Fa, la, la, la, la. The special time of the year is starting next week with Thanksgiving. I leave on Tuesday for California where I will be visiting my folks along with 4 out of my 5 siblings and their families.
It will be a challenging time for the diet (especially because I found out I gained 10 lbs in October 😦 I don’t know how that happened.). There is so much yummy food at my parents house and being away from my gym is always tough.
At least I get two days next week off of my sugar fast- Thanksgiving and the day after. I am so excited to eat pie! My mother makes the best pie in all the world (I defy anyone to go up against her pies!).
The only pie I’ve ever had that I don’t care for is rhubarb but my favorites are apple, pumpkin and lemon meringue. I can not make pies like my Mom. Her crusts are so flaky. Yum! (the sad part is my Mom can’t eat her pies any more because she is gluten intolerant. Sad story!)
Anyway, one thing that will hopefully keep my mind off of food and give me a break from work is the beginning of the holiday film season. I am an unabashed Christmas movie geek. I like all levels of seasonal films everything from sublime classics like Its a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street to Hallmark made for TV movies like The Town Christmas Forgot or the Christmas Shoes…
I think part of the reason I love Christmas movies is that I spend many holiday nights alone, which is fine with me but the holidays can feel a little lonely sometimes. It can be a little bit sad to not have a special person/children to buy presents for or start new traditions.
I have my own traditions such as going to Christmas Carol at Hale Theater or the Messiah Sing in but I still like the hominess and comfort that a Christmas movie brings. (Hopefully that doesn’t sound too pathetic!)
As I’ve mentioned on this blog before I also LOVE any retelling of the Christmas Carol. From Mickey, to the Muppetts, to George C. Scott, I have never met a Christmas Carol that I didn’t love. I find the story of redemption and hope through Christ (in the form of Christmas) so moving. I even liked the most recent animated version with a very subdued Jim Carey (I had my doubts going into it but its great!).
I wager to say I have seen every non-R rated Christmas movie (sorry friends haven’t seen Bad Santa or the recent Harold and Kumar. You will have to go to another blog for those reviews). From all of those movies I have whittled it down to a top 10 list, so that you can easily make your Yuletide viewing choices. (Some of them I mentioned above)
1. Its a Wonderful Life- So moving. The classic of the desperate George Bailey who hates his job, is tired of his family and has just lost a great deal of money. As a youth he dreamed of doing something great and exciting but ended up saddled at his father’s business while his younger brother went off to see the world. I think this movie is so widely viewed because George’s situation is universally relatable.
I don’t care how grand your life is every one has days where they feel discouraged and frustrated with the course of their life. As we watch George get his gift of perspective (life without his presence) all of us take pause for a moment and remember how blessed we truly are and that we matter to the world. Make sure to watch it in the beautiful black and white- none of this terrible colorized print. Same is true for the next film
2. Miracle on 34th St- The classic tale of the little girl and her workaholic Mom who don’t believe in magic or Santa. Edmund Gwen won a best supporting Oscar for his portrayal as St. Nick as well as wins for the screenplay and story. Natalie Wood is excellent as the little girl and the whole movie has a depth to it not found in most holiday romance pictures. Its wonderful. (Is available right now as a stream from Netflix)
3. Christmas Carol (1951 and 1984). As noted above, I love any version of the Christmas Carol. My two favorite are probably from 1951 starring Alastair Sim and 1984 starring George C. Scott. In both of these versions the true Christian message of the book is brought out not just the cheerful holiday tone. Again, I love the story of redemption and that no one is a lost cause with Christ’s help. The Jim Carey version is available right now as a stream from Netflix and well worth your time)
4. White Christmas- I know the plot is contrived and ridiculous but who watches a movie like this for the plot? Its all about the wonderful Irving Berlin music from talents like Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney and the amazing, over the top dance numbers from Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen. So many classic songs like Count Your Blessings, Sisters, Best Things Happen While Your Dancing, and of course the title number White Christmas. So great!
5. Christmas Story- Some people in my family don’t like this movie but I think it is very funny. I like the sarcastic tone of the narrator as little Ralphie schemes for his Red Ryder air rifle. With all the laughs there are also moments of subtlety and tenderness particularly in the scenes between mother and son after Ralphie’s big fight with the bully.
6. Elf- A movie that should have been terrible but actually works. Enjoying this movie entirely depends on whether you think Will Farrell is funny. I happen to, so I love this movie. Zooey Deschanel is wonderful as the love interest and James Caan hilarious as Buddy’s workaholic father. Elf wrings out every possible joke it can and about 85% made me laugh so I’d say that’s a winner.
7. Dr. Seuss How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). One of the few Christmas movies I don’t like is the live action version of this wonderful animated short, based on Dr. Seuss’s Christmas story of a monster Grinch who decides to ruin Christmas by stealing all the presents. Every attempt they have made of updating Seuss just doesn’t work.
First of all, his books are short and do not stretch to a 2 hour running time. Secondly, what is charming in drawing form looks bizarre and twisted in human form. For example, the Who’s in the book/animated short are cute and cuddly; where in the live action they look like strange deformed pigs. Anyway, the classic music from Boris Karloff makes this short truly memorable.
8. A Charlie Brown Christmas- Who doesn’t have a soft spot for the brood from Peanuts (a name Charles Shultz always hated)? Snoopy, Lucy, Peppermint Patty, Linus and of course Charlie Brown are part of most American childhoods. This animated short is near perfect. Vince Guaraldi’s wonderful music is practically synonymous with the holidays and whether it is Charlie Brown’s love for a sad small tree or the work kids do to put on the yearly pageant this film is sweet and perfect for Christmas. (Its kind of sad that nobody would think of doing a Christmas pageant any more in a public school…)
9. The Shop Around the Corner- While not technically a Christmas movie, it is set during the holidays and selecting gifts proves a critical plot point. The story is that Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan hate working together but are secretly cherished pen pals to each other.
You’ve Got Mail was adapted from this movie and I love both versions. However, The Shop Around the Corner goes a bit darker at points than You’ve Got Mail. The incidents involving Stewart’s boss and a suspected affair are moving and balance out the witty, more frothy parts. These movies explore the idea of work and what value we get from our work and working relationships. I love movies about work.
10. So many I could pick for the last spot Polar Express, Scrooged, Meet Me in St. Louis, Love Actually, Little Women, Nightmare Before Christmas, Home Alone, Christmas in Connecticut, Christmas Vacation and even the trite but fun The Holiday (and don’t forget those stop motion shorts- especially the one about the island of misfit toys).
All good picks but I will chose a lesser known films, Joyeux Noel. This beautiful movie tells the story of a ‘Christmas truce’ between the Scot/French troops and their German enemies in WWI. This begins as a German opera singer starts singing Silent Night for his troops and others join in.
Eventually the soldiers meet and agree to a Christmas cease fire zone where good wishes and Christmas treats are shared between opposing sides. It may sound cloying but its not. Its beautiful and tender and does not necessarily have a happy ending. However, to be catapulted back into the realities of war does not disturb the power of one moment of peace. Very good film that originally had an R rating (crazy!) but it was changed to a PG-13.
So that’s my list. I hope you all have as much fun watching holiday movies as I will. In fact, if you are in town join me for a viewing! I can’t promise the treats will be good but we can enjoy some wonderful, faith-filled, Christmas films.