Christmas movie mea culpa

About a week ago I put together a Christmas movies poll, partially because I was curious, and partially because my husband and I are hosting Christmas movies at a café here. Wow, did I forget a TON of them! Slightly later, I put up a revised poll, and I still forgot a ton. Friends in real life and online suggested their favorites, which I’m listing here. Some I’ve seen…

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – I think you all know this one.

How The Grinch Stole Christmas – How could I forget this?

Going My Way – Bing Crosby’s Fr. Chuck O’Malley could give Spencer Tracy’s Fr. Flanagan a run for his money as the coolest priest ever.

The Bells of St. Mary’s – Fr. O’Malley is back, in the top-grossing film of 1945, clashing with Sr. Benedict (Ingrid Bergman). Will he convince her to lighten up? Is the Pope Catholic?

…and some I haven’t:

Young At Heart (1955) – “A cynical songwriter upsets the lives of three musical sisters.” With Frank Sinatra and Doris Day.

A Town Without Christmas – A “little boy…writes that he wishes to leave this world so he will no longer be a burden to his divorcing parents, a race begins to find him before he harms himself.” [IMDB]

The Holly and The Ivy – Ralph Richardson and Celia Johnson star in this “heartwarming tale of an English minister and his family reunited at Christmas time. Their story includes a remembrance of their WWII trials.”

We’re No Angels (1955) – “After escaping Devil’s Island, three offbeat prisoners [Bogie, Aldo Ray and Peter Ustinov] help a goodhearted family outwit a scheming relative.”

Holiday Inn (1942) – “The A[staire], B[erlin], C[rosby] of American musical comedy.”

I also have to mention Christmas Under Fire, a 10-minute film from 1940, which I’d never seen before, brought to my attention by @Filmatelist. I say with not one iota of irony: this is why the Allies won the war.

And I am sure there are others. I realize that this poll is deeply flawed. At the same time, I doubt any other Christmas film can top It’s A Wonderful Life, with a healthy 19 votes.

The Top 10 was as follows:

It’s A Wonderful Life 19
The Apartment 11
The Thin Man 10
Scrooged 10
Christmas In Connecticut 9
Love Actually 8
Elf 7
Miracle On 34th Street 7
A Christmas Carol (any version) 7
White Christmas 6

I was happy to see my two favorites, Scrooged and Christmas in Connecticut make the Top 10, I wasn’t really surprised to see Wonderful Life on the top of the heap. There’s many good reasons why. But that it’s a whole other post.

New-to-me photo of Gloria Grahame as Violet in IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE

EDIT: I forgot to say, someone suggested that I should have specified which Miracle on 34th Street I was talking about in the original poll. I completely forgot there was a remake. I love the late John Hughes, but for me, the 1947 version is really the only one.

TCM Week: March 12-18

TCM Week spotlights a highly subjective selection of the week’s essential or undiscovered films on the Turner Classic Movies channel to help plan movie viewing, DVR scheduling or TCM Party attendance. All times are EST.

Familiar to millions: A Taste of Honey author & Louder Than Bombs cover star Shelagh Delaney

Monday, March 12
A Kind of Loving (1962)
***TCM PARTY***
TCM’s British New Wave Mondays continue with five films tonight, beginning with A Kind of Loving at 8 p.m., followed by The L-Shaped Room (10 p.m.), The Loneliness of the Long Distance Runner (12:15 a.m.), and A Taste of Honey (2:15 a.m. Tues.), all released in the US in 1962, and Girl with Green Eyes (1964) at 4:00 a.m. (Tues.). These films promise to be a treasure trove of references for fans of English singer-songwriter Morrissey, who borrowed freely from them during his time with the Smiths and his solo career. As early as 1984, Morrissey was shouting out A Taste of Honey and The L-Shaped Room, and it has always frustrated me that these two films, along with quite a few other British works mentioned by Morrissey as favorites or influences, haven’t been available in the US. The writer Shelagh Delaney, who wrote the book upon which A Taste of Honey is based, definitely provided a lot of inspiration to him. It seems as if nearly every line was appropriated by Moz in some form. In 2006, he told Mojo magazine, “I know I overdid it with Shelagh Delaney. It took me a long, long time to shed that particular one.” Guest hosted by @mercurie80

Tuesday, March 13
1:30 a.m. (Weds.) The Lodger (1944)
George Sanders Alert
This is not the 1926 version directed by Alfred Hitchcock; this one was directed by John Brahm and stars the gorgeous Merle Oberon as a dance hall girl who lives with her aunt and uncle in Victorian London. Jack the Ripper is on the loose but the family is broke and must take in a lodger, a sinister-seeming weirdo (Laird Cregar). George Sanders is the detective on the case. Foggy, atmospheric and creepy old-school thriller.

Wednesday, March 14
EDIT: 8:00 p.m. A Streetcar Named Desire (1951)
***TCM PARTY***
It’s old-school vs. Method as Vivien Leigh and Marlon Brando star in Tennessee Williams’ Pulitzer Prize-winning play.

