Having tipped my hat to Terry Pratchett’s Hogfather, it crossed my mind that, at a time we weary of perpetual showings of It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story, there must be wonderful, little-shown, unsung holiday films out there just begging for an audience!
Now, don’t get me wrong: I think both of those flicks are classics and for good reason.
But, being a bit of a cinephile, I thought I’d toss a few other chestnuts onto the hearth. So, for your consideration, I suggest:
- The Lion in Winter – a brilliant domestic drama in royal trappings (and perfect reminder to be nice to each other around the Yule table!). Peter O’Toole & Katharine Hepburn are stellar.
- A Christmas Carol (a k a Scrooge)  – with Alistair Sims. The best of the best versions to this viewer’s eyes.
- The Dead – an exquisite rendering of James Joyce’s short story. The last film John Huston made, with Anjelica Huston and Donal McCann. Set at a Yuletide feast, it is a luminous tale of love and loss in Dublin in the early 1900s.
- The Mouse & His Child – a quirky animated film which starts at Christmas and follows our titular characters (two wind-up toys) through a year of hardship and joy in their existential quest to become “self-winding.” Not to everyone’s taste, but one I enjoy.
- In Bruges – Colin Farrell is his usual complicated self in this tale of two hit men holed up in Bruges (Belgium) over the holidays after Colin botches a hit, killing a child in the process. It may seem odd fare for the season, but is, at heart about the nature of goodness and redemption, which hit the Christmas points in my book.
- Joyeux Noel – a beautiful film about the spontaneous Christmas Truce on the front lines of WW I in 1914, and how it impacts the lives of 6 people, French, German, and Scottish. An indictment of war that’s almost painfully human. Also, one of Ian Richardson’s last films.
- A Christmas Tale – A French film starring Catherine Deneuve and Anne Consigny, about a fractious family gathering at Christmas to deal with, among other things, Mom’s need for a transplant. Touching and funny by turns as only the French can do.
- Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas – Jim Henson’s muppets, what more need be said.
- Peter’s Friends – Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson (she’s hysterical!) and friends, gather in the country for a week at New Years. It has a Big Chill flavor but punctuated by delicious British wit.
- A Christmas Memory – based on a Truman Capote short story and originally made for TV in 1967. with Geraldine Page, narrated by Mr. Capote, himself. This is the lyric story of a young boy and his eccentric aunt, Sook, as they go through their ritual adventure of making Christmas fruit cakes in rural South of the 1930s. A classic and very fitting for the times we’re living in.
- Oldies but goodies in no particular order (if you haven’t seen these, you should, at least once in your life!): The Bishop’s Wife; Holiday; An Affair to Remember; Come to the Stable; Shop Around the Corner; The Man Who Came to Dinner; Miracle on 34th Street; Christmas in Connecticut; Holiday Inn; Auntie Mame; The Apartment. (and more up to date: Go; Nightmare Before Christmas; Ice Storm; Shadowlands; Love Actually; Die Hard; Bad Santa; The Holiday; Perfect World; and Comfort & Joy.)
So, a few festive thoughts–a holiday share I hope you enjoy.
What are your odd and wonderful holiday favorites? Love to add to my list!