Tuesday, December 9, 2008

Holiday Movies and Specials

Every Christmas, we are hit with an avalanche of holiday movies,specials and themed episodes of out favourite show - all claiming to be the next classic. Only a few reach "Classic" status. Many make us laugh and they all tend to pull at our heartstrings to some degree. We all have our favourites. You know - the ones that we have to see at least every couple of years (if not every year) or it just doesn't feel like Christmas! So, I thought I'd share a few of my holiday favourites.

- "Holiday Inn" (1942) starring Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. There wasn't a lot of plot to this movie. Crosby, plays Joe, a retired performer who becomes a farmer then decides to open a nightclub that is only open on "holidays".This movie gave us some wonderful songs such as; "Be Careful, It's My Heart". "Easter Parade" and was the first to introduce the classic Christmas song "White Christmas".

- "It's A Wonderful Life" (1946) Jimmy Stewart stars as George Bailey, the man who thinks he has lost everything and "wishes" he'd never been born. His "wish" is granted by Clarence Odbody, angel second class (brilliantly portrayed by Henry Travers). I've seen it at least twenty times over the years, but I still love it. Who among us has not at some point, wondered, if we have made a difference in this world?It's a poignant reminder of just how important we all are and how our actions have influenced the lives of the people around us.

- "Miracle on 34th Street" (1947) Kris Kringle (a perfectly cast Edmund Gwenn) is on trial and must prove that he is indeed the real Santa Claus. There are so many good scenes in this movie, but I think my favourite is near the end when the Post Office workers decide to deliver the Santa letters to the courthouse and proceed to carry bags and bags into the courtroom!

- "A Christmas Carol" (1951) This movie has spawned dozens of remakes and imitations, but the 1951 classic, which is also known as "Scrooge", is the definitive version of the Dickens's classic Christmas story with Alastair Sim in the starring role of Ebenezer Scrooge.

- "White Christmas" (1954) starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen. I've never been a fan of any movies that had anything to do with the military, but this movie is an exception. I could do without the "artistic" dance routine scene, but I love the romance gone awry and the housekeeper/busybody Emma Allen (Mary Wickes). The movie also gave us some great songs such as; "Count Your Blessings", "Sisters", "Snow" and reintroduced the now classic "White Christmas".
- "Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas" was a 30 minute Christmas special from Jim Henson Productions that aired in 1977. It was based on a 1971 children's book by Russell Hoban. Paul Williams wrote the music to go with this tale of a poor otter family who risk everything to win a cash prize at a local talent show. I had a friend pick up the DVD of this for me when she was in the USA last month, and I re watched it this last weekend. I hadn't seen it in years but it is still as charming and fun as I remember. This should be shown every Christmas!
- "The Muppet Christmas Carol" (1992) was the fourth Muppet movie and the first to be released after the death of Jim Henson. All the Muppet favourites are there along with Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge and of course Kermit The Frog as Bob Cratchet. I know most people aren't fans of remakes, including myself but I love the Muppets and I love the humour that was added and also the music of Paul Williams. I try to see this movie every Christmas. I just got this movie on DVD as an early Christmas present from a very good friend, so I'm looking forward to watching it and seeing all the "extras" that are included.

- "Santa And Pete" (1999) TV movie staring James Earl Jones and Hume Cronyn is based on the book by; Christopher Moore and Pamela Johnson. As with any movie that is based on a book, the story is told slightly differently, but I have a copy of the book and an old VHS of the movie and I really love the blending of historical facts and fiction of how Santa and his various customs/folklore came to be. This is a wonderfully creative story and I highly recommend that you see the movie and read the book!

- "It's a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie" (2002) This is yet another take on "It's A Wonderful Life" with Kermit the Frog as the manager of a theater who feels he is no longer useful. His guardian angel, Daniel, (played by David Arquette) shows him what life would have been like for his friends if he had not existed. Joan Cusack is hilarious as Rachael Bitterman, an old Mr. Potter like character.
- "The Family Stone" (2005) I saw this movie for the first time a few months ago, but really enjoyed Sarah Jessica Parker as the incredibly uptight Meredith as she and her boyfriend visit his free spirited yet slightly dysfunctional family for Christmas. Diane Keaton is wonderful as always! There are some very funny parts to this flick as well as some very touching moments.

Honourable mentions:
- Tim Burton's "The Nightmare Before Christmas" (1993) is a little out there, but it is still a great movie.
- "Mrs. Santa Clause" (1996) A TV movie starring Angela Lansbury/
- There are a trio of holiday movies staring Peter Falk as the angel Max who weaves some heavenly magic to make the holidays brighter. The TV movies are: "A Town Without Christmas" (2001); "Finding John Christmas" (2003) and "When Angels Come To Town" (2004).
- "The Polar Express" (2004) This movie, is based on the book, and stars Tom Hanks voicing many characters.

You can find the majority of the above at your favourite Video rental place and many will be shown on TV over the next three weeks.

I just found out, that there is a new Muppet special that will air on NBC on Wednesday, December 17, 2008 at 8:00PM eastern (7:00PM central). It is called "A Muppets Christmas: Letters to Santa". Apparently three letters to Santa accidentally get intercepted by the Muppets and they must deliver them to Santa at the North Pole before he leaves on Christmas Eve or the three letters wishes will not be granted. This is a one hour special with many guest stars.

There is also a Vinyl Cafe special on CBC TV called "Stuart McLean's Christmas Pageant" (Dec. 22, 8:30PM ET/7:30PM central). All Stewart wants is an old-fashioned Christmas. Lucky for him, he's found the perfect town to help him out.
A complete listing of movies and specials for the Canadian networks by clicking here

So get your favourite holiday beverage, snacks and loved ones, then gather 'round the TV and enjoy some great seasonal entertainment!


No comments: