03 December 2008

The Best Christmas Movies

I like classics and understatement. So my two favorite Christmas movies are a lot older than me, and both are quite restrained, compared to more recent beat-them-over-the-head fare like The Santa Clause and such. I've seen almost all the holiday movies in recent memory and in my opinion, they don't match my two favorites for quality, production value, and message. Both have been re-made at least once, and one of them several times. But the remakes just aren't as good. I can't decide which of these two I like more. I think I like them equally well, for different reasons. So on the assumption that few of my blogmates have seen the great originals, let me pass on a couple of recommendations.

First is the 1951 black & white version of A Christmas Carol starring Alastair Sim. Faithful to the original Dickens story, it has a little bit of the schmaltz that sometimes shows up in movies from that era, but overall it is a very compelling production and the best of all the film versions of this story. It is not all touchy-feely. It deals with serious issues. There are no song & dance numbers. Parts of it scare my kids. But the seriousness at times makes the redemption at the end all the more wonderful. You can see that it really is a “mighty change of heart”, which is what the Savior's message is all about.

Second is the original 1948 version of The Bishop's Wife with Loretta Young, David Niven, and Cary Grant. Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston should spend time in purgatory for their recent dismal remake called “The Preacher's Wife” which was way dumbed down. In a story set just before Christmas, Niven plays an Episcopalian bishop trying to raise money for a new cathedral. In response to his prayer for guidance, God sends an angel (Cary Grant) who reveals his identity only to Niven. They don't get along very well, and the angel ends up falling in love with the bishop's wife (Young). Everyone but the bishop marvels at the angel's knowledge and experience and are baffled by the little miracles he works here and there. There is a wonderful bit of music by the kind of boy's choir that's unknown today in a neighborhood church. I won't tell you how it all resolves, you'll have to watch it for yourself. But the very last scene is one of the most touching and sweet I've ever seen and I never tire of watching it. Hint: it mentions “tolerance” specifically as one of the “shining gifts that make peace on earth.”

Buy both. You won't be disappointed. And let me know what you think.

5 comments:

Bravone said...

Thanks for the suggestions Alan. I will check them out. I have always liked "It's a Wonderful Life."

Z i n j said...

Thanks Alan & Braveone for the suggestions. I like the WW2 movie where the Americans & Germans must call a truce on Christmas shosted by a German Family. I don't know what its called?

Alan said...

@Bravone:

Of course It's A Wonderful Life is a perennial Christmas favorite for countless people. But I have just enough of the contrarian streak in me to sidestep it primarily for that reason. Not dissing the movie or your enjoyment of it at all. I'm just the type that likes taking the road less traveled by, even with Christmas movies, I guess. I also avoid all franchised restaurants when traveling, prefer independent B&Bs to name brand hotels, and refuse to say Amen at the end of prayers or talks if I've heard something I disagree with. Call it principle. ;-)

Bravone said...

You ornery bugger. I knew I was taking a risk mentioning my movie. I almost apologized at the time, but decided I was in a safe environment :)

Beck said...

"The Bishop's Wife" is a classic in our house, too, though I feel David Niven is way too snippy and I don't like him when he's on the screen (except when he gets stuck in the chair). But, ice skating with Cary Grant and Loretta Young is pure magic!

"Miracle of 34th Street" has been done and redone in recent horrible redos of the original, but you can't beat Natalie Wood as a kid who becomes a true believer!

I love the greasy spoon joints along the road instead of the standard restaurant chains. FYI: The best Chinese food ever in this world is in a hole-in-the-wall place in Cardston, Alberta of all places, where no one speaks English and you have to just point to an item on the menu and hope for the best. Their egg rolls are to die for!