Posts published under “Our Holiday Favorites”
ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (2011/IN THEATERS) Looking for a fun afternoon or evening outing suitable for the whole family this break season? Look no further than “Arthur Christmas,” a clever animated feature with a decidedly British accent. The film is a classic in the making. It offers tongue-in-cheek dialog and funny mash-ups of familiar films to create a movie that works for adults and children alike. Featured are several familiar voices: James McAvoy as Arthur, the youngest son of Santa; Hugh Laurie as Steve, his older brother who runs “Christmas Operations” as a high-tech enterprise these days; Jim Broadbent as the current Santa, just a place-holder really; and Bill Nighy as “Grand Santa” who remembers how it used to be. The story opens with a little girl posting her note to Santa and wondering if he really exists. Cut to the North Pole where we find Arthur replying carefully to every “Dear Santa” letter, while thousands of Elves are loading up “S-1”—the newest Star Ship Enterprise style sleigh commandeered by Steve and run in a “Mission Impossible” style on Christmas Eve. A computer voice (Laura Linney’s in fact) keeps all the various pieces “on mission” but during this particular night, one present is left out—meaning one child has been missed. And so Grand Santa and Arthur, along with their helpful wrapping Elf Bryony, take it upon themselves to deliver that last package. Plenty of fun ensues, along with some sweet “real meaning of Christmas” corny dialog, but IMHO, it all works. The film has very high production values and will remind you of “The Incredibles,” though it is a Sony Production and has no relation to Pixar. I saw it in 2D, which was just fine, but it’s easy to see that it would be spectacular in 3D. Nothing too heavy, mind you, and just enough smaltz to bring the “Christmas spirit” to every viewer. Do keep it in mind when you’re ready to get the kids out of the house!
P.S. Keep your ears sharp for some other famous voices including Eva Longoria, Andy Serkis, Dominic West, Jane Horrocks, Rhys Darby (as the “Lead Elf”), Joan Cusack, and Michael Palin (as elderly Ernie Clicker), not to mention Imelda Staunton as “Mrs. Santa.”
While we take a well-deserved break for the next few days, please enjoy our favorite holiday movies. Add yours in the comments!
*Rebecca’s unconventional choice, The Magic Flute
*Sarah’s high camp classic, White Christmas
*Kimberly’s highbrow selection, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
We’ll be back next week to share some of our favorite posts from 2010. Cheers!
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION (DVD/1989) For some time during my teenage years, I believe I was a gigantic a-hole. Though my family is far too kind to confirm this, I have many memories of them asking me to join them for outings and deeming myself far too cool (ie, lazy) to join them. One such evening came in 1989, when they decided to see a movie together—a rare event. I remember deciding to stay home in a spontaneous fit of annoyance, then watching them shrug and head out (without even begging me to join them! Not a single tear!). I went through the many stages of teen grief: disbelief, self-righteousness, self-pity, hunger, and finally, stinging regret. Anyhoo, eventually they returned, The Little Mermaid (ew) having sold out, with tickets for National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Having entered the stage of relief/gratitude, I graced them with my presence. Good choices all around! Read more »
WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954) So it’s Christmas. And the smash hit musical you produce with your business partner is on hiatus. What else is there to do but follow a singing sisters act to a Vermont inn, organize a last-minute reunion of your WWII platoon, and put on a play? This is the mother of all Christmas movies, starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Vera Ellen, and a slim and lovely Rosemary Clooney. What was at the time, I’m sure, a completely straightforward offering of holiday fun has morphed into high camp, an artifact from a time long past when ladies floated around in peignoirs and matching fur-trimmed robes and the people sitting up all night in the dining car of overnight trains were happy, successful singers and dancers enjoying milkshakes instead of some unfortunate homeless-looking guy who just barfed on himself and smells like pee. Or when be-turtlenecked crooners singing bedtime songs to ladies over midnight snacks of liverwurst sandwiches and warm milk seemed totally romantic. Even the trenches of World War II get the nostalgia treatment in the hands of these happy people, in the form of a musical number (“Gee, I wish I was back in the army!”). Try to imagine a time when Bing Crosby was considered a heartthrob, and I think you’ll start to get the idea. My family watches this every year. And yes, we know all the words to all the songs and yes, it makes holiday visitors visibly uncomfortable when we all sing along and YES, this only makes it more hilarious. The costumes and sets, the insane choreography of the dance numbers, the sweet and ridiculous plot contrivances, the genuinely talented and funny cast – so much to love! Netlflix it this holiday and give in to the fun.
THE MAGIC FLUTE (Trollflöjten, 1975, Swedish TV) Ingmar Bergman creates a light-hearted, beautiful and very sweet version of Mozart’s The Magic Flute in this lovely film from 1975. I saw it in the theater around Christmas when it first came out and so I remember it fondly as a holiday film. When my children were young, I rented it and made them watch it (opera! horrors!) on New Year’s Eve one year. I think they liked it. Bergman, who evidentally loved this opera as a youth, offers it to us through the eyes of a young boy in the audience. There is a stage and it is absolutely the opera. If you like The Magic Flute, you’ll love this cast. Papageno will remind you of Sam Gamgee the Hobbit—loveable and huggable. Tamino is very handsome, making the perfect hero of the piece. And the Queen of the Night is not only an incredible soprano, but she is beautiful—stunning, in fact.
Available from Amazon (Criterion Collection). Also available on Netflix. A great holiday treat. Enjoy!