Food and Film for a Deserted Island

I was planning a different topic for today but at the beginning of the week my good friend SJ emailed me a question that stirred up a lot of thoughts and prompted this blog, which is a bit of a mental jazz riff. Bear with me. 

Her question: “If you could save only one DVD from your sinking ship, to have on a deserted Island that mysteriously has a means to play a DVD, what would your pick be?”

Without even thinking about it, before I was even finished reading her question, a movie immediately came to mind. I was surprised. It’s not my favorite movie by any means, though I do love it. It’s not in my top ten even nor do I watch it often, the way I watch over and over again other movies. I thought, ‘Wait, that can’t be right. You have to give this some consideration. After all, it’s the only movie you may ever seen again!”

I realize there are criteria. I definitely want a movie that’s long, if not epic in length. I mean, I love The General, it’s one of the best movies ever made, it’s in my top ten, it’s a movie I could watch most every day. But it’s 78 minutes long. If I only get one movie for the rest of my life, I want a movie that has a little more heft. I go through my top ten… The Godfather is #1 and seems to fit the bill: it’s amazing, it’s entertaining and yes it’s long. Ok, then. But like many of my top films (KluteChinatown, Se7en, All That Jazz, LA Confidential, various Hitchcock and Spielberg favorites) The Godfather is pretty dark. I love dark. Give me Se7en over Chariots of Fire any day. Every day for the rest of my life, though? Maybe not.

Another in my top ten, Bridge on the River Kwai, qualifies. It’s sheer genius, start to finish, with a final hour I could spend months analyzing shot by shot in my film classes. Beautifully directed and acted across the board, with Alec Guiness delivering one of the best acting performances ever on film, I can watch Bridge over and over. It’s certainly epic. But it’s very plot driven. Not that there’s anything wrong with that! Bridge’s plot construction is part of what makes the movie so tense, so brilliant, so fulfilling. But a movie not so dependent on the outcome, where the satisfaction of the movie doesn’t lie as much within the plot, that would be a better choice.

Ok, then, so how about one of the movies I already watch over and over? Erin Brockovich comes to mind. It satisfies my justice issues, it’s wildly entertaining, it has a terrific audience pleasing ending… it’s a wonderful movie, across the board. I could also teach this one for weeks in my film classes. For me personally, it’s a great choice. But it’s topical. For “The Only Movie I May Ever See Again”, something a little broader in theme and story would be better. Take Charade and Pillow Talk. They also are both wildly entertaining. They are not as topical and when I need an uplift, either one is just what is needed. (What’s up Doc, Young Frankenstein, Tootsie, Annie Hall, all top favorites, also apply!) But while these movies are completely entertaining and even have a little heft in that they have something to say, they are not as epic as what is called for.

I imagine some of you see where I am headed.

I also imagine some of you are thinking Casablanca. It certainly has it all. Romance, humor, complexity, heft. And there’s that wildly entertaining thing. It’s pretty much the perfect movie. Funny thing with Casablanca for me: I never put it in my top ten, I don’t tend to think of it often, but anytime I sit down to watch it, I am always again amazed by how perfect it is. And yet…

Casablanca was directed by Michael Curtiz, a very underrated director who helmed another movie I watch over and over: Mildred Pierce. Mildred Pierce fits into my wildly entertaining category, start to finish, though in a different way than the movies above. It’s a remarkably satisfying movie to watch. And it contains some of the most dazzling lighting ever put on film. I use this one a lot in film class as well. Oddly, this one could easily fit the bill, a very personal choice. Conflict, drama, humor, murder, mystery, some social commentary. As much as I love it, though, it’s missing that epic part.

Additionally, most of these movies I’ve mentioned I sit down and watch, start to finish. There’s no coming in and out, at least for me. Put on Mildred Pierce or Bridge, The Godfather or Jawsand I’m there until the movie is over. For a deserted island, what’s also called for is a movie I can turn on and off, rather than sit through every viewing. Like a great novel I can read slowly, chapter by chapter, a movie I can watch a little bit here, a little bit there would be excellent. One where I can even skip around to my favorite parts, like a clip show, though on any day I could certainly take an afternoon or evening, watch it all at once and be supremely satisfied.

