Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Cinema Takes a Holiday

HA! What shall we hang... the holly, or each other? 
-       Henry II, The Lion in Winter

So I'm sitting here staring at my bank balance, trying to figure out the vanishing act it seems to have taken, while trying to ignore the panic attack swirling around in my chest trying to break free because I am so far behind at work that I'm practically in the next county, while thinking that if I work all weekend I can maybe get a bit caught up, but how in the world will I be able to bake cookies for the neighbors and Greg's co-workers...when it hits me that I should just ignore it all and enforce some Christmas cheer on myself.  The only way I can think to do that is by putting myself outside my own head, and movies have always been my outlet for that, so I've been trotting out every seasonal movie I own trying to convince myself that the holidays do anything more than just plain suck.  I don't own an extensive collection of Christmas films, mind you.  If you think Christmas stinks, it naturally follows that you tend to think Christmas movies do as well.  Sticky sweet, happy family oriented crap geared to make a fast buck and be forgotten for the most part.  But, there are exceptions, and even an old Scrooge like me can fall in love with the spirit of the season through the mastery of film.  I thought I would share my favorites with you and ask you to tell me yours.  Maybe I'll find a new fave among any you share...maybe you will do the same.

6.  The Alien Anthology.  What's that you say?  Those aren't holiday movies?  They are to me, brother.  Blame Bravo or Spike or one of those networks for showing an Alien movie marathon two years running when I was up at 2:00 in the morning trying to wrap what seemed like a mountain of presents.  And, trust me, after four solid hours of sitting on the hard, cold floor wrapping gifts that people may or may not like, Aliens 3's primary dialogue - a highly liberal use the "f" bomb - seems just about perfect.  So, it became a Christmas tradition.  A little hot cider mixed in with a lot of Sigourney Weaver being a bad ass, and I'm good to go.  Favorite line:  "Get away from her, you bitch!"

5. The Bishop's Wife. Who wouldn't want to leave their stuffy husband for a suave angel who looks just like Cary Grant?  But, it's David Niven that makes that movie for me.  He does a great job of balancing what he believes is his duty and carrying himself the way he's supposed to with the inner unhappiness and loss of faith that torments him, sprinkled with a great deal of humor as the fall guy for a lot of the conflict that happens in the film.  Cary Grant just gets to float around and look wholesome and handsome, which he does very well, but it's by far the easier of the roles.  Favorite line:   "Nobody expects him be normal; he's a bishop. "

4.  The Lion in Winter.  Dysfunctional families take note:  this is the gold standard.  Everybody trying to out cross and double cross one another in a bid for power and land set against Henry II's Christmas court.  Never before or since have so many zingers been delivered in a two hour span.  Growing up, this was the perfect film as it bundled a lot of things I loved:  Katherine Hepburn, medieval history and clever film making.  Trying to pick just one line as a favorite took some time, but here goes: "I know. You know I know. I know you know I know. We know Henry knows, and Henry knows we know it.  We're a knowledgeable family. "

3.  The Thin Man.  Sure it's a Christmas movie.  It's set at Christmas.  Don't believe me?  Watch it and you'll see.  And you'll be entertained in the process.  What could possibly make Christmas better than a little murder mystery unraveled by Nick and Nora, aided by Scotch and Rye.  It holds a higher spot in other movie lists of mine, but for a holiday flick, it's still just dandy.  Favorite line (again, a hard one - lots of choices): "Waiter, will you serve the nuts? I mean, will you serve the guests the nuts?" 

2.  While You Were Sleeping.  I know, odd choice for someone like me.  Sentimental romantic comedy, no one drinks too much, tries to kill anyone else with a broadsword, or have things explode out of their stomach.  But the fact that none of those things happen, and I still ended up liking it is a testament to the power of the film and all the actors.  There's something about the easy chemistry everyone has with one another that just sucks you in.  If everyone were like those people, the world would be a better place.  Elsie: "I could never make a good pot roast."  Saul: "You need good beef. Argentina has great beef: beef, and Nazis. "

1.  And the winner is...A Christmas Story.  I saw this movie totally by accident the first time.  I was pregnant with Kelsey, it was on a Saturday afternoon.  Greg was out working, so I was alone.  Not sure why I even remember that.  I had been putting around our little rent house trying to do Christmas stuff and had worn myself out.  I was in that stage where I still felt the possibility that I would lose my lunch at any given moment, but the baby had started to grow, so I was also getting the sensation of having a bowling ball inside me along with whatever lunch I wasn't losing, so I had to take a break and sat down just as it was starting.  I had never heard of it, but it looked like it was set in the 40's - maybe there would be some war references in there, so I thought I would give it a try.  Oh my Lord.  For two hours I didn't think about alien bowling balls pressing on bladders or stomach acid churning like a geyser waiting to explode.  I laughed until I thought I would cry.  And I've laughed every time I've seen it since, which has been at least once a season without fail.  Just a little B movie no one had ever heard of when it first hit the theaters and look at it now - a cultural icon.  Funny how that happens sometimes.  But, can you ever look at Chinese duck the same?  Can you hear "You'll shoot your eye out!" in your sleep?  Do you dream of wearing a bunny suit on Halloween?  Yeah, we all do.  I can't even decide on a favorite line - there are just too many.  If you're reading this and have never seen it, fix that problem right away!  Life is too short not to know the beauty of electric sex gleaming from the window.

So, what are some of your favorites and why?


  1. Fra - gee - lay. Must be Italian.

    My favorite line from the Lion in Winter - the two lines of dialog between Richard the Lion Hearted and his weasel brother, Prince Geoffrey.

    Weasel Brother: Why, you chivalric fool, as if the way one fell down matters.

    Richard (Anthony Hopkins): When the fall is all there is, it matters.

  2. I must admit I love the mushy sentimental stuff. While You Were Sleeping is on the list for sure. The newest favorite is The Holiday and my oldest favorite is White Christmas. I like happy endings :)