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Nothing like Christmas to test our fragile American psyches.
While times remain hard for millions of us, stores have amped up the gift-giving hype because, well, they’ve been hit by hard times, too. What better way to make up for a hard year than by sending us the message that if we really, really care for someone...kaching! Guilt makes the sales soar, si?
This season’s not for amateurs. We wrap up more than gifts; we wrap up our year. We might stare at our Christmas tree and find big empty spaces. We might sit for our holiday dinner and find more empty spaces – loved ones away or maybe gone forever.
Like I said, it’s not for amateurs.
Still, I love this season. I love Christmas. I’m a Christian. That helps, but it’s not necessary. And I don’t mean to minimize my faith or the faith of more than a billion others, but Christmas offers, if we’ll accept it, something we each deserve – a respite; a time-out where we can quiet the chatter in our heads and hearts. So I’m offering this simple phrase to kids from one to 92: Check your troubles at the door and check out one of “My Ten Fave Holiday Flicks.”
No. 10: “Scrooged,” Bill Murray, 1988. Most every Christmas movie anymore either retells “A Christmas Carol,” or “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Scrooged, obviously, fits the former, and I’m fairly certain this is the only list on which you’ll ever find this little gem.
Few things scream “love Christmas!” like the Ghost of Christmas Present, played by the wonderful Carol Kane, banging Murray in the head with a frying pan.
No. 9: “Miracle on 34th Street,” Elizabeth Perkins, Dylan McDermott, Richard Attenborough, Mara Wilson, 1994. The late John Hughes’ remake changed little of the 1947 original. The opening scene says it all: dogs and children know who Santa is. Tru dat. Perkins is no Maureen O’Hara, but really, who is?
No. 8: “A Christmas Story,” Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon, Peter Billingsley, 1983. The Red Ryder BB-gun movie. Billingsley’s precocious. I’m not a precocious fan, but McGavin was a cynical dad’s dad. I love cynical Christmas-loving dads.
No. 7: “A Christmas Carol,” George C. Scott, 1984. You and I know you don’t win a war by dying for your country; you make the other son-of-a-blank, er, wait. That’s Scott as Patton. Brilliant. But this is the best film version of Dickens’ tale, and, yes, Scott’s brilliant as Scrooge.
No. 6: “Miracle on 34th Street,” Maureen O’Hara, John Payne, Edmund Gwenn, Natalie Wood, 1947. Our Creator created Gwenn specifically to play Kris Kringle. And Maureen O’Hara is virtuoso as the stunning, no-nonsense Irish single mother.
No. 5: “One Magic Christmas,” Mary Steenburgen, Harry Dean Stanton, 1985. This is a retelling of Wonderful Life. Casting Stanton, a harmonica-playing cowboy, as the angel sent to show Steenburgen the light was inspired.
No. 4: “Holiday Inn,” Bing Crosby, Fred Astaire, 1943. Astaire dances; Irving Berlin introduces “White Christmas”; the singer gets the girl. Perfection.
No. 3: “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” Steve Martin, John Candy, 1987. Hughes makes my list again. Go figure. Try not to laugh as Candy’s fingers dance across the dashboard as he pretends to play the piano to Ray Charles’ “Mess Around,” or cry when we find him alone in a commuter train terminal. Hughes understood compassion.
No. 2: “A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965) and “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (1966). Technology and science were going to make our lives better, more peaceful, remember? Yet, a pair of 45-year-old cartoons remind us what truly feeds our souls and warms our hearts. Let Stephen Hawking figure that one out.
No. 1: “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers, 1946. Think you don’t make a difference? Please think again.
God created us to love and be loved. Rejoice.
N.M. News Services