The Merriest of Christmas Movies

Since Thanksgiving was late this year, there was a shorter time period between the turkey feast and Christmas.  Between all the shopping, working (for those of you employed), decorating, and general housekeeping, movies are a luxury.  You have to be more selective about which movies you put on the DVD player this year.  Here are Belle’s top recommendations: 

  1. The Nativity Story (2006).  Jesus of Nazareth is the best told film of the greatest story ever told.  But who has time for a long miniseries; it’s Christmas.  TNS focuses strictly on the birth of Jesus.  Good acting, great costumes, and the infant Jesus is the star of the show.
  2. It’s a Wonderful Life (1947).  It’s a wonderful movie about a family man who faces bankruptcy on Christmas Eve and decides to commit suicide.  At the crucial moment, an angel appears to show him what the world would be like without him.  A warm, family movie without the sugar-coating.  Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed portray a believable couple struggling to raise four children.  A four-hanky, happy ending. 
  3. Miracle on 34th Street (1947).  Natalie Wood just about steals the show away from Edmund Gwenn as a little girl who doesn’t believe he’s really Kris Kringle.  Macy’s believes in Santa but lawyer John Payne has to convince the State Supreme Court that Gwenn is really Santa Claus.  A classic movie beloved by generations of believers. 
  4. The Polar Express (2004).  A modern classic with amazing, live-action animation technology.  A boy is at the turning point of not believing in Santa Claus.  The Polar Express, a magical train, takes him on a journey to the North Pole to convince him to keep on believing.  Except for the boy and some female parts, actor Tom Hanks portrays all the characters – the conductor, the train ghost, and the Big Man himself.  Just magical. 
  5. A Christmas Carol.  Quite possibly the most filmed book (by Charles Dickenson) in Christmas history.  There are so many versions, it should have its own category.  Probably the most famous is the 1951 Alastair Sim version of A Christmas Carol.  Filmed in black and white, although the DVD comes with a colorized version, 1951 gives the eeriest rendition.  The 1934 version stars Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit (he also appears in Miracle on 34th Street) with his daughter, June, as one of the children.  Among the musical versions, an odd choice, Mr. Magoo’s A Christmas Carol will stir your heart, particularly the duet between Scrooge’s younger and older selves “All Alone in the World.”  Pretty darned good for a cartoon. 
  6. A Charlie Brown Christmas.  Speaking of cartoons, here’s another cartoon movie that truly captures the spirit of Christmas.  Charlie Brown seeks the true meaning of Christmas – and ultimately Linus delivers it with a reading from a passage in the Bible.  Not only is the 1965 film a classic, so is its soundtrack. 
  7. A Christmas Wish (1950).  A relatively unknown film starring Jimmy Durante as an out-of-work vaudeville juggler.  He and his family rent out an apartment haunted by a squirrel named Rupert who handily redistributes the wealth of the apartment owner to the impoverished family.  Very heartwarming.  You won’t believe until you see it; then you’ll be hooked. 
  8. A Christmas Story (1983).  Quite possibly the funniest Christmas movie ever made, Ralphie dreams of a genuine Red Ryder 200-shot carbine-action air rifle in 1940’s Indiana.  Based on the tales of Jean Shepherd, (“You’ll shoot your eye out, you’ll shoot your eye out!”), the film was shot on location in Indiana and the house has become a tourist attraction.  Christmas catalogs all feature the infamous leg lamp.
  9. Holiday Inn (1942).  A movie made in the 1940s, this is the film that introduced the song “White Christmas.”  A song-and-dance man decides to give up show business and opens an inn in Connecticut that opens on holidays only.  This version of “White Christmas” was meant for the soldiers fighting in Europe and the Pacific, sort of a musical Christmas card to remind them of the (mostly) rural homes they left behind.  The film takes the viewer around the calendar, with holiday-appropriate songs and fantastic dance numbers of Fred Astaire.  
  10. Tschaikovsky’s Nutcracker Ballet (2006).  There are two versions of the nutcracker:  one featuring adult dancers and the other featuring children.  This is an adult version.  The copyright date says 2006, but was actually filmed originally in the 1970s with ballet superstar Mikhail Baryshnikov as the Nutcracker Prince.  Most versions are truncated versions of the original tale.  The fantastic dancers in the court scene are supposed to be living dolls, the denizens of Doll Land, of which the Nutcracker is the Prince.
  11. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966).  Haven’t seen the Jim Carrey 2000 version of the movie; didn’t like what I saw in the trailers.  Originally, the Grinch was a 1966 short (just like Charlie Brown Christmas).  Boris Karloff, the famed horror movie actor played the voice of the Grinch.  Based on the Dr. Seuss children’s classic.  Great for Christmas shoppers short on time.

 Some honorable mentions include another cartoon classic from 1964, Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer; Disney’s a Christmas Carol (2009) with Jim Carrey as Scrooge in a live-action animation.  Fantastic imagery; and White Christmas (1954).  This film’s version of the song “White Christmas” is, if possible, even more moving than the original.  If the original was written for the soldiers, here it is sung to the soldiers on the battlefield by Bing Crosby accompanied only by a music box.  The producers ingeniously incorporate all the shtick about shortcuts into this scene.  The rest of the movie isn’t as much fun as “Holiday Inn”.  There’s no snow (which is part of the movie plot) and a somewhat dull romantic plot between Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney (George’s aunt) as he and Danny Kaye try to get their old unit together via a televised musical to raise money for their former commander.

Happy viewing, everyone!

 

 

 

 

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Published in: on December 12, 2013 at 12:25 pm  Leave a Comment  

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