Happy Thursday everyone! I can’t believe it’s been five years since I participated in this weekly Thursday Movie Picks blogathon that’s spearheaded by Wandering Through the Shelves Blog.
The rules are simple simple: Each week there is a topic for you to create a list of three movies. Your picks can either be favourites/best, worst, hidden gems, or if you’re up to it one of each. This Thursday’s theme is… 2019 Releases
Well, since I am still working on my Top 10 Best of 2019 that I’m planning to post next week (as I always like to wait at least a week or two after new year before publishing), then consider this post a preview of what you’ll see either on my main list or honorable mentions. I’ll choose three that I haven’t personally reviewed it myself.
So without further ado, here are my picks:
A stage director and his actor wife struggle through a gruelling, coast-to-coast divorce that pushes them to their personal and creative extremes.
I saw this film back in October 2019 at Twin Cities Film Fest, and I still remember how much I was taken by it. Somehow I haven’t gotten around to writing a review of it, not sure why because I have SO much praise for it. Perhaps it’ll be too long of a review, ahah. If someone were to ask me my favorite film of 2019, I often say this one right away because it’s on my mind so much. I just LOVE Noah Baumbach‘s script, which I feel depicts a dissolution of a marriage in an unflinching-ly real and emotional way, with the actors performing in such a naturalistic way it’s as if I was watching the characters themselves, not a performance. I kind of have a thing for Adam Driver these days, and he’s absolutely phenomenal here (plus he sang, too!)
I actually have only seen one film he directed, While We’re Young, and while I like parts of it, I didn’t really love it. But I know I’ll be rooting for Baumbach to win Best Original Screenplay at the Oscars!
A Hidden Life
Austrian farmer Franz Jägerstätter faces the threat of execution for refusing to fight for the Nazis during World War II.
I actually just had a discussion about this film with my fellow blogger Keith who also loved this movie (check out his review of this film here). It’s definitely a return to form for Terrence Malick, which tells the true story of a conscientious objector during World War II. It’s a slow, reflective film but not-at-all boring… it’s a typical Malick film with gorgeous cinematography and long silences, but unlike his previous film Knight Of Cups (a film about a screenwriter without a script??!), this time it has such a strong emotional center. I truly felt for Franz and his wife and their struggle is so painstakingly-palpable. Truly an unforgettable film that stays with you long after the end credits roll.
Peanut Butter Falcon
After running away from a residential nursing home to pursue his dream of becoming a pro wrestler, a man who has Down syndrome befriends an outlaw who becomes his coach and ally.
One of my awesome blog contributors Holly P. has reviewed this a while back, but I had finally seen it this past weekend. Oh it’s such a delightful film and Zack Gottsagen will steal your heart. I think it’s wonderful that the film employed an actor with Down syndrome to portray a character with that condition and he did a marvelous job. I love the relationship between him and his co-stars Dakota Johnson and Shia LaBeouf, there are SO many scenes that pack such emotional wallop. It’s such a funny, uplifting film, definitely one of the best 2019 offerings. In fact, I think it should’ve gotten more awards love than some movies that got nominated recently.
What do you think of my picks? Have you seen any of them?
Everyone loves lists right, and since we’re entering a new decade, it’s a great excuse to make loads and loads of lists 😀 I’ll be working on various Best of the Decade throughout the year, and I thought I’d start with cinematography since Brittani just listed her 10 top best of 2018 over at Rambling Film blog (hey it’s also her blog 10th anniversary so head over and wish her a blog anniversary!)
I chose these images based on instinct… the one I think is the most indelible and leaves a lasting impression, as a film likely has a bunch of beautiful visuals (esp. those shot by the legend Roger Deakins!) Most of these films have the best cinematography of the decade, but I consider these images iconic in that people would likely know right away where it’s from. Now, it’s tough to whittle it down to just 10 and as we’re entering the [roaring] 20s, there’ll be plenty of Top 20s list this year.
