Thanksgiving is a specifically and peculiarly American occasion and although we on this side of the pond are generally aware of it, either because of films like Free Birds, or because of a healthy interest in US sports, or through the avalanche of Thanksgiving-themed tweets from those we follow within the Twittersphere, it tends to pass us by.
But in the interests of North Atlantic harmony and in order to try to extend an olive branch of fraternity and put all that Boston Tea Party business behind us, it seemed appropriate to acknowledge and even celebrate Thanksgiving by sharing a few things for which we can all be thankful – American, British and everything else besides.
We could list all of the films we are thankful for, but that would take a while. We could say we are grateful for certain actors or directors, but in such matters of taste and opinion we might all fall out. In the spirit of Thanksgiving we want to avoid being divisive.
So, instead, here are a load of moments for which we can hopefully all be thankful.
We are thankful for the moment in Jurassic Park when Sam Neill and Laura Dern witness a Brachiosaurus reaching to high-up branches. It meant dinosaurs were back and we were thrilled. We are thankful for the moment in The Two Towers when Gollum approaches Frodo and Sam down the cliff face. Performance capture and Andy Serkis combined to create something wonderfully affecting.
We are thankful for that shot in United 93, where air traffic control watch in stunned, horrified silence as the second plane roars past their panoramic window before crashing into the World Trade Centre. It is a heart-breaking moment and although the events of 9/11 are, of course, nothing to be even remotely thankful for, we are thankful for a moment of cinema that brought home to us the confusion, terror and anguish of that unspeakably sad day. It reminds us of the power of cinema, cutting across the desensitizing chaos and mere spectacle that can typify less considered blockbuster film-making.
We are thankful for the chariot race in Ben Hur. At a time when none of the SFX tools that are commonplace today were available, months were invested in creating a set piece of unparalleled excitement and scale. We will never see its like again. We are similarly grateful for the burning of Atlanta in Gone With The Wind.
Although it required the destruction of vast swathes of studio backlot, they got their shots and the world got one of cinema’s most enduring epics.
We are grateful for an elderly lady speaking fluent jive in Airplane. We are grateful for Bill Murray falling silent to say a prayer for world peace in Groundhog Day. We are grateful for Tony Curtis giving us a beautiful take on Cary Grant in Some Like It Hot. We are grateful for amps that go all the way up to 11. We are grateful that Ron Burgundy found himself trapped in a glass cage of emotion and that Clark Griswold persevered with getting Christmas just right.
We are grateful for what sometimes feels like the matchless power of movies to move us. We are grateful that Ray Kinsella built a baseball pitch and that he got to play ball once more with his Dad. We are grateful that Oskar Schindler’s efforts to save Jews during the Holocaust are now preserved in film, despite the harrowing experience of watching it. We are grateful for the catharsis of The Chief making his escape, even as MacMurphy’s fate leaves us in pieces.
We are grateful that it was raining after Gene Kelly falls for Debbie Reynolds and we are grateful for Tom Hanks’ candour, as he describes the joy of his love for his late wife and the acute pain of the loss he now feels in her absence. We are grateful for the story of Jessie remembering what it was like to be loved.
We are grateful for all of the iconic moments. Travis Bickle talking to himself in the mirror, Marion Crane coming a cropper at the Bates Motel, Moses parting the Red Sea, Luke Skywalker putting paid to years of hard work by countless contractors on the Empire’s Death Star, Indiana Jones running away from a very large boulder, Elliot’s bike flying past the moon, a baby’s pram bouncing down the Odessa steps, Scottie Ferguson suffering his first bout of Vertigo, Rick Blaine pressing Sam to play his piano and Clark Kent pulling open his shirt to reveal a yellow and red “S”.
We could go on. There is much outside of (and more important than) the movies for which we should all be rightly thankful. But we are thankful for films all the same. They have given us a lot.