Only one movie fits what is needed. A big bold movie that, well, has everything. One that never gets old, no matter how many times I watch it. One that sucks me in from the very first scene. Surely you know now. It’s a movie that, while not on my own “top ten” list nor is ever in contention on critics’ lists for “the best movie ever made” remains the most popular movie of all time.

Gone With The Wind

Ah, Scarlett and Rhett. It’s what came immediately to mind before I even finished SJ’s question and, try as I might, I could not find a movie that better fits. It simply cannot be beat. Gone With The Wind has everything: it’s epic in scope, yet often intimate with it’s characters; it has every element I could ask for… war, action, intrigue, romance, death, tragedy, uplift, humor. It has two of the greatest characters ever invented, Scarlett and Rhett. Scarlett in particular is a blast to watch. I tell my writing students what often makes a great character is a character who acts in a manner we always wish we could act, but refrain from doing so. In Gone With The Wind we get to see Scarlett lie, cheat, steal, kill. We see her say and do things we’d never say or do ourselves but wish we had the gumption or impropriety to say and do. Additionally, Margaret Mitchell’s story is full of surprises, even after viewing it numerous times. So that’s my movie for a deserted island.

As for food…

“You have one choice… one dish, or one food item, to choose.”

Well, this one comes easy, too. I won’t spend as much time here, but if I only get one choice, the pick also comes immediately to mind. While I’d love to pick something like my Mac-N-Cheese recipe, which people clamor for continually, comfort foods would get old quickly. Anything would get old, of course. Even one of my favorite meals, which comes from Alice Waters, would get old. Alice Waters was asked how she judges a restaurant. She replied that she orders a filet and a side of spinach and can tell everything she needs to know about the kitchen by what she its served. Add a baked potato and it’s a pretty perfect meal for me. But it, too, would get old and besides, we are not talking a meal here, but one food, be it one dish or one item.

Which is why I think I have the perfect pick. Like GTWT, it has a little bit of everything. You can eat it as is, all together, as presented. But when it gets old, you can break it down. One day eat a certain section and you get salad. One day, eat another section and you get dairy. Another day, break it down and you have bread. Need protein one afternoon? Perfect. And you have a variety of combinations here so that over the course of ten days you can have a different type meal, every day, before you start to repeat.

I won’t go too far overboard and say The Cheeseburger is the perfect food ever created. But for a deserted island? Pretty damn perfect.

What are your picks? Click comments and tell us below.

28 thoughts on “Food and Film for a Deserted Island

  1. hehehehe… Very glad to be of service. 😀 My film choice would definitely be The Man Who Never Was. A deceptively simple tale of wartime derring-do, with a real emotional kick. I would probably join you in that burger, but that said, if the boat sank tomorrow, I would go for the Mac ‘n’ Cheese. (I love Mac ‘n’ Cheese).

  2. Have you ever had the pleasure of seeing GWTW on the big screen? When I was finishing up graduate school they had some sort of a special release and I got to see it on a big screen (a lot like the big screen at the old Park Plaza movie theatre in PA). It helped put it in a different context for me.

    1. Hey, Shawn! Yes, I’ve seen it twice here in LA over the years. It really is incredible on the big screen. I vividly remember watching it the first time on TV, when CBS ran it for the first time. Which is when Carol Burnett did her amazing parody of it. But you are right, it is so different to see it in a theatre.

    2. It’s really the only way to see it. The burning of Atlanta is not half the spectacle on a tiny 19in screen. But it’s not too shoddy on my large tv.

  3. I was thinking “Field of Dreams” and hot dogs. With mustard, natch. And cold beer. (Do they make deserted islands with DVD players, fresh food and cocktails?)

