Academy Awards: Food Scenes and Themes in the 2014 Best Picture Nominees
The 86th Academy Awards are coming to a TV near you this Sunday—and if you want to know which of the 9 Best Picture nominees wins the Oscar, you’ll have to stick it out until the bitter end. This will give you several long hours to consider things like the fabulous variety of hair (feathered, permed, toupee) on display in American Hustle, the authenticity of Tom Hanks’s thick New England accent in Captain Phillips, and just how masochistic a diet Matthew McConaughey must have endured for Dallas Buyers Club. But! Have you thought about all the ways food is used in each of these movies? What does it mean? How did the director and screenwriter deploy food and drink to build character or develop their stories? If you’re a Bon Appétit reader, chances are these questions occupy your brain during all waking hours—unless, of course, you were too busy cooking and eating to catch all the nominees in the theater. In any case, we are here for you with a breakdown:
Gravity: I Can’t Keep My Food Down!
Gravity’s single greatest culinary flaw is that not one character consumes ANY freeze-dried astronaut ice cream. Not one measly bite! Early on, Dr. Ryan Stone (Sandra Bullock), the medical engineer on a space mission that goes horribly awry, mentions that she is having trouble keeping her lunch down in the zero-G environment. Things only gets worse once her shuttle is destroyed and she’s left somersaulting her way through the cosmos. She doesn’t even get to enjoy a swig of the Russian vodka the hallucinated ghost of George Clooney cleverly finds.
Her: Real Women Eat Food
In Her, Joaquin Phoenix plays Theodore Twombly, a lonely writer of other people’s deeply personal love letters who falls in love with the Scarlett Johansson–voiced operating system on his computer. If you can take your eyes off the fabulous high-waisted pants that are apparently the not-too-distant future of men’s fashion, you’ll notice Twombly mostly consumes food on the run: a fruit smoothie, say, or a piece of pizza. He sits down to meals only twice, both times with the (real) women in his life: once on a date and once with his soon-to-be ex-wife to sign their divorce papers. His disembodied girlfriend’s appetites don’t extend to dinner, of course.
SEE MORE: Oscars Swag Bags: A History of Edible Gifts Since 2003
Philomena: I Won’t Be Having any Tea or Fruit Bread
Philomena is about a British woman’s search for the child who was taken away from her, and the snobby journalist who goes along for the ride. Perhaps predictably, food in this English film highlights class differences: Philomena’s (Judi Dench) favorite restaurant is a cheap chain with a salad bar, while Oxbridge-educated Martin Sixsmith (Steve Coogan) has fancier tastes. Later, on a plane, Philomena accepts a drink only after Martin assures her it’s free; and she expresses a nearly American level of enthusiasm over the breakfast buffet at a D.C. hotel, especially delighting in the omelet bar. But it’s Martin who scorns tea and fruit bread offered at the abbey near the end of the film, a sign he’s no longer willing to stand on Commonwealth formalities with the “evil nuns” who kept Philomena from her son for decades.
Nebraska: Beer and Bonding
Nebraska’s Woody Grant (Bruce Dern and his crazily unkempt hair) is an aging, alcoholic dad convinced he’s won a million dollars. He’s more interested in booze than food, finding his way into every small-town tavern from Montana to Nebraska. He knocks back cold beers with all variety of men along the way, from his well-meaning son (Will Forte) to a hometown nemesis, making the least amount of conversation possible between sips. But for a guy who doesn’t open his mouth much, he still somehow finds a way lose his false teeth in strange locations when he drinks.