x Abu Dhabi, UAEFriday 19 January 2018

Eat, watch, love: Movie scenes that took the cake

The staff at M pick out their favourite movie scenes involving food, from the opening minutes of Ang Lee's Eat Drink Man Woman to the birthday party in Chocolat.

Heartburn (1986)

Nora Ephron's semi-autobiographical novel about her husband's (Carl Bernstein) affair with Margaret Jay (the then-British ambassador's wife) stars Meryl Streep as the long-suffering wife and Jack Nicholson as the philandering husband. Towards the end of the film, in what has been dubbed the "Key Lime Pie Incident", Streep finally expresses the hurt and anger she has harboured for so long as she walks around the dining room table with the pie, finally shoving it right in Nicholson's face. He takes it with his customary aplomb, but the female viewers feel somewhat vindicated.

Helena Frith Powell, editor

Home Alone (1990)

Accidentally left behind, Macaulay Culkin has to defend his home from two hapless thieves during the Christmas holidays. As night creeps in, he craves his favourite food - cheese pizza. He devises a clever prank and "talks" to the delivery boy by playing a video of an old black-and-white movie. Swinging between the "forward" and "rewind" buttons, his character manages to get his pizza, pay less for it - and scare the bejeebers out of the delivery boy.

Elhussain Taha, intern

The Matrix (1999)

"What is real? How do you define real?" Morpheus (Laurence Fishburn) asks Neo (Keanu Reeves). Welcome to the Matrix, a simulated reality created by sentient machines to keep humans docile. Neo is believed to be "the One," a man prophesied to have power over the Matrix. Of course, where there's a hero, there's a traitor - the character Cypher (Joe Pataliano), who remarks: "You know, I know this steak doesn't exist. I know that when I put it in my mouth, the Matrix is telling my brain that it is juicy and delicious. After nine years, you know what I realise? Ignorance is bliss." The captivating scene made me ask myself if I have the courage to face reality. I still don't have the answer, but maybe "there is no spoon", as another scene in the film emphasises.

Olive Obina, photo researcher

Pulp Fiction (1994)

Mia Wallace (Uma Thurman) and Vincent Vega (John Travolta) are at Jack Rabbit Slim's for dinner. They've just finished their debate about what makes a milkshake a "five dollar shake". Mia sits silently drinking hers, playing with her chewing gum and watching Vincent. Vincent uncomfortably drinks his Coke and stares at the table. You can feel the intensity of the silence, which the music brilliantly builds up. Then Mia delivers my favourite lines: "Don't you just hate that? Uncomfortable silences. Why do we feel it's necessary to yak about [expletive] in order to be comfortable? That's when you know you've found somebody special. When you can just shut the [expletive] up for a minute and comfortably enjoy the silence." Tell me that you can enter a full elevator without relating to this scene. I think not.

Kerri Abrams, designer

Five Easy Pieces (1970)

The superb Jack Nicholson goes from laconic to disbelieving to sarcastic to explosive in a memorable scene in a roadside diner. A by-the-book waitress sticks to the "no substitutions" rule, so Nicholson's disaffected existential oil rigger character can't get a seemingly simple order of a plain omelette, tomatoes instead of potatoes, wheat toast and coffee. The tension escalates as their dialogue grows increasingly snide, until Nicholson sweeps all the water glasses and menus off the table.

Rick Arthur, deputy editor

Gran Torino (2008)

Walt Kowalski (Clint Eastwood) is a curmudgeonly old Korean war vet and former car factory worker who is practically the only white American still living in his Detroit neighbourhood. When a Hmong family moves in next door and their teenage son, Thao (Bee Vang), tries to steal his prized Ford Gran Torino as part of a gang dare, the widower Walt takes the boy under his wing. That leads to the boy's sister, Sue (Ahney Her), inviting him into her family's home for a party. Walt is reluctant and tells her: "Keep your hands off my dog!" when she tells him they are cooking. Once indoors, as Sue's aunts bombard Walt with an impressive array of roast duck, spring rolls and dumplings, his dour demeanor fades as he thoroughly enjoys the kindness of strangers. His surliness is swept away by the combination of good food, hospitality and conviviality.

