It’s 3:20am and I should be sleeping but alas I am just not tired so I figured I might as well update my blog. I should have updated it sooner but I have been in over my head with podcasting. Today I literally watched my 50th Christmas movie, both Hallmark and other networks and amazingly enough I am still on board for more holiday films! The Hallmarkies Podcast has been doing great this year with us making the top 120 TV and Film Podcasts on Itunes and getting over 16k listens in the month of November! Wow! I am still blown away by all of that. It has been an insane amount of work but I am so proud of what we have built.
We have a new merch store for the first time which is so much fun! You can get all kinds of holiday and Hallmark inspired gear:
I’ve managed to have a little bit of fun doing other things for the holidays including setting up my traditional holiday decor. Each year I have a memory tree that is full of ornaments that symbolize different parts of my life:
My memory ornament to symbolize this year is all about podcasting and I found this adorable headphones ornament! I was so excited!
I also fulfilled my dream of getting a white tree (4 ft) for my office. I love it!
I also have already kind of celebrated Christmas. My brother and 2 nieces came into town for a weekend and so they came to my house and we had a baked potato bar, exchanged gifts and had a great time!
It was a really great time to be together and celebrate Christmas. My parents are going to be gone for most of this month so I’m planning on just working on my podcasts as much as I can and do a few fun things (Thursday I am going to see Christmas Carol at Hale Theater).
The one crazy thing about the podcast is there is always more work to do. There are people to contact for interviews, movies to watch, notes to prepare, the list goes on and on. Never a dull moment! I want to be ready to reach out to sponsorships in the new year and maybe develop a patreon account but I want it to be done right and not just thrown together. I’m very excited to see what the New Year has in store for our podcast and to have survived Countdown to Christmas 2018.
Also we have 2 hour church coming in January which I am over the moon excited about! Yay!
How have you guys been? I hope the beginning of your holiday season has been going great!
“Wait a minute…” I can hear you saying upon reading the title of this blog “Halloween hasn’t even arrived and Rachel is already talking about Christmas movies?” Well my friends, in my world Christmas has officially arrived with the start of Hallmark’s Countdown to Christmas season. It all begins this Saturday, October 27th, with the premiere of Christmas at Pemberley Manor.
Last year I gave you a ‘Hallmark Christmas Survival Guide‘ and all of those guidelines hold true for this year, but I thought I would add to it for 2018 and broaden the scope to more than just Hallmark Channel. So, here goes your 2018 Holiday Movie Survival Guide:
Get Ready to Sing– Naturally singing usually goes along with Christmas but this year in particular we are seeing it showcased all over the place. Hallmark has 2 country music star vehicles with Christmas at Graceland (Kellie Pickler) and It’s Christmas, Eve (Leann Rimes). They also have films with singing in it such as the before mentioned Pemberley Manor, and likely in Christmas at Honeysuckle Lane, Christmas Wonderland, Midnight Kiss and more. There is also Time to Come Home for Christmas which is based on a Blake Shelton song and a book written by his mother, so I expect some original songs there.Other channels are getting in the game with Lifetime’s Christmas Harmony, Hometown Christmas and Jingle Belle, Up Network’s Hometown Holiday and Netflix’s The Princess Switch.
In the world of feature films get ready for the Christmas zombie musical Anna and the Apocalypse!
Vermont is Holiday Magic Land- Hallmark has long had a love of the little state (movies such as Falling for Vermont and Moonlight in Vermont) but this year it is particularly the place of all Christmas magic.
We have Last Vermont Christmas, Road to Christmas, Entertaining Christmas, and many others that appear to be set in Vermont but we don’t know yet from the preview
Royal is Romantic- With 2018 having 2 British royal weddings it shouldn’t be a surprise that many royal movies have crept their way into this season. Netflix alone is giving us 2 with The Princess Switch and A Christmas Prince: the Royal Wedding (a sequel to last year’s surprise hit A Christmas Prince). Up Network has Christmas with a Prince. Hallmark Channel has their 6th royal movie this year with Christmas at the Palace.