So without further ado, here are my picks in the order of the film’s year of release:
Life of Pi (2012)
Ex Machina (2014) – dance
The Assassin (2015)
Mission Impossible: Rogue Nation (2015)
Mad Max: Fury Road (2015)
La La Land (2016)
Rogue One (2016)
Blade Runner 2049 (2017)
Shape of Water (2017)
Cold War (2018)
Black Panther (2018)
Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse (2018)
A Hidden Life (2019)
John Wick: Chapter 3 – Parabellum (2019)
Hope you enjoy my list. Now it’s your turn, what’s some of your favorite shots of the past decade?
With second part of Stephen King’s IT (It Chapter Two – check out our review) just hit theaters this past weekend and DOCTOR SLEEP later in November, I thought I should list my 5 best and worst films based on his novels. Now, I haven’t seen all of the films that were based on his books, so I don’t have any opinion on these films: CAT’S EYE, THE NIGHT FLIER, RIDING THE BULLET, 1408, DOLAN’S CADILLAC & CELL. The list contains ONLY films that were based on his novels and short stories, I’m not listing the TV movies or shows that were also based on his books.
Here are my top 5 BEST films based on King’s work:
MISERY (1990) A perfect casting of the main leads, Kathy Bates was so frightening as the obsessed fan of James Cann’s Paul Sheldon. This is one of the few films that I thought was better than the book. Don’t get me wrong, I thought the book was excellent, but I did not want to see some of the things that King wrote on the pages appear on the screen, anyone who read book knows what I’m talking about. I’m also glad they changed the infamous leg scene in the film, in the book it’s much worse than what was filmed. …
THE GREEN MILE (1999)
One of the few films that actually made me cry when I first saw it. The late Michael Clarke Duncan was perfectly cast as the gentle giant John Coffey, the wrongly accused killer. Of course, Tom Hanks was perfect as Paul Edgecomb and Sam Rockwell was stellar as Wild Bill Howell. Not as good as the novel but one of the best films of 1999. …
THE DEAD ZONE (1983) I remember reading this book when I was in 8th or 9th grade, it took me a while to finish but I loved it. I was hesitant to watch the film version but I’m glad I did. Great performances by Christopher Walken and Martin Sheen. I think the film version was a pretty faithful adaptation. …
THE MIST (2007) Minus the terrible visual effects, this was a great film about what fear can do to everyday people. I thought Marcia Gay Harden should’ve received Oscar nomination for her role as Mrs. Carmody, one of the best villain roles I’ve ever seen. I think the film’s more well known for its bleak ending. The film deserves to be talked about more as one of King’s best adaptations. …
THE SHINING (1980) The film wasn’t a faithful adaptation of the source novel but it’s a film by Stanley Kubrick, so you know he’s going to do it his way. According to King, Kubrick would constantly call him late at night to go over the script during the shoot, ironically when the film was released, King has stated that he didn’t like it. Apparently, Kubrick wanted to make a film that would be appealing to general audiences and he needed a box office hit since many of his films weren’t making any money. The film did okay box office wise but it’s now considered one of the best horror films ever made.
