Everyone has their favorite Christmas movie or animated cartoon. The favorites usually include It’s A Wonderful Life,A Christmas Story,Miracle on 34th Street and any one of numerous incarnations of Scrooge. Often overlooked are these gems, old and new, dramatic and comedic, and brimming with holiday cheer. Some are set in the Christmas season while others are about the Christmas holiday.
1. The Shop Around the Corner. (1940). James Stewart is featured in yet another Christmas chestnut. In this film he plays a Hungarian store clerk in Budapest who is falling in love with his pen pal. Little does he know that the pen pal is Margaret Sullavan, another clerk, working in the same shop, with whom he does not get along. The film is charming and sentimental with being treacly. Frank Morgan (TheWizard of Oz) co stars as the troubled store owner, Mr. Maduschek. If the plot seems familiar its because the less great You’ve Got Mail shares the same premise.
Ok, maybe Jimmy Stewart wasn’t your favorite part of Its A Wonderful Life. Perhaps it was the direction by Frank Capra? If that is true, than you must see the next holiday treasure.
2. Pocketful of Miracles (1961). Another charmer starring a great cast including Bette Davis, Glenn Ford, Hope Lange, Peter Falk and Ann-Margret, Davis is divine as Apple Annie. a middle aged woman down on her luck. Lo and behold Apple Annie’s daughter who attends a European boarding school, and hasnt seen mother in years, is coming to America! She is engaged to European royalty and they must meet her dear mother. Scored with Tchaikowsky’s most recognized Nutcracker variations, the film is beautiful with some fairly humorous moments in a 1960ish sort of way. More of a fairy tale than a comedy, its fun for the whole family.
3. Babes in Toyland (1934). Classic Laurel and Hardy whether you are a pureist and opt for the black and white version or enjoy the colorized update. May be a little much for a cynical teenager but great for curious kids and nostalgic for Baby Boomers and their parents. Put this on Christmas morning, pass out the champagne and start opening those presents!
4. The Gathering. (1977) This television movie is cherished by those who already know about it and hard to find on television. If you can find it, record it. DVD’s are sometimes available online but can be very expensive for this Christmas movie starring Ed Asner and Maureen Stapleton with a host of other popular 70’s actors you will have no problem recognizing. Ed is the patriarch of an estranged family who learns he is dying of cancer. He enlists the help of his ex wife (Stapleton) to gather their children and grandchildren together, at the home where they grew up, for one last Christmas. It’s a brilliantly acted film and once you are into it you are hooked.
5. White Christmas, (1954) Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye star in this magnificent Irving Berlin musical featuring a very young and beautiful Rosemary Clooney with Vera-Ellen. This is possibly my all time favorite Christmas movie as the musical numbers, while dated today, are so extraodinarily choreographed to Berlin’s great music. The story follows two Broadway headliners who, by design, meet up with two chanteuse working the club circuit. The boys follow the girls to their club date in Vermont where they meet up with their old army General. It is dated and your teenagers will snicker but it is the best Christmas Movie Musical made.
6. Trapped in Paradise (1994). Nic Cage stars with Dana Carvey and Jon Lovitz in this Christmas comedy. The three Firpo brothers travel to Paradise, PA where they rob a bank on Christmas Eve. The townspeople of Paradise are so kind to the clumsy robbers that they decide to return the loot. There are plenty of laughs and great Christmas atmosphere as well as a cute little three legged dog who nearly steals the movie. Its a cuddle up with the whole family film provided both your brothers aren’t petty criminals. Ok, well ok, we all have a few family members who make us wish we were not related.
7. Jack Frost (1998). Michael Keaton stars in this sentimental tale, in a role originally set for George Clooney, about a rock star on the rise and his family. Jack is on the road a lot and as such doesn’t spend very much time with his young son who is growing up quickly. The scenery is visually stunning and the storyline is sad at times (yes you will cry at this one) but it is a wonderful film for all but the very little ones who might be frightened by the snowman.. The animated snowman is a Jim Henson’s Creature Shop creation.
8. While You Were Sleeping. (1998). Fans of this film call it their favorite romantic comedy of all time. If you are a Sandra Bullock fan, this is the Christmas movie for you. Set in Chicago, Bullock plays Lucy, a lonely and orphaned subway token clerk who falls in love with Peter from afar. When Peter is “shoved” into a coma, she meets Peter’s family and falls in love with all of them too, but especially brother Jack. A great supporting cast rounds out this sweet chick flick, and only Scrooge himself would stifle laughter at some scenes.
9. Love Actually (2003). This British Christmas movie stars too many to list here, but is a beautifully written and intoxicating. The film follows the lives of eight couples at Christmas who all know each other in one way or another. It is destined to become a new classic and while the central theme is love it is meaty enough to keep guys interested. Bill Nighy is a hoot as an aging rock star and that alone is reason to watch this excellent movie.
10. The Family Stone (2005). Diane Keaton heads a ensemble of amazing actors including Craig T. Nelson, Luke Wilson, Sarah Jessica Parker, Claire Danes, Dermot Mulrooney and a mischief making Rachel McAdams.
Mulrooney (as Everett) brings home Parker (as Meredith) to meet his dysfunctional family. You will laugh. You will cry. You will cringe. This Christmas Movie is chock full of great material for your family to chew on and enjoy.
Thats it for 2009! Now somebody pass the popcorn and cocoa please?