Bring on the Classic Literature- this year we have a number of films based on classic literature. Naturally we have takes on A Christmas Carol with Every Day is Christmas from Lifetime and mildly A Shoe Addict’s Christmas (also based on the novel). In addition, we have 2 movies based on Pride and Prejudice with the before mentioned Pemberley Manor and Pride and Prejudice and Mistletoe starring Lacey Chabert and Brendan Penny.
TV Reunions- another trend this year is bringing back cast-members from popular shows for Christmas movies. One Tree Hill alums Hilarie Burton and Robert Buckley are in The Christmas Contract on Lifetime. (Also from OTH is Bethany Joy Lenz in Poinsettias for Christmas on Lifetime). Also on Lifetime we have a Cosby Show reunion with Tempsett Bledsoe and Keisha Knight Pulliam in Jingle Belle. (Also from Cosby Show is Dondre Whitfield in Christmas Everlasting on Hallmark who played a memorable role as Vanessa’s smug boyfriend Robert for multiple episodes).
Finally, you won’t want to miss a Wonder Years reunion with Danica McKellar and Dan Lauria reteaming for Christmas at Grand Valley.
Diversity- What’s this? Non-white people celebrate Christmas? This is very exciting. We have POC leads on 6 Hallmark movies with Christmas Everlasting (the Hall of Fame film), A Majestic Christmas, Memories of Christmas, A Gingerbread Romance, Christmas Made to Order and Midnight Kiss. On Lifetime we have My Christmas Inn, The Christmas Pact, Jingle Belle, Every Day is Christmas, A Twist of Christmas and Christmas Lost and Found. Also on Netflix is the adorable looking The Holiday Calendar starring Kat Graham.
Christmas Magic Everywhere but Hallmark- with 37 new premieres you’d think we would be seeing lot of St Nick and his elves on Hallmark but alas it is not to be. The only potential Christmas Magic (outside of God magic with A Godwinks Christmas) is possibly Northern Lights of Christmas which is about a woman who inherits a reindeer farm and Christmas in Evergreen: Letters to Santa (although it may be just letters no actual Santa sighting). There is a magical guardian angel in Shoe Addicts Christmas but no Santa.
Fortunately the other channels are coming through in droves. On Lifetime we have Santa’s Boots, Christmas Perfection, and the epic A Very Nutty Christmas about a nutcracker that comes to life! Also A Christmas in Tennessee teases a visitor with a ” well-known sweet tooth for cookies and milk”
On Netflix we have The Holiday Calendar and The Christmas Chronicles with Kurt Russell playing Santa.
You won’t want to miss The Truth About Christmas on Freeform about a woman who is cursed to not be able to lie after sitting on Santa’s lap. And on Up Network we have A Christmas Switch about 2 Moms that switch places magically for Christmas.
And we may actually get a good feature film of The Nutcracker with Disney’s Nutcracker and the 4 Realms.
Technology is the Thief of Love- this isn’t necessarily a new theme but I noticed in a lot of the descriptions mentions of apps or websites mucking things up for our heroines. The biggest example is Mingle All the Way about an app designer who tries to match businessmen and women together with her app but ends up matching much more. Return to Christmas Creek and It’s Christmas Eve also feature app/website designers. And on Lifetime we have Christmas Pen Pals about an app that connects lovelorn with pen pals.
So there you have it! Christmas season is upon us, and I can’t wait! Make sure you are following The Hallmarkies Podcast as we cover all these films in one way or another. We have interviews and guests lined up and it is going to be amazing!
Merry Christmas friends! I’ve had a wonderful Christmas Eve. I worked out with my trainer, did some boxing and then went to Cinemark Draper to see It’s a Wonderful Life on the big screen- one of my all time favorite movies. In the movie, George Bailey makes sacrifices for his friends over and over again. Life in return gives him many great moments but it also asks him to keep sacrificing He finally reaches a breaking point where he can’t give another inch and is about to give up on life. It’s then that God intervenes, sends down Clarence and shows him what all that sacrificing meant to people.