Now, the top 5 WORST films based on King’s work:
THE DARK TOWER (2017) Ron Howard spent many years trying to get this film to the big screen but studio executives at Universal Studios were nervous about spending hundreds of millions of dollars on a film that has mixed genres of western, sci-fi, horror and action/adventure. The rights went to Sony and they decided to give writer/director Nikolaj Arcel a chance to adapt this story based on King’s opus novels to the big screen and the results was disastrous.Like many people, I skipped seeing it at a theater but decided to rent it. I was pretty pissed when I finally saw it, I’ve been waiting to see The Dark Tower hitting the big screen for so long and what I saw was something that looked like it’s made by an amateur filmmaker. I wasn’t fan of the cast either, I think Idris Elba is a great actor but he’s not the right choice to play Roland. Mathew McConaughey as Roland’s nemesis Walter aka The Man in Black was a joke. Everything about this film was a disaster and it’s one of the worst films of the decade in my opinion. Now that Amazon has the rights to the novels, hopefully they can finally do a faithful adaptation. …
THE RUNNING MAN (1987)
Besides the title and concept, the film has little to do with King’s novel. If you look as just another silly Arnold’s action film in the 80s, it’s a decent film. But it’s based on one of my favorite King’s novels and I thought it’s pretty bad. With our current political climate, I think this film deserves a remake that stays true to the book. I would love it if a filmmaker like Chris Nolan or Ridley Scott adapts it for the big screen. …
CHILDREN OF THE CORN (1987) I remember I was pretty freaked out when I read this short story and was excited to see the film version. But the film was so boring and not scary at all. It’s one of the few films based on King’s story that I don’t remember much about. …
MAXIMUM OVERDRIVE (1986)
The only film that Stephen King himself directed (he also wrote the screenplay) based on his own story and it’s pretty terrible. According to King himself, he’s so high on cocaine while making this film that he didn’t know what he’s doing and it shows on the screen. The film was pretty incoherent, and the cast looked like they had no idea what they were supposed to do. …
NEEDFUL THINGS (1993) Not one of my favorites of King’s novels but it’s still a good read. I thought it could never translate well into film and I was right. Despite its excellent castings of Max Von Sydow, Ed Harris, Bonnie Bedelia and JT Walsh, the film has nothing going on for it. The long runtime didn’t help either, I was so bored when I rented it on home video and almost turned it off halfway through. …
So those are my 5 best and worst films based on King’s novels. I know I left out some of the more popular films like CARRIE, THE SHAWSHANK REDEMPTION, CUJO, FIRESTARTER and CREEPSHOW. I liked those films, but I didn’t think they were the best or worst.
How about you? Feel free to list your top films based on King’s novels.
Can you believe it there is just one more day until September… which means Fall is looming around the corner. Weather-wise, I do love Autumn, though I’m not ready to give up Summer just yet. But in terms of movies, Fall is jam packed with a ton of intriguing movies leading up to award season. Now, there are simply too many to include in a single post, so I’m only going to narrow things down to just movies released theatrically in the US in September & October only. So here we go in order of release:
Downton Abbey (Sept 20)
The continuing story of the Crawley family, wealthy owners of a large estate in the English countryside in the early 20th century.
Ok so I’m not a diehard Downton fan, heck I didn’t even watch the last two seasons. But I did watch enough of season 1-2 to know who everyone is, and seeing the trailer did make me want to see it! The visuals look sumptuous and having the royals visit Downton would surely bring an extra dose of drama, not that the Crawleys are ever lacking of that. I’m most excited to see Dame Maggie Smith, let’s see what sort of quotable remarks she’ll make this time around. There are new cast members added as well, Imelda Staunton and Tuppence Middleton, both I’m familiar with from various British movies.
JUDY (Sept 27)
Legendary performer Judy Garland arrives in London in the winter of 1968 to perform a series of sold-out concerts.
I’m always intrigued by biopic about tortured artists, be it a painter, actor, singer, what have you. The trailer really moved me, despite me not having seen The Wizard of Oz in its entirety (yeah I know, I know) and not knowing much about Judy Gardland. I almost didn’t recognize Renee Zellweger the first time I saw her in the trailer, sounds like a role that might nab her some kudos come award season.
The Laundromat (Sept 27)
A widow investigates an insurance fraud, chasing leads to a pair of Panama City law partners exploiting the world’s financial system.
Oh man, this is one of those movies you watch for the cast!! Yes the premise definitely sounds intriguing and it looks like a fun movie despite its serious subject matter. But man, seeing Gary Oldman (what’s with his hilarious accent!) + Antonio Banderas behaving badly w/ Meryl Streep hellbent on exposing them, yeah I’m down for this!
Plus there are a ton of great actors in supporting roles, too: Jeffrey Wright, Robert Patrick, David Schwimmer, Will Forte, Matthias Schoenaerts, James Cromwell and Sharon Stone. I didn’t know Scott Z. Burns wrote this too, which I shouldn’t be surprised as he frequently collaborates with Steven Soderbergh. I hope to catch this in the theaters before it’s released on Netflix!
