Wednesday, December 14, 2011

The Rule

Theater is life.

Film is art.

Television is furniture.

Or so the T-shirt said. I’m not in complete agreement with the sentiment, some theater is crap, anyone who has seen the Hangover knows film is pretty far from art and there are a lot of good things on television, most of them from Themes TV I grant you, but still, good things do make it onto the Tube.

And we’ve entered into that portion of the television year where if you don’t know what Holiday films are worth watching you are out of luck. Sure there are going to be football games, but how many can you watch before they all blend together and become background while you sleep?

And if you don’t like football and let me be upfront, I played for twelve years, I have followed the University of Texas football team through thick and thin and I have watched pro games without putting a single bet on any of the teams. But I don’t like it any more. The game changed somewhere in the late eighties or early nineties. It’s all whose players can run under a thrown football most and that friends is boring, boring, boring.

Now there is nothing wrong with the game or those who do like that, but I’d rather watch chrome rust. It’s probably because I grew up watching Saint Darrell and the Wishbone T and followed Bam Bam McMichael from his days as a high school end to the glory days of the 46 defense when the Monsters of the Midway were knocking the offensive line five yards deep in the backfield and the Fridge was scoring on goal line plunges.

So I haven’t watched more than a quarter in the last twenty years. But I have watched a bunch of holiday movies, traditional and made-for-TV and I am going to share them with you.

Now why would he do that in a blog about art? There are two perfectly good reasons. The first is you are going to have to do something and you should at least have a chance of enjoying it and movies make wonderful presents. So settle back, get the hot chocolate going, pop some corn if you like and come with me on a Siskel and Ebert thumbs up on holiday movies.

Let’s start with the classics:

It’s a Wonderful Life

This never made much of impression on me, but the Long Suffering swears by it and they run it every year so someone has to be watching. Check out the Marlo Thomas version, It Happened One Christmas. A lot more fun than the original, but it sure does miss Lionel Barrymore.

We’re No Angels

Let’s get one thing straight, there is no other version, Humphrey Bogart, Peter Ustinov and Aldo Ray in the original along with Adolf, you’ll find out when you watch it, are the guys to get. The Robert De Niro version isn’t even the same story so just skip it and make yourself a happy camper.

The Albert Finney Scrooge

Yes, it is a musical, but don’t let that stop you and you’ll be singing “The Nicest Thing” for days after you see it. It has all of the original story, but in color and set to music and that is not at all a bad thing.

Okay, next we do newcomers

The Holiday

I’m not wild about new holiday movies and Jack Black, Cameron Diaz and Jude Law are three or the most out-of-control, over-the-top actors in the business, but they work together in this wonderful, little tale of switched residences and self-discovery. If you don’t get a bit of a wet eye when Eli Wallach makes it up the stairs, you are a Grinch of the first water.

Love Actually

Big cast ensemble films are almost always terrible, except this one. How can you not love Liam Neesom getting a shot at Claudia Shiffer? The poor guy just lost his wife, let him have the super model for heavens sake. Alan Rickman is deliciously smarmy and Emma Thompson is steadfast without over doing the stiff upper lip. Oh yes, Martine MacCutcheon plays off Hugh Grant like a season trooper and does it bother anyone else that Diana Rigg’s face is lurking on the youthful body? (Guys when you decide to film The Avengers and do it RIGHT, cast Kenneth Brannah as Steed and Martime McCutcheon as Mrs. Peel.)

Die Hard

It is too a Christmas movie and guys you missed the lead-in for the sequel, Argyle says, “If this is your idea of Christmas, I can’t wait for New Years.” Never mind. Violence and terror in a high-rise building at a Christmas party, with Bruce Willis in the white hat and Alan Rickman being so wonderfully bad you want him to get away with it. Throw in Alexander Gudunov as a mad gunman and you have one of the best thrillers of all time.


Yes, there are good movies on television. Some of the best are seasonal movies and between Hallmark and the Family channel you are going to see a ton. So why not watch the good ones.

Crazy for Christmas

Why is Andrea Roth so pissed? True, she has a hard life with the job and the kid, but to blame it all on Howard Hessman, that’s harsh. For those old enough to be drinking egg nog with benefits, Howard Hessman was Doctor Johnny fever on WKRP, nuff said.

Undercover Christmas

Jami Gertz does Jersey like no one else and with just the right touch of downtrodden pride and spunk. And what guy in his right mind would let his mother and a potential girlfriend put their heads together, even if his mother wasn’t being played by Tyne Daley? You’ll love the different turn on a holiday tale and watch this again and again.

On The Second Day of Christmas

Kids in movies give me a pain. Who wants a kid under foot and in the way when you are trying to get a mummy off your back? But I guess that’s a question for another time. This is a movie with a kid that doesn’t reek of soap or taste of saccharine. I don’t understand what Mary Stuart Masterson sees in Mark Ruffalo, but that’s why you should watch it.

There are many, many more.

Christmas on Chestnut

An American Christmas Carol

White Christmas

The Grinch (The original Boris Karloff version)

Lethal Weapon

So find some that you like or watch Hallmark, the Family Channel, Lifetime or the Lifetime Movie channel and find a Christmas film that’s right for you. Then share it with your pals by buying the DVD and giving it as a special present.

How can you go wrong? Even Dennis Franz says is Die Hard II “It’s Christmas!” No silly you have to watch it to find out where and why, but then there’s nothing wrong with watching a Die Hard movie at Christmas, just don’t get your hopes up for New Year’s Eve.

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