventions in an interesting way. I've never seen My Dinner with Andre, and so I don't know how much it is about food, but I do know that Dinner At Eight is all about the action before the dinner, and I think the movie ends when the dinner starts, but again I don't remember exactly.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 12:58PM
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I loved Chocolat.

Here is a link that might be useful: Chocolat

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 1:57PM
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I loved Eat, Drink, Man, Woman and have watched it several times. It is my favorite. I'll have to look for Tortilla Soup. I also liked The Wedding Banquet.

I've seen several of the others: No Reservations (and Mostly Martha with Englich subtitles), Julie and Julia, The Big Chiill, and Like Water for Chocolate. I had a hard time watching the French "Chocolat" - just too dark for me. Ratatouille is always fun for a lighter movie and I also respect all the research that went into it.

I think I would also like Today's Special and will check Netflix for that. Weren't there a few Indian food scenes in Bend it Like Beckham?

We're due for a new food related movie, I'm looking forward to seeing Jiro Dreams of Sushi and will also look for Toast and The God of Cookery.

I love threads like this - thanks for starting it.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 2:13PM
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Everyone's favorite movie chef: Glenn Close in Fatal Attraction.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 3:12PM
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I like this one movie which is very peculiar, called "A Wedding for Bella." It is quite corny and stars Scott Baio, but if you can get past that, it makes some interesting statements about the connections between food, family and life. It's set in the Pittsburgh "strip" which is a food mecca, and I once lived in Pittsburgh so I could relate having been there. It's about a guy who works in his family's biscotti bakery and his relationship with an old italian couple that lives nearby. The acting is a bit hackneyed but it's worth looking for in the "B" movie bin. I liked the setting. Good chick flick, IMHO.

Along the lines of corny, I didn't hate "Ramen Girl" and lately it seems like "not hate" is about as good as it gets for me with movies.

Oddly, a movie about two chefs called "No Reservations" that was filled with cooking, left me uninspired. I guess true to form, I prefer movies about eating!!

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 3:28PM
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Ha, ha, dedtired....let us not forget Hanibal Lechter either...(wink)

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 3:32PM
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And let's not forget the allegedly culinary scene in Hitchcock's 'Spellbound' in which Gregory Peck and an infatuated Ingrid Bergman are having a picnic, and Peck offers her a choice of sandwiches--ham or liverwurst--and Ms. Bergman breathlessly says 'liverwurst' as if it's the most sensuous word in the world. For all of Hitchcock's brilliance, he could be a tad un-subtle.

The youtube clip, sadly, has audio out of with the action, but listen for her saying that.

Here is a link that might be useful: liverwurst

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 5:01PM
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Then there is the Woody Allen movie, What's Up Tiger Lily, using a cheap Japanese spy movie with Woody Allen dubbing to create a new plot about Japanese spies trying to steal the world's best egg salad recipe, a recipe "so good you could plotz!"


    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 5:28PM
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I'd add "The Big Chill" to the list.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 5:47PM
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And along the sushi line, there's always "The Donner Party" (2009).

Also "Sweeny Todd" (2007) and "Alive" (1993). Although, I guess the meat pies were baked, but there might have been some snacking during prep?

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 6:04PM
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All mentioned already but here's mine:

Julie and Julia - the Julia bits not the Julie bits - when Julia first arrives in France and is served Trout a la Meuniere and has an epiphany - starting her life-long love affair with French food and cooking.

Eat, Drink, Man, Woman


Chocolat - "It's not my favorite." "It's not my favorite." "It's not my favorite." Finally - "THIS is my favorite."

The top two without a doubt for me:

Big Night - I can't tell you how much I love Stanley Tucci and Tony Shalhoub. Love, love, love them both.

And number one ----

Babette's Feast - a movie that explains without words how food and sensuality are intertwined and the marriage between them is a human necessity. How Babette brought joy to the utterly sense-starved, ascetic townsfolk and their bitter, frigid and abstinent lives, lifting them at least for one evening to a truer meaning of life than they had ever let themselves experience. That Babette gave up everything to "feed" them in this manner, to share her gifts, to thank them, to deliver a dream... still an astonishing film.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 7:00PM
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Here's another vote for Babette's Feast, one of my very favorite of all movies, not just food movies. Gina did a better job of describing it than I could, but there is much more which could be said about it. It is truly an exceptional film.


    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 8:57PM
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What? No one mentioned the deli in "When Harry Met Sally"? Now, that's a dining scene!

I'll have what she's having.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 9:13PM
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Although it's not a movie, the TV show "Pushing Dasies" (catch it on video or Netflix) is set in a pie shop, with lots of yummy pie references. It's sort of a fantasy of mine to run a pie shop so I enjoy that part of the show. (Not that I'm actually any good at making pies, I would just love to be AROUND pies all day!) I think it was only on for two years so there aren't that many episodes--it's very visually interesting in many ways, not just the food aspect.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 10:57PM
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Speaking of egg salad, the 40 year old virgin, only because he should have been, I guess, focusing on romance, but, no, no, Saturday nights were spent creating a delicious egg salad.

    Bookmark   May 24, 2012 at 11:15PM
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We loved "Pushing Daisies"! One of the best TV shows of the period.

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 12:41AM
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Pie in the Sky is a TV mysteries series set in a small restaurant where the chef is a former police investigator. It is available on Netflix.

Highly recommended!

    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 9:12AM
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I was trying to remember The Big Night and No Reservations. I enjoyed them both.

I feel silly not remember that Tortilla Soup was the remake of Eat Drink....

Don't forget The Waitress, about pies. The only thing wrong with that movie is it's a man bashing movie, but it's fun any way. Makes you want to start making pies.


    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 9:49AM
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La Grande Bouffe

"Directed by Marco Ferreri. It stars Marcello Mastroianni, Ugo Tognazzi, Michel Piccoli and Philippe Noiret. The film tells the story of four friends who gather in a villa for the weekend for the express purpose of eating themselves to death."

"The film was somewhat controversial upon its original release with its scatological humour and comic depictions of sex and over-eating."

"vulgar vaudeville on an epic scale...a mordant, chilling, hilarious dirty movie"

You've been warned.


    Bookmark   May 25, 2012 at 1:11PM
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