JOKER (Oct 4)
An original standalone origin story of the iconic villain not seen before on the big screen, it’s a gritty character study of Arthur Fleck, a man disregarded by society, and a broader cautionary tale.
I have blogged about this film before when the first trailer hit, but I’m including it here as the second trailer just came out yesterday which got me even more excited!! It’s been revealed that this film will be R-rated, and from everything I’ve seen it certainly looks genuinely ominous and dark, promising us a thrilling, suspenseful, emotional crime drama.
Per Indiewire, apparently director Todd Philips ‘spent a full year trying to convince the studio to allow him to make the violent and edgy comic book movie. He referenced 70s R-rated adult dramas Taxi Driver, One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest, and The King of Comedy as his inspirations. Apparently it took months for the director to convince Joaquin Phoenix to do the role. Apparently he signed on after he’d play the Joker as “a complex flesh-and-blood character in shades of gray rather than a black-and-white cartoon villain.”
Parasite (Oct 11)
Greed and class discrimination threaten the newly formed symbiotic relationship between the wealthy Park family and the destitute Kim clan.
I first heard of this movie when it won the Palme d’Or at the 2019 Cannes Film Festival, the first Korean film to ever win it. I’ve only seen Snowpiercer from director Bong Joon Ho, which I think is an excellent film. There have been plenty of films about the haves and the have-nots, but this dark comedy looks like something out of the beaten path and looks visually ravishing as well.
Apparently it got a 10 mins standing ovation at Cannes, which in and of itself isn’t a guaranteed that the general public will love it, but certainly made one curious nonetheless. An original story is always a welcome respite in a sea of reboots, sequels and franchises. The trailer promises us something unique that offers plenty of mysteries to keep us guessing.
I have blogged about Jojo Rabbit in this post, which is definitely one of my most-anticipated movies coming out in October!
So any of these on YOUR list of anticipated Fall movies? Let me know which ones that you can’t wait to see!
On April 29, 2019 director John Singleton passed away after suffering from stroke. He was only 51 years old.
Singleton had a somewhat successful career in Hollywood. Even though he was the youngest film director ever to have been nominated by the Oscars for his first film BOYZ N’ THE HOOD, his career never reached the heights of some of the more well-known directors today (David Fincher, Quentin Tarantino, Spike Lee and Ang Lee) that started their careers in the late 80s and early 90s. For the last few years before his death, Singleton has been working mostly on TV shows. He’s the creator of one of my current favorite TV shows called SNOWFALL.
As a tribute to his work, I’m listing my favorite films that he directed. In no particular order, here are some of his best work. Just a side-note, I didn’t see two of his films, BABY BOY and ABDUCTION.
Boyz n the Hood (1991)
Before this film came out, not many films dealt with the tough life in the ghetto of Los Angeles. To many outsiders, it was an eye opener of what life is like living in those rough neighborhoods. The film was a critical and commercial success. Not bad for a filmmaker who was only in his early 20s. The performances by Laurence Fishburn and Cuba Gooding Jr. were pretty great.
After doing a few smaller budget films, Singleton decided to jump into a big budget studio film. A sequel to the 70s Blaxploitation films, it didn’t become the franchise starter the studio had hoped. In fact, the film was more well known for its behind the scenes dramas. According to reports, Singleton and his leading man Samuel L. Jackson constantly argue on the set. Singleton also had disagreements with the film’s producer and writer on the tone and script. So basically, it’s the usual nightmare that many young filmmakers would run into in their first big budget film.
The film opened in the summer of 2000, it did okay at the box office. Despite the difficult shoot, Singleton apparently wanted to do a sequel and tried to convince Sam Jackson to reprise the role. But Jackson was not happy with the film and also with the modest box office returns, Paramount didn’t want to invest their money on the sequel.
