I'm thankful for a lot of things this year, my son being first and foremost, but I wouldn't get too far down the list without coming to movies and food, and then food in movies. Showing characters eating or relating to food in some way can be a quick and easy way to capture a magical moment. You can reveal something about a character, you can take a break from an otherwise hectic narrative, or you can simply bask in the sheer, physical beauty of food, the same way another movie might show characters dancing. The following is my second annual "thankful" list of food scenes in current movies playing on 400 screens or less.

I'm thankful for the use of the term "savory snacks" in Wes Anderson's The Darjeeling Limited (285 screens). When Jack (Jason Schwartzman) returns from having made love with the Indian stewardess (Amara Karan) in the train's bathroom, his brothers ask: "where's our savory snacks"? I'm thankful for the adorable Sarah Silverman and the way she sighed her way through the line "I want someone to eat cheese with" in I Want Someone to Eat Cheese With (3 screens). And I'm thankful for Scarlett Johansson eating potato chips in bed in The Nanny Diaries (26 screens) -- her only way of dealing with the end of a horrible, horrible day.

I'm thankful for Barry Corbin in No Country for Old Men (148 screens), who makes a fresh pot of coffee about once a week -- whether he needs to or not, I guess. I'm thankful for Philip Seymour Hoffman in Before the Devil Knows You're Dead (176 screens), who, when he shows up to a secret drug den for a heroin fix, makes sure to order a club soda rather than hard liquor. I'm thankful to have seen Dwayne 'The Rock' Johnson dressed in a tux and carrying around a martini -- just once, before I died -- in Southland Tales (63 screens). And I'm thankful for the many frosty English pints consumed by the members of Joy Division in Control (27 screens). (If only there could have been some chips to go with them.)

I'm thankful for the colorful, well-presented ratatouille in Ratatouille (237 screens) that melts the heart of the nasty food critic (voiced by Peter O'Toole). And I'm thankful for the flashback and the view of the bowl of old-fashioned, home-cooked ratatouille for comparison. I'm thankful for the scene in Blade Runner: The Final Cut (18 screens) in which Deckard (Harrison Ford) orders fish and noodles from the steaming, sizzling food cart. The air is so chilly and grim that his impending dinner -- as pathetic as it is -- sounds absolutely scrumptious and warming to the soul. (I haven't yet seen the new cut, so I'm only assuming this scene is still in there.)

I'm thankful for that scene in Once (7 screens) in which Glen Hansard is invited to stay for an authentic Czech dinner, despite the fact that he has only then discovered that the cute girl (Marketa Irglova) has a daughter as well as a still-in-the-picture husband somewhere. He manages to eat heartily anyway. I'm thankful for Tony Leung in Lust, Caution (77 screens), who takes Tang Wei to a crappy restaurant on purpose so that they won't be bothered by the crowds. And I'm thankful for the way that Tommy Lee Jones was able to use a menu in a fried chicken joint as a major clue in his investigation in In the Valley of Elah (13 screens).

I'm thankful for Adam Goldberg in 2 Days in Paris (7 screens) who, having just fought with his girlfriend (Julie Delpy), enters a Paris McDonalds and bluntly tries to order in English, using crude sign language to help illustrate. I'm thankful that he found the spiritual guidance he desperately needed in that same restaurant. I'm also thankful that I'm not him. I'm thankful that astronauts in In the Shadow of the Moon (14 screens) have confirmed that the moon is not made of green cheese (though part of me still believes).

And I'm thankful for Jack Black in Margot at the Wedding (2 screens), who gets into a fight with his betrothed (Jennifer Jason Leigh) on the eve of their wedding. Before anyone has a chance to cool down, he breaks down crying and compulsively eats the wedding cake.

And I'm thankful for those pink donuts used to promote The Simpsons Movie (61 screens). I ate one once before a screening and it was an unforgettable experience, with all that that implies. I'm thankful for the scintillating dinner conversation in The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford (84 screens). Most of all, I'm thankful for everyone getting together over a meal at one big table -- even in dark times -- in Harry Potter and the Order of the Phoenix (90 screens).

categories Columns, Cinematical