I’m a sucker for Christmas: while serious about the holy season, and against commercialism both generally and in its specifically American shopping bonanza iterations, I go in for the schmaltz and fanfare attached to the whole production with gusto. Eggnog intake I delay till Thanksgiving, else the proverbial cup would flow over for as long as I could maintain supply, and Christmas music I likewise prize and therefore restrict, but only just. And even though I don’t watch films either seriously or frequently, I make an exception for Christmas movies, which I love out of all reasonable proportion. In this area, as in so many others, the classics are best, especially Miracle on 34th Street (dir. George Seaton, 1947) and It’s a Wonderful Life (dir. Frank Capra, 1946). But the cartoons are lovely too:
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (dir. Larry Roemer, 1964)
- A Charlie Brown Christmas (dir Bill Melendez, 1965)
- Frosty the Snow Man (Rankin/Bass, 1969)
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Jones/Washam, 1966),who would have guessed the 1960′s would become the golden age of children’s Christmas animations?
- Mickey’s Christmas Carol (dir. Burns Mattinson, 1983) which Disney has made extremely difficult to find over the years, releasing similarly-titled replicates, and other “Mickey’s Christmas” collections that don’t feature this, their best work.
And of course I enjoy more recent contributions.
- Christmas Vacation (dir. Jeremiah Chechik, 1989)
- A Christmas Story (dir. Bob Clark, 1983)
- Elf (dir. Jon Favreau, 2003)
- Love, Actually (dir. Richard Curtis, 2003) about which I wrote in defense against some haters here.
Some of them I like very much indeed, but I don’t quite number with the earlier perfections. When one has seen all these films dozens of times, one seeks to broaden the range of fare, and is often disappointed. On the advice of some lists, I watched The Bishop’s Wife (dir. Henry Koster, 1947) last year, and found it–though I love Cary Grant–both heartless and profane. But sometimes, or, twice anyway, I got lucky. Because I sense they’re not watched as often as the films listed above, because the genre is full of pitfalls, and because people are generally loathe to watch b/w films and might therefore need a push, let me recommend, for those who’ve exhausted the usual set, two more.
- The Shop Around the Corner (dir. Ernst Lubitsch, 1940)
- Holiday Affair (dir. Don Hartman, 1949)
I found these films winning and wise, pretty, and a great deal of fun. They might even be my new favorites, which I now have to be careful not to overplay.