Saturday, December 14, 2013

My Top 4 Christmas Movies of All Time

1. A Christmas Story.  Absolutely best favorite Christmas movie ever.  Some day my family (at least some of us) hope to spend Christmas in Cleveland so we can visit the Christmas Story museum (yes, there’s a museum) and sup in a Chinese restaurant to commemorate the event.

2. Love Actually.  Most who admit to liking this one call it a ‘guilty pleasure’, as if it is somehow wrong to admit to enjoying it.  Not me.  I love Love Actually (pun intended).  It strikes just the right chord of pathos and joy within me that quintessentially is Christmas.  And the scene at the airport at the end, of the thousands and thousands of folks coming off the planes into waiting arms or purposeful walking away from no one to greet is one I’ve seen and been a bit player in myself many times over and it never fails to move.

3. Empire of the Sun, perhaps my favorite of all movies for all times (To Kill a Mockingbird is right up there with it, but each to its own time).  I first put it on the list not because I connect it with the Christmas holiday so much as with watching it with my family.  (Interesting side note: the film was released on Christmas day in 1987.)  But reading about the movie again, I learned that the moving song of the boy that frames the movie is a Welsh lullaby Suo Gan that has, as one of its many permutations, been adapted into a Christmas carol.  The scene of one boy singing on one side of a fence as other boys on the other side fly off to their certain deaths stands as the emblem of war for me: the old intentionally and deliberately sacrificing their young with a passive resignation to an inevitability they created, which is not inevitable at all.  The enormity of child sacrifice that is war I cannot watch without weeping.  Christmas is about joy, but it is also about sorrow.

4. A Charlie Brown Christmas.  What’s not to love?  And then, there’s the fact that my family routinely accuse me of always picking out the Charlie Brown tree for our home.

Some honorable mentions

5. (not) Little Women.  Little Women is probably my favorite book, which makes it difficult for any movie rendition to be a favorite movie.  I re-read this book virtually every Christmas and the characters are well-defined in my mind’s eye.  No one else’s visualization will do for people I already know so well.  (My mother nicknamed me Beth for one of the girls.  I always secretly wished she’d named me Jo.  To my delight, I met another Beth in Iraq once – from England – with the same story – her mother nicknamed her for the character and she too always wanted to be Jo.)

6. White Christmas.  I don’t watch it every year, but I do love that formula of the time (think Mickey Rooney and Elizabeth Taylor in the Andy Hardy series, where Andy always seems to be calling on the gang, “let’s . . .” something.  Here, it’s “let’s save our friend’s inn”.  Good stuff.

7. About a Boy.  Another good movie with a transformational theme, as a man moves from herculean self-absorption to caring for others (he first has to literally learn the ability to even see them).  A pretty good message for Christmas.

8. It’s a Wonderful Life.  I used to watch this classic faithfully every Christmas, but I just can’t anymore.  I’ve foundered on it.  I still like it, in theory.  But overexposure has killed it for me.  Word to the wise: if you want to keep this one as a fav, only watch it once during the season and then only every 3-4 years.  Just sayin.

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