Granted the life without George Bailey may be a little stark. I for one have not saved anyone’s life or stopped someone from poisoning another person, so my ‘life without me’ might not be a hell hole of debauchery and despair! However, we have to also remember that they were dealing with a man about to kill himself so subtlety might not have worked. I mean if they had shown him life being relatively the same that would be even more of a reason to jump off a bridge!
The thing that struck me today as I rewatched the film on Christmas Eve is how George was missing all the goodness given to him and focusing on the sacrifices. It was only when he stepped out of himself and saw things from another’s point of view he realized how precious not only his friends were but his life was as well. How easy is it to focus on the things you do not have, the trips you wish you could take, the spouse you wish you could have, the friends you wish you hung out with etc. Instead we should focus on the many things we do have in our life and the important role we all play to each other- even if it is not as dramatic as George Bailey and the citizens of Bedford Falls!
I guess I was thinking about this because I am alone on Christmas again. I did spend Christmas Eve with my Grandma and other relatives and some of my family come to town on the 27th, but Christmas Day I am alone. While it certainly wouldn’t be my choice, I am going to try and focus on the many people I have in my life and how good God has been to me this year.
In that spirit, I want to say thanks to all of you. I admit this year I have been a bit more divided between the two blogs and the youtube channel, but hopefully I’ve still provided good content to this blog. I have certainly loved writing the more personal, eclectic entries here. You all add so much to my life. That’s not just lip service but true. Thank you! I hope I add some small something to yours.
I hope you feel love this Christmas Day and know that ‘no man is a failure who has friends’- even online friends!
Merry Christmas guys! I got my Christmas tree set up for the holiday season and a little decor for the outside too.
My tree I call my ‘Memory Tree’ and I have ornaments I’ve collected from my travels and from important milestones of my life. As someone who is alone a lot of the holidays I like being surrounded by my memories of loved ones.
I also got a couple new ornaments including my favorite new character from the upcoming Star Wars Force Awakens film- BB8. How cute is this?
I commented on Eddie’s choice of Pearl Harbor, one of my least favorite movies, and it got me thinking. What movies do I know aren’t great but I have an affection for?
The guys lists are:
Eddie- Phantom Tollbooth, Mouse hunt, Transformers, The Mummy, Pearl Harbor, Death Race, Con Air, Deep Blue Sea, Ave Ventura Pet Detective, Hot Rod
Jordan- Doom, Once Upon a Time in Mexico, Doomsday, Kung Pow: Enter the Fists, Mallrats, Bad Taste, Mother of Tears, Man with Two Brains, My Name is Bruce, Resident Evil Franchise (I haven’t seen a single one of Jordan’s choices).
Jordan describes a guilty pleasure as- “There those endlessly rewatchable treats that appeal to some and are despised by others, usually nestled somewhere between bad and terrible”
It was tougher than I thought to come up with a list because there are a lot of movies that I LOVE which most people are lukewarm for such as You’ve Got Mail, Just Like Heaven, or Source Code. I couldn’t think of that many movies that people really hate that I like.
However, I could think of a lot of made for TV movies I like that people hate. I don’t know if these should count but I figure a movie is a movie.and it’s my list so who cares!
Guilty Pleasure Movies
1. Love Comes Softly Series-
Starting in 2003 Hallmark released their first Hallmark Hall of Fame movie based on Janette Oak’s novels of a family finding love and hope on the frontier in the 1860s. Each features a strong willed woman who must support her family emotionally and physically and find love along the way
You can watch the series based on the release date starting with Love Comes Softly, Love’s Enduring Promise, Love’s Long Journey, Love’s Abiding Joy, Love’s Unending Legacy, Love’s Unfolding Dream, Love Takes Wing, Love Finds a Home, Love’s Christmas Journey
or you can watch in chronological order with 2 prequels made in 2011 Love Begins and Love’s Everlasting Courage (I have all 10 films if you want to borrow).
