Holiday Favorites

Discuss films and filmmakers of the 20th century (and even a little of the 19th century). Threads may contain spoilers.
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Michael
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:09 pm

#1 Post by Michael » Mon Nov 14, 2005 8:49 am

I always keep my eyes open for undiscovered holiday films. Last year I discovered The Shop Around The Corner. For a holiday film that old, the Lubitsch film is surprisingly subtle without getting mushy and Jimmy Stewart is fantastic as usual. During my recent visit to DVDBeaver, Christmas in Connecticut's review came up. I simply couldn't resist the fact that Barbara Stanwyck is in it so I'm going to pick up the DVD.

For Thanksgiving, I find myself watching a couple of Woody Allens - Broadway Danny Rose (which perfectly captures the chilly November air of NY) and of course Hannah and Her Sisters. Driving Miss Daisy also makes a very lovely Thanksgiving viewing. The closing shot of Miss Daisy and Hoke with the Thanksgiving pie never fails to move me tremendously. Beautiful story. I recently picked up Pieces of April which I haven't seen yet.

A Christmas Story remains my #1 favorite Christmas film for years and years. It's so damn funny and wicked. I like It's a Wonderful Life for an unusal reason. Coming from an Italian background, I pick up loads of old-fashioned Italian sensibilities that give so much life and charm to this film even though the town and its folks are American. I grew up watching many black & white Italian films on a small TV with my grandparents and there is not much difference between those films and It's A Wonderful Life. A lot of folks find the film unexpectedly dark (suicide, etc) which is so typical in old Italian films. After all, Frank Capra came from southern Italy. Auntie Mame, All That Heaven Allows and the always feel-good Moonstruck are the other films that I love watching during the holiday season. A Charlie Brown Christmas and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (the Burl Ives version of course) are also my favorites mainly because I adore them so much as a kid.

My partner adores Ron Howard's The Grinch which I totally hate. One of the worst films (holiday or not) ever made.

Any more undiscovered holiday gems out there?

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dekadetia
was Born Innocent
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#2 Post by dekadetia » Mon Nov 14, 2005 9:03 am

Holiday Inn, the Irving Berlin/Bing Crosby/Fred Astaire picture which features the debut of Crosby's now-famous recording, "White Christmas." Fun song-and-dance numbers, excepting maybe the one done in blackface (such is the period), a few nice tugs at the heartstrings, and a just-corny-enough premise are perfect to put me in a sentimental mood at Christmas or any other holiday, really, since the film plows its way through a lot of them. Oh, and in one number, Astaire does a dance with firecrackers on his shoes or popping all over the floor around him or something -- wonderfully insane stuff. This was later remade as White Christmas, but seek out the original; I just picked it up as a 2-for-1 with Going My Way for $12.

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#3 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Mon Nov 14, 2005 10:04 am

Michael wrote:Any more undiscovered holiday gems out there?
Well, as far as Thanksgiving goes, the movie I always end up watching is Home for the Holidays, which is a very funny comedy directed by Jodie Foster and stars Holly Hunter as a single mom who travels back home to spend Thanksgiving with her dysfunctional family (Charles Durning and Anne Bancroft play her parents) and the ensuing chaos that results when everyone gets back together. Robert Downey Jr. plays her gay brother and pretty much steal every scene he's in (altho, Geraldine Chaplin gives him a run for his money as the nutty aunt) and gets some of the film's best lines. It's a good comfort movie without being too schmaltzy. The writing is good and the whole cast is excellent (even Steven Guttenberg!) with lots of great little moments (also David Strathairn has a memorable cameo). Definitely worth checking out.

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Michael
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:09 pm

#4 Post by Michael » Mon Nov 14, 2005 10:18 am

Home for the Holiday is so hilarious. My favorite part is when the whole turkey falls all over the "Republican" sister and she stands up screaming at her brother "You c--ks--ker!" when the parents have no idea that he's gay. Geraldine Chaplin is absolutely wonderful in every scene.

There is a French Christmas film called La Buche. I hope that I'm not the only one who finds it a terrible mess.

