Monday, November 19, 2007

Holiday Movies.

Long before the turkey emerges from the oven, one can tell that Christmas is coming by the appearance of other turkeys: asinine holiday movies such as Fred Claus. The formula for these seems to be (1) a male main character chases 500,000 women before learning the True Meaning of Christmas or (2) a female main character does incredibly stupid things involving arrogant, annoying men before discovering the True Meaning of Christmas.

Perhaps you would like to see a holiday film with an actual plot and characters with brains in their heads. Avoiding the ubiquitous A Christmas Carol, It's a Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street, I recommend the following:

1. The Bishop's Wife. 1947. Angel Cary Grant teaches Bishop David Niven about vocation and what's important in life during the Christmas season. Great performances by supporting players Gladys Cooper, Monty Woolley, and James Gleason.

2. Remember the Night. 1940. Writ. Preston Sturges. Perf. Barbara Stanwyck, Fred MacMurray. Prosecutor MacMurray takes cynical shoplifter Stanwyck home for the holidays. Outstanding performances by both Stanwyck and MacMurray prior to Double Indemnity; remarkable ending.

3. Holiday Affair. 1949. Widow Janet Leigh and son befriend down-on-his-luck Robert Mitchum at Christmastime. What woman would possibly choose boring lawyer Wendell Corey over Mitchum? Please.

4. While You Were Sleeping. 1995. At Christmas, Sandra Bullock is caught between two brothers: furniture maker Bill Pullman and lawyer Peter Gallagher. Also has one of the cinema's great lines ("Argentina has great beef. Beef, and Nazis.").

5. The Gathering. 1977. Dying executive Ed Asner has one chance, Christmas, to unite his scattered and alienated family. Features a group of fine actors: Bruce Davison, Veronica Hamel, Gregory Harrison, Lawrence Pressman, Maureen Stapleton, Gail Strickland, Edward Winter, Stephanie Zimbalist.

6. Stalag 17. 1953. Dir. Billy Wilder. Perf. William Holden, Otto Preminger, Peter Graves, Don Taylor. Nothing says Christmas like the unmasking of a Nazi spy.

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