This might be one of the most underrated films of the 90s. A film about the horrific lynch mob attack on an African America community in 1923. For anyone who’ve never seen it, I would highly recommend it. It contains great performances by Ving Rhames, Don Cheadle and Jon Voight. When the film came out in 1997, it received mostly positive reviews but it bombed at the box office. Maybe because of this film’s failure at the box office that Singleton decided to jump into doing big budget studio films such as Shaft and Fast Furious 2.
A great performance by Janet Jackson and the late Tupac Shakur. I also loved this film’s soundtrack. This is a film I need to revisit soon since I haven’t seen since it came out over 20 years ago.
Higher Learning (1995)
This film’s about race relation in college campus is probably more relevance in today’s world than many would think back in 1994. I haven’t seen this film since I saw it on opening weekend with my friends back in early 90s, so I don’t remember much about it. I do remember that I liked it but some of the stuff that happened in the film were kind of over the top and a bit cliché. This is another one of Singleton’s work that I need to revisit.
This was Singleton’s last big-budget production film. A kind of strange action thriller that I still didn’t know how it got green lighted by the studio. The film starred Mark Wahlberg playing Mark Wahlberg. It wasn’t bad, just wasn’t that interesting and the action scenes were pretty lackluster.
John Singleton was not one of my favorite directors but he had enough talents that I thought he can make a big comeback. Sadly, we’ll never know if he could but I appreciate his films.
Rest in Peace Mr. Singleton.
What are some of YOUR favorite films by John Singleton?
Hope you all had a wonderful Christmas holiday and may 2019 bring you much joy, success and wonderful moments!
Well, it’s time for the obligatory Top 10 Films of 2018. Since there are still plenty of 2018 movies I have not seen yet, I should preface this post with the fact that I haven’t seen Roma, Cold War (seeing it tomorrow!), First Reformed, BlacKKKlansman, They Shall Not Grow Old, etc. which could easily alter my current Top 10. It goes without saying of course, that it’s my list, and there’s no formula as to how I pick them, it’s all based on instinct. Films are so personal that there’s no top 10 list is ever the same from person to person, so naturally there is no right or wrong list.
This film swept me off my feet. Yes it’s the fourth adaptation but it’s actually the first one I’ve ever seen (yes, really!) and so it felt fresh to me. I was floored by the performances of Bradley Cooper & Lady Gaga and their palpable chemistry together. It was an emotional love story that stuck with me long after the end credits, and that’s a testament to Cooper’s excellent directing (his debut no less) as well as the wonderful original songs that add so much to the movie. As I set to make my own romantic drama of my own, I so admire to see such an emotionally-rich love story portrayed on screen.
Wakanda Forever! What a phenomenal movie that happens to be a superhero film… in fact, Black Panther transcend the comic-book action movie genre and no surprise that it’s become the first of its kind to generate Oscar buzz! Chadwick Boseman led the excellent ensemble cast in a glorious journey of a man-who-would-be-king and faces an enemy worthy that matched his strength. Love all the strong, bad-ass women in this movie and appreciate that Ryan Coogler gives them a chance to shine. It’s a movie I could watch over and over, and always find something new thing to marvel at.
I didn’t realize this movie has proven to be quite divisive. I actually overheard a critic during a screening of another film talking about this movie in such a negative way, saying that the movie told a fascinating black man but focuses on the white guy instead. I actually didn’t see that way and actually think the movie offers a balanced view of how the two lives of Dr. Don Shirley and his chosen driver Tony Lip intersect and changed both of their lives forever. I love Mahershala Ali and Viggo Mortensen’s performances, perhaps one of my favorite cinematic pairing ever. I think it’s interesting that one’s upbringing might view this film differently. As a woman of color and a US immigrant, I see this as a beautiful story of friendship set during the dark times in American South ripe with racial discrimination.