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Mr Sausage
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#5 Post by Mr Sausage » Mon Nov 14, 2005 12:44 pm

Michael wrote:Any more undiscovered holiday gems out there?
Black Christmas

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#6 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Mon Nov 14, 2005 1:35 pm

Michael wrote:Home for the Holiday is so hilarious. My favorite part is when the whole turkey falls all over the "Republican" sister and she stands up screaming at her brother "You c--ks--ker!" when the parents have no idea that he's gay. Geraldine Chaplin is absolutely wonderful in every scene.
That is a pretty good one. One of my faves is the story Robert Downey Jr. tells about Leo's nose getting mangled only to segue into insulting Hunter's character. Downey's expressions in that scene kill me everytime.

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Gregory
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#7 Post by Gregory » Mon Nov 14, 2005 3:04 pm

Thanks for the reminder about Black Christmas. I thought Deathdream was outstanding and have been meaning to see more of the films Bob Clark made before his career went to shit (with the exception of A Christmas Story).
Also, I've been curious about Moonstruck after seeing only part of it many years ago. However, it's currently only available as a pan & scan DVD from MGM. I thought I'd mention that as a warning to anyone thinking of buying it.

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cdnchris
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#8 Post by cdnchris » Mon Nov 14, 2005 4:54 pm

The Christmas movies I have to watch are Christmas Story, Christmas Carol (with Alistair Sim), Miracle on 34th Street (original), plus I also have to watch Christmas Vacation ("Merry Christmas! Shitter was full!") and Scrooged, which are my holiday guilty pleasures. Bad Santa and even The Ref will make it on there, too.

I also have to watch the animated How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and if I can find it on TV, Mickey's Christmas Carol, and the Charlie Brown one.

Plus, if I'm really digging for movies with Christmas themes, I'll even throw in Die Hard 1 & 2, as well as Lethal Weapon.

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Fletch F. Fletch
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#9 Post by Fletch F. Fletch » Mon Nov 14, 2005 5:05 pm

Gregory wrote:Also, I've been curious about Moonstruck after seeing only part of it many years ago. However, it's currently only available as a pan & scan DVD from MGM. I thought I'd mention that as a warning to anyone thinking of buying it.
I love that movie. Every so often TCM shows it letterboxed if that helps at all.

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Michael
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:09 pm

#10 Post by Michael » Mon Nov 14, 2005 5:56 pm

Regarding to Moonstruck DVD, can someone please explain this comment from an Amazon customer:
GOOD NEWS AND ALTERED COMMENTS!! BUY IT, BUY IT, BUY IT!!! "Moonstruck" is a fabulous modern comedy/romance, a classic!! I LOVE this film, and you will, too!

I had complained in my previous comment about the lack of widescreen theatrical release format in the previous release of this film, but I have just received word straight from the horse's mouth (MGM, via e-mail at their website) that the re-release of 'Moonstruck' on DVD (Nov.) will be available in either full-frame or (finally!) widescreen. AND they told me, in answer to my direct question, that 'Moonstruck' was shot in a full-frame 1.33:1 aspect ratio; theatrical presentation was 1.85:1. (Huh?)

I found out that most 1.85:1 aspect ratio movies are actually shot in a 1.33:1 aspect ratio, with the intention that the top and bottom of the frames will be trimmed (matted) for 1.85:1 widescreen theatrical presentation. The cinematograper and director frame the shots with this in mind. The result of this is that the movie can be transferred easily to video without doing a pan-and-scan treatment of the photography for full-framed TV presentation. In other words, you're not missing anything in the full-screen framing. This is much preferred by the director, but still not ideal.

In fact, you get MORE than the director and cinematographer intended you to see, so the framing of the shots is a bit tall, less subject-focused than intended for cinematic presentation. This is by far a better compromise than a pan-and-scan transfer: rather than losing portions of the picture and ruining the framing, you just get some extra film that the director considers superfluous. It's still a compromise, and as you watch the film, it could mean the difference between a great shot and merely a good one.

So I personally still prefer theatrical release format, but I don't begrudge those who dislike widescreen their full-frame option, especially if they're not missing parts of the picture. I must say though that it surprises me how many people out there are bothered by widescreen movies on the normal 1.33:1 television. You get used to it quickly, unless you LET it bother you. (Have you noticed all the commercials and TV programs shot in widescreen recently? You probably haven't, so look for them!) As an owner of only a 27" TV (new), and a 20" before that, I say you can enjoy widescreen on TV!