What Critics Think:
The average critic would hate these movies. The acting isn’t always great. The stories are predictable and the sentiment is laid on pretty thick. One reviewer said “abysmal like too little grass spread across too much lawn…”
Why I Like Them:
I know these movies are sappy and predictable but I feel like they tell their stories in a really likable way. The cinematography is good, the performances are earnest and sometimes quite good. They also talk about faith without beating it over your head. They will make you cry and smile and just like a bowl of soup feel good even if you know it’s just a bowl of soup.
2. High School Musical-
I actually don’t own high school musical but it is one I turn on when I see it is on TV. High School Musical was made for the Disney channel in 2006 and became a sensation. Like a musical from the 60s (or a musical set in the 60s ala Hairspray or Grease) HSM is set in a high school with Zac Efron and Vanessa Hudgens as two students afraid to try out for the high school musical despite their great voices and chemistry. There are all the typical characters of a high school including jocks and prima donnas but none of them are done in a mean or heavy-handed way.
The reason why this movie did so well I believe is because it appealed to the pre-teen crowd even though it was set in a high school. There is so few quality entertainment that is targeted for that demographic. Most are for either older or younger kids. With HSM tweens could dance and sing and swoon over Zac Efron. The songs were catchy and the dancing energetic.
What Critics Think:
One critic said “And although the movie is mindlessly engaging for a while, the whole thing ultimately becomes so overwhelmingly silly and juvenile, it’s difficult to imagine even the most die-hard fan of musicals finding anything here worth embracing.”
Why I Like It:
Well my friendly critic I find much worth embracing. Again if we look at the high school musicals of the past are they really that much better than this? They have charm, likable leads and catchy music. At least HSM actually stars real teens instead of a 30 year old Olivia Newton John.
Glee was obviously a result of HSM’s popularity and I think they would have done better if they had kept some of it’s innocence instead of treating it’s characters like adults.
So I like HSM. I think it is fun, with engaging performances, dancing and singing. Enough for me.
3. Hallmark Christmas Movies-
So I’m a real sucker for Christmas movies. In fact, it takes a lot to make a Christmas movie I don’t like (I’m talking to you Four Christmases). Every Christmas I look forward to the Hallmark channel’s Countdown to Christmas and daily syrupy tales of holiday joy. They always get capable actors and the stories have charm and bring that Christmas cheer.
Some of my favorites are
The Road to Christmas- stars real life couple Jennifer Grey and Clark Gregg (I believe they met on this film) in an opposites attract, road trip story, that’s completely cheesy but what can I say sometimes I like my Christmas cheese.
The Most Wonderful Time of the Year- stars Brooke Burns, Warren Christy and Henry Winkler. A sweet story of single Mom who is trying to make a Christmas for her son and her uncle who befriends a man on the plane and ends up inviting said man to enjoy Christmas together when his plane is delayed.
The Christmas Choir, Mrs Miracle movies, The Christmas Card, The Christmas Ornament, The Wishing Tree. etc.
What Critics Say-
Well critics, as you might guess, are not very nice to these movies. They say they are the same movie made over and over again. One critic cried out in exasperation “If I have to watch another sappy freaken christmas movie I am going to go POSTAL”
Why I Like Them-
First of all the repetition doesn’t bother me. The whole joy of the holidays is repeating the same messages and traditions over and over again.
Besides, we know there are 7 plots in storytelling, so really almost all movies are the same as a million other stories. I can only think of a few times in my life I have seen or read something truly original (The Book Thief, Inception come to mind). That is such an exciting event when it happens but it is rare.
So, you have to find a type of story that you like and then the repetition won’t bother you. I guess I just like stories of Christmas and family and love and romance and goodwill to mankind.
4. Hallmark Hall of Fame Movies-
This is a bit of cheat because I just had Love Comes Softly and Hallmark Christmas but these bi-monthly films satisfy my need for romantic comedies about nice people falling in love. In a world where the rom-com is dead what’s a girl to do?
I won’t go into these because the explanation is basically the same as my affection for Hallmark Christmas but some of my favorites are
For the Love of Grace, Love Notes, Romancing the Bride, The Love Letter, The Lost Valentine, Remember Sunday, The 7 Year Hitch, How to Fall in Love, Good Witch, Puppy Love, I Married Who, Flirting with Forty. (Those are not all hall of fame movies but I think they are all Hallmark. Could be wrong about Flirty). Lifetime movies are not always as good but still enjoyable.
