Jenny Slate has a nostalgia for the movie-going experience of yesteryear. She fondly remembers her parents taking her and her sisters to see a film at the local theater in Milton, Massachusetts, before it was eventually shuttered and replaced by a multiplex.
"It used to be like, you know, every town felt like a replica of like a train set. Most towns, you know, they had the supermarket or the little market, and their places of worship, and their train station and a little movie theater," Slate reminisces. "I was on the tail end of that, and I'm lucky that I got to see movies in the movie theater. I will always remember my parents taking me there."
Though the theater experience has changed, Slate's work on-screen manages to capture the spirit of the movies she most loves. Look no further than her latest roles: In Everything Everywhere All at Once, she pops up throughout the multiverse as Debbie the Dog Mom. "When the Daniels got in touch with me, they said that they had a part in their movie that they wanted me to play," she shares. "I just sort of screamed yes at them. I think they're lovely people and that they're one-of-a-kind artists, so that was just a big yes for me."
Then came Marcel the Shell With Shoes On, which Slate co-wrote with director Dean Fleischer Camp and in which she stars in as the voice of the titular mollusk. "Marcel's voice is always with me," she says. "I'm glad that this character that we made so long ago can finally get this moment of like actually sort of explaining himself."
MORE: Inside 'Marcel the Shell With Shoes On's 10-Year Journey to the Big Screen (Exclusive)
Like the films that first inspired her, the former is bold and imaginative and full of heart; the latter is funny and magical and also full of heart. Both are nominees at the 95th Oscars: Everything Everywhere All at Once earned 11 nominations, including Best Picture, while Marcel the Shell With Shoes On is nominated for Best Animated Feature.
"Hi. My name is Jenny and I'm Academy NOMINATED and also partially a shell," Slate posted in reaction to the Oscars recognition, "and I'm crying a lot but today is certainly one of the most marvelous moments of my little life. Thank you so very much to our cast and crew and to The Academy for nodding their smiling gaze our way."
Below, Slate shares with A.frame five of the films that she most cherishes.
This article was originally published on June 24, 2022.
Directed by: Joan Micklin Silver | Written by: Susan Sandler
To me, Crossing Delancey feels a little bit like a Grace Paley story put up on its feet. I just love Amy Irving's performance, and I love Peter Riegert's performance. I really like stories of people who are generations apart who are meeting right now in the present. And what they tell each other about the way the world works, and how they join together in tradition. I just always loved that movie so much.
And I love that it's such a depiction of New York at that time. I love that it took place on the Lower East Side. There's so much of my heritage in there. I remember seeing it as a little girl, and that my parents really enjoyed it, and I felt flattered that they would let me watch it with them. It seemed like such a movie for adults.
Directed by: François Truffaut | Written by: François Truffaut and Suzanne Schiffman
I love the way that movie is shot. I love that the innocence of the children, it isn't interrupted at all. All of the children wore the same costumes for the whole movie as if they're Muppets or characters on Sesame Street, which I really, really love. I love that you see how precious children are and that there are so many little stories. You see the lives of these children and how children are so busy. They're just so busy with their business. And I like that Truffaut takes that so seriously.
And I honestly just love how French it is. There's a moment where Sylvie wants to bring her dirty little purse with her — it's a purse that's in the shape of a plush dog and she's brushed the dog with the water from the goldfish bowl — and her mother says, "That's too dirty. You can't bring it." And she says, "Then, I'm not coming." And, weirdly, as a punishment, they say, "Fine, then you're not coming." And they leave her in the house! Which now would never happen. But she yells out her window and says, "I'm locked in! I'm locked in!" And the Deluca brothers in her apartment complex and a bunch of other people, they make a big basket for her, and it's just so French. It has, like, a whole roast chicken and a baguette, and I think they try to put in a bottle of wine, but the brothers' father takes it out. I just love how sweet it is without being sappy. And that it's so playful, but it's just still so chic.
Directed by: Vincente Minnelli | Written by: Irving Brecher and Fred F. Finklehoffe
One of my favorite movies ever is Meet Me in St. Louis, starring Judy Garland. That's one of the first movies I saw. We rented it from the library. I've seen that movie a hundred times at least. I've seen it so many times! And I just remember being so taken by the caliber of her performance, by the costumes, by their hairstyles. It seemed, to me, to be a perfect example of what Hollywood was capable of doing, and I just thought this is what it means to be fancy.
At the time, when I was a little girl, that's what I thought I would be if I were to be a movie star, even though Hollywood wasn't making movies like that in the '80s! But that's what I thought it would be like for me. That in one way or another, if I could make it to be a film actress, that I would make sure that the experience that I was having would be somehow a gesture at and a bow to the beauty that I saw in that classic film.
Written and Directed by: Hayao Miyazaki
I love Miyazaki. I love everything about Miyazaki films, and I picked Spirited Away but I also love Kiki's Delivery Service so much and I love [My Neighbor] Totoro. I love so many of them, but Spirited Away means so much to me. I really like when things look like their mother and that their mother is the imagination itself. That's what I like. And I just love how everything in this movie looks like something you've never seen before. And that the movie believes in magic, and it makes you believe in it.
If you want to watch that movie, if you're going to be involved in it, you have to believe in what it believes in. And it has such a broad, broad, broad wide-open possibility within its beliefs. Like, so many things can exist. So many things can happen. The stakes are really high, and there's danger in it for its main character, who's a child. In the end, it's happy, but it also holds onto its mystery and it doesn't stand in the way of how big its danger is. I just absolutely love that energy.
Directed by: Penny Marshall | Written by: Gary Ross and Anne Spielberg
I've always loved Big. And I know that now everyone's kind of taking a second look at it and being like, "Wait, but hold on." I get that it's, like, a little confusing because, in the end, he is a child that has sex. And that is very hard to get your mind around at this point. So, it's tough when you really look at it.
But I'll say, Elizabeth Perkins in that movie, when she's on the trampoline with her tutu dress, and when she's at the party beforehand, and she's kind of trying to do adult talk, she gives such an incredible performance in, like, posturing at being jaded. But then does this beautiful thing where she just lets her hidden hope come out, and her hidden innocence come out, and she's such a beautiful performer. I love that so much. I think she's such a great actress. And, of course, Tom Hanks is just so funny and so winning in that film. And again, that film is also absolutely so scary. And I like things that show people taken out of their element and still thriving. I like movies about people who are like, 'Well, I'm only going to be here for a night,' and they end up finding a home.