TOA/V: Yule Schoolin’

Be Kind to a WriterYes, it’s my birthday. No, I don’t need stuff; but if you’ve ever read anything I’ve written and liked it, please consider leaving a rating or review for it on Amazon or Goodreads. A review needn’t be complex: 25 words is enough. Thanks!

Here’s an updating of an old post I wrote for BitchBuzz because my birthday is traditionally the day I stop pretending that I can ignore Xmas. Here’s my list of Xmas movies — now with classic films, too, because I know you won’t all watch my fave choices. 😉

When you’ve seen too many cheery reindeer, children singing and hearts growing three sizes, it’s time to strike back!

I know there are many who can’t wait to pull out that pile of Christmas classics every year and spend days laughing and crying with Charlie Brown and Lucy, or Rudolph and Hermie, or to find out what Bedford Falls would have been like without George Bailey.

The rest of us need a break from all the sappy sentiment (if you dare get out Love Actually it will come to fisticuffs). So if like me you spend the holidays dreading the next turn of that roulette wheel in the DVD player, here are some films you can suggest that meet the criteria of “holiday” themes but aren’t the same old schmaltz.

The Long Kiss Goodnight: Before Renny “the world-famous Finn” Harlin and Geena Davis broke up, they completed this suburban-mom-turns-out-to-be concussed-secret-agent film that’s a whole lot of fun. Samuel L. Jackson plays a seedy detective looking for redemption (who can’t get song lyrics right – I totally relate!) and Brian Cox utters the funniest line of his entire career as a retired secret agent wrangler. Shane Black’s script still has the snappy fun that three more Lethal Weapon films sucked out of him.

Bell, Book and Candle: A much easier sell, this is a classic with a dishy Kim Novak and superb cast that includes an adorable young Jack Lemmon, Elsa Lanchester and the great Ernie Kovacs as well as stalwart Jimmy Stewart. Now why a clever witch like Novak’s Gillian would want to give up all her powers for Stewart’s stuffy publisher is a mystery, but the rest of the story and characters are so delightful, you won’t care much. I want to live in the witches’ NYC hangout, the Zodiac Club. Bonus points for discussing witchcraft as a metaphor for homosexuality with homophobic distant relations.

Royle Family Xmas Special — any of them will do but maybe my fave is the 2008 one because I do take all my holiday tips from Denise Royle. And what’s better than Tom Courtney in that hat? And drinking anything the colour of antifreeze O.O I love the Royles.

Die Hard: No one will argue. It’s worth it just for Alan Rickman and after all, plus you’ve got the bleeding feet of Bruce Willis, the concerned looks of Bonnie Bedelia, Hart Bochner’s smarm, Gudonov’s glower, Atherton’s takedown and Reggie VelJohnson.

Black Christmas: Admittedly, this one is a hard sell, but still easier than Silent Night, Deadly Night (hey, now there’s some holiday trauma). Just tell them it’s from the guy that directed A Christmas Story. Well, he did — the late Bob Clark also directed Porky’s and the demented fun that is Children Shouldn’t Play with Dead Things, but maybe you shouldn’t mention them. This is a classic, too, the ur-text of the sorority slasher: tight, effective and genuinely creepy.

As a child, far too young to see the film, I was nonetheless traumatized by the posters for it, which warned, “If this film doesn’t make your flesh crawl, it’s on too tight!” and featured a figure wrapped in plastic in a rocking chair. I shudder to think of it even now.

Now there’s a lasting memory for the holiday season. It’s not just for Christmas, it’s for life!

For a lot of people Irvine Welsh’s Trainspotting and Filth may typify the wild world of Scotland, but I have to say my experience has been much more the Bill Forsyth side of things. I even named my PhD dissertation after his film Local Hero (one of the few pop culture references my diss director got). It’s been too long since I’ve seen Comfort & Joy probably because it’s not easily available in the States. Bill Paterson’s Dickie Byrd finds his life falling apart one Xmas, then he gets caught up in the ice cream equivalent of the warring Montagues and Capulets in Glasgow and he finds it easier to deal with other people’s problems than his own. ‘Quirky’ doesn’t do it justice; it’s so much more. Pure delight.

Need a classic film? Try a few of the less well-tread chestnuts if you’re not in the mood to see Shop Around the Corner, Scrooge, Holiday Inn or Christmas in Connecticut yet again.