I am so glad I was able to see this movie during MSPIFF before it was released publicly… AND got to chat with its writer/director Debra Granik. It’s a beautiful, restrained and graceful film about a father & daughter going ‘off the grid’ that makes you contemplate about how we approach life and our social culture. I love the quiet intensity of its leads Ben Foster and newcomer Thomasin McKenzie. I was in awe by the gorgeous, ethereal setting of the Oregon forest as the leads set off on a harrowing journey. It also boasts an ending that packs an emotional wallop without much words spoken.
It’s rare that a huge studio franchise actually gets better and doesn’t overstay its welcome. Tom Cruise never seems to age and despite his broken ankle (which you can actually witness in the movie itself!), he still delivers one of the most fun action movie that thrills from start to finish. Heck, he even hired Superman himself Henry Cavill who’s ironically much better here as a villain than as a Kryptonian hero. Glad that Rebecca Ferguson is back here reprising her role, and we’ve got yet another compelling female character thanks to Vanessa Kirby. I sure hope Cruise and writer/director Christopher McQuarrie continue to work together as it proves to be a fruitful collaboration.
I just adore this English bear, voiced so perfectly by Ben Whishaw, and his adopted family. I love how unabashedly sweet, wholesome and charming this movie is, boasted by a delightful cast including a hilariously-smarmy Hugh Grant as a washed out actor. Brendan Gleeson also provides such fun comic relief as the cleverly-named ‘Knuckles’ McGinty (classic!) I didn’t grow up with the children stories by Michael Bond, but I can’t get enough of Paddington’s adventure and its heartwarming message… ‘if we’re kind and polite the world will be right.’
7. The Rider
It’s another film I saw during MSPIFF on the big screen. It’s a sophomore feature by writer/director Chloé Zhao, starring newcomer Brady Jandreau in his breakout role. It’s an understated yet powerful character study of a man in the aftermath of a tragic riding accident. I deeply feel for his character (also named Brady) as he contemplates his life after he loses the one thing that gives him a sense of purpose. It’s an astute and exquisite piece of work from the Chinese filmmaker and not surprisingly, Marvel honcho Kevin Feige has hired her to do a movie based on the Eternals comics. I sure hope she gets to make more films in Hollywood.
8. Spider-Man: Into the Spider-Verse
If there’s one movie I didn’t think I’d watch, let alone end up on my Best list, it’d be this one. I honestly didn’t know much about this movie at all, it’s my hubby who was excited about it when the trailer was first released. I saw it on a morning advanced screening in a packed theater and was absolutely enthralled by its stunning animation and the story of Miles Morales and his fellow super-heroes/heroines. Apparently SONY has moved to patent its inventive animation technology that honors its comic book origin with thought balloon, written sound effects, etc. The voice cast is great, heck it’s even got Nic Cage as the Spider-man Noir. This movie is so full of energy, hilarious and heartwarming moments, all which made it one of the most gratifying superhero movies even in a year crowded with movies in that genre.
I mentioned in my Golden Globes post that the lack of love for this movie and its leading lady Viola Davis an egregious snub. Yes it’s marketed as a heist thriller and it certainly has all the workings of the genre but oh, it’s SO much more! Just because the film has a more commercial appeal than Steve McQueen‘s previous work doesn’t mean it’s less substantial. Right from the titillating opening sequence–Davis making out with Liam Neeson in bed–the taut script (co-written by McQueen and Gillian Flynn) interweaves intrigue, action and social commentary in a slow-burn but captivating manner. I’ve always admired Davis as an actress but here she easily steals the screen even amongst a stellar, award-winning cast.
I didn’t grow up watching Mr. Rogers so I’m only vaguely familiar with the subject of this documentary. But after seeing this film, I totally understand why he’s such a beloved figure to both kids and adults alike. I’m truly inspired by Fred Rogers, the person behind the tv persona in the iconic cardigan. It proves that kindness and compassion never goes out of style and will never fail to inspire. I’m glad filmmaker Morgan Neville finally introduced ‘America’s favorite neighbor’ to new audiences, especially in a time where there’s so much division and negativity all around us.