2:00 a.m. (Thursday) Hotel (1967)
I love this movie so I was happy to see that no less an august personage than Martin Scorsese has given it his imprimatur…sort of. He wrote in this month’s Now Playing, “it’s actually become more interesting over the years….it’s like a snapshot of the shared American cultural horizon in the late ’60s, or at least a piece of it.” And who am I to argue? With Elizabeth Taylor, Karl Malden, Merle Oberon and a cast of, um, tens.

Thursday, March 15
10:00 p.m. The Whole Town’s Talking (1935)
Edward G. Robinson plays a hardware clerk who is a little on the meek side. He also happens to have a lookalike who is an infamous gangster wanted by the law. A series of plot twists lead him to take on the gangster’s identity. I haven’t seen this in a while but I remember being disturbed by the underlying message. Basically the hardware clerk is much happier and better off when he’s acting the thug. Carl Jung himself couldn’t have come up with a better representation of the “shadow” self though. Also starring the lovely and talented Jean Arthur; directed by John Ford.

Friday, March 16
8:00 p.m. Jason and the Argonauts (1963) and Clash of the Titans (1981)
***TCM PARTY***
Greek mythology done right, with effects by Ray Harryhausen, “the father of modern special effects pictures.” Guest hosted by @DraconicVerses

Saturday, March 17
Stereotypes Alert
TCM is apparently in violation of the Federal statute that dictates that they must show The Quiet Man on St. Patrick’s Day. Instead, they’ve got some lesser-known Irish-themed movies today until 8:00 p.m. The most interesting-looking one is scheduled at 10:45 a.m., The Irish In Us (1935). It’s one of only three films that James Cagney and Olivia de Havilland did together (not counting documentaries…the other two are A Midsummer Night’s Dream (1935) and The Strawberry Blonde (1941)). Directed by Lloyd Bacon (42nd Street).

Sunday, March 18
8:00 p.m. Born Free (1966)
***TCM PARTY***

 

January Movies (whew!)

I seem to be perpetually short on time so I thought I’d make a nice list instead of those long, drawn-out posts I like so much 😉

Dude, get out of there! Hurry!

I really liked Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy (4 out of 5 stars). I usually like espionage movies, and of course there is the cast (some of whom are wearing some pretty great suits). Even if just any two of these guys was in it, I’d have gone, plus I am no longer ignorant of Benedict Cumberbatch. (Don’t judge the gaps in my knowledge! OK, go ahead…but at least leave a comment.) There isn’t a lot of shoot-’em-up behavior, but it is suspenseful nonetheless, especially if you get nervous when spies are spying on each other. Shoot-’em-up is fine too, though. This Means War? I’m so there.

I really liked Shame, but in a different way (4.5 out of 5 stars). It’s nearly perfect in itself but I don’t think I could see it again. I found it as depressing as I thought it would be from reading the script, although a lot of stuff in the version I read didn’t make it into the finished film. There’s no question that Michael Fassbender and Carey Mulligan deserved Oscar nominations. Both actors suggested so much in a non-showy way, without much dialogue, and I believe those performances are actually what kept Academy voters away (in addition to the subject matter). I’d have given it 5 stars if there had been just a little bit more backstory about Brandon and Sissy. What is the significance of “New York, New York?” Why is Brandon obsessed with the Standard Hotel? You know that cool girl in your high school that wore vintage years before it was cool and always looked fabulous? That’s Sissy…but what happened to her after that? You won’t find out in this interview Fassbender did on Canadian TV show The Hour but I’m throwing it in here because it’s pretty interesting.

Charlotte Rampling as Mary (center)

I really liked The Mill and The Cross (4 out of 5 stars). I wish there was a movie like this for every painting. It’s difficult to describe it. Again…not a lot of dialogue. It basically shows Brueghel’s (Rutger Hauer) inspiration for each figure and situation in the work. It’s a meditation on the creative process, a record of the human condition in Flanders in the 16th century (hint: lousy), an invective on humanity’s inhumanity, and a powerful statement in favor of the separation of church and state. If you get a chance to see this on the big screen, definitely go. Much will be lost on even the biggest home TV.

I loved The Artist (5 out of 5 stars), it’s just brilliant. It’s also laden with homages and tributes to Old Hollywood and the early 20th-century silents — a feast for classic movie fans. Still working on a larger post on this theme.

This month I also decided there should be ejector seats in cinemas (5 out of 5 stars). People who are talking/yelling, chomping loudly on gum, crinkling candy wrappers, talking on a cell phone, texting, tweeting or IMing can be removed in a speedy and efficient manner. Alternatively, should ejector seats prove too costly, perhaps two auditoriums can show the movie at the same time — talkers in one, silent types in the other. I’m kidding…sort of 😉 The stillness of Tinker Tailor Soldier Spy and The Mill and The Cross was almost wrecked. That was my non-classic moviegoing month of January 2012, how was yours?