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TomReagan
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#11 Post by TomReagan » Mon Nov 14, 2005 9:08 pm

Same two every year -- The Shop Around the Corner and The Ref.

Interestingly enough (to me anyway), I have been developing a new tradition of watching Eyes Wide Shut around Christmas as well.

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zedz
Joined: Sun Nov 07, 2004 7:24 pm

#12 Post by zedz » Mon Nov 14, 2005 10:27 pm

TomReagan wrote:Interestingly enough (to me anyway), I have been developing a new tradition of watching Eyes Wide Shut around Christmas as well.
There are a few 'incidental' Christmas movies like this. Brazil also springs to mind.

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porquenegar
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 7:33 pm

#13 Post by porquenegar » Mon Nov 14, 2005 10:28 pm

Meet me in St. Louis has a very good Halloween scene and a sublime Christmas scene "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas". I think there may be a Thanksgiving scene in there too.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles is a good Thanksgiving film.

As previously mentioned, Christmas Vacation is great. The lowbrow portion of my brain finds it hilarious. Squirrel!!!

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denti alligator
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#14 Post by denti alligator » Tue Nov 15, 2005 12:04 am

My (fairly recent) tradition around Xmas is to watch Fanny & Alexander on Xmas Eve and Plan 9 From Outer Space on Xmas day. The latter has no connection to the holiday--it's just a tradition.

milkcan
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#15 Post by milkcan » Tue Nov 15, 2005 12:30 am

Blast of Silence (1961) is going to be a film I'll get attached to during the holiday season, with its wonderful 1960s NYC locales (all real, and shot on the street). Baron's film is the perfect antithesis to everything good-natured and merry.

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Andre Jurieu
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#16 Post by Andre Jurieu » Tue Nov 15, 2005 1:05 am

TomReagan wrote:Interestingly enough (to me anyway), I have been developing a new tradition of watching Eyes Wide Shut around Christmas as well.
Ditto - usually a few days before Christmas. Along with the standard Charlie Brown Christmas and It's a Wonderful Life on Christmas Eve, I also usually find time to watch Kane in between the 25th and 31st. I'm pretty sure it's because of Welles' use of snow and the fact that Thatcher bellows "... and a Happy New Year!"

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Lino
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#17 Post by Lino » Tue Nov 15, 2005 4:53 am

Fanny and Alexander and Bad Santa do the trick for me in that they satisfy both sides of me: the serious and the laid-back one.

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Michael
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:09 pm

#18 Post by Michael » Tue Nov 15, 2005 9:08 am

Kinjitsu wrote:
but why bother writing such gibberish in the first place?
Are you referring to that Amazon comment? Just wanted to bring this up because Gregory wrote something about the Moonstruck DVD being pan & scan, etc.

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Michael
Joined: Wed Nov 03, 2004 12:09 pm

#19 Post by Michael » Tue Nov 15, 2005 9:10 am

As for New Year, for some reason I find myself reaching the DVD of All About Eve - a gloriously cynical and cold film. Maybe it's because Bette Davis plays the best drunk woman of all cinema. All About Eve has my all time favorite party scene - so great, funny, sad, scary all at once. And there's something about Bette Davis that I couldn't even elaborate on.. you just have to experience her - wearing that fur coat, walking down the cold, smoky Manhattan streets. All About Eve will never slip away from my top ten list of favorite films.

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carax09
Joined: Thu Nov 04, 2004 2:22 am
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#20 Post by carax09 » Tue Nov 15, 2005 11:13 am

Michael wrote:Kinjitsu wrote:
but why bother writing such gibberish in the first place?
Are you referring to that Amazon comment? Just wanted to bring this up because Gregory wrote something about the Moonstruck DVD being pan & scan, etc.
I think Kinjitsu meant that the "amazon customer" could have written with a little more concision, and also tried not to come off as such a cheerleader for MGM/Sony. As we all know they don't deserve it.