15 Honorable Mentions
(in alphabetical order)
Some of the movies here I like very, very much and I have actually enjoyed more than the ones on my main top 10. Some I appreciate but I don’t really feel like watching it again.
Merry Christmas everyone! It’s Ruth here and it’s Christmas Day here in the Twin Cities where our blog team and I live. It’s actually an unusually brown Christmas with just a few leftover snow on the ground, nary a flurry in sight!
Well, I thought this year I’d invite my blogging team to tell us their favorite Christmas movies, or the go-to movie(s) they’d watch often during the holiday season. So read on below and see if you share some favorite Christmas movies!
Choosing one “go-to” Christmas movie is tough; it’s one of my favorite times of the year, and I have several movies I have to watch for nostalgia’s sake. If I absolutely have to pick one, though, I’ll go with Home Alone. Sure, the plot doesn’t necessarily hold up today (with current home security systems, smart phones, and today’s airport check-in procedures, I don’t think the story would progress past the first 15 minutes now), but it’s still a classic.
The cast is fantastic, with Macaulay Culkin securing his place as the child actor of the early 90’s (and my first celebrity crush) as Kevin McCallister, Catherine O’Hara and John Heard successfully striking a balance of infuriatingly clueless and genuinely loving as his parents, Kate and Peter, and, of course, Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern hamming it up as the hilarious “Wet Bandits,” Harry and Marv.
The movie is full of memorable scenes and dialogue that are still parodied and referenced even after nearly 30 years, and it’s rich with Chrismas imagery, but the soundtrack is what makes it most enduring to me. In addition to classics like Brenda Lee’s Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree and The Drifters’ White Christmas (songs that, to this day, I can’t hear without associating them with specific scenes from this film), the score includes music from iconic composer John Williams, and if you don’t get a little choked up hearing Somewhere in my Memory, his big theme for the film, you might be a bit of a Grinch.
I tend to watch Home Alone and Die Hard often during the Christmas season. Throughout my teens Home Alone was a staple during the holidays with my parents and siblings. It’s the first film we watched together around Christmas many years ago. For those old enough to remember, studios tend to leave successful films in theaters for a long time and Home Alone was a massive hit back in the holiday season of 1990. So, it didn’t come out on video until the next holiday season and that’s when I first saw the film with my family.
I couldn’t remember exactly when I saw Die Hard but it wasn’t during Christmas season but somehow I’ve watched at least once a year before Christmas. I think the film wasn’t considered by some as a Christmas film probably a decade after its release in theaters. For a while people just think it’s a great action film but throughout the years, it somehow became known more as a Christmas film. Of course they are some who would argue that’s it’s not a Christmas film. To me it’s a great action film that happens to take place during Christmas time, I don’t really care if it’s an official Christmas film or not.
Another film I tend to watch during the holidays is The Long Kiss Goodnight. A big budget action/adventure with a female lead that I thought was way ahead of its time. Unfortunately, it was a box office dud but I think it has sort of a cult following.
My first favorite Christmas movie is Home Alone (1990), directed by Chris Columbus and starring Macaulay Culkin as Kevin McCallister. Kevin is a bratty but smart 8-year-old boy who’s mistakenly left behind by his his family when they fly away to Paris for Christmas vacation. Kevin at first absolutely loves being home alone, especially away from his bullying big brother Buzz (Devin Ratray) but soon he has to defend his family home from two unsuspecting burglars, Harry and Marv (played respectively by Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern). Since Kevin convinces himself that he is not afraid to be home alone, he decides to defend his family home from the burglars and rigs the house with booby traps to take on the bandits. This is where all the fun ensues, and when Harry and Marv break in, Kevin spring the traps and they suffer various minor injuries. Kevin also learns a lesson when he befriends Old Man Marley (Roberts Blossom), his neighbor who Kevin previously misjudged as being a serial killer who murdered his family. What Kevin learns is that forgiveness is a very important character trait, no matter how late it comes. I think it brings a nice message of love and forgiveness that anyone watching can relate to. The film was also nominated for two Academy Awards: Best Original Score (written by John Williams) and Best Original Song for “Somewhere in My Memory” (again by John Williams). I try to watch this movie at least once during the holidays.
