This is probably my most favorite time of the year. I love everything about the holidays: the lights and decorations, choosing and giving gifts that I know my friends and family will love, the comradery and overall joyous feelings that the season brings.
And nothing seems to encompass everything I enjoy about the season than holiday specials and movies. We all know, and love the classics, like A Christmas Story, It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol and White Christmas. No Christmas is complete around my house without at least one viewing of each of them. But there are other films out there that hold a special place in my heart, many of them not as well known to casual viewers. So, without further ado, I bring you five holiday films you might want to check out this year.
Starring Nicholas Cage and Tea Leoni, the film tells the story of Wall Street executive Jack Campbell, who thinks he has everything he needs, until he meets a mysterious man who shows him just what he’s missing.
This is one of those films that I went into thinking nothing of, and coming out completely charmed. Leoni and Cage have immense chemistry and this film does a great job of showcasing the Nicholas Cage we know and love, and miss desperately. It’s one of those films that stays with you long after it’s over and makes you think there just might be magic in the world after all.
Starring Mary Steenburgen and Harry Dean Stanton, the film tells the story of Ginny Grainger, an overworked and frazzled mom of two has lost her Christmas spirit. With the help of her daughter, Abbie, and the angel, Gideon, she is shown that magic does exist, if only you open yourself up to it.
Okay, so this is definitely a Christmas movie, although I wouldn’t exactly call it warm and fuzzy. It has a tendency to be dark and slightly unnerving, but it’s also one of those films that makes you stop and think about the season and what it means. Not necessarily for the faint of heart, this film always manages to make me cry… and believe.
Starring Marlo Thomas, Orson Welles (Orson Welles!) and Cloris Leachman, this film is a gender swapped retelling of It’s A Wonderful Life. Mary Bailey Hatch decides that everything would be better if she had never been born and it’s up to angel, Clara Oddbody, to show her how much one life affects all of those around her.
So, this was actually a made for TV movie that aired on ABC back in 1977, but it’s one of those films that I will always remember. At the time, the whole gender swap thing was a revelation and it was interesting revision of the 1946 Frank Capra classic. Cloris Leachman shines as Mary’s guardian angel and she even received an Emmy nomination for her performance. Unfortunately, this film has pretty much fallen into obscurity and it almost impossible to find anywhere. If you run across a copy of it, let me know.
Starring Annette Funicello and Tommy Sands, this is a beautiful telling of the classic operetta by Victor Herbert. It tells the story of Mary Contrary and Tom Piper, two lovebirds in Toyland who are torn apart by the villainous Barnaby.
While not exactly a holiday film, when I was a kid, because of the tie-in with Toyland, it always played during the holidays. It is a bright feast for the eyes, with colourful costumes and catchy song and dance numbers. Annette Funicello is gorgeous here in her prime, and it’s easy to see why she was a Disney sweetheart. If you are unable to find a copy of this version, a great substitute is the 1934 version starring Laurel and Hardy.
Staring Victor Moore and Gale Storm, this film tells the story of New York City vagrant, Aloysius T. McKeever, who, every winter, breaks into Michael J. O’Connor’s Fifth Avenue mansion, as the millionaire winters in Florida. McKeever invites other homeless people into the mansion, until they can find permanent homes, including O’Connor’s daughter, Trudy, who is pretending to be a runaway. Needless to say, chaos ensues when Trudy falls in love with homeless GI, Jim Bullock, and convinces her parents to move in under the pretense that they are homeless as well, because she doesn’t want her money to come between them.
This is one of those films where the humor and hijinks make it something special. Films where New York City are highlighted during the holiday season are always special (I will get there during the holidays one of these days) and this is no exception. The chemistry of the cast is what makes this film so special and it’s too bad that over the years it has gotten lost in the shuffle. It’s been completely overshadowed by It’s A Wonderful Life and Miracle On 34th Street, and hasn’t been preserved nearly as well as those other films, which is a real shame. A truly heartwarming and lovely Christmas treat, if you only see one of my picks this year, make it this one.
So, there you have it folks… my weird, yet wonderful, Christmas picks. Hopefully you’ll get a chance to check out one (or all!) of these forgotten holiday gems. Whether you are a traditionalist, or like your holiday fare a little more avant-garde, I know there’s plenty out there for everyone to sink their teeth into. And while I’m at it, I hope that you and yours have a truly happy and healthy holiday season. And if you have any Christmas gems you’d think I’ll like, make sure to let me know.
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