Every beloved holiday has its respective figure of staunch opposition. Christmas has the Grinch. Valentine’s Day has Liz Lemon. Halloween has that parent who always makes a scene at the PTA meetings. And Thanksgiving has the collective forces of Hollywood.
While you might scoff at the accusation between bites of tofurkey and spoonfuls of mashed fauxtatoes (what, did you guys not grow up in an orthodox vegan household?), think about every Thanksgiving-themed movie or television show you’ve ever seen. Think about the coming together of the families, the preparation of the meals, the sacrosanct tradition of reciting psalms the Book of Pilgrim (seriously? not that either? what kind of heathens raised you?) — no matter what the course of action depicted in a Thanksgiving film or TV episode, it indubitably goes awry. No onscreen Turkey Day has ever amounted to the pleasant celebration of gratitude it’s “supposed” to be.
It’s hard to say why, exactly, this phenomenon has come into play — we understand perfectly the rationale behind the respected hatreds of the abovementioned holidays (anti-materialism; the subjugation of women; fun is evil), but why Thanksgiving? Why has Hollywood taken such a consistently harsh jab at the November commemoration?
One way to get to the bottom of this is simply by sorting through historical examples of the big and small screens’ castigation of Thanksgiving glory — to look at the very worst Thanksgivings in pop culture history. And since you’re probably tuckered out from the annual holiday practice of reenacting the first Wampanoag-Presbyterian wedding (you’ve got to be kidding me — what do you guys do?!), we’ve done the hard part for you. So there they are — the worst pop culture Thanksgivings, and the lessons they have each taught us about why this is truly the worst holiday to grace our planet of Glorpax… reading all this over, I think I might be in a cult.
Hannah and Her Sisters
The dreaded coming together of families… almost as horrifying as the tearing apart of families. Both are adequately chronicled in Woody Allen’s 1986 drama Hannah and Her Sisters, which kicks off at a Thanksgiving dinner that incites the destruction of the title character’s marriage.
Why this Thanksgiving is horrible: To be betrayed by Michael Caine… is there no fate crueler?
Each one of them alone on Thanksgiving, the cast of Cheers gathers for a resentful, underwhelming holiday meal in this Season 5 episode, “Thanksgiving Orphans.”
Why this Thanksgiving is horrible: Sometimes, being lonely with other lonely people is even worse than being lonely by yourself.
Son In Law
There’s always a bit of anxiety to be expected when a newcomer interlopes your Thanksgiving tradition. Son In Law’s newcomer is Pauly Shore, which replaces anxiety with all-out homicidal compulsions.
Why this Thanksgiving is horrible: Pauly Shore, people. Pauly Shore.
Even when your Thanksgiving interloper isn’t Pauly Shore, he or she can muster some decadent results. When Dexter Morgan invites himself to the holiday feast of his hotly pursued Trinity Killer (John Lithgow) in this memorable Season 4 episode, family tensions are brought to a boiling point.
Why this Thanksgiving is horrible: We all have unpleasant family secrets that will indelibly come to the surface at dinners like these. You know, like your dad being a serial killer.
The Family Stone
The only thing worse than your own family is somebody else’s. This 2005 dramedy amps up the anxiety when Sarah Jessica Parker and Claire Danes play a pair of sisters welcomed into the unfamiliar home of the titular clan, a breed unlike that to which they are so rigidly accustomed.
Why this Thanksgiving is horrible: Other people are different, and that’s weird.
Eli Roth’s Thanksgiving
It’s probably a good thing that Eli Roth’s trailer for the slasher film Thanksgiving never actually amounted to a full movie. Hollywood has infused the holiday with enough rage without going full-on axe-crazy.
Why this Thanksgiving is horrible: That ghastly parade that blocks up traffic all day. Also, the murders.
So as you can see, Hollywood clearly has a vendetta against Thanksgiving. Family unions, relationships, newcomers, secrets all get some pretty rough treatment. So who is it, then, at the top of the showbiz pyramid that is controlling this output of negative Thanksgiving material? What sort of Chandler Bing-like trauma occurred in this person's life to sway him or her against the holiday forever, and thus forth inject such a horrible connotation into the minds of the viewing public? Whoever it is, this person has clearly been working tirelessly for the past few decades. But fear not — there's no amount of Thanksgiving malice that can rob the world from the so-close-you-can-taste-it Christmas glory. Those movies are all magic, so get all the hate out of your system this weekend, people. The joy approacheth.
[Photo Credit: Fox Pictures]
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The specter of McCarthyism has reared its ugly head.
