Thursday, December 5, 2013
My Christmas Movies
IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE (1946)
Sure, it's the obvious choice, but for me the Jimmy Stewart classic is a holiday necessity because I often feel down during the Christmas season, and George Bailey's story reminds me that Christmas is a hard time for a lot of people. Besides, it has such a fantastic cast, and every year as I watch more classic movies I appreciate the actors more, from Lionel Barrymore and Thomas Mitchell to Beulah Bondi and Gloria Grahame.
I love pretty much everything about this musical, but I'm especially fond of Danny Kaye and the movie's depiction of soldiers' lives after the war. "Snow" is a beautiful tune (they should play it on the holiday radio stations more often), and Mary Wickes is such a hoot as the nosy housekeeper. The drag performance of "Sisters" by Crosby and Kaye cracks me up, and the finale's salute to Dean Jagger's character always gets me right in the old ticker.
My taste in Christmas Carol adaptations tends toward the bizarre, and this is certainly one of the weirdest and funniest versions. I just can't resist Carol Kane's sadistic sugar plum Ghost of Christmas Present or David Johansen's hilarious cab driver Ghost of Christmas Past - "Niagara Falls!" It even has Robert Mitchum in it! I don't love everything Bill Murray has done, but this picture and Groundhog Day are right up there with Ghostbusters in the comedian's canon. I laugh, I cry; it's better than Cats.
THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL (1992)
As the co-editor of two books about Jim Henson, I'm definitely a Muppet fan, and this twist on Dickens is such a fun outing for the familiar cast of characters. Gonzo, my favorite Muppet, gets an especially good part as Charles Dickens himself, and the Ghost puppets represent some of the Henson group's most beautiful creative designs. Michael Caine is a delight as Scrooge, even if he experiences his essential change of heart rather too quickly to be as mean as he's supposed to be. When I saw this movie in the theater after its original release, it made me sad because Jim Henson had died in 1990, and this picture was the first to appear after his passing. Today, its bittersweet quality has softened, but like the original story it remains a sentimental experience.
What movies make your Christmas holiday complete? Let me know in the comments!