The 83rd Annual Academy Awards will be held this Sunday, February 27th, which has caterers scurrying around L.A. and everyday folk planning home parties. The Oscars award show is one of the most widely watched television events around the world, with an estimated audience of over 40 million in the US alone. It's a great excuse to have friends over for dinner, drinks, and to reminisce about the prior year. In recent years the connection between cooking and the movies has grown in the genre of "Food Movies." America's most award winning actress, Meryl Streep, spent a lot of screen-time cooking and eating in It's Complicated and Julie and Julia, winning the Oscar for Best Actress in the latter in 2010. And, let's not forget the adorable Ratatouille, 2008 winner of Best Animated Feature and nominee in 4 other categories!
But in 2010, the trend seems to have reversed with no notable food films getting top nods from the Academy. In fact, two of the Best Picture nominees seemed more focused on troubled relationships with food than celebrations of it.
Set in the world of the ballet and a modern New York production of "Swan Lake," the film explores obsession with body image, anorexia and bulimia. Starring an already svelte Natalie Portman, who reportedly lost 20 pounds for the role, the film has experienced some controversy because of how it portrays the dancer’s relationship with food. In one scene, the skeletal Portman can barely eat a bite of cake to celebrate winning the prima ballerina role, in another, eating a cheeseburger seems like a bigger act of rebellion than the following kiss with co-star Mila Kunis. Perhaps more darkly, "Black Swan Diet” became a Hot Search on Google.
With a backdrop of the Ozark Mountains, the movie is about a young girl’s quest to find her missing father and need to raise her younger siblings on her own. In order to provide she needs to cook. Most of the food prepared in the movie is typical of that region, including hearty stews with cut potatoes. In one scene, a squirrel is skinned for dinner. Perhaps a reflection of ongoing wider economic hardship, mostly we understand that food is a necessity, often scarce and that families are struggling.
One notable exception came from the indie world with the delightful Today's Special, starring Aasif Mandvi (the Daily Show) and Madhur Jaffrey (Quick and Easy Indian Cooking). Check it out if last year's film offerings left you hungry for good food and cheer!