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Easy as Pie
by Summer Wood

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Step away from the pie!

Step away from the pie!
I'm trying to be on a diet. It was a New Year's Resolution. It's actually my standing, go-to New Year's resolution, one I trot out every January 1 and usually blow by or before January 3. This year I made it to about January 10, before I succumbed to a chocolate bar I found in the fridge. I think it was from Halloween a couple of years ago and had fallen down towards the back of the refrigerator, where I've kept the batteries ever since someone told me cold makes them last longer. So when I tell you I ate an ancient candy bar that had been situated near containers of battery acid for a few years, that should give you an idea of the level of my desperation. But I got an unflattering glimpse of myself in the bathroom mirror last evening, so the diet is back on.

Which is one way of explaining to you why I'm currently obsessed by food.

Hence, this column, in which I share with you my choices for the ten greatest pastries ever caught on film. Please note, these are my own favorites. I mean no insult to any scones, biscuits, Danish, pies, Twinkies or other delectables that may have been snubbed in the creation of this column.

10. AMERICAN PIE– Best Humiliated Pastry – We've all seen the things Jason Biggs can do with an apple pie. Let us be grateful we won't have to witness what he can do with a baseball or somebody's mother (that, after all, is Finch's territory).

9.MILDRED PIERCE – Best Murder-Inducing Pastry – Poor Joan Crawford. Those are three words one would never expect to see together. But after clawing her way up to the top of the dog-eat-dog world of home cooking, by virtue of her pie making skills, only to be pushed to the edge by her evil, avaricious daughter, you felt for poor Joan and her magnificent shoulder pads. Of course, it was far easier to believe Joan could give birth to the thoroughly rotten Ann Blyth than to have ever made a pie.

8. WAITRESS – Best Titled Pastries – Perky Kerri Russell, as a sort of a cuter and less formidable Joan Crawford, was also intent on bettering her life through her pastry-making skills. This film was most significant for, not only employing the criminally underused Nathan Fillion, but also for featuring the best names for pies. Ever. No question. Wouldn't you try a "Bad Baby Pie" or a "Kick in the Pants" Pie? How about an "I Hate My Husband" Pie? Genius!

The perfect way to start the day.

The perfect way to start the day.
TIFFANY'S– Most Glamorous Pastry – My vote for the most memorable cinnamon roll. Audrey Hepburn, decked out in an ultra-sophisticated black sheath and pearls and wearing sunglasses that threaten to swallow her beautifully coiffed head, delicately nibbles a massive bun, while mooning over the windows of Tiffany's. (I'm sure Freud might have something to say about the use of "moon" and "bun" in the preceding sentence, but it was unintentional, I assure you.) The image is unquestionably one of the most iconic depictions of down-at-the-heels glamour ever preserved on film. It's so iconic that one can even overlook the sure knowledge that Audrey probably never ate a cinnamon bun in her life.

6.VICTOR/VICTORIA – Most Swoon-worthy Pastry – Another highly memorable pastry scene, this one bordering on pornography. Julie Andrews, escaping from her lecherous landlord, finds herself jobless, starving and without a home, wandering the bitter, snowy streets of Paris, when she comes upon a restaurant. Peering in the windows, she sees a fat man tucking into a cream puff. She watches the first slow bite, then the second bite, the cream extruding out, clinging to his lips and chin, and, as he bites in yet again, the camera pulls back to reveal...no Julie! Bystanders then rush to help her up from the place where she has fainted, partly from hunger, no doubt, but also from that performance by that cream puff. Blake Edwards, who directed the film, created a gloriously telling bit of comedy, just using great timing and a stellar pastry.

5.GREAT EXPECTATIONS – Most Vermin- ridden Pastry – The first time I tried to watch the version from 1946, by the great David Lean, I could not make it through the film. I got maybe a half hour in before I had to leave the room. I was, of course, about ten. But when the character of Miss Havisham, as portrayed as the terrifyingly cadaverous Martita Hunt, reveals to little Pip the dining room of her manor house, it's enough to put you off food for quite a while. You see, Miss Havisham had been left at the altar as a young woman (there was a groom-to-be who really dodged a bullet). Since that disappointment, she became a man-hater of the first order, but never gave up wearing the crumbling wedding gown she'd had on when she was jilted. She also refused to remove the wedding feast. SO there it remains, moldering
Ambrosial, as in made from someone named Ambrose?

