I have struggled with finding a topic for this week's post, as is probably abundantly clear beings that it is now Saturday. I toyed with the idea of reviewing or paying homage to one of the many Christmas movies that I have watched over the holiday break, but then I thought, "Which one?" There are so many classics: A Miracle on 34th Street (above), A Christmas Story, The Bishop's Wife, Christmas Vacation.... So many timeless gems. In all my viewing, it occurred to me that the only way to ensure that a film become an instant classic is to make it about the most festive and heart-warming of all holidays. This genre never gets old!
I could watch Christmas in Connecticut or one of the many versions of A Christmas Carol (1951 version- above) over and over again... and I do! Every year! Why is that? Why does It's A Wonderful Life continue to enchant me, even when I mouth George Bailey's every word verbatim? Everyone has a favorite film, one that they hold above all others, and which witnesses more wear and tear than the others in his or her collection, but while personal tastes differ, a soft spot for Christmas seems to be something that we all share. Whereas you may have to twist a friend or lover's arm to watch Bridget Jones's Diary or Die Hard for the 100th time, when it hits the end of December, people gather around the TV without protestation, ready to witness the re-telling of a story they know like the back of their hand.
That is perhaps the-- forgive the sentiment-- "magic" of the season. Families and friends spend all year long in separate locations and time zones, surrounded by strangers and work colleagues, and running on the treadmill of the never-ending rat race. The isolation we experience 364 days a year, and our chosen self-absorption, comes to a screeching halt but once a year. We take a vacation from the "daily grind" or the "daily grill, " take a breath, and pause to remember what it is we are rushing around for. Each other. My family is comprised of strong, interesting individuals. We are all off on our own different paths, waging personal battles and tackling different ambitions, but when the annual time comes to re-form our "team," there is a reassurance and strength. The knowledge that you are not alone, is a powerful thing.
While having family gatherings at this time of year presents its own kind of chaos-- family bickering, food malfunctions, social dysfunctions-- at the end of the day, I think we can all take a quiet moment to look at the people around us and find a moment of pride at our roots and the peace that follows. Since many of us (including myself) find trouble communicating our feelings to others, movies do it for us. Gathered before the fire or Christmas tree, watching a faithful Xmas film, we are joined. Whether we are witnessing the story of Scrooge's transformation from a Humbug to a Benefactor, or Ralphie's (above in A Christmas Story) longed for union with his desired bee bee gun, the underlying theme is "family." Whether that family consists of blood relatives or the chosen compatriots you have learned to care for more than yourself, the one gift that everyone seems able to agree on as the most important is that of love.
Bing Crosby finds love with Rosemary Clooney in White Christmas (below), the love of children saves Frosty the Snowman, and Love, Actually actually is all about love and how it tears us apart and pulls us all back together again. We allow ourselves one measly time a year to recognize this fact. One moment to be sentimental without seeming too sensitive, to watch an emotional and evocative film without having to bear the shame of watching a "chick flick." Whether loved ones prefer comedies, actions films, horror films... whether they fail to agree on a movie for movie night all year long, on Christmas the only argument seems to be: "Which should we watch first!?"
So, as the year comes to an end, we pop in a dvd that reminds us of old times and awakens aged memories, and we prepare for a whole new year of life and experience. The good news is, after another exhausting year is spent, we will always have a welcome cinematic embrace to enfold us next December. We have all prepared ourselves to kiss 2009 goodbye, and in a few days we will be kissing 2010 hello. The familiar oldies of film make the passing of time more tolerable, because we can always go back. You can go home again, at least for the holidays, if only for two hours.
I hope you all had a Merry Christmas, and I wish you the best for the coming year!!! Keep the movies rolling :)