Every year at Thanksgiving time I try to watch The Last Waltz, Martin Scorsese’s classic 1978 documentary about the final concert performed by the original incarnation of The Band. I explained why last year:
Every year around this time, I try to watch The Last Waltz at least once, in the way that people watch A Christmas Story or It’s a Wonderful Life whenever mid-December rolls around. I’ve come to regard The Last Waltz — and I preface this by offering sincere apologies to Planes, Trains, and Automobiles — as the greatest Thanksgiving movie ever. That’s not simply because The Last Waltz takes place on the holiday, but also because this film embodies what’s wonderful, horrible, hilarious, and moving about one of this country’s most sacred annual traditions, and how many of us manage to survive it. Other films have used Thanksgiving as a backdrop. But to me, The Last Waltz is Thanksgiving.
This week, I invited another Last Waltz fan, the critic and poet Hanif Abdurraqib, to talk about the film and why it has extra significance at Thanksgiving. Turns out Hanif, a Muslim who didn’t grow up celebrating the holiday, has his own annual tradition tied up with The Last Waltz, after watching the film in college with other kids who were stranded in the dorm over the holidays. Join us as we dig into the minutia of one of the great rock films ever made!