Ambrosial, as in made from someone named Ambrose?
covered in cobwebs. Worst of all was the wedding cake, which was rotting, with mice running in and out of the decrepit dessert.

4. SHREK – Best Pastry in a Supporting Role – Ah, Gingy, the Gingerbread Man. Personally, I feel he was best used in SHREK 2, when he came up with the successful plan to storm the castle by utilizing the giant Gingerbread Man, Mongo (another candidate for best supporting pastry). I'd never considered the kind of personality a Gingerbread Man might have before the series started, but they made the right choice making him sarcastic, bossy and, sure, spicy. So Gingy, I tip my gumdrop button to you.

3. IT HAPPENED ONE NIGHT – Best Unacknowledged Attraction Pastry – In this great Golden Age film, heiress Claudette Colbert runs away from home to marry her unsavory beau, while pursued by newspaperman Clark Gable, looking for a scoop for his tabloid. The inevitable happens, but it takes some mileage. One of their first connections occurs in a diner where their bus has stopped. They only have money for one cup of coffee and one doughnut. So Clark instructs the sheltered Claudette in the fine art of doughnut dunking. That doughnut opened the door to a great romantic comedy and a bucket-load of Oscars.

2. SWEENEY TODD – Most Unappetizing Pastry – I love Alan Rickman. Alan Rickman as lunch, not so much.

1.WHEN HARRY MET SALLY – Best Obsessive Compulsive Pastry – Meg Ryan's Sally was quite an adorable bundle of neuroses. While most folks recall her rather vocal demonstration of...umm...fulfillment in Katz' Deli, there was another significant restaurant scene that prominently featured pie. At the very start of the film, during the road trip from the University of Chicago to New York City, Billy Crystal witnesses Meg's first dinner order in his presence. Her excruciatingly detailed order ended with a request for the apple pie a la mode, but with strawberry ice cream instead of vanilla, and heated, although if they couldn't heat it, no ice cream...you get the picture. It convinced Billy's Harry that Meg's Sally was a total flake. Without that pie, this movie would have been twenty minutes long.

Clearly this list is incomplete. In fact, I've been racking my brain for an Oreo-related movie scene, but could come up with nothing. So please, share with me your favorite cinematic pastries and, someone, get me an Oreo!

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Mike Thomas
Apr 15, 2012 12:39 AM
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Don't forget DINER, and the dining room scene in SHREK 2, possibly the over-the-top "dinner conversation" in recent history.

You may also interested in the upcoming black drama, SUSHI GIRL, starring the immortal Tony Todd.

Very enjoyable column!

Apr 15, 2012 1:14 AM
[X] delete
I can't read this without thinking of the pie from The Help...... does that count?
Apr 16, 2012 1:49 PM
[X] delete
Holy crow, how did I miss that one! Sad thing is, THE HELP was on the list, but somehow I managed to leave it out of the final version. D'oh!

Apr 18, 2012 11:18 AM
[X] delete
Good column, Summer. I recommend keeping the batteries in the freezer in airtight bags. Last even longer and won't hurt your pastries.

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A Musing in Movieland
Every other Sunday

One woman's attempt to find meaning in movies, from movies, and between movies and to figure out why movies should matter to us, all while trying to find a laugh in the whole, screwy business."

Other Columns
Other columns by Summer Wood:

American Gods (With apologies to Neil Gaiman) Pt 2

American Gods (With apologies to Neil Gaiman) Pt 1

Most Beautiful Woman Alive!

The Jazzier Age?

Happy Easter, Doc!

All Columns

Summer Wood
I'm still cautiously optimistic that there really is a pattern to our lives and am striving to find mine, although I secretly suspect that life is really just about a Big, Space Baby. Which would be disappointing. And confusing. But, hey, you gotta have a sense of humor about it all, right? Philosophical stuff aside, I am an attorney, an artist and a performer and, if I could figure out a way to make the last two pay the bills, I'd dump the first one tomorrow.

If you have a comment, question, or suggestion, you can send a message to Summer Wood by clicking here.

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