  4. This feels like a copout, but I’m stumped over the whole desert island one movie thing. I asked my wife and she came up with one right away. “Grease,” she said without hesitation. Mine would have to be funny. If I was trapped on an island, I would need to laugh. Maybe Duck Soup? Duck Soup and tacos :).

    1. This is great. Yeah, I thought of The General and Tootsie, as mentioned. Nothing better than a comedy… or Duck Soup.. or tacos! Grease is also a terrific choice.

  5. It’s really hard to beat Casablanca. It checks every box for what I want from a movie. But for some reason I keep coming back to The Princess Bride. I think the humor and the fantasy would do me well on the island. For the food, is it weird that I want to throw my vegetarianism out the window and go with a BLT + Avocado?

    1. I’ve heard ‘Princess Bride’ from a number of people, Craig. As for the bacon… the rest of your life on a deserted island without bacon sounds just too terrible to contemplate. Get the BLT.. live vegetarian 6 days a week then do the protein thing once a week!

      It’s a similar pic to mine, in that it works as a variety of meals. I realize now I should have made mine a Bacon Cheeseburger.

  6. After giving this much thought, albeit not as much as you, I’ve made my decisions. For food, I have to go with Mac n Cheese. I love it too much to go without it, although pepperoni pizza is a close contender. I’m sticking with the Mac n Cheese though, but let’s add bacon bits to it!

    As for movie, The ‘Burbs all the way! While I’d probably say Dante is my second favorite director, I do think he’s the one director I simply couldn’t go without. How that makes him two on my list, I don’t know, just the way it is.

    My movie would definitely need to be a comedy full of laughs, which The ‘Burbs has plenty of so it scores points there. Plus, the comedy is dark, more points. There’s horror elements. One of my favorite shots in the history of film. Tom Hanks, Bruce Dern, Carrie Fisher, Corey Feldman, Henry Gibson, Rick Ducommun, and Dick Miller! The whole film takes place on Colonial Street! This movie has everything!

    1. Chris, I am not sure anyone needs to examine it the way I did! But great answer. I came very close to saying Mac-N-Cheese, bacon is a perfect addition.

      And I love Joe Dante! I saw ‘Gremlins’ in the theatre 6 times when it came out and many times since. I love ‘Gremlins 2’ and I love his episode of ‘The Twilight Zone’. I also enjoyed ‘the ‘Burbs’, I need to revisit it. One of the most amazing opening shots ever, right??

      Who is #1??

      1. Yeah, a world without Mac N Cheese is something I never want to experience.

        I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Dante movie in theatres, mostly because it hasn’t had a theatrical release since I was little. I do recall watching a lot of his work such as Gremlins and Explorers a lot when I was little. As I’ve gotten older I’ve really grown to love his work. His segment in The Twilight Zone is brilliant and I really love Matinee. Goodman is incredible in that, but at the end of the day, I have to go with The ‘Burbs.

        My favorite director, well directors technically, are the Coen Brothers. Even when they miss, they still present a pretty solid project. Their films are very unique and so much the Coen Brothers I think. I was very close to choosing Raising Arizona as my film because then that gives me the Coens, Cage and Goodman, but The ‘Burbs just edged it out!

        1. Coens are incredible. And the combo of John Goodman and The Coens is amazing. He’s a great actor all the time but sometimes when actors and artists mesh, like certain actors with Mamet, it’s electrifying. Goodman gets their stuff so well.

          1. Couldn’t agree more! There’s a handful of people that really shine with the Coens but Goodman is the best I believe. I love when you get good actor/director combos. Wes Anderson and Bill Murray is another fantastic combo I love.

  7. Wow, this is a great ice breaker to get things going on a first/blind date, Tom!!!! If I wasn’t married, I’d use this – though I’ll try it on my wife on a potentially “routine” date.

    Me??? Hmmmm, I’d love to have Woody Allen with me on the island, so maybe Manhattan? Annie Hall? And for food…I’d go for a great lasagna!

    1. Annie Hall is for me a great choice… believe me, if I had 5 to pick, not one, Annie Hall would be in the top 5! Lasag is an excellent choice as well.

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