Tis the season to be jolly... So Modern Heat author Heidi Rice is delving into the minefield of Christmas movies and rediscovering those jolly holiday classics that we all know and love.
So we all know that at this particular time of year TV companies the world over tend to shove a lot of really atrocious movies into the schedule just because they happen to have Christmas or Santa in the title. And I should know cos I've had to watch quite a few of those Christmas turkeys in my 'other job' as a film reviewer.
But in amongst all those cheesy, cutsie, Yuletide logs of dross, there are a few festive gems that just keep giving year after year. So, in no particular order, here are a few of my favourites... Some very well know, some not so obvious. And the reason why they work for me...
We all know Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without Bing crooning about treetops glistening and children listening to sleighbells in the snow! And that warm-hearted title number with Bing in his sparkly Santa suit cuddling up to George Clooney's Aunt Rosemary should still put you in the holiday mood. But for me personally, the real star of this movie is Danny Kaye. Manic, fawning, and fabulously silly, Danny's antics are a great counterpoint to Bing's rather slumberous style and add a breath of laughter when the plot drifts just a little too far towards solid-gold schmaltz.
It's a Wonderful Life
I've waxed lyrical about Frank Capra's everyman classic before on the Pink Heart, but what makes this movie so wonderful is its genuineness. We can all really identify with Jimmy Stewart's small-town savings and loan man George Bailey when he reaches the end of his tether, as he shouts at his kids, shuts out his wife and really believes that his whole world is collapsing around him, because he has the same human frailties and failings we all have. And then, when his redemption comes, and he realises how much he's done in his life and how much he means to every one, we can share in his joy 100 percent. So let's have another big ahhhh for this story.
Don't be fooled by that generic title, or the fact that you're probably never heard of this movie. Take it from me, it's a little charmer. Made in the 1940s in black and white, it stars a young and hunky Robert Mitchum as a free-wheeling dreamer working in a New York department store at Christmas and a young and luminous Janet Leigh as a war widow whose young son desperately wants a certain train set for Christmas that she can't afford. She works as a 'comparison shopper', so she buys the set (from Bob's store) and takes it home intending to take it back the next day. Her son (the wonderfully uncutesy Gordon Gerber) peeks and thinks he's getting it for Christmas, so when he sees her taking it back, he's heartbroken... And then Bob steps in and.... Well, that would be telling. But this is a really sweet, heartfelt little family movie with a touching and tender and entirely believable romance just lurking beneath the surface about a woman who's loved and lost before and a man who could give her a second chance... It only she'd let him. (And you can ignore the poster... At no time does Janet appear wrapped in cellophane!)
Now, I have to admit, I did find it ever so slightly creepy that so many of the characters in this film looked like Tom Hanks (something to do with the clever motion-capture animation technique they used) and I wasn't that impressed with Santa's workshop either because it looked like a Northern mill town.... But those grinchy tendencies aside there are some truly magical sequences in this movie.... The moment when the huge steam train glides to a stop outside young Tom's front door one snowy Christmas Eve being just one of them. And if you go and see it in 3D, as I did several years in a row with my two boys, the effects are even more fabulous. All in all an awe-inspiring treat.
The Nightmare Before Christmas
Have to admit I'm a big fan of Tim Burton, partly because his films are so original and partly (oh, all right then, mostly) because they often star Johnny Depp (which is never a bad thing IMHO). But this fabulously creepy and off-kilter Christmas fable - about Halloweentown mayor Jack Skeleton and his bid to 'steal' Santa from Christmastown - doesn't even have Johnny in and I still love it. And yes, it is a little macabre, like candy canes with worms in, but that's what I love about it. Frankly, I think there's something to be said for a film that has the guts to take all that festive bling and turn it upside down with humour. This film did what The Grinch wanted to do and didn't! And the enchanting stop-motion animation and eye-poppingly beautiful design are just the icing on the Christmas cake.
So those are a few of my favourite holiday movies... All of which I'll no doubt be watching again this year. So do you have a favourite Christmas movie? One that's always guaranteed to get your seasonal spirit flowing no matter what? I'll leave you with Bing and Rosemary and Danny and what's-her-name-with-the-unfeasibly-skinny-legs to get you in the mood!
Heidi's busy writing a Christmas book for next year and getting in the spirit with her current book Surf, Sea and a Sexy Stranger, which is out now in the UK and will be out in the US in April as a Presents Extra. Her next book in the UK will be a Riva called Cupcakes and Killer Heels, which is due out in May 2011. Until then you can find out what she's working on.... Or avoiding working on... On her blog, or her website, or Facebook.