Reuters reports that the Screen Actors Guild has received a slew of hate mail directed at celebrities, including Martin Sheen and Sean Penn, who have publicly voiced their opposition to a war against Iraq. The angry letters are calling for boycotts against the actors' work, but the union has issued a statement on its Web site telling the entertainment industry it must not blacklist people who speak out.
"Some have recently suggested that well-known individuals who express 'unacceptable' views should be punished by losing their right to work," the union said in a statement posted Monday. "Even a hint of the blacklist must never again be tolerated in this nation."
The reference was to the Hollywood blacklist of the 1950s that was prompted by Senator Joe McCarthy, which barred more than 300 actors and writers suspected of harboring pro-Communist sentiments from working in the industry due to views considered left-wing or unpatriotic during the Cold War era.
"During this shameful period, our own industry prostrated itself before smear campaigns and witch hunters rather than standing on the principles articulated in the nation's fundamental documents," the statement added.
Penn filed a lawsuit recently against movie producer Steve Bing, claiming he reneged on an agreement to pay the actor $10 million to star in a movie after Penn said he was against the war. Bing denied the allegation in a countersuit, saying Penn was the one who pulled out of the project, AP reports.
Sheen, star of NBC's The West Wing and one of the chief spokesmen in the antiwar coalition Win Without War, told AP the top executives at NBC "let it be known they're very uncomfortable" with his outspoken views.
It raises the question of how stars' views might clash with those of audiences and advertisers, and potentially hurt the entertainment industry.
"I will not go to the movies. I will not support their television shows, I will not buy their music. My family and I shall boycott supporting anyone in Hollywood until they decide their job is for entertainment value only," said one writer to the "Citizens Against Celebrity Pundits" online petition.
G.I.Jargon.com, a Web site representing U.S. military, police and firefighters, dubbed the celebrities "Taliban" and called for a boycott of "anti-American entertainers," Reuters reports.
McCarthyism expert Ellen Schrecker, professor of history at Yeshiva University in New York, told Reuters the level of backlash against antiwar campaigners could mean a return to the era of witch hunts and blacklists.
"I think it is certainly a possibility. What I find heartening about the SAG statement is that it recognizes the importance of remembering that history, and being determined not to repeat it. It's very important to take a public stand the way the SAG has done," Schrecker told Reuters.
January 19, 2003 12:14pm EST
Of the three new releases to open wide this four-day holiday weekend, Jerry Bruckheimer's down under comedy Kangaroo Jack leaped to the top of the box office, followed closely by the Martin Lawrence vehicle National Security. There was nothing fanciful, however, about the romantic comedy A Guy Thing, which opened to an uninspiring seventh place.
Kangaroo Jack, about two Brooklynites who are forced to deliver mob money to Australia but lose the loot to a maniacal marsupial, took in $17.6 million*, while National Security safeguarded $15.7 million.
In its second week, Just Married, which captured audience's hearts and the No. 1 spot last week, fell to third place with a still chivalrous $12.4 million.
The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers came in fourth with $11.3 million, while Catch Me If You Can almost caught up with $11.3 million, trailing only by $75,000. The much talked about musical Chicago, which expanded to 557 screens this weekend, came in sixth with $8 million.
A Guy Thing 's mushy $7.1 million take, meanwhile, coldheartedly placed the romance in seventh place.
Two of Miramax's limited releases, the Brazilian drama City of God and George Clooney's directorial debut Confessions of a Dangerous Mind, played in five theaters each, and both enjoyed this week's highest per theater averages. City of God averaged $18,000 per theater, while Confessions averaged $16,400.
THE TOP TEN
(NOTE: Today's projections are for the three-day period from Friday-Sunday. The studios will issue four-day estimates on Monday, when America observes the birthday of Martin Luther King, with final data due out on Tuesday.)
Warner Bros.' Kangaroo Jack opened with an ESTIMATED $17.6 million at 2,818 theaters ($6,272 per theater).
Directed by David McNally, it stars Jerry O'Connell, Anthony Anderson and Estella Warren.
The PG rated film, written by Elizabeth Hurley impregnator Steve Bing, focuses on two Brooklynites who are forced to deliver $50,000 in cash to a mobster living in Australian. But a kangaroo with a plan of his own gets hold of the dough, forcing the two to track him across the outback.
Sony Pictures' PG-13 rated action comedy National Security came in second with an ESTIMATED $15.7 million take at 2,729 theaters.
Directed by Dennis Dugan, it stars Martin Lawrence and Steve Zahn.
The buddy actioner revolves around two L.A.P.D. rejects who are partnered as security guards and end up uncovering a sophisticated smuggling operation led by crooked cops.