But honestly I pretty much like them all. Tonight is one starring James Denton. Love him…
5 . Friends with Kids-
This movie is technically fresh on rotten tomatoes but it seems like the people who hated it really hated it but I liked it. It’s not perfect but I really liked what it was trying to do even if it didn’t quite get there.
The movie is about a group of college friends in their early 30s starting to get married and have families. The ensemble includes Maya Rudolph, Jennifer Westfeldt (starred, wrote and directed), Adam Scott, Kristen Wiig, Chris O’Dowd, Megan Fox and Edward Burns.
2 of the group Julie (Westfeldt) and Jason (Adam Scott) remain single while the others get married. They see their friends new lives and on one hand are insanely jealous (and probably a little left out of the concerns and problems they talk about).
On the same breath they are horrified by the chaos and quarreling they see in their married friends. I so relate to that and I have yet to see a movie really tackle that idea. I honestly think it could be done even better than this movie but I enjoyed it.
What Critics Said-
They are a 65% on RT so a lot of critics liked it but then some hated it. One said “I’d rather have my head stuck in a vise than be forced to sit through another viewing”
What I Liked About it-
I did not enjoy the routine plot of Julie and Jason deciding to have a platonic child together. That was boring but the observations about life and their friends I totally bought and as that is the majority of the movie I really liked it. I think it is a hidden gem and if you are single in your 30s check it out. I bet you will relate too.
It does have a lot of language so you’ve been warned.
6. Win a Date with Tad Hamilton-
The kind of sweet simple movie that used to be made all the time but almost never is now (except on Hallmark channel). Stars Kate Bosworth as a midwest fan girl who gets a chance to go to LA and go on a date with her celebrity crush played by Josh Duhamel. Meanwhile back home her manager Topher Grace has long had feelings for Rosalee. What will she decide the glitzy life of Hollywood or the ordinary man who really loves her? hmmm…
All the leads are endearing and fun. Ginnifer Goodwin and Sean Hayes also give nice supporting work. It is completely predictable but in a likable way.
What Critics Thought-
Most gave it a pass as harmless and likable (53% on RT) but a few had stronger words. One critic said “There is no reason on God’s good Earth to see this movie”
Why I Like it-
It’s sweet love story with likable performances even from Duhamel- a role that would usually be a jerk or diva but he is very human. But mostly I just like Topher Grace a lot. He’s won me over way back to That’s 70 Show days. He’s sweet and earnest and just so darn cute. Enough for me!
7. Napoleon Dynamite-
This is another movie it seems like you either go with and love or hate because of it’s pacing and style. It’s stupid no question but it made me laugh a lot. Maybe part of it is it skewers small town Idaho which isn’t too far away from Utah where I live. The performances are funny. The style is slow and deliberate but it works and Napoleon is the coolest nerds before nerds became cool. He’s not even self-aware that he is a nerd. He’s just himself and the world responds to him.
I find with most any comedy it will either make you laugh or not and there is no guessing what will set any of us off. So in the end I thought it was funny.
A lot of critics actually liked it at 71% but there was also some backlash after it was so popular but go back and watch it I bet it will hold up for you.
8. Walk to Remember-
Most people give Nicholas Sparks a pass on The Notebook which is a fine movie; but, if I had to pick a Sparks adaptation as my favorite I would chose A Walk to Remember. It contains all the Sparksian ingredients- young love, glistening charismatic actors, dewy locals and terminal illness. However, there is good chemistry between the stars Mandy Moore and Shane West and I love the music.
What Critics Thought-
Walk to Remember gets a 27% on RT. Most dismissed it as sentimental teen romance but others were harsher saying “A monstrosity of a movie that I am all too eager to forget”
Why I Liked it-
Like I said it’s sweet and I bought the simple romance. It maybe belonged on Hallmark but the music takes it to a higher level for me. I really like the songs and Sparks has certainly produced much worse cheese since this so I wonder if those critics might be a little nicer to it in retrospect?