Kevin McIndoe, page editor

Ocean's Eleven (2001)

This film has an all-star cast, master plans and casino robberies - and food. Brad Pitt decided that his character, Rusty Ryan, would be too busy to sit down for a meal. Thus he munches on the go through shrimp, nachos, burgers, lollipops and more. If he isn't eating, Ryan is drinking, chewing gum, cleaning his hands or wiping crumbs off his shirt. He even gets heartburn as he chomps through a burger. Now I think of Rusty Ryan every time I run out of the house, hasty breakfast in hand.

Nadia el Dasher, stylist

Chocolat (2000)

Any film described as "sinfully delicious" will grab my attention. Chocolat tells the story of Vianne Rocher (Juliette Binoche) and her daughter, who open a chocolate shop that shakes up the rigid morality of a French village. There are countless mouth-watering scenes where chocolate takes centre stage, but none more so than the lavish birthday party Vianne throws for the elderly Armande (Judi Dench) that is also attended by the outcast Gypsy, Roux (Johnny Depp). We watch the characters devour the feast and can only imagine what the chocolate sauce tastes like as it drips down their chins. Johnny Depp and chocolate, what else could a girl wish for?

Jemma Nicholls, senior editor

Delicatessen (1991)

A black comedy directed by Jean-Pierre Jeunet (Amelie) and Marc Caro (The City of Lost Children), this film is set in post-Apocalyptic Paris, where food is so rare it's used as currency. The owner of an apartment building above a delicatessen copes with the scarcity of food by chopping up handymen lured by the promise of a job. One scene occurs in the apartment of the old man Potin (Howard Vernon), which has been flooded with water and crawls with snails and frogs. Two boys try to steal a frog and awaken Potin. In the next shot we see the old man mutter the line "Every man for himself, and God for all" as he screws a fork into a snail and eats it, tossing the shell into an enormous pile. I defy anyone to look away - or forget it.

Katie Trotter, fashion director

Beauty and the Beast (1991)

In one of Disney's best films, Lumière (Jerry Orbach) the candlestick maître d' and scores of enchanted objects from the Beast's dining room serve up a "culinary cabaret" while singing the Oscar-nominated song Be Our Guest to an awestruck Belle (Paige O'Hara). As the castle's first visitor in 10 years, young Belle is spoilt by dancing china, a choir of steins and cutlery doing the can-can atop towering cakes. The guest of honour is welcomed by the charming Mrs Potts (Angela Lansbury), a singing teapot bubbling over with grandmotherly hospitality. It's a dazzling feast for the senses.

Matt Hryciw, senior page editor

Big Night (1996)

Big Night offers a delightful serving for lovers of Italian food. It tells the story of two beleaguered brothers, Secondo and Primo, on the brink of bankruptcy. Their restaurant is failing because Primo refuses to dumb down his recipes. However, their luck may be about to change when their arch rival, Pascal, suggests the brothers host a dinner for a famous jazz musician about to come to town. Thus we witness the preparation - not just in one scene but in virtually the entire film - of a feast of a lifetime. First up is a vegetable consomme, followed by il risotto, then Primo's masterpiece: il timpano, a wondrous concoction of egg, shrimp, salami, sausage and tomatoes wrapped in a case of tightly packed pasta. Then comes chicken with mushrooms, followed by roast boar on a bed of spinach and vegetables. It's all mouth-wateringly wonderful to watch.

Wai-Ling Chung, picture editor

Eat Drink Man Woman (1994)

This wonderful Taiwanese film is Ang Lee (of later Brokeback Mountain and Crouching Tiger, Hidden Dragon fame) at his finest, long before his entrée into Hollywood. The movie opens with the retired chef Chu gutting and slicing a fish as he prepares a feast for the "Sunday dinner torture ritual". Not a word is uttered for a full four minutes as he dices, chops, fries and boils in an extraordinarily sensory scene that sets the tone for the next two hours. Food replaces communication in family relationships and is a symbol for the deep-seated desires of Chu and his three westernised daughters. "Eat drink man woman - basic human desires. Isn't that what life is all about?" one of the characters later asks. Food for thought indeed.

Tahira Yaqoob, staff writer