June 28, 2007
Top 10 Most Memorable Dinner Table Scenes
Ah, the dinner table. It is a place for a family to sit down together, enjoy a nice meal, and...display superpowers? Eat their own brain? Call their guests Hitler? Learn about homosexuality? No? Okay, then that's probably what makes these dinner-table-centric movies so memorable. For this list, I created very specific criteria. First, the dinner had to be in someone's home - I realized that memorable restaurant scenes are a whole other bag. Second, the meal had to specifically be dinner. And finally, people had to actually sit down and consume food. Okay, in no particular order:
1. American Beauty. This movie served as an end-of-the-century reminder that the suburbs are still really fucked up. In this scene, the all-American motif of the family dinner table becomes a frantic - and hilarious -war zone. Mom Carolyn wants to know what her husband Lester was thinking when he quit his job, daughter Janie just wants to leave, and Lester wants respect - and someone to pass the asparagus.
2. Borat. Which is less appropriate to bring to the dinner table: a prostitute or a bag of feces? Lovably inept and vulgar Borat Sagdiyev brings both during his fancy dinner with Southern socialites. It's a riot to watch Sacha Baron Cohen pretending to be this outrageous figure in order to elicit genuine responses from people stranger than fiction. This clip is only part of it, but you get the idea.
3. The Incredibles. Kinda like the American Beauty scene, this is just your average depiction of a suburban family - oh, except they're superheroes. Bob's super strength causes him to cut the table when trying to cut his son's steak, and then the kids get in a fight using all their powers which ends with their elastic mom holding them under the table. The only clip I could find is dubbed with subtitles, for some reason.
4. I Heart Huckabees. I saw this movie a while back and under regrettable hookup circumstances, so I don't remember much of it. Some Googling brought me back to the great dinner scene though, where Mark Wahlberg and Jason Schwartzmann's characters have dinner with the family of the mysterious man they have been seeing everywhere. The family's hyper-religious views clash badly with the liberal, esoteric ideas that their guests bring to the table, and eventually they get kicked out. I think I just adore Marky Mark and his incredible scene-stealing abilities (see also: The Departed).
5. Annie Hall. I know that this movie is on every Top 5 or 10 list I make, but whatever, it's a fuckin good movie. Alvy spends Easter with Annie's family, and the dinner is tremendously awkward, including one shot from Grammy Hall's point of view where Alvy is decked out like an Orthodox Jew. Then it cuts to a split screen comparing what Alvy and Annie's families do for the holidays (Alvy's: fast and bicker). I couldn't find the clip, but if you haven't seen this movie, get thee to a video store!
6. Little Miss Sunshine. From the second the harried mother plops the takeout fried chicken on the table, we know this is not going to be a peaceful meal. Grandpa doesn't want chicken again, uncle Frank just tried to commit suicide after being jilted by another man, Dad's business is still a failure, and Dwayne is just sullen and silent as usual. Seven-year-old Olive inquires about Frank's problem, leading her to learn about suicide and homosexuality in one sitting. There is a bright side though - Olive learns she's made it to the next round of the titular Little Miss Sunshine pageant. The only clip I could find is Grandpa bitching about the chicken, but Alan Arkin won an Oscar. Respect.
7. Hannibal. Yeah, the movie was kinda lame, and I watched it before my official banning of all horror movies from my cinematic diet. But the final scene had me in a state of horror and mindfuck for quite a while. It's dinnertime with Dr. Lecter, which is never a good thing for nearby humans, and tonight's entree is the brain of one of the guests, played by Ray Liotta. I guess Hannibal removes the part of the part responsible for freaking out if someone removes part of your brain, because Ray is just sitting there, smiling absently. And then, Hannibal feeds him his own brain. I will repeat that. HANNIBAL FEEDS HIM HIS OWN BRAIN OMG. And he likes it. Ew. Fun fact: some of the shots in this scene used an animatronic Ray Liotta puppet, and in the final cut even Liotta has confessed to not knowing the difference. I want that on my resume: Animatronic Ray Liotta Puppet Maker. Be warned: the clip is really gross.
8. Wedding Crashers. Dinner and a handjob? Yeah, it's kind of an unorthodox combo, but Vince Vaughn's character really has no say in the matter as fem-unit Gloria suddenly starts to vigorously massage his crotch during a family dinner. This movie scene is not going to cure cancer, but it's slapstick and awkward comedy in its purest form. Oh, and Grandma calls Eleanor Roosevelt "a real rug muncher."
9. Rope. This film toys with the definition of "dinner table," because in this case, dinner is served on a wooden chest containing the dead body of the man that all the guests have in common. The first scene of the film is Brandon and Philip strangling David to death, because they can. Then, just to be sneaky and pat themselves on the back for being so badass, they host a dinner party inviting all of David's nearest and dearest. Philip starts to crack with anxiety, and Brandon's overconfidence starts to look suspicious. It's hard to isolate just one clip here, because dinner takes up at least a third of this short-ish movie. But yeah, you should watch it, because it's Hitchcock and it's good and it has Jimmy Stewart in it.
10. The Gold Rush. I saved the happiest for last. This scene is unabashedly delightful, and I don't just throw around the word "delightful." It's Chaplin in top form, when he has some lady friends over for dinner and entertains them with dinner rolls. It sounds weird, but it's hilarious and brilliant. This scene was so popular in theaters that some projectionists would rewind it and play it again. There's another notable dinner scene in this film as well, when the Tramp eats his own boot out of hunger (for shooting, the boot was made of licorice).