Friday, December 19, 2008

More of My Favorite Holiday Movies & Music

Well, here we are again! You may recall that we left off with my recommending that you watch the 1945 version of "Christmas In Connecticut." It's my all-time Christmas favorite. But I have to tell you, I also like Holiday Inn. Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas" at the piano (He did it again in Technicolor in the movie by the same name), a great-looking set, and Fred Astaire dancing his way through a year's-worth of holiday tunes solo and/or with one partner or another. The premise is outrageous, and it's a bit worn around the edges, but the song and dance numbers make it all worth while.

I mentioned 1954's White Christmas in passing. Rosemary Clooney and Vera- Ellen (who must have had a size 2 waist) and Bing Crosby - paired this time around with Danny Kaye. While the movie itself isn't great, the Irving Berlin tunes for the most part are, including, of course, "White Christmas," and a happy little ditty called "Sisters." That said, Rosemary Clooney's commentary - (actually, I think it's a featurette) that comes with the DVD is worth the price of the rental.

This next movie isn't a movie you think of right off when you think of Christmas flicks. But it takes place during the Christmas holidays, and it's just wonderful.

It's called "While You Were Sleeping," and it's one of the movies-if not the movie that made Sandra Bullock a star. It co-stars Bill Pullman (of Accidental Tourist), and a great ensemble cast featuring folks like Peter Gallager, Peter Boyle, Jack Warden and Glynis Johns. This funny, romantic, sweet - all the things you want in a holiday movie. Beautifully written, this 1995 flick still stands up. I've seen it many times, and enjoyed it each and every time.

Love Actually is another great holiday movie. When I first saw it (on the big screen) in 2003, I thought it had a few too many love relationships to follow. By the time they covered them all, I'd forgotten who was who and what was what. But when I saw it again on the small screen, I adored it. It's one of those movies you (I) can watch again and again. Part of the reason - I think - is that it does have so much stuff packed into its 135 minutes. And part of the reason is that it's really well written. Then there's the cast - which is - perfectly cast.

The "stars" of this movie (and there are many) are all great: Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, Alan Richman, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, - they all act their socks off. This movie made me want to see what else Mr. Nighy had done (he is one of the most versatile actors on the planet). I also checked out a few Colin Firth movies I hadn't seen. I was already a fan of the others.

The supporting actors are all wonderful as well, particularly Rowan Atkinson - who is generally a bit too off the wall for my taste, but just does an amazing job here. Billy Bob Thornton is appropriately seedy, Keira Knightly looks beautiful, Laura Linney is heartbreaking, and everyone - young, old, fat, thin, - are all just a joy to watch. If you enjoy light, romantic comedies with a bit of drama thrown in for good measure, Love Actually is your kind of movie. What's more, you'll find several of today's more recognizable faces (who were then unknowns) hidden amongst the cast - including Mad Men's January Jones.

Finally, a note about a movie appropriately called, "The Holiday." While I am not a Jack Black fan, I am fond of this bright and shiny 2007 Christmas package. It's the tale of two women, one in L.A., the other just outside of London, who swap houses over the holidays. It's loaded with charm. Jude Law, Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet are all wonderful, and the children are adorable without being gooey.

So there are a few oldies-but-goodies and a couple of semi-goodies. Unfortunately, there are no Hanukkah movies - let alone good Hanukkah movies to recommend here. But then again, you never know. Someone reading this blog may just know of an obscure Hanukkah movie that's out there- even a good one. About the only recent Hanukkah anything I can think of featured Adam Sandler singing the Hanukkah song.

Which brings us to music - holiday music, during this, "the most wonderful time of the year!" Hope you'll check in as I check it all out, next time, here at picsandpans!

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