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Favorite Christmas Movies

In the spirit of the season, here are my favorite Christmas movies, in (sort of) order.

5.  White Christmas – This movie is mediocre in the romance department (Danny Kaye?  really?) but the singing and dancing (except “Choreography”) are fun and, of course, who wouldn’t love a white Christmas?  What makes this a favorite for me is the General, who runs the snow-less ski lodge with the help of his granddaughter and a nosy housekeeper.  “What Can You Do With a General?” is my favorite song in the musical and captures the sense of purposeless I imagine accompanies anyone trying to get back to normal life after a war.  When Bob Wallace goes on television and sings this song to ask his old army division to visit the ski lodge, my heart melts.

4.  Miracle on 34th Street – The couple in this movie, though they of course get together in the end, are only a few rungs above Crosby/Clooney for smoldering romances.  But the real love story here is between young, disbelieving Susan Walker, always taught the truth by her mother about Santa Claus, fairy tales, and other “nonsense,” and Kris Kringle, who is in fact Santa Claus.  These “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus” stories are pretty irresistible.  Plus, the story conveys a message about society’s oddballs and misfits, believing in them, and treating them with compassion and gentle humor.

3.  Love Actually – What White Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street lack in swoon-inducing romance, Love Actually provides.  Every story is pretty much delightful, even if tinged with sadness, loss, or regret.  One of my favorite moments is the exchange, although neither character understands the other, between Jamie, the English jilted writer, and Aurelia, the Portuguese housekeeper, during which he tells her his favorite time of day is driving her home (because they are alone together) and she tells him it’s the saddest part of her day, leaving him.

2.  Home Alone – I’ve always kind of loved this movie, maybe because Macaulay Culkin and I are close in age so I sensed a kindred spirit in his brat character when I saw the movie as a kid.  More than “be careful what you wish for,” I took another message from the story: it’s ok to hate your family sometimes and to wish for them to disappear.  It’s a pretty normal thing.  The beginning chaotic scenes featuring so much ridicule and anger do a good job of depicting how horrible life can sometimes be for a little kid who really is loved and cared for, and who really does love his family in return.  After his anger subsides, we see him missing his family and hoping they are well, and his mother’s desperate attempts to get home to him, after basically locking him in the attic the night before their trip, are pretty touching.  Plus, the Wet Bandits are the best burglars ever.

1.  It’s a Wonderful Life – Whatever the Christmas spirit is, this film captures it for me.  Like some of the others on this list, the story deals with dark topics: life passing you by, financial ruin, suicide, corruption.  It also features the villain Mr. Potter, who, unlike Ebenezer Scrooge, is never moved to a change of heart by any of the sadness or suffering he sees around him.  But then there’s the loopy angel Clarence, George singing “Buffalo Girls” with Mary, and the graves of everyone who died because George Bailey, in his wish never to have been born, fails to save his war-hero brother’s life.  Clarence may be sappy, but the lesson he teaches George will always be true: “Each man’s life touches so many other lives.”

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