Thursday, November 29, 2012

The Nice List

The leftover turkey has either been eaten or thrown-out, and hopefully, all the Halloween candy has been consumed by either you or your kids.  The decorations have been up in the stores since October, and I know some of you have already got your Christmas shopping completed.  So now it’s time to start getting in the holiday mood unless you’re already there – right?  What gets me in the holiday mood?  Well, I guess it could be listening to the music (which has already been playing since before Thanksgiving), or maybe some shopping, putting up the tree and getting out the decoration boxes from wherever their stored.  But for me, it’s the movies! 

Just after Thanksgiving, I got out all the DVDs and videos from the Christmas drawer and got excited about watching the old favorites once again.  Many of my favorites are television specials, and thankfully, quite a number of them have been released in home-viewing format.  But I won’t talk about those, just the movies that capture the Christmas season.  Hopefully, some of your favorites are here, too!

One silent night
#10 -  Joyeux Noël (2005)
Based on real-life events of World War I, this is the only foreign film that makes the cut.  I do love history, and this film nicely tells the story (with its inaccuracies, included) of the Christmas Eve truce of 1914, as men from both sides stop to sing carols and exchange gifts, such as they could.  This film stars Diane Kruger (National Treasure, Troy).  The rest of the cast is less recognizable, but for me it works, as this film the captures the humanness of countless unrecognizable faces who served in war.

"It's the cookies!"
#9 – Santa Claus: the Movie (1985)
This movie is quite dated, and the story unravels into complete nonsense, but the initial concept of the origins of Santa Claus & his wife are well-played by David Huddleston and Judy Cornwell.  There is magic in the characters they bring to the screen, and Dudley Moore plays a fairly convincing elf.

Yes, that's Bob Hope in drag!
#8 – The Lemon Drop Kid (1951)
This movie was not intended to be a Christmas movie, per se, but has become a holiday classic.  With it’s popular  song, “Silver Bells,” sung by Bob Hope and Marilyn Maxwell, this zany story of a horse bet gone wrong and the capers that ensue to make sure the ‘sweet little old ladies’   are safe from crooks is a smile a minute!

Ann Jillian & Kevin Corcoran
#7 – Babes in Toyland (1961)
The only Disney production to land on the list stars Annette Funicello, Tommy Sands, Ed Wynn, Tommy Kirk, and Ray Bolger.  In classic Disney style, it weaves childhood stories from Mother Goose into a classic tale of good versus evil.  Enter the weary toymaker of Toyland to help battle Barnaby and his sinister plans.

"I can't hear it."
#6 – The Polar Express (2004)
I didn’t love that Tom Hanks did all the main character voices, nor did I love Robert Zemeckis’s vision of what Santa Claus should look like, but I love the story.  It brings back the memories of childhood lost and the hope of Christmas. The first time I saw this film was in IMAX 3-D, and it just brought warm and happiness and I felt I could reach up and grab thrown caps from the elves. It warms my heart and renews my spirit in the holiday. Do you believe?

#5 – Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
How to be a monkey
Love.  Seeing Natalie Wood as a beautiful child, unbelieving as her character may be, the stunningly gorgeous Maureen O’Hara as a single working mother, who in 1947 was not the ‘norm’ for movie subjects, the strikingly handsome John Payne, and the irrepressible Edmund Gwenn as Kris Kringle is a sure-fire hit.  No wonder it is a classic.  I love it in the black and white and seeing the vintage New York cityscape always charms me.  And, as usual, even though I know it’s coming, every time Susan yells, “Stop!” I start my sob fest!

"Bah, Humbug!"
#4 - A Christmas Carol (1999)
A Christmas Carol is not only one of my favorite Christmas stories, but one of my all-time favorites on any list.  I have seen all but a couple of obscure film adaptations of this classic tale of life misspent and repentance, and I have to say that this go-round starring Patrick Stewart is my favorite.  It blends the best of all the other attempts and best fits the books descriptions.  The use of CGI is done extremely well, and I should not forget to mention Sir Patrick’s amazing characterization of Ebenezer Scrooge is one, if not, the best.

"Someone needs a hug!"
#3 – Elf (2003)
I cannot believe this movie is already nine years old.  I loved it in the theatre and saw is subsequent times that year.  I remember telling myself that when it came to home release it would become the first movie of the season to watch.  It has been ever since.  The pure unadulterated joy of Buddy the Elf and the happiness he spreads by being so innocent makes me happy, too!  The dialog is already classic with my family, as so many of the lines are the ‘repeat them anytime’ kind. With jokes about the size of toilets, the four basic food groups, free candy, whispering, the world’s best coffee, and a host of others, they can fill an afternoon with enough laughter and Christmas spirit to get the ol’ Claus-o-meter up and running! And don’t forget, “The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

"Snow, snow, snow, snow - Snow!"
#2 – White Christmas (1954)
What was to be a second pairing of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire (for the first, see #1), became the delightful first pairing of Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. Add the lovely warm vocal stylings of Rosemary Clooney, the dancing talents of Vera-Ellen, great actors Mary Wickes and Dean Jagger as support, and you have a cast worthy of the music of Irving Berlin in this best-loved Christmas classic.  Terrific musical numbers woven through the story of two post war-time vets gone Broadway producers, lifts the spirits with the use their talents to brighten the retirement days of their former Army major general. And of course, there’s the classic title number to close out the show.

"...but what an Inn!"
#1 –Holiday Inn (1942)
The subject of two prior A Dusty Corner blogs (June 29 & November 22), this gem has been my favorite Christmas classic since junior high, and it remains to this day.  Although the film covers many of the holidays celebrated throughout the year (the premise of the film itself), the film focuses on the Christmas & New Year’s days.  This first of the two films (White Christmas being the second) chronologically is filled with Irving Berlin’s music (these two films are also tied through a converted & modified set) and again stars Bing Crosby; the great dancing is now performed by Fred Astaire & Marjorie Reynolds, and there is a fantastic supporting cast as well.  This one doesn’t make me cry, as many of the others on my list do, but provides a sense of the traditions of the holiday seasons, and although those traditions are not as easy to keep or the times have changed to prevent them, those feelings are still in my heart and can be brought to mind, as any ‘auld acquaintance.”

Happy Holiday Movie-Watching!

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