As for the DVD in question, it appears to be a non pan-and-scan fullscreen presentation. This means that a decision was made to shoot the film in Academy ratio (1.33/1) rather than widescreen. When this is done in the modern era, it is usually either because the filmmaker's primary target audience will be viewing on television, OR the filmmaker has made a conscious choice to evoke the pre-widescreen era of film (or television). Also, some filmmakers prefer the Academy ratio in that it more closely resembles a painter's canvas. Wasn't it Lang who said that Cinemascope was only good for filming snakes and funerals?

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flambeur
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#21 Post by flambeur » Tue Nov 15, 2005 11:50 am

...and if you're in the mood for a b-movie classic:

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians


No joke, Ed Wood would be proud.

Happy Holidays!

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Gregory
Joined: Tue Nov 02, 2004 4:07 pm

#22 Post by Gregory » Tue Nov 15, 2005 3:29 pm

carax09 wrote: As for the DVD in question, it appears to be a non pan-and-scan fullscreen presentation. This means that a decision was made to shoot the film in Academy ratio (1.33/1) rather than widescreen. When this is done in the modern era, it is usually either because the filmmaker's primary target audience will be viewing on television, OR the filmmaker has made a conscious choice to evoke the pre-widescreen era of film (or television). Also, some filmmakers prefer the Academy ratio in that it more closely resembles a painter's canvas. Wasn't it Lang who said that Cinemascope was only good for filming snakes and funerals?
OK, my comment that it's a pan-and-scan DVD was slightly off. According to some it's simply cropped. One reviewer contacted MGM and was told that it is open matte. Of course, films presented open-matte on video are usually cropped on the sides as well in order to get a full 1.33:1 ratio.
It certainly does not follow from the fact that a DVD is presented in a non-pan-and-scan 1.33:1 that the filmmaker chose to shoot it that way. Of course there are some modern filmmakers who use 1.33:1, but when the studio decides to release a movie in full-screen that was originally projected in a wider ratio it's nearly always a decision that has nothing to do with the filmmakers' intentions and everything to do with catering to consumers who don't care about ratios and just want to avoid the black bars. If they don't want to spend the money to pan and scan it they simply crop the sides off consistently or use open matte. According to a review I read, MGM said they did this believing that the majority wanted full-screen and not wanting to invest the money in releasing both options. I stand by my statement that this release is not in the theatrical aspect ratio, and while I have not made a comparison of this film I believe that open matte almost always looks worse than the correctly matted composition.

rgross
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#23 Post by rgross » Tue Nov 15, 2005 6:36 pm

Here's a couple that have not been mentioned.

The Miracle of Morgan's Creek finale takes place on Christmas Day. It's a scream to watch after a Christmas dinner.

Woody Allen's Radio Days is a great choice for New Years Eve.

"Beware evil doers wherever you are"

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subliminac
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#24 Post by subliminac » Tue Nov 15, 2005 7:52 pm

flambeur wrote:...and if you're in the mood for a b-movie classic:

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians


No joke, Ed Wood would be proud.

Happy Holidays!
The MST3K version! Lentils.
Last edited by subliminac on Tue Nov 15, 2005 11:06 pm, edited 1 time in total.

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carax09
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#25 Post by carax09 » Tue Nov 15, 2005 9:09 pm

Alright, Gregory, you got me there. What I meant was that in cases where we know that the filmmaker's intention for the ideal representation of their film is 1.33:1, these may be the reasons for that. I certainly believe that in an ideal world the studios would at least provide that preference as an option to the consumer, instead of simply following the dictates of their market research. MGM is probably the worst. I just had to suffer through their hack job on The Fugitive Kind (non-anamorphic/non-restored/non-progressive). Look, I didn't mean to misrepresent what you said or the situation, I just thought that Amazon reviewer had the inside dope that whoever made Moonstruck (Jewison?), had wanted it presented Academy.

To get back on topic here: Michael, did you get a chance to watch Christmas In Connecticut yet? I'd like to hear your thoughts on it. Somehow I've managed to let that film slip under my radar until it was announced and I am a huge fan of Stanwyck. Please post your thoughts on it when you get a chance.

ej magnani

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