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Friday, November 28, 2014

Must See Christmas Movies

If you were to Google “holiday” or “Christmas” movies you would find thousands and thousands of entries.  You would also find every person who views him or herself as a movie critic giving a “top ten” list of holiday or Christmas movies.  I was astounded by the number of movies about the holidays and Christmas that were out there . . . and, I was astounded at how some of the movies even made the cut.  Like politics, everyone has an opinion . . . so, I thought I would throw my own ten cents worth into the fray.

Having a couple of granddaughters now . . . and, with another grandchild on the way . . . I have thought long and hard as to what I want to contribute to their enjoyment and edification in the area of holiday or Christmas movies.  I was hoping to come up with a “top ten” list, but I could only come up with nine . . . nine that I want to share with them.  These are the movies that touched my heart or funny bone . . . made me think . . . and, made me appreciate the deeper meaning of this time of holiness and celebration we call the holidays or Christmas.  These nine are the ones that I want my grandchildren . . . and, honestly . . . all children to see.  Since we are all children at heart I would imagine that it would include all of us.

These movies span the decades and generations.  With that in mind, I begin with the oldest to the newest:

It’s a Wonderful Life is a 1946 Frank Capra film based on a short story—The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern.  The film stars Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a man who has dedicated his life to helping others in his small community and especially keeping the local tycoon, Mr. Potter, from taking over the town.  In order to do this he has laid aside his dreams to help others.  Due to some unfortunate luck and trickery the whole thing falls apart on Christmas Eve.  George falls apart . . . he contemplates suicide . . . all is lost . . . and he and everyone else would be better off if he was dead.  Standing on the brink of suicide he encounters Clarence, his guardian angel, who shares with him another point of view.  In the end . . . well, George sees that despite it all, his is a wonderful life.

A Charlie Brown Christmas was a 1965 musical animated television special based on the comic strip, Peanuts, by Charles M. Schulz.  This simple story finds Charlie Brown depressed despite it being the holiday season.  Lucy suggests that he direct the school Christmas play . . . which, if you know Charlie Brown, is not too successful as his friends ignore and mock him.  The story touches on the themes of over-commercialization and secularism that has seeped into the Christmas season.  It serves to remind those who are watching that the true meaning of Christmas is simpler and deeper than all the glitz we see . . . it is about the birth of Jesus.  Schulz always claimed that he did not intentionally seek out to be evangelistic in his comic strip, but he also did not deny that it happened to slip in from time to time.  This is a classic that is still relevant today . . . and, the music is some of the best Christmas music ever.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas, 1966 . . . what is not to love about a show that has Boris Karloff as the narrator!  The Grinch is a grumpy and bitter individual who cannot stand the annual celebration of Christmas by the villagers of Whoville.  Sick and tired of it he decides to steal Christmas while the Whovillians sleep . . . but, it doesn’t go quite as planned and the Grinch has an epiphany . . . and, his heart grows when he realizes that Christmas is not in things, but in the hearts of those who observe and celebrate it.  Another classic!

The Little Drummer Boy, 1968, is an animated film version about the story of a little boy, Aaron, who hates all people after his family is killed.  His only friends are a lamb, donkey, and camel.  His only consolation is his drum.  Being taken in by a unscrupulous traveling show he is sold to a trio of kings who are following a star to find a newborn king.  Upon seeing the newborn child Aaron is moved to come up with a gift that he can give to this child who changes his life.  This is still one of my favorite Christmas songs . . . and, the story is wonderful.

The Littlest Angel, 1969, was a Hallmark special adapted from the book of the same title by Charles Tasewell.  It is the story of a shepherd boy living in biblical times who finds himself in heaven on his eighth birthday.  He doesn’t quite get where he is at or why he is there.  He is given a guardian angel named Patience who is to show him the joys of heaven and help him find his place.  Eventually there comes a time when he is called upon with the rest of the heavenly group to present a gift to the newborn babe sent to earth to save humanity.  Wonderful story with lots of great actors . . . Fred Gwynne (Herman Munster) plays Patience . . . Cab Calloway is Gabriel . . . E.G. Marshall is God . . . Tony Randall is Democritus . . . Connie Stevens, James Coco, and Johnny Whitaker are a few of the others who have parts in the movie.  You can’t beat the gift that the littlest angel gives in the end.

A Christmas Story, 1983.  This is one of my favorite Christmas movies . . . a classic in all sense of the word.  It is based on the short stories and anecdotes of Jean Shepherd from his book, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.  Ralphie wants a Red Rider Carbine Action 200-shot Range Model air rifle for Christmas.  All he ever hears is the warning “you’ll shoot your eye out!”  The prospects of him getting the bb-gun for Christmas looks pretty slim, but that doesn’t keep him from wishing and wanting.  This is one of those stories that strikes close to home as the adventures of Ralphie, his friends, and family strike too close to home not to make one laugh.  A wonderful escape . . . a wonderful movie.  A classic!

Ziggy’s Gift, 1982, is a 1982 animated film based on the comic strip Ziggy by Tom Wilson.  The strip is still in syndication and found in many newspapers across the world.  Ziggy, who never speaks in the film, gets a job as a street Santa on Christmas Eve . . . except his boss is a crook.  Despite the bad that comes out of the situation, Ziggy accomplishes much more good than anyone expects.  A simple story, a gentle message, and a wonderful portrayal of what Christmas could be.

Muppets Christmas Carol, 1992, is a retelling of the Charles Dickens classic, A Christmas Carol.  It is the story of an old and bitter miser’s redemption on Christmas Eve as only could be told by Jim Henson’s muppets.  From the inception of the Muppets Show I have been a fan of the loveable characters with their sarcasm and puns.  This is a punny movie . . . one of the puniest I have ever seen.  If you like puns mixed in with your Christmas, then this is the movie for you.

Joyeux Noel, 2005, this is the story of what happens on Christmas Eve in 1914 during World War I.  It is a story long forgotten by today’s generations, but one that spans all generations.  On Christmas Eve during World War I, the Germans, French, and Scottish fraternize and get to know the men who live on the opposite of a brutal war . . . it is a true lesson about humanity . . . an anti-war Christmas story.  I love this message of learning to love your neighbor.

So, there you have it.  My list of “must see” holiday/Christmas movies for my grandchildren.  I am sure that not everyone will agree with me and that is fine . . . share your list of “must see” holiday and Christmas movies and stories.  I am sure that there is no way that I have seen all of them.  I’d love to know what you think.  In the meantime . . . take a movie and check one or two of them out.  Put your ten cents worth in.

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