9. Better Off Dead-
This movie actually rates pretty high on RT (82%) but I put it on the list because I know it is completely stupid. but….it makes me laugh. So many of the jokes work. Whether it’s the Chinese men who learned to talk from Howard Cosell or the neurotic coupon obsessed brother or the strange concoctions his mother cooks, it makes me laugh every time!
The story is about Lane Meyers who is obsessed with his girlfriend (all the high schoolers look 36 in this) who dumps him for the ski team captain. In revenge he decides to ski the k12, the hardest hill in the town and all hijinks begin.
What Critics Thought-
Like I said most of them liked it. One critic, Brad Laiman said “I’ve rarely met anyone who didn’t secretly love it passionately.” Isn’t that the definition of a guilty pleasure?
Why I Like it-
It’s pretty simple. It makes me laugh. It has been since 2012 that a comedy came out I wanted to see. Most nowdays are hard Rs or children’s movies. The family friendly or teenage friendly comedy is a rarity. Please bring it back Hollywood. I miss it!
10. Miss Congeniality-
This is another one that simply made me laugh. It’s a silly story of an FBI agent who goes undercover to find a bombing suspect at the fictional Miss United States pageant. The idea of Sandra Bullock being an ugly woman is silly but they make it work and the scenes with Michael Cain are very good. Benjamin Bratt is a charming love interest and Heather Burns scores a lot of laughs as Miss Rhode Island.
Candice Bergen and William Shatner play the heads of the pageant and it gets weaker when they are on screen. Sandra Bullock makes this movie work. She’s just so darn likable.
What Critics Thought-
Critics aren’t as harsh on this as I would have thought. 42% on RT. Most said pleasant, entertaining, harmless etc. One said “Like most beauty pageant contestants themselves, Miss Congeniality is all charm and little substance.”
Why I Liked It-
I’d actually agree with the above quote. It’s totally charm over substance but it was charming enough for me to overlook the silly plot. If you have likable characters with some funny dialogue than I don’t need a huge substantial plot. In fact, sometimes that can make a rom com feel muddled and pretentious.
11. Cutting Edge-
This is one I have nostalgia for. I know it isn’t a great movie but it’s ice skating and the Olympics and opposites attract and romance. I loved it when I was younger and I still enjoy it today. I have also seen all of the sequels. That’s right all of them and they are basically exactly the same movie and since I like it I like those although less than the original of course.
DB Sweeney is the hockey player who is forced to train in figure skating with Moira Kelly for the Olympics. he’s gruff hockey and she’s elegant skating. Will they ever get along? Love it!
What Critics Thought-
The critics were pretty nice on this one 60% on RT. Most said it was silly but charming. One said ” A guilty-pleasure ’90s romance you can skate to” So I guess it belongs on this list! .
Why I Like It-
I am an Olympics junkie and there are surprisingly few movies about the Olympics. This is what I call a sleepover movie. Meaning it is one of the movies my girlfriends would watch when we were having a sleepover. Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Dance with Me, Dirty Dancing (Dance is a general theme) as well as Emma, Clueless and more made the list.
Like I said before. It is cheesy but sometimes I feel like some cheese! Nice chemistry, decent skating scenes and a ton of fun.
Honorable mentions- Legally Blonde, Kate and Leopold, An Affair to Remember, Blind Side, Some Kind of Wonderful, Moonstruck, Mamma Mia, Christy, Steel Magnolias, Miracle, Dirty Dancing, Girls Just Want to Have Fun, Valley Girl, Princess Diaries, What a Girl Wants, Sydney White, Hope Floats, Something New
So that’s my list! What would you say is a guilty pleasure movie of yours? Do you agree with any on my list? Please check out the Movie Guy’s lists as they inspired me to create my own.
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.
Writer/reviewer of current films http://peggyatthemovies.com & @ventsmagazine Member: #FilmIndependent & @theOAFFC #SpiritAwards voter Ratings scale: A = Oscar-worthy; B = Above average; C = Average; D = Not recommended; F = Skip it entirely (+ or - gives it an edge up or down)