Let’s say farewell to these films for another year

So over Christmas week, as usual, I plunged into watching Christmassy stuff and emerged with my sanity intact. What can I say, I love being Christmassy at Christmas time. First, the regulars:

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1947) has Edmund Gwenn insisting he’s the one and only Santa Claus, Maureen O’Hara horrified daughter Natalie Wood believes in magic and William Frawley warning judge Gene Lockhart against declaring Santa a myth (“The toy companies are going to love you.”). Rewatching this year I was struck by the caliber of the cast, from Gwenn’s pitch-perfect Kringle to Natalie Wood’s skilled portrayal of an overly sensible little girl. “I am not in the habit of substituting for spurious Santas!”

WE’RE NO ANGELS (1955) has con-man Humphrey Bogart (“I got ten years for better looking account books than these!”), safecracker Peter Ustinov and murderer Aldo Ray (“The problem wasn’t that I asked my uncle for money, it’s how I asked him.”) save store owner Leo G. Carroll and his family from catastrophe at the hands of vicious cousin Basil Rathbone. A charmer, even though Ray’s penchant for rape (“It wasn’t that he chased the girl, it’s what happened after he caught her.”) hasn’t aged well at all. “You’re an honest man, I’m simply going to draw up your accounts to reflect that.”

SCROOGE (1970) is the musical adaptation of Dickens with an all-actor cast including Albert Finney as one of the most misanthropic Ebenezers, Michael Crawford as Cratchitt, Judith Anderson and Kenneth More as two of the three ghosts and Alec Guinness as a dour Marley. This plays up Scrooge’s tragic romance even more than most versions, probably because they get a song out of it — but I like the music, so that’s fine. “Another idol has displaced me in your heart.”

As always, TYG and I spent the post-presents period Christmas Day watching A CHRISTMAS STORY (1983) as Ralphie navigates the hazards of school bullies (“Yellow eyes! He had yellow eyes!”), writing themes, saying Fudge (“Only I didn’t say ‘fudge.’”) and soap poisoning before finally getting his hands on a Red Ryder double action BB gun with a compass in the stock. “Only one thing could have lured me away from the soft glow of electric sex.”

And then there was the new stuff I watched to fill various odd gaps in my schedule. I’d meant to include Die Hard but that’ll have to wait for December 2021.

CHRISTMAS SURVIVAL (2018) is one of those films where Christmas is an excuse for a family to come together, with a British woman, her expat sister and their families celebrating Christmas at their late parents’ farm. Inevitably this British film shows Christmas cheer getting hammered by inheritance squabbles, stoner teens, adulterous affairs and collapsing marriages. The results are enjoyable, though somehow I missed the resolution of one critical plot point. “You killed him — I hate you forever!”

OPERATION CHRISTMAS DROP (2020) has a budget-cutting congresswoman send her aide to investigate the eponymous military operation — a real-world Christmas goodwill operation that sends presents to scattered Pacific islands — in the belief the Pacific base the operation calls home can be shut down to save a few mill. Wouldn’t you know, the head guy on the operation is a charmer the aide finds Totally Obnoxious and Irritating at first — need I say more? Given this program has been around for years, treating it as a fringe idea the congresswoman has never heard of is odd; that said, adequate rom-com (I watched mostly for a friend of mine with a bit part, but I couldn’t spot him).

HOLIDATE (2020) has pissed-off Emma Roberts and golf pro Luke Bracey agree to be each other’s platonic dates for holiday events, thereby shielding Roberts from family criticism for her single status and Bracey from women getting too serious — which of course, won’t be a problem for them, right? In the spirit of Bad Santa, this has characters dropping the f-bomb, having casual hookups and smoking pot; that didn’t bother me much but it did annoy me that, like Kate and Leopold, Bracey has everything together while Roberts is a screw-up whose issues almost kill their romance. Still, adequate to fill time with; Kristin Chenowith plays Roberts’ lecherous aunt. “So you’re comparing sex with me to eating snails?”

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