Archive for December, 2008

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ALL TIME FAVORITES: The Holiday Edition

December 5, 2008

I know it’s been too long since you heard from me.  The economy has really socked it to me over the past few months, and going to the movies has been low on my list of priorities.  But that isn’t what this post is about.  So, here are some thoughts on my favorite Christmas movies of all time:

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1994version)  I know, I know, it’s NOT the Maureen O’Hara version, but I like it.  Sir Richard Attenborough is a great Saint Nicholas in this adaptation, and Mara Wilson kept great pace with her experienced co-stars.  I usually start my Holiday movie watching with this one after spending Thanksgiving Day with my family.

THE NATIVITY STORY.  I would be GROSSLY remiss if I didn’t include this movie.  After all, THIS is the reason we have Christmas in the first place.  Don’t look for any famous faces, though.  The actors are all very talented newcomers who paint a very realistic portrait of what happened that first Christmas.  I particularlyenjoyed the chemistry between the three actors who played the Magi.  They inject the needed comic relief into this dramatic story, and at the climax, a real emotional and spiritual payoff for the most doubtful of the three.

HOME ALONE and HOME ALONE 2:  It just wouldn’t be Christmas without a visit to the McAllisters suburban Chicago home.  Even after almost 20 years (can you believe this movie and the sequel are almost THAT old?), these movies deliver some of the best-and most painful-physical comedy ever filmed as young Kevin thwarts the clumsy Wet Bandits both at home and in the Big Apple.

THE SANTA CLAUSE and THE SANTA CLAUSE 2:  If Sir Richard Attenborough’s Kris Kringle is the kindest Santa, then, Tim Allen’s anta is definitely the most fun.  I admit I wasn’t too keen on the idea of seeing this when it came out on video (I had missed it in the theaters), but my Mom bought a copy the following year, and I was hooked on it within the first 20 minutes.  Portraying the elves as eternal chidren is inspired, as was the idea of having the effects of becoming Santa wear off as Allen’s character returns to the real world to find his bride.

MRS. SANTA CLAUS:  This is a great original musical that was filmed for CBS in 1996.  The story is very simple .  Mrs. C. wants desperately to help her husband Nicky with his workload.  She’s even come up with a flight plan for the reindeer that is, in her opinion, even better than her husband’s.  But, as you may have guessed, Nicky is not interested in the slightest.  So, Mrs. C. takes the sleigh, and the reindeer and tries it out for herself, only to wind up lost in turn of the Century Alphabet City in New York.  There, she comes to the aid of the residents there, including children being forced to work as slaves for an unscrupulous toymaker.  Jerry Herman provides a great score for this musical, and even pays homage to one of his own Christmas songs.

TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA’S GHOSTS OF CHRISTMAS EVE:  You may be wondering what a 60 minute music video is doing on my list.  Well, it may be only 60 minutes, but the storyline behind GHOSTS has all the disciplines of a cinematic story as a young runaway trying to get home takes refuge in an abandoned theater.  There she, and the rest of us are treated to the incredible music of the ORCHESTRA.  And, I’ll be the first to say that I can barely get through this without choking up at the end.  See for yourself, if you haven’t already.

THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL.  There are so many variations of Dickens’ classic story, that it can be difficult sometimes to pick a favorite.  Some like the modern spin of SCROOGED (I do, too).  Some like the Alistair Sim version, others the Albert Finney musical version, and still others would gladly watch Mr. Magoo play the part of Ebenezer Scrooge.  For me, though, the hands-down winner is the Muppet version.  I love the fact that Michael Caine’s Scrooge is more sad and lonely than mean and petty.  This movie still had much of the Henson charm despite the loss of Jim Henson two years earlier.  This version also has my all-time favorite Ghost of Christmas Present.  He’s just so much fun, and would be a welcome guest in my house any day.

A CHRISTMAS STORY.  Well, you didn’t think I’d leave THIS one out, did you?  25 years later, and it still delivers the laughs it did when it first hit the theaters.  All I have to do is picture the younger brother bundled up in the snowsuit (“I CAN’T PUT MY ARMS DOWN!!!”), or the father holding the remains of his prized leg lamp, accusing his wife of deliberately running out of glue (“You used all the glue ON PURPOSE!”), and I start laughing.  This movie has a fierce and loyal fan base, of which I am a member.

THE POLAR EXPRESS:  Take the imagination of author Chris van Allsburg.  Add Tom Hanks leading a talented group of actors.  Mix in some of the most amazing motion capture technology ever seen.  Finally, throw in a beautiful music score by Alan Silvestri with performances by Steven Tyler and Josh Groban, and you have what is a modern Christmas classic.  I just watched this again last night, and the music, the story, and the attention to detail blew me away once again.  This story of a young boy’s journey from doubt to belief in the magic of Christmas is fun, exciting, a little frightening, and very moving.  This is a must see!

Well, this is my list anyway.  To paraphrase a credit card commercial:  What’s on YOUR list?

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