Friday, December 23, 2011

Christmas Film Classics

I don't know about you, but one of my favorite ways to get into the spirit of Christmas is by taking out those classic movies I've watched year after year, and revisiting my favorite characters, songs, and all those quotable moments. It's twice as fun when I'm introducing a classic to someone for the first time, whether it's my youngest sister, the B.I.L. (brother in law), or a dear friend.

I've compiled a list of the Christmas classics that my family tries to get out and watch almost every year. If you get a chance to pop in a DVD (or a VHS, you gotta love 'em) over the holidays, these are pretty much perfect for the occasion.

This is always a fun way to revisit the holiday, despite the fact that no kid should be called a "blockhead," no matter what sort of Christmas tree he picks out. (Poor Charlie Brown!) Lucy and her Psychiatric Help booth is my favorite. And, of course, Linus is always on hand to remind us of the true meaning of Christmas.

I danced ballet for five years when I was younger and this was always a favorite. If you can't get out to the actual ballet, this is the perfect substitute for the Christmas season. The cast is excellent and Macaulay Culkin as Drosselmeyer's Nephew is absolutely adorable. My brother looked just liked M.C. when he was little, and it makes this twice as fun to watch.

This one is not necessarily known as a holiday classic, but the film marches through each season of the year in beautiful and amusing ways (love the Halloween scenes), and the story reaches its climax on Christmas Eve. Judy Garland puts in one of her most memorable performances, introducing the song "Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas," and Margaret O'Brien steals the show with her brilliant acting. This is one of my top three Judy films and highly recommended.

Charles Dickens' classis Christmas story has had many adaptations, but this is the one that stole our hearts. You might think that a "Muppet" retelling would be ridiculous, but this movie is surprisingly heartwarming, tragic, and even spooky. Michael Caine is a fabulous Ebenezer Scrooge and the supporting cast of Muppets is equally talented. Oh yes, and the music is fabulous. (On a side note, the widescreen version of this film cuts out the tune "The Love is Gone," which is one of my favorite moments in the movie and really brings you to that crushing, emotional low where you want to bawl your eyes out. Not a good choice by whoever put together the anniversary edition. Watch the fullscreen version.)

This is not only one of the greatest Christmas classics, but one of my favorite films ever. The music is fantastic, including the tunes "White Christmas," "Snow," "Sisters," and more.  Oh yes, and there's also my favorite movie dance of all time, where Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen prove that "The Best Things Happen While You're Dancing." Danny is hysterical throughout this entire movie, Vera is an exceptional dancer, and then (of course) there's Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney. The latter is one of my favorite voices of the era, and she just shines through the whole film ("Love, You Didn't Do Right By Me" is is superb). Just go watch this already!

The Christmas movie to end all Christmas movies and one of the most touching and uplifting films ever made. I don't think there's anyone out there who fails to identify in at least some small way with George Bailey, embodied by the always amazing Jimmy Stewart, as he takes an incredible Christmas journey and learns that "no man is a failure who has friends." If you are an American, this movie is a requirement. And if you aren't, see it anyway. Can never recommend this highly enough.

Special mention goes to another bunch of Christmas-y classics: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Rudolph The Red Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, The Little Drummer BoySanta Claus Is Coming to Town, The Year Without a Santa Claus, Miracle on 34th Street, Home Alone 1 and 2 (can't honestly recommend these since there's language and many cringe-worthy moments, but Macaulay Culkin is adorable), and The Nativity Story (excellent telling of the real Christmas story - sorry, Santa!).

Another film (and book) that always makes me think of Christmas is Little Women. The opening scenes (and chapter in the book) are such a lovely depiction of a family coming together in 1860s New England. The film version with June Allyson is my favorite.

Lastly, my Nana's favorite film comes to a sweet conclusion during the Christmas season. If your grandmother remembers this movie, An Affair to Remember, starring Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr, you might just want to dig it out for the holidays.

Did I miss any? What Christmas classics are your favorites?
I'm hoping my family can find time to watch "It's a Wonderful Life" tonight. I'm just aching to relive a certain Charleston Contest... ;)


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