Twentieth Century Fox's PG-13 rated romantic comedy Just Married honeymooned in third place with an ESTIMATED $12.4 million (-29%) at 2,729 theaters (+3 theaters, $4,496 per theater). Its cume is approximately $34 million.
Directed by Shawn Levy, it stars Ashton Kutcher and Brittany Murphy.
New Line Cinema's PG-13 rated fantasy sequel The Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers dropped to fourth place in its fifth week, with an ESTIMATED $11.3 million (-23%) at 3,110 theaters (-367 theaters; $3,658 per theater). Its cume is approximately $298.9 million, heading for $300 million in domestic theaters.
Directed by Peter Jackson, it stars Elijah Wood, Ian McKellen, Orlando Bloom and Viggo Mortensen.
DreamWork's PG-13 rated crime biopic Catch Me If You Can fell two rungs to fifth place in its fourth week with an ESTIMATED $11.3 million (-23%) at 3,050 theaters (-175 theaters; $3,705 per theater). Its cume is approximately $135 million.
Directed by Steven Spielberg, it stars Leonardo DiCaprio, Tom Hanks, Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen.
*Box office estimates provided by Exhibitor Relations, Inc.
Miramax's PG-13 rated musical Chicago expanded in its fourth week to a solid ESTIMATED $8 million at 557 theaters (+195 theaters). Its $14,363 per theater was the highest of any Top 10 film this weekend. Its cume is approximately $27.7 million.
Directed by Rob Marshall, it stars Renee Zellweger, Catherine Zeta-Jones and Richard Gere.
MGM's PG-13 rated romantic comedy A Guy Thing opened in seventh place with an ESTIMATED $7.1 million at 2,515 theaters ($2,828 per theater).
In the film, a groom-to-be wakes up with a beautiful stranger in his bed after his bachelor party and, not remembering what happened, proceeds to try to cover up the evil deed he can imagine himself having done.
Directed by Chris Koch, it stars Jason Lee, Julia Stiles, Selma Blair and James Brolin.
New Line Cinema's R rated comedy About Schmidt slipped to eighth place in its sixth week with an ESTIMATED $6.6 million (-2%) at 946 theaters (+81 theaters; $6,633 per theater). Its cume is approximately $30.1 million.
Directed by Alexander Payne, it stars Jack Nicholson, Hope Davis, Dermot Mulroney and Kathy Bates.
Paramount Picture's PG-13 rated The Hours climbed to the ninth spot this week with an ESTIMATED $4.7 million (+421%) at 402 theaters (+357 theaters, $11,754 per theater). Its cume is approximately $7.4 million.
Directed by Stephen Daldry, it stars Meryl Streep, Nicole Kidman, Julianne Moore, Ed Harris and Claire Danes.
Rounding out the Top 10 was Warner Bros.' PG-13 rated romantic comedy Two Weeks Notice, which dropped six slots with an ESTIMATED $4.1 million (-40%) at 2,240 theaters (-515 theaters; $1,830 per theater). Its cume is approximately $85 million.
Directed by Marc D. Lawrence, it stars Sandra Bullock and Hugh Grant.
This weekend also saw the arrival of Miramax's R rated Brazilian drama City of God. The film opened with an ESTIMATED $90,000 at in five theaters, with a stunning $18,000 per theater average, the highest average of any film this week.
The film revolves around Cidade de Deus (City of God), a housing project built in the 1960s that--in the early 80s--became one of the most dangerous places in Rio de Janeiro.
Directed by Fernando Meirelles and Katia Lund, it stars Alexandre Rodrigues, Leandro Firmino De Hora Phellipe, Seu Jorge and Jonathan Haagensen.
Miramax's other limited-release film, the R-rated biopic Confessions of a Dangerous Mind pushed back its wide release until next week, settling over the holiday weekend for an ESTIMATED $82,000 at five theaters ($16,400 per theater).
Dirceted by George Clooney, it stars Sam Rockwell, Drew Barrymore, Julia Roberts and Clooney.
The top 12 films this weekend grossed an ESTIMATED $105.9 million, down 2.64 percent from last weekend when they totaled $108.7 million.
The top 12 were up a measly 0.668 percent from last year when they totaled $105.1 million.
Last year, Sony's R rated Black Hawk Down dominated the box office in its fourth week with $28.6 million at 3,101 theaters ($10,844 per theater); Buena Vistas' opening week of Snow Dogs was second with $17.8 million at 2,302 theaters ($10,299 per theater); and The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring came in third in its fifth week with $15.28 million at 3,266 theaters ($4,675 per theater).