December, 2009 -
Favorite Christmas Movies
Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) -- Inhabitants of
Halloween land do a number on Christmas. The Pumpkin King Jack
Skellington's personality reminded me of Edward Scissorhands, and his love
interest, Sally, reminded me of Helena Bonham Carter in Pulp Fiction. Even
if you can't figure out the plot, it is visually mesmerizing. And, speaking
of which, so is Edward Scissorhands, and, because it includes a
Christmas segment, might also be added to the list.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946) – George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) gets to
see what his hometown would be like had he never lived. Lovely man, Forties
innocence, or a world the Forties generation longed for after having just
survived WWII. As Helen Hunt's character in As Good as It Gets inspires
Nicholson's Melvin to say, "You make me want to be a better man," this movie
makes the viewer want to be a better human being.
The Shop Around the Corner (1940) -- Bickering store clerks (Jimmy
Stewart and Margaret Sullavan) pine for pen pals as the holidays approach.
Their rapid-fire repartée is electric.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947)-- Macy's Santa (Edmund Gwenn), with
help from the U.S. Postal Service, restores a little girl's faith (adorable
Natalie Wood in her first film role). Also starring Maureen O'Hara and John
The Bells of St. Mary's (1945) -- An easygoing priest (Bing Crosby)
and a no-nonsense nun (Ingrid Bergman) try to save their run-down school.
Holiday sentimentality at its best.
Little Women (1933, 1994) – Incomparable Katherine Hepburn as Jo
March in '33 version is worth seeing, but the '94 version, as a whole, is
A Christmas Story (1983) -- All Ralphie wants for Christmas is a Red
Ryder BB gun. If you were young in 40s or 50s in Smalltown USA, you'll see
and hear much of your old life here.
Elf (2003) -- A human (Will Ferrell), raised at the North Pole
searches for his family in New York. Endearing character, totally
Joyeux Noël (AKA Merry Christmas) (2005) – World War I trenches go
silent during the “Christmas Truce” of 1914.
The Apartment (1960) -- A young executive (Jack Lemmon) climbs the
corporate ladder by loaning out his apartment to bosses for their
extramarital trysts and falls for one of them (Shirley Maclaine). MacMurray
is wooden but Lemmon and Maclaine shine.
A Christmas Memory (1966) -- Award-winning adaptation of Truman
Capote's poignant, nostalgic reminiscence about his childhood best friend —
a childlike elderly relative (Julie Harris) with whom he makes fruitcakes
and other gifts, in Depression-era Alabama.
The Dead (1987) – Last film directed by John Huston starring his
daughter Angelica Huston and released posthumously, is an adaptation of the
short story of the same name from the James Joyce collection Dubliners.
It's about how our dead continue to influence our lives and how the
holidays tend to resurrect their ghosts.
84 Charing Cross Road (1987) – A must-see for book lovers despite
the weak ending. Based on the 1970 epistolary memoir of New York writer and
book lover Helene Hanff (Anne Bancroft) about her 20-year correspondence
with London antiquarian bookseller Frank Doel (Anthony Hopkins). I could
smell that old bookstore and longed to be in it.
Babette’s Feast (1987) – Danish film adapted from a short story by
Karen Blixen who also wrote Out of Africa. Not about Christmas at
all (although the blustery cold and snow of Jutland make it seem so) but
one of the best movies ever made about the spirit of giving.