Creating an Oscar-Worthy Dinner with Film Archivist Carol Hopp
Over at the Archives of Ontario (located in North York), many governmental or private properties are accessioned into proper storage facilities for preservation means. This includes many different types of artifacts and ephemera, but it also includes film (whether it was family-owned, or ministry funded orphan films). Carol Hopp is an archivist that specializes in film preservation (amongst many other things); nothing changes your perspective on a medium quite like taking care of it on a daily basis in such a way. Hopp is a clear cinephile, and this extends into her everyday life as well.
Every year, when the Academy Awards season comes around, Hopp aims to replicate each of the Best Picture nominees in a single meal, with each film representing a portion of that dinner; this supper, of course, takes place the night of the actual ceremony. Not only is this a fascinating idea, but it is a very challenging one, too: how can you mix so many elements into one meal without being excessive? During the short time I have been acquainted with her, this whole concept has been one that has stuck in the back of my mind every time the big day rolls around. What could Carol be making for this batch of films? In the past, I have been informed of a half-egg to represent the monoliths in Arrival, rice krispie square desserts for The Silence of the Lambs (a family friendly pun on Hannibal being a “cereal” killer, compared to the other meals you could derive from such a film), and a certain dairy product for Room (hint: Brie Larson). Some of these options are direct, some are imaginative, and some are plays-on-word. Either way, there is a workaround with everything in this challenge, and that’s part of the fun.
Films Fatale: What made you decide to make these dinners in the first place? How difficult is it to come up with these ideas, especially since this is one meal and not eight meals, so everything has to go together?
Carol Hopp: My sister (from Wyoming) and I came up with this idea when we were in University. I think that she read about someone doing this. However, I think it may have been more bizarre like the first film/course would be served in a glass no matter what the food was. Something like that. We made it much more simple for our school roommates. However, we called it The Golden Ken Awards. In addition to the meal there is a contest to see who could make the most correct guesses as to the actual Oscar winners. The guess winner would have his/her name engraved on a handmade Golden Ken award which is a Ken doll, sprayed gold, with its feet firmly planted in clay. There would be a take away smaller Oscar-like award for the winner as well. My sister still has the Golden Ken in Wyoming. It used to be almost a satellite event. My sister would have a dinner and a big contest at the school she worked at. Now I am the only one preparing the dinner – except this year. All of the guesses are still stored in Ottawa and evaluated as the Oscar evening progresses. I haven’t won in a long time but it is still fun.
Sometimes the most difficult thing is to make certain that I watch the films. It works best if I see the films after the nominations so that I know to look for food. Doesn’t leave much time and unfortunately by the time the nominations come out, the films may not be available. I was lucky this year! In the olden days, there only used to be 5 movies in the running for the Best Picture Oscar. Five is more manageable when it comes to meal courses but now there can be up to 10 movies and 10 courses. If I haven’t seen the film I will research it or make a general food choice related to a character/actor/setting connected to the film. I try to include at least one drink, appetizer, vegetable, main course, fruit, and dessert and make the meal somewhat appetizing/healthy for my family.
To make it extra fun, I have the family decide on the order of the meal based on their order of the Best Picture nominees. They don’t know ahead of time the food chosen for each Best Picture. Sometimes desert ends up being the first meal. I always have water available throughout the dinner, because most if not all of the movies feature water and just in case the movie with the drink isn’t chosen until late in the meal. Also, because there are eight Best Pictures nominated, I sometimes have the family pick a couple movies at a time. As part of the presentation, I tell them what the movie is about and why this food was chosen.
Drink: Black Panther - Grape Juice
Having to select a drink for the first Best Picture nominee was surely tough. Hopp decided to go with grape juice: “one of the things that I remember was that when the kings drank [the heart-shaped herb], it looked like it turned purple inside of them”. Hopefully there are healing powers in this concoction as well, because that never hurts.
Appetizer: BlacKkKlansman - Cheese Dip and Crackers
This entry might have been a bit easier, especially because of its serendipity. Luckily, the only main meal we see (or hear of) in the film is a snack of some sort. Hopp’s reasoning was “I remember the wife of [the Klansman Felix] asking if anyone wanted this”. Luckily, this dip will come without any of the bigotry found in the film’s party.