My second favorite Christmas movie is Home Alone 2: Lost in New York(1992), directed by Chris Columbus and with Macaulay Culkin reprising his role as Kevin McCallister. This time, Kevin is little order, a little smarter but also a whole lot more likely to get lost by his family.
This time, Kevin and his family decide to take a trip to Florida, but because of a power outage, their alarm clocks don’t wake them up in the morning which makes them late for their flight. In all of the rush and confusion, Kevin ends up taking the wrong plane and instead of Florida, he ends up in New York City. Once there, instead of freaking out, Kevin decides to make the most of it and to tour the city. Meanwhile, the “Wet Bandits”, Harry and Marv (Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern reprising their roles), have traveled to New York City after escaping during a prison riot and have a new name for themselves: the “Sticky Bandits”. Kevin goes to Central Park and meets a homeless woman (Brenda Fricker) feeding the pigeons, but gets scared because she doesn’t talk and has birds all over her. He then goes to the Plaza Hotel, where he uses his dad Peter’s credit card to check in. One of the most poignant but heartwarming parts of the movie comes when on Christmas Eve, Kevin visits a toy store where he meets its philanthropic owner, Mr. E.F. Duncan (Eddie Bracken). Kevin learns that the proceeds from the store’s Christmas sales will be donated to a children’s hospital, and provides a donation.
As a token of appreciation, Mr. Duncan offers Kevin a pair of ceramic turtledoves as a gift, instructing him to give one to another person as a sign of eternal friendship. Kevin goes back to Central Park to apologize to the Pigeon Lady, and give her his other half of the pair of ceramic turtledoves. Of course, he “coincidentally” bumps into the Wet Bandits, who remember him, and then another round of booby traps are set in an abandoned house that use to belong to Kevin’s uncle. The best part of the movie comes at the end when Kevin reunites with his mother at the Rockefeller Center Christmas Tree after he wishes for no presents for Christmas but rather a fast reunion with his family. I love watching this movie back to back with the first Home Alone.
There is nothing better than sitting down with a cup of warm, homemade eggnog and a favorite Christmas movie. My two favorites, perhaps predictably, are polar opposites. I’m nothing if not inconsistent. 😉
A viewing of Die Hard (everyone’s favorite is it or isn’t it this year: spoilers, it is) followed by a viewing of Love Actually always get me into the Christmas spirit.
Wishing all of our readers a Happy Holiday season, filled with a family that looks out for you and a love story that is worth telling year after year. Yippee Kai Yay!
For me, my go-to Christmas movies have remain the same over the years and it’s one I can watch any time of the year. I’m a self-professed Anglophile and a huge fan of Richard Curtis’ work (Four Weddings and a Funeral, Bridget Jones’s Diary, Notting Hill and Love Actually). In fact, one of my all time favorite Christmas-themed episode in a TV series is The Vicar of Dibley’s Christmas Special that I’ve highlighted in this post.
So it’s no surprise that Love, Actually is one I can watch time and again, especially during the holiday season. I love that Curtis’ able to balance pathos, irony and absurd humor so perfectly in this scene set in a shopping centre during the hustle and bustle of the Christmas holiday. Absolute classic.
Now, You’ve Got Mail isn’t exactly a Christmas movie per se, but it has several significant Christmas scenes that I’d like think of it as such. Whenever I’m feeling nostalgic and a tad sentimental during the holidays, I’m usually in the mood to watch this Nora Ephron classic. This scene in particular often gets me teared up… I love the setting itself of a winter day in NYC with the sparkling and festive Christmas tree, but it also captures the sentiment of feeling lonely and missing the one you love so perfectly. It’s a beautifully-emotional scene that shall always remains timeless.
So friends, now that we’ve shared ours…
… tell us your favorite or go-to Christmas movie(s)!