Christmas Movies After You’ve Christmas Carol’ed, Story’ed, and Home Alone’d

Posted on December 7, 2020 at 12:50 pm

Copyright Netflix 2019
By all means, watch the classics! One of the sweetest family traditions is sharing favorites like “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “White Christmas,” “A Christmas Story,” “Elf,” “Home Alone,” and my favorite, “A Christmas Carol” (I watch the MCM, Alistair Sim, and Mr. Magoo versions every year, usually the Muppets version, too.) And then there are the TV classics like “A Charlie Brown’s Christmas,” “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” and “The Year Without a Santa Claus.”

I’ve already posted lists of lesser-known but wonderful Christmas movies. And yes, “Die Hard” is definitely a Christmas movie. Case closed.

But there should always be room for something new, and I love these:

Jingle Jangle (Netflix)

“Colorful” is not a colorful enough word to describe a fantasy movie musical so maximalist that even the title is overstuffed. The many pleasures of this overflowing Christmas stocking of a film are sure to make it a family favorite, and most likely a family tradition. Originally conceived as a musical play, it retains the liveliness of an in-person production. The exceptionally talented and appealing and nearly all-Black cast, including Phylicia Rashad, Forest Whitaker, and Keegan-Michael Key give the film a fresh perspective. The snowball scene is one of my favorites.

Klaus

This is a Santa Claus origin story, based on the books by Grant Morrison. A spoiled, selfish young man is sent to a remote village to act as postman, not to return until he has delivered 6000 letters. Striking animation, top voice talent, and a charming interpretation of the way many of our favorite traditions began make this a gem.

Dear Santa” (streaming now on Peacock and other services)

I love this documentary about the wonderful volunteers and USPS “elves” who answer kids’ letters to Santa. Schoolchildren and adults, including former beneficiaries of the program work around the clock. You won’t find a better example of giving being better than receiving than this charming and heartwarming film.

Holiday Rush (Netflix)

Romany Malco plays Rush, a popular DJ and a single dad of four. When he loses his job just before Christmas, his family has to leave their comfortable home and move back in to his old neighborhood with his aunt, played by the magnificent Darlene Love. This is a warm-hearted story about love and families and what really matters.

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Fans of this site know that “A Christmas Carol” is my favorite holiday story. This is the story of how that book came to be written, with Dan Stevens just perfect as the brilliant but harried Charles Dickens. The book, one of the most popular of all time, really did change the way people saw Christmas, with more focus on helping others, and this story of love, reconciliation, and the power of storytelling is a treasure.

And, okay, yes, they aren’t classics and they don’t make much sense or vary much from the formula, but I like Hallmark Christmas movies, and the ones on other services, too. Some of my favorites are:

“Write Before Christmas”

A recently dumped young woman sends five Hallmark greeting cards to people who have been important to her and they change the lives of the recipients and hers, too).

“The Christmas House”

The Hallmark Channel’s first movie with a gay couple — the brother of the main character and his husband — is more layered and sympathetic than the more high-profile “Happiest Season” in this story of parents famous for their Christmas decorations insisting both of their sons come home to help.

“The Princess Switch”

A Chicago baker and a European princess who happen to look identical, both charmingly played by Vanessa Hudgens, pull a switch and each finds love. The sequel adds a third look-alike!

“The Mistletoe Promise”

A travel agent and a lawyer have different reasons for dreading Christmas, so make a pact to be each other’s plus one through the holidays.

Oh, and coal in the stocking of everyone connected with “Holidate!”

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Behind the Scenes of Elf and Nightmare Before Christmas

Posted on December 6, 2020 at 10:45 am

Netflix’s entertaining “The Movies that Made Us” series has a new holiday edition called, you guessed it, “The Holiday Movies that Made Us,” with behind-the-scenes episodes about two beloved classics, Elf and The Nightmare Before Christmas. Both movies had the most improbable, even daunting production histories, with inexperienced filmmakers and skeptical studios. Indeed, the stories behind the movies are as magical as the movies themselves.

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Labor Day 2020: Thanks to Those Who Work

Posted on September 7, 2020 at 8:00 am

Today we pay tribute to workers, especially those who worked for better conditions for everyone.

Sally Field won an Oscar for “Norma Rae,” a real-life story about a courageous woman who helped mill workers form a union. It was inspired by Crystal Lee Sutton, a courageous advocate for workers’ rights.

Doris Day plays a union worker who falls for a new guy in management but doesn’t lose sight of the seven and a half cent raise the workers are bargaining for in the rollicking musical, “The Pajama Game.”

John Sayles’ “Matewan” tells the story of mine workers fighting for safer conditions.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qwEMIvDEFy4

“Harlan County USA” is a documentary about a strike by mine workers.

“Bread and Roses” is based on the real-life story of a strike by undocumented janitorial workers, with Adrian Brody as their lawyer.

https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=IrDpd4sCswY

“Salt of the Earth” was inspired by an actual miners’ strike against the Empire Zinc Co. and the cast includes real-life miners who were involved in the strike

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For Your Netflix Queue Holidays Lists

Movies for the Homebound XV: Summer!

Posted on July 7, 2020 at 8:00 am

More movies for families to enjoy at home together. This week, some great summer movies!

The Endless Summer and The Endless Summer II The classic 1966 documentary about surfing and the 2003 update are both laid-back pleasures, gorgeous beaches, rolling waves, and balance in every sense of the word. You’ll even meet the real-life Gidget. (Also try: Step Into Liquid and Riding Giants)

Gidget: Speaking of Gidget, here’s the movie that made her a sensation, with Sandra Dee as the “girl midget” who shows the boys on the beach that she can rock a surfboard. Followed by “Gidget Goes Hawaiian” and “Gidget Goes to Rome” and the Sally Field television series.

DogTown and Z Boys: This documentary (much better than the feature film it inspired), is a rare look at a history-changing moment. A bunch of kids left to themselves in a summer drought when pools were all drained turned the sleepy world of skateboarding upside down, creating not just crazy tricks but a whole new world of extreme sports.

A Goofy Movie Let’s face it. All kids think their parents are goofy. But Max’s dad is the real Goofy. And when they take a cross-country car trip together (ah, remember those?) you can imagine, they get into some goofy situations and some heartwarming ones as well.

The Inkwell More mature audiences will appreciate this story about a sweet teenager visiting Martha’s Vinyard with his family. Larenz Tate and Jada Pinkett Smith are both outstanding.

The Flamingo Kid: This is one of my very favorites. Matt Dillon stars as a kid from a lower-class family who gets a job at a posh country club. Matt Dillon and Richard Crenna are terrific.

The Parent Trap: Two girls show up at summer camp and discover they are identical twins separated when their parents divorced. Both the original with Hayley Mills and the remake with Lindsay Lohan are a lot of fun.

Roll Bounce: Another one of my favorites, this is the story of a group of kids from the poor side of town who decide to compete in a roller skate competition. Great story, great skating, great soundtrack.

The Sandlot: You can almost feel the sunshine in this beloved family classic about a bunch of kids in the neighborhood who play baseball.

The Way Way Back: A teenager and his mom visit her mean boyfriend’s summer home, and the boy finds friends at the local amusement park. Sam Rockwell has one of his best roles as a slacker with a kind heart.

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Movies for the Homebound XIV: 4th of July

Posted on July 1, 2020 at 8:00 am

No parades and picnics this year, so take some time to celebrate Independence Day with movies for the family.

Hamilton: LIn-Manuel Miranda’s blockbuster Broadway musical about Alexander Hamilton will premiere on DisneyPlus this week with original Broadway cast in honor of the 4th of July.

Independence Day Will Smith, Bill Pullman, and Jeff Goldblum star in one of the all-time great popcorn pleasures. Aliens attack the earth and it takes a quirky engineer, a plucky President, and a heroic military pilot to save the day. What does that have to do with the 4th of July? Listen to the President’s stirring pep talk.

The Patriot There are many films about the Civil War, but not many about the Revolutionary War. Mel Gibson stars in this uneven but stirring film about a farmer pulled into the rebellion.

1776 I love this film, based on the Broadway musical about the signing of the Declaration of Independence, with almost all of the stars from the acclaimed stage production, including William Daniels as the “obnoxious and disliked” John Adams, Ken Howard as a dashing Thomas Jefferson, and Howard Da Silva as Benjamin Franklin.

And don’t forget Schoolhouse Rock!

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