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Foodie Films: A Baker's Dozen

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by Damsel Martin (subscribe)
I'm a freelance writer, blogger and animal wrangler living in Brisbane's western suburbs. Many of my stories offer great giveaways to readers - subscribe to hear about them first.
Published September 18th 2014
Whet your appetite with these cinematic specials
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A scene from Ritesh Batra's The Lunchbox. Image courtesy DAR Motion Pictures.

Films about food come in all different flavours. There are romances fuelled by curries, chocolate or coffee, and coming-of-age tales in which pizza, or booze, gets star billing. There are thought-provoking documentaries about the politics of food, and magical worlds where even rats can don a chef's hat. Below I list three that involve chocolate and two that include the delicious Johnny Depp. There's a sprinkling of old and new. I know there are many more foodie film favourites than those that follow - I haven't included Babette's Feast, or The Cook, the Thief, His Wife and her Lover, for example. But in the best restaurant tradition, these are just for starters.

The Lunchbox
Millions of lunchboxes are successfully delivered by an army of dabbawala every day in Mumbai. The Lunchbox is the story of the one that got away. Desperate to spice up her marriage, housewife Ila prepares a special recipe for her husband, but it mistakenly finds its way to the desk of Saajan, another office worker. Saajan appreciates the food and, after finding a handwritten note from Ila packed with his next meal, the two start a romantic correspondence.
On the menu: Palak paneer
Key quote: Sometimes the wrong train will get you to the right station.

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Based on two true stories. Image courtesy Sony Pictures.
Julie & Julia
Dare I say it? Julie & Julia, the movie, oozes considerably more charm than the original blog, and book, upon which it is based. That might be due to the leavening presence of Meryl Streep whose dazzling performance led one of the attendees at a preview of the film said: 'Meryl doesn't do an imitation of Julia Child - she IS Julia Child.' Julia Child is, of course, the culinary legend who penned Mastering the Art of French Cooking, a hefty tome containing 524 recipes. In Julie & Julia, frustrated office worker Julie Powell (Amy Adams) attempts to recreate all of them over the course of a year.
On the menu: beef bourguignon
Key quote: I used to be thin and now I'm fat.

Mystic Pizza
The local pizza parlour in the fishing town of Mystic, Connecticut, is the unlikely setting for a coming-of-age tale for two sisters and their friend who all work as waitresses there. Mystic Pizza was released in 1988 thus putting it into the category of 'an oldie but a goodie'. Among the now-famous actors who star in some of their earliest roles in Mystic Pizza are Vincent D'Onofrio, Julia Roberts and Matt Damon (whose sole line is 'Mum, do you want my green stuff?').
On the menu: Pizza marinara
Key quote: What the hell do you think Leona really puts in that pizza?

Like Water for Chocolate
Based on a magical realist tale by first-time author Laura Esquivel, Like Water for Chocolate features Tita, a woman who transmits her emotions through her cooking. Heartbroken when forbidden to marry her lover Pedro, she first bakes a wedding cake that leaves all those who taste it with a profound sense of longing and sadness.
On the menu: Quail in rose petal sauce
Key quote: Eat, my child. Food will make it hurt less.

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Johnny Depp stars in Chocolat. Miramax image.
The arrival of Vianne (Juliette Binoche), an unmarried mother and atheist, in a conservative French village sets tongues wagging. Quelle horreur! Vianne then opens a chocolate shop, and proceeds to bewitch even the most straight-laced villagers with the confections she creates. But when a gorgeous gypsy (Johnny Depp) comes to town, Vianne, too, is inspired to give in to temptation.
On the menu: Hot chocolate with a sprinkle of chilli
Key quote: Opening a chocolaterie just in time for Lent? Shameless!

Charlie and the Chocolate Factory
Still on the subject of chocolate, and Johnny Depp, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory is the Tim Burton directed version of the Roald Dahl classic. It's the ultimate underdog tale which sees Charlie, from a poor but loving home, selected as one of five children to enjoy a personalised tour of the Willy Wonka chocolate factory. Described as a 'fantasy adventure' by distributors, Charlie and the Chocolate Factory also serves as a cautionary tale about the effects of poor parenting.
On the menu: Wonka bars
Key quote: Chewing gum is really gross. Chewing gum I hate the most.