Sides: Bohemian Rhapsody - Scrambled Eggs with just Salt and Pepper
Where do you even begin with finding food in this film? There really aren’t any iconic food or drink moments, outside of Freddie Mercury’s partying. Luckily, Hopp thought outside of the box with this entry and ” researched Freddie’s favourite foods,” where she found that “ he liked spicy food until he got sick and then could only eat scrambled eggs with salt and pepper”. Hopp concluded “[m]y family isn’t into spicy foods, so eggs is the choice.”
Fruit: The Favourite - Blood Oranges
This is a much easier film and option to work with. Hopp went with “blood oranges”, because of the infamous scene where “that was what was thrown at the naked guy” by the male aristocrats for amusement. Hopp points out that there are so many food and drink options in this film, including “hot chocolate, cake, pineapples, duck, lobsters, flank steak” and more. This might be the most food-centred film these Academy Awards.
Main: Green Book - Spaghetti with One Meatball
Well, Green Book might actually contain more food on that note. What do you pick amongst Tony Lip’s many edible escapades? Over twenty hot dogs? A pizza folded in half? Hopp went a more sensible route and picked an option that is found a few times in the film, but in a more subtle way: spaghetti with one meatball. “Frank ate this a couple of times in the movie”, Hopp reminded me. I must have forgotten over the more outrageous feats Lip pulls off with his meals.
Dessert: Roma - Ice Cream
”The kids ate ice cream a few times”, Hopp stated. In fact, ice cream is used almost on a metaphorical level, here. It pops up during important family discussions, including the big reveal to the children towards the end of the film. Plus, who doesn’t love ice cream? “My family likes ice cream”, Hopp agreed. There are certainly more obscure desserts out there, but luckily there’s Roma to save the day in this department.
Vegetables: A Star is Born - Peas
”When Ally hurt her hand after punching some guy, she and Jack bought the peas at the grocery store and wrapped her hand in it to make it feel better”, Hopp explained. This is such a simple yet brilliant entry. It adds a basic vegetable to the dish, and it represents one of the greater moments in the film in such a simple (yet effective) way.
Vegetables: Vice - Corn
Hopp decided on corn, because she “was thinking that it would be good barbecue food because Dick Cheney did have barbecues”. These barbecues are featured in the film, and there’s even a barbecue meal outdoors in the pivotal moment where George W. Bush proposes the idea that Cheney should be his running mate. Easy. Effective. You don’t need much more to round out the meal.
FF: We like to send interviews off with the most basic question, based on why we are all cinephiles. What are your top five films of all time, and why?
1. To Kill a Mockingbird
CH: I actually generally only think of my top favourite which is To Kill a Mockingbird. I’m a big Gregory Peck fan. I read the story in high school like many people. I acted in the play in University – smallest part – a jury member. In honour of the 50th anniversary, my sister and I even went to the To Kill a Mockingbird museum in Monroeville, Alabama. I even watched the play at Stratford last year. It sure would be something to see the play on Broadway this year starring Jeff Daniels. Timeless, timely story about all of the mockingbirds in the world – it’s a sin to kill a mockingbird – “Mockingbirds don't do one thing but make music for us to enjoy.”
2. Rear Window
CH: [The]dangers of spying on your neighbours. It was my final in a Film Viewing class I took at University. Jimmy Stewart, Grace Kelly and the always wonderful Thelma Ritter. Grace Kelly’s character Lisa has “Carol” as a middle name. The last time I watched it, like Jeff, I was in bed / couch with a broken left leg.
3. 12 Angry Men (1957)
CH: It only takes one person believing in you to make a difference. When the Juror #9 changes his vote to support Juror #8 with Not Guilty – I believe!
4. All About Eve
CH: The theory of Karma. Great story, great acting. I remember watching it first because I heard that Marilyn Monroe was in it. The movie is so much more.
5. Feed The Kitty
CH: I have a favourite cartoon: Feed the Kitty. A Chuck Jones film about a bulldog Marc Anthony who finds and wants to keep a cute black and white kitten. This makes me cry.
Films Fatale thanks Carol Hopp for taking the time to share her love of cinema with us. Visit the Archives of Ontario’s official website to see what films (and countless other mediums) have been salvaged to preserve and restore the history of the Canadian province.
Andreas Babiolakis has a Masters degree in Film and Photography Preservation and Collections management from Ryerson University, as well as a Bachelors degree in Cinema Studies from York University. His favourite times of year are the Criterion Collection flash sales and the annual Toronto International Film Festival.