HOLIDAY VIEWING

Soon I’ll write about Black Swan and True Grit (liked them both), but before writing about current releases, I’m motivated to revisit my recent, snowbound holiday viewing.

Heavy reliance on Turner Classic Movies led to some predictable highs and some shocking lows.  First, let’s spend a few sentences on the highs.

Most people seem to put It’s A Wonderful Life high on the list of Christmas favorites (see post below), but there is another Capra classic with a holiday setting:  Meet John Doe.  I had forgotten how dark this film is.  I watched Mr. Deeds Goes To Town last week, too.  Both have Depression themes, cynicism about the rich and powerful, and Gary Cooper.  Watching Meet John Doe on the afternoon of Christmas Eve added a bit to the poignancy of the film.

Later that day, I came home from a Christmas Eve party and decided to do a bit of DVR maintenance before going to sleep.  I’m not keen on musicals as a genre (yes, there are a few I love, but that’s a topic for another post), but I felt an obligation to finally watch Meet Me In St. Louis all the way through.  It’s terribly episodic in a way that doesn’t work for me and – sorry to those of you who love it – not engaging.  Even watching the Christmas finale at Christmas didn’t help me connect with this film.

Christmas Day, after a family breakfast and subsequent trip to see True Grit at the cinema, I hunkered down with The Lion In Winter, an unusual Christmas film but always intriguing and driven by powerful performances.

I also watched two Christmas movies I’ve never heard of before, and I have a suspicion why I’ve never heard of them:  they’re weak.

Remember The Night stars Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck and was filmed in 1940, four years before they co-starred in the classic film noir Double Indemnity (see it if you haven’t!).  She’s a shoplifter, he’s a prosecuting attorney, and they fall in love.  It’s really much weirder than I have described, especially the final scene that is so strange I couldn’t buy for a nanosecond.  My jaw dropped when I realized that jailhouse scene was the end of the movie.

Even worse is Susan Slept Here from 1954.  An Oscar statue is one of the characters (really, it has dialogue) in this mess of a movie in which a 35-year-old screenwriter (Dick Powell) falls in love with a 17-year-old juvenile delinquent (Debbie Reynolds) after he marries her (but doesn’t consummate the relationship at first — in case you were wondering).  Did I mention there is a musical number presented in a dream sequence?  I kept watching from a sense of morbid curiosity, but you don’t have to follow suit.

Next year I’m back to some of my perennial favorites like Christmas In Connecticut and The Bishop’s Wife.  Sometimes it pays to play it safe.

 

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