In Pedro Almodovar's zippy comedy, Women on the Verge of a Nervous Breakdown (1988), a series of coincidences and high drama involving a jilted actress, a "Mambo Taxi," a lost shoe, live chickens, ducks and geese, a borrowed dress, a deranged ex-wife with a gun and a beehive hairdo, Shiite terrorists, a feminist lawyer, and a bossy virgin are whirled together until soothed and cooled by a pitcher of barbiturate-laced gazpacho.
This 1945 Academy Award winner for Best Picture is hardly an advertisement for drinking. A grittily realistic portrait of alcoholism, replete with eerie theremin music and hallucinatory visions of bats and mice, The Lost Weekend is a far cry from glibly sophisticated 30s screwball comedies such as The Thin Man (1934) and My Man Godfrey (1936), which tended to cast heavy cocktail use in fluffily comic roles.
“You think it’s easy to run when you’re holding a banana the size of a canoe?”
The year 1973 saw the release of two futuristic films making pointed commentary on the state of American food: Soylent Green, with its bleak and terrifying vision of overpopulation, scorched earth and dead oceans, and Woody Allen's Sleeper, which used sight gags and slapstick comedy to poke fun at a different kind of brave new world.
In How to Marry a Millionaire (1953), three fortune-hunting models, Pola (Marilyn Monroe, right), Schatze (Lauren Bacall, left), and Loco (Betty Grable, center), pool their resources to rent out a swank, fully furnished Sutton Place apartment (at $1000/month!) in the hopes of snagging rich husbands.
In Crossing Delancey (1988), Izzy Grossman (Amy Irving, center) is caught somewhere between the two sides of this vibrant Lower East Side street. Weekdays are spent uptown, where she works at a highbrow bookstore, drinking champagne and talking about poetry with the local literati. Meals are taken on the run: a salad bar combo from a local deli, picked at from a plastic container while she sits in bed watching TV, or a condiment-laden hotdog munched on while standing at the counter of Gray’s Papaya.
Secret Agent Derek Flint (James Coburn) is the kind of man who likes to unwind after a long day by stopping his pulse while lying rigid between two chairs, who travels to Moscow not to watch ballet, but to teach it, and whose lighter has 82 different functions—“83 if you wish to light a cigar.” So it should come as no surprise that he knows a thing or two about French cuisine.
A few weeks back, we did a round-up of movie mobsters and their odd culinary leanings. In the spirit of the high emotions and decade-sweeping montages that characterize the Oscars, we decided to put together a retrospective of funny-sad food.
Maybe it all just goes back to that common childhood experience of watching a scoop of ice cream melt and fall from the cone.