The Man Who Came To Dinner offers just the right balance of great stars, snappy dialogue, curmudgeonly humour and a soupçon of schmaltz just for fun. Bette Davis alone is worth it, but there’s also Monty Woolley pretending to be Alexander Woolcott, Billie Burke, Ann Sheridan, the fabulous Mary Wickes and of course the one and only Jimmy Durante.

The Bishop’s Wife gives you Cary Grant as an angel. What more do you need? David Niven, too. Lessons learned blah blah — did I mention Cary Grant?

The Thin Man — oh yeah, that’s right! It’s set at Xmas in New York, a world of martinis and mugs. An adorable film any day of the year Myrna Loy and William Powell give fabulous life to Dashiell Hammett’s best creations. And you can watch the sequel for New Year’s — worth it for an unusual Jimmy Stewart role and Powell’s mocking entrance to his mother-in-law’s house.

Auntie Mame suits any American holiday and hits them all. As if I need an excuse to drag out my role model again. “Life is a banquet and most poor suckers are starving to death” is the best year-round message anyway.

And for New Year’s? I’m going to suggest Old Acquaintance and Holiday — but you knew that, right?

20 Comments

  1. ashokbhatia says:

    Well thought out. It is not easy to come up to the standards set by you in terms of either wit or brevity. My list would start from the ‘Home Alone’ series, though.

    Have a great time ahead!

    1. katelaity says:

      There are movies enough for everyone, eh? The holidays are a time to enjoy what pleases us.

  2. LizEverly says:

    I love Bell, Book, and Candle! Great list. Happy Birthday!

    1. katelaity says:

      So glad to know others love it too!

  3. Patti Abbott says:

    Great list and have a happy birthday!

  4. Lynda says:

    The Thin Man! Absolutely one of my all-time favorite movies. Yay for including the seminal and underrated Black Christmas as well. I only saw it for the first time a few years ago and throughout it kept exclaiming “WHY have I never seen this before?!”

    1. katelaity says:

      It’s really quite a chilling little film. I recommend it to lots of people 🙂

  5. Love BELL, BOOK, AND CANDLE. What about COMFORT AND JOY? Not enough people have seen that weird charmer.

    1. katelaity says:

      No kidding! That’s why I included it. A pity it’s not currently available in the US.

  6. Crispinus says:

    I noticed you didn’t give ol’ Reg VelJ a possessive. e.g., Reginald VelJohnson’s Twinkie. On second thought…

  7. Todd Mason says:

    Yes, or Hell yes, except maybe DIE HARD. Nah. (One of our bloggy friends suggested the other day that Everyone Digs LOVE ACTUALLY…)

    1. katelaity says:

      They need to see the long discussion that’s gone on at Slate that I linked to. Loathsome Curtis.

  8. Widdershins says:

    Ahh, the classics! … Happy Birth Day. 😀

    1. katelaity says:

      I love a good classic.

  9. I’ve not ever seen this play in the U.S. at all but I highly recommend THE HOLLY AND THE IVY. Some say heartwarming but it’s a grim setting, with a dysfunctional family chock-full of repressed feelings and tragic secrets. 1952, Ralph Richardson, a very young Denholm Elliott, Celia Johnson, Margaret Leighton in a batch of excellent performances.

    1. katelaity says:

      I’ll have to look that up. It sounds familiar, but I don’t think I’ve seen it. Maybe only heard mention of it. Great cast!

      1. johnrjdouglas says:

        THE HOLLY AND THE IVY could well be in the regular seasonal rotation in the UK if they program the same as the networks and cable channels do in the U.S. Ginjer and I have been amusing ourselves this year by counting the many variations on A CHRISTMAS CAROL that show up routinely–parodies, cartoons, musicals, Scrooge is___ fill in the blank: American, black, a woman, a black woman, a model, a you-name-it. Bad or good, once they’ve been broadcast, they become part of the annual revival marathons. The only reason I know of THATI is because it cycles regularly in Toronto and one of my sisters videotaped a copy a good few years back.

        1. katelaity says:

          I looked it up and I definitely haven’t seen it. I’ll have to see if it’s on LoveFilm (the Netflix equivalent over here) as it sounds promising.

          Not only films but I swear almost every long-running television show always has their Scrooge episode eventually. I do love the Sim one and am very fond of Bill Murray’s turn as Dickens’ old grump. It’s certainly embedded into the season, which would make Dickens proud.

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