No Reservations
Obsessive and perfectionist chef Kate (Catherine Zeta-Jones) lets her kitchen rule her life - until her sister is killed in a car accident and she is thrust into the role of sole guardian of her niece Zoe (Abigail Breslin). No Reservations sees her forced to temporarily relinquish control of her restaurant, paving the way for opera-loving chef Nick (Aaron Eckhart) to step into her shoes, to her horror and delight.
On the menu: Steak. Extra extra rare.
Key quote: Do you have any idea how complicated it is to coordinate 40 dishes at once?

I Am Love
Falling in love with a passionate, handsome chef isn't that hard to do. And that's exactly what happens when Emma (Tilda Swinton) and Antonio lock eyes over the brulee blowtorch. It's an unreasonable and overwhelming affair which threatens Emma's relationship with her husband, her son, and the wealthy Recchi family. I Am Love is delectably filmed and will leave you thirsting for more. Syrup of elderflower, anyone?
On the menu: Prawns. And macarons.
Key quote: You're the only one who loves me how I am.

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I Am Love. Image courtesy Magnolia Pictures.

There's nothing like a road trip and Sideways does it in style. Wine buff Miles (Paul Giamatti) decides to give his mate Jack (Thomas Haden Church) one final 'taste of freedom' before his upcoming wedding. A mismatched pair careering towards midlife crises, they drive to the vineyards of Santa Ynez Valley where seemingly harmless flirtations with women they encounter turn into something more significant.
On the menu: Wine, women and song.
Key quote: If anyone orders merlot, we're leaving.

By the time my children reached school age, I'd seen so many animated flicks I used to shudder at the thought of another. But Ratatouille appeals just as much to adults as kids. The unlikely hero of Ratatouille is a rat called Remy who just happens to be a culinary genius. He seeks to live out his dreams by forming a friendship with a Parisian restaurant's kitchen assistant.
On the menu: Ratatouille. What else?
Key quote: Keep your station clear or I will kill you.

Super Size Me
Billed as 'a film of epic portions', the documentary Super Size Me by independent filmmaker Morgan Spurlock shows its creator dining on nothing but McDonalds for a month. The results aren't pretty: dramatic weight gain, vomiting, skyrocketing blood cholesterol, mood swings, sexual dysfunction and the development of a fatty liver. Many believe we have Spurlock to thank for the introduction of healthier menu items such as salads and wraps on fast food menus.
On the menu: Double Quarter Pounder with cheese.
Key quote: You saw these numbers, right? These numbers are outrageous. You're gonna die.

Slow Food Revolution
And from the supreme horrors of fast food to the sublime pleasures of slow food ... the Slow Food Revolution looks at how the modern emphasis on speed is compromising the flavour of the foods we eat plus a whole lot of other things besides. It showcases the benefits of biodiversity and the financial and nutritional benefits of eating close to home (if not from one's own backyard). Slow Food Revolution features segments including the revival of a lost variety of Italian tomato, the marketing of bush tucker and the growing of vanilla and amaranth in Mexico.
On the menu: Home-grown vegetables.
Key quote: The way we eat is destroying our planet.

Food Inc
If Food Inc doesn't change the way you think about food, then nothing will. Taking aim at everything from industrial meat production practices and liberal use of fertilisers and pesticides, through to food labelling legislation and the promotion of unhealthy food consumption, Food Inc
will really make you question the real cost of cheap food.
On the menu: Nothing GM or factory farmed.
Key quote: When you go through the supermarket, there is an illusion of diversity (but) so much of our industrial food turns out to be rearrangements of corn.

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Do more farms mean more local food? Image courtesy Food Inc.
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Why? Get your digestive juices flowing
Your Comment
Nice list! There are some great films here - Chocolat being one of my favourites :-)
by Tracey Winning (score: 2|153) 1263 days ago
Thanks Tracey! I definitely got the munchies writing the story. Most difficult bit was narrowing the list down to just 13 films.
by Damsel Martin (score: 2|243) 1263 days ago
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