Upon request, I’m re-posting this list because it’s timely. Because there’s almost snow. Because ’tis the season. I will also say that HOLIDAY AFFAIR has made the list this year after falling in love, deep-deep love, with it years ago. Oh, you’re going to want to bed me down for this suggestion. Get on it.
HOLIDAY AFFAIR (1949) – Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh, and Wendell Corey: Tra la la la triangle, love triangle. Can you love more than one person at once? Is the practical choice always the wrong one? Do we root against the “safe bet?” in films, in our own lives? You watch this film and you think about your own loves and the choices you’ve made. Plus, you’ll sob with happy tears.
I have finally seen BAD SANTA. I haven’t seen THE REF, though it’s now streaming on Netflix. I’m pretty sure when Bad Santa came out I was fighting with someone who went to see it without me. And THE REF? I always assumed it was a sports movie with Al Pacino.* This will be rectified this season, as I wear red and throw myself at holiday films. My son begs for these films come the summer months, looking forward, hoping I’ll cave in early. But I like to savor these, keep ’em cozy and special. We just can’t keep them hidden for too long, or else there’s not enough time to watch them all!
I love the magic of the holiday season, the marketing, the packaging and colors, the music, and–of course–the movies. I don’t just adore the films that highlight the holiday season, you know, your traditional “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “Miracle on 34th Street” types. Beyond my childhood of Mr. Magoo, Emmett Otter, and my father’s favorite March of The Wooden Soldiers, I also yearn for films whose themes aren’t anchored around the holidays, but where holiday scenes serve as the backdrop to the central story. Oddly, while not straight up holiday films, most of them include ice-skating rink scenes. Personally, I’ve always liked the idea of ice-skating, but nothing else about it, save for the promise of hot chocolate.
Also, I’m always on the hunt for suggestions, even the super cheesy films about some guy back from war, who only really came back because of some random note he found in a bottle… true holiday trash, featured on one of those channels where they dedicate the entire month of December to showcasing holiday films involving mail carriers and dogs in Santa hats.
Watch for it: when the waitress erases one from the board at the end of the scene. Love that detail. The last third of this film involves creating the ideal old-fashioned Christmas Carol town. I say no more.
BEAUTIFUL GIRLS (A reunion movie)
A piano player at a crossroads in his life returns home to his friends and their own problems with life and love. (Awesome cast, great lines, ice skating and Natalie Portman, and yeah, this movie is disturbing when you really think about it)
JUST FRIENDS (Now streaming on Netflix)
Ryan Reynolds just has great delivery all around. Also loved him in THE PROPOSAL.
“Oh, Joe, your one beauty!”
YOU’VE GOT MAIL
“Meanwhile, I’m putting up more twinkle lights.”
SERENDIPITY (Now streaming on Netflix)
“No, no, no, no, please, on the other side of the counter! You cannot come back here, this is for authorized personnel only, please stay on your side of the counter, thank you very much!”
“ONE DREIDEL song! You sang ONE dreidel song!”
This film more makes me think of winter than the holidays, but it’s still all about family and destiny, and there’s the whole makeover deep red lipstick scene, too. “Do you love him Loretta?”
“Good. When you love them they drive you crazy because they know they can.”
Then, from the more traditional camp, I always enjoy:
“First we’ll make snow angels for two hours, then we’ll go ice skating, then we’ll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse cookie dough as fast as we can, and then we’ll snuggle.”
THE FAMILY STONE
“I love the gays!”
PLANES, TRAINS, & AUTOMOBILES
While most remembered for “Those aren’t pillows!” My favorite moment is when Neal realizes Del’s true situation, then the montage of moments that piece together a puzzle. Also, this film is crammed with so many truly awesome lines.
“I’ve never seen a guy get picked up by his testicles before. Lucky for you that cop passed by when he did, or you’d be lifting your shnutz to tie your shoes.”
LOVE ACTUALLY (Streaming on Netflix)
“Okay, Dad. Let’s do it. Let’s go get the shit kicked out of us by love.”
(I sob, so random, but I do). Love so much about this, the gumption, the meet cute, and Jude Law (admittedly, a total cad, but I can’t help myself).
BRIDGET JONES’S DIARY
“Just as you are? Not thinner? Not cleverer? Not with slightly bigger breasts or slightly smaller nose?”
“Well, fcuk me.”
WHEN HARRY MET SALLY
“You’re the worst kind. You’re high maintenance, but you think you’re low maintenance.”
I’m looking forward to branching out this season, viewing some older films:
THE BISHOP’S WIFE
A bishop hoping for a new cathedral prays for help, and gets unexpected guidance in the form of Dudley, an angel (Cary Grant). Dudley sets out to prove that the bishop’s mission has redirected his focus from his family.
CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT
Barbara Stanwyck (I so love her) plays an unmarried journalist who lies about her home life. When her boss asks to come over for Christmas, she and Dennis Morgan play pretend for the holiday in the 1945 classic. Cute.
At an inn which is only open on holidays, a crooner and a hoofer vie for the affections of a beautiful up-and-coming performer. (Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire) Actually, this one is not for me. I tried to like it, but didn’t.
WE’RE NO ANGELS
Three Devil’s Island escapees hide out in the home of a kindly merchant and repay his kindness by helping him and his family out of several crises. (Humphrey Bogart)
Other films of which I’d never even heard but intend to try:
IT HAPPENED ON 5TH AVENUE: Don DeFore and Ann Harding star in this screwball comedy about a hobo and friends who move into a mansion while the owners are out of town for their Christmas holiday. Didn’t love this one. I guess I’m not a screwball.
MEET JOHN DOE: An opportunistic reporter tries saving her career by inventing a story about an anonymous man who wants to commit suicide over the state of modern society. With reader fervor growing to know more about John Doe,” she’s forced to produce a real man. (Frank Capra directs)
REMEMBER THE NIGHT: Lee Leander (Barbara Stanwyck) is a shoplifter on trial. When her trial is postponed until after New Year’s, sympathetic Assistant District Attorney bails her out. Together, they find themselves falling in love when he invites her to his family’s home for the holidays where she discovers the warmth and love she’s never had but always wanted.
THE LION IN WINTER: King Henry II’s three sons all want to inherit the throne, but he won’t commit to a choice. They and his wife variously plot to force him. (Peter O’Toole, Katherine Hepburn, Anthony Hopkins)
TOKYO GODFATHERS: Three homeless people find a lost baby girl and start searching for her rightful parents on Christmas Day in Tokyo. Along the way, they must confront their own haunted pasts, and learn to face their futures. (Animated, English Subtitles)
MIDNIGHT CLEAR: ‘Twas the night before Christmas in the Southwest, and for 5 strangers spread out across town, it’s the most depressing time of the year. As the night progresses, they randomly cross paths, and in unique and subtle ways, change each other’s lives forever.
For the kiddos, now also on Netflix: