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!”

Related Tags:

 

For Your Netflix Queue Holidays Movie Mom’s Top Picks for Families

Dan Stevens and Bharat Nalluri on “The Man Who Invented Christmas”

Posted on November 29, 2017 at 4:06 pm

It was a great pleasure to interview actor Dan Stevens, who plays Charles Dickens in “The Man Who Invented Christmas” and the director, Bharat Nalluri.

Dan Stevens shared his thoughts about A Christmas Carol:

It has a lot to say about those in positions of power and wealth and influence and how they wield that in the world around them and how much they’re prepared to overlook in the society around them. That has not changed, and neither has the possibility of redemption. In Dickens’ time, though, it was very unusual to have a character that time travels and went through his own life. It’s almost sci-fi in a way the way he travels back. But also he’s able to go from the archetype of a really not very pleasant character, overnight he’s transformed. And that goes back in the history of theater and literature. You have these archetypes and they pretty much stay bad. The fatal flaw is ultimately fatal. The bad guy comes on stage and we know who he is and he stays pretty bad; he might learn a lesson but here there is more because there is redemption. He has a second chance. He goes through this transformation. It’s so epic and so full of hope that somewhere inside there must be good in this man and that gives us hope about ourselves and the people around us and the possibility of change.

And Bharat Nalluri told me how A Christmas Carol taught him the meaning of Christmas:

When he was writing A Christmas Carol, Christmas celebrations were pretty austere. He wrote a book that gave you a picture postcard idea of Christmas as a time for kindness and generosity. I think the reason it resonates over the decades upon decades and never been out of print is because it actually says something about the human condition. Personally he did invent Christmas for me. I was born in India and my parents brought me into the north of England and Christmas wasn’t a thing that was always huge in my family. I didn’t really know what Christmas but I was surrounded by people in the north of England on the Scottish border where Christmas was just huge and it was a really joyous time for people. I couldn’t quite get it because it just didn’t register with me and then when I was about 10 or 11 I read A Christmas Carol and it completely clicked. I completely got what it was. So in a weird sort of way Dickens really did invent Christmas for me. We all look back and we have this wonderful image of what Christmas should be, that combination of everything we want. We want family life, we want to be around a roaring fire, we want to be roasting chestnuts, we want to hear snow falling but we also want to be good to each other in the human spirit. It’s that combination which is combined so beautifully in Dickens’ book and which we pay tribute to in our film.

Related Tags:

 

Actors Directors Directors Interview

The Man Who Invented Christmas

Posted on November 21, 2017 at 5:24 pm

B +
Lowest Recommended Age: Middle School
Profanity: Mild language
Alcohol/ Drugs: Drinking, drunkenness
Violence/ Scariness: Ghosts, some scary surprises, child labor and abuse
Diversity Issues: None
Date Released to Theaters: November 22, 2017

Copyright 2017 Bleeker Street
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol is as much a part of the holiday as Santa Claus and decorating the tree. It was written in just six weeks and the entire first printing was sold out in five days. There are innumerable performance versions, plays, audio, and movies, even operas. It has not just become a part of Christmas celebrations; it has influenced them as well, as we see from “The Man Who Invented Christmas,” based on the best-selling book by Les Sanford.

The story is so deeply embedded in our culture that it is difficult to recognize how revolutionary it is. The idea of time travel was considered an enormous innovation in Mark Twain’s A Connecticut Yankee in King Arthur’s Court, published more than 40 years later, but Dickens had Scrooge go back in time to see his past. It is based on the idea that a man could change and would want to change based on an honest look at his childhood trauma and choices made over the years, half a century before Freud. “The Man Who Invented Christmas” gives us a sometimes light-hearted but always warm-hearted look at the man who created Ebenezer Scrooge and the Ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future. We see how the story came together based on what Dickens saw and felt and how writing the story helped him to understand and reconcile his own past.

Dickens (Dan Stevens of “Downton Abbey” and “Beauty and the Beast”) is one of the most critically acclaimed and popular authors in the world, touring America to cheering audiences. Or he was, until he had three flops in a row, just as bills are mounting for renovations on his house, his wife tells him their fifth child is on the way, and his charming but feckless and irresponsible parents arrive for a visit. He desperately needs money, but worries that he is completely out of ideas. His hand remains poised over the paper, its only mark a blob of ink that drops from the feather pen to reproach him because no words are appearing.

It is always difficult to portray the work of a writer because it is all internal and you run the risk of boring the audience with scenes of someone sitting at a desk. Director Bharat Nalluri, working from a script by Susan Coyne, wisely takes our hero out into the world and we have the pleasure of seeing the hyper-alertness artists bring to the world. Whether it is jotting down the name of the waiter (Marley), eavesdropping on the new maid telling ghost stories to his children, watching his young nephew, whose leg is in a brace, or listening to complaints about the poor from a wealthy man exiting the theater, Dickens is constantly creating his characters from life. And when he conjures them up, he makes them real for himself before he makes them real to the reader. Christopher Plummer first appears as a lone mourner at a burial, sharply reminding the clergyman that he isn’t paying by the hour so there’s no reason to drag out his remarks. And then he reappears in Dickens’ wonderfully vivid imagination as Scrooge.

This is not the gritty, grimy Victorian world we have seen in many films, including those based on Dickens’ books. Nalluri echoes the magic lantern shows Dickens’ father enchanted him with as a child in the glowing colors of wintry London. As he did in “Miss Pettigrew Lives for a Day,” he shows a deft skill in moving a large, colorful cast in and out of the story, maintaining a slightly heightened, romantic, but still grounded tone. Stevens holds the center together ably, often on the edge of being frantic but with a joy in storytelling. One especially sweet scene has him delighting his children with the same imagination that continues to thrill audiences and makes this lightly fictionalized peek at him filled with charm and delight.

Parents should know that this movie includes some mild language, mention of pregnancy, drinking and drunkenness, and some child labor and abuse and bullying.

Family discussion: What people and situations around you can inspire your stories? Why did he change his mind about his father? Whose burden can you lighten?

If you like this, try: the many films of the story, especially the Muppet, Mr. Magoo, Alastair Sim, and MGM versions.

Related Tags:

 

Based on a book Based on a true story movie review Movies -- format Movies -- Reviews
THE MOVIE MOM® is a registered trademark of Nell Minow. Use of the mark without express consent from Nell Minow constitutes trademark infringement and unfair competition in violation of federal and state laws. All material © Nell Minow 1995-2024, all rights reserved, and no use or republication is permitted without explicit permission. This site hosts Nell Minow’s Movie Mom® archive, with material that originally appeared on Yahoo! Movies, Beliefnet, and other sources. Much of her new material can be found at Rogerebert.com, Huffington Post, and WheretoWatch. Her books include The Movie Mom’s Guide to Family Movies and 101 Must-See Movie Moments, and she can be heard each week on radio stations across the country.

Website Designed by Max LaZebnik