By Tim Williams
The holidays are here and since I was a kid I’ve always enjoyed celebrating with a few good movies. Most times they don’t even have to be holiday related, just a bit of warm and fuzzy entertainment to make the winter months a little less cold and the new year more bright. I thought I’d ask my friends at SPPR what they will be viewing and see if I could take a peek at what makes them jolly this time of year.Scott Barton Holiday Pick: Dreamgirls (2006)
Scott tells me he likes to go out and see the latest big budget Hollywood release over the holidays. The first to spring to his mind as a favorite from the past was Dreamgirls, which is lots of fun and got Eddie Murphy an Oscar nom. This year he’ll be seeing the lavish big screen adaptation of Les Misérables. The man loves his musicals, so just for a laugh, I told him The Hobbit was a musical with a real showstopper called “Your Arms are Too Short to Box With Gollum.” He said he’d consider seeing it.Ed Peters Holiday Pick: A Christmas Carol (1951)
This is the definitive version of Dickens’ timeless classic with Alastair Sim as the most miserly man in London, Ebenezer Scrooge. I prefer to watch it backwards and have Scrooge start out nice and become a real bastard at the end. I told Ed to watch Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol (1962), but he said he found jokes at the expense of the blind and elderly distasteful. Pshaw, I say! The more jokes about feebleness and blindness the better! “You’ve knocked over the Christmas goose, broke Tiny Tim’s crutch and now set fire to our home….Oh Magoo, you’ve done it again!” (laughter all around)Alex McDougald Holiday Pick: Big Business (1988)
Certainly the oddest holiday pick of the bunch, but I can’t argue with a farce about identical twins played by Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin (and Bette Midler and Lily Tomlin). I always get this movie confused with Outrageous Fortune starring Bette Midler and Shelly Long, which I often confuse with Troop Beverly Hills staring just Shelly Long. But I do like the tagline best for this movie: “Two’s Company – Four’s a Riot.” I don’t have any identical twins in my family, but I do have an Aunt Wanda who resembles her pet Maltese named Peanut.Melinda Giordano Holiday Pick: A Christmas Story (1983)
I too have fond memories of this flick because I first watched it as a kid on a sweltering hot day in August with my friend Billy Borders. Few Christmas films work all year round or stand up to 24 hours of repeated viewings thanks to a yearly TBS marathon, but this Jean Shepherd tale of a boy in search of a toy Red Ryder rifle is able to do both and remain charming and funny. Melinda also said she likes the 1987 TV movie A Child’s Christmas in Wales…I tried to watch it, but get this, not a whale in the entire film.Wendy Calder Holiday Pick: The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
From the mind of Tim Burton comes a stop-motion animation musical that Wendy tells me is festive at both Halloween and Christmas. I wish she’d see Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol, that works all year round because that Magoo is a real hoot – he’s blind as a bat! Have I stressed to you enough that Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol is a really fine piece of work?Lori Siler Holiday Pick: Elf (2003)
Lori couldn’t decide between Elf or Ghost…I made the call. I’ll be blunt, that sequence in Ghost where Demi Moore makes out with Whoopi Goldberg while the spirit of Patrick Swayze is inside the Whoopster really creeps me out, and I don’t wish to view it while enjoying my eggnog or my figgy pudding. On the other hand, Will Ferrell’s Elf has become a solid holiday favorite. And with Ed Asner as Santa and Bob Newhart as Papa Elf, it’s going to make everyone merry.Julie Siegel Holiday Pick: Love Actually (2003)
Not sure why this was picked, Julie describes it to me as “horrendous.” That one word review coupled with the fact that it clocks in at 2 hours and 15 minutes doesn’t encourage me to start searching Netflix for it. It’s from the writer of Four Weddings and a Funeral and it’s about a bunch of British people falling in love and being cute and witty, as Brits always are. It does have Liam Neeson in it, who I like when he beats the crap out of people (Taken) or fights wolves (The Grey), so I may enjoy him in this. Hold on…I just read the synopsis on IMDB…Neeson does not beat anything senseless in this movie, so forget it.Luis Camacho Holiday Pick: Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
Luis didn’t tell me which one was his favorite, but I’ll assume it was the original one. I mean how many people have seen the 1973 TV version with actor Sebastian Cabot as Kris Kringle? Yes, Mr. French from “Family Affair” as the lovable fat man from the North Pole! Problem is, although Cabot was full figured enough to fill the role, he has no kindhearted twinkle in his eye playing Kringle. In fact, at one point Cabot seems annoyed and ready to throw a child off his lap and tell them in no uncertain terms “Get your own damn Besty Wetsy doll, Mr. Cabot is in need of some brandy and a medium rare steak!”Jarred Hopkins Holiday Pick: This Christmas (2007)
Jarred refers to this comedy drama about a family coming together for the first time in four years as a “guilty pleasure.” I wondered why the guilt, then I saw it stars Chris Brown, a singer known more for assault charges than lighthearted family fare. Jarred promises me there’s no domestic violence in this film, only a scene of a woman whipping her husband with a belt! Wow, that sounds like Christmas at my place.Sue Procko Holiday Pick: It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
I knew this was Sue’s favorite film because a few years ago the whole staff of SPPR gathered to watch it for a movie night at her home. It’s one of the most loved films of all time, and for good reason, it’s a great piece of filmmaking by Frank Capra. She also enjoys another fine Capra film, Arsenic and Old Lace (1944), staring the always dapper Cary Grant. Did you know Grant dropped LSD, preferred wearing women’s panties to men’s briefs and was married five times? Well, it’s all true.
As for me, I like to make mine a traditional Sicilian Christmas spending it with the folks in The Godfather (1972). I screen it almost every year. I know what you’re thinking, “How is The Godfather a holiday film?” Well, it’s about family (actually, the five families) and Don Corleone is kind of like Santa Claus, you ask him for something and he makes sure it gets delivered. OK, sometimes you don’t get what you want and wake up with a severed horse head in your bed, but we’ve all had rough Christmas mornings. One little thing, I love Marlon Brando as Vito Corleone, and he may be America’s finest actor, but let me tell you this my friend, he’s no Mister Magoo.
Happy Holidays to all, and to all a good-night!