Thursday, December 20, 2007

I Saw Mommy #$%*?&%@! Santa Claus

Tis the season for all the same holiday movies-any number of adapatations or variations of A Christmas Carol, It's A Wonderful Life as well as 24 hours of A Christmas Story. Add to that the latest batch of gargage this side of Crapatalola, East of Java, namely Deck the Halls, Surviving Christmas, Jingle All the Way, Christmas with the Kranks and your head will swim trying to find some kind of joy while the rest of the world stresses out to find at least one last Nintendo Wii or Diaper Me Elmo. Why should the search for at least half-way decent Christmas fare be so frustrating as well? Sure Elf and Bad Santa are fine and I do have a demented friend whose idea of holiday entertainment is The Lion in Winter (which is actually a deliciously diabolical choice), but what else is out there?

Here are a few suggestions or what one might call The Scott Cherney Christmas DVD Box Set (if one was me, of course)

Pocketful of Miracles (1961) Frank Capra's last film was a lavish remake of his earlier Damon Runyon Lady for a Day. Bette Davis stars as gin-soaked street vendor Apple Annie Glenn in this Ugly Duckling holiday fable with Glenn Ford, Peter Falk and Ann-Margaret in her first role. As funny and sloppily sentimental as the best Capra.

A Midnight Clear (1992)-Adapted from the William Warton novel, this World War II story involves a Christmas truce between two ragtag platoons of GIs and Nazis. Director Keith Gordon made a small masterpiece here with a fine cast that includes Gary Sinise, Frank Whaley and actually tolerable performances from Ethan Hawke and Peter Berg.

Gremlins (1984)-Originally a summer release, the great Joe Dante's classic film of Chris Columbus screenplay (that's right, Chris Columbus, you elitist snobs! Don't forget, he wrote your beloved Goonies too) takes place-when, class? During Christmas. You betcha boots. "They're watching Snow White-and they're loving it!"

The Ref (1994)- Dennis Leary, Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey enjoy the holidays Edward Albee style in this biting little tale of a burglar acting as a referee btween a sparring man and wife as the family arrives for Christmas dinner. Ted Demme never made a better movie and the script by Richard Lagravenese is ho-ho-ho-larious.

and yes...

A Christmas Story (1984)-Played to death over the last twenty years, I have to throw some love its way mainly because director Bob Clark died this year and really deserves his props. Forget that he was responsible for Baby Genuises 1 AND 2, Rhinestone and Loose Cannons. Remember instead that he gave us the original Black Christmas (still genuinely scary), the fantastic Sherlock Holmes meets Jack the Ripper saga Murder by Decree and, love it or hate it, Porky's, a major box office hit. Of course, he will always be remembered for this Jean Shepherd tale, a Christmas perennial. It works because it is so unapologetic and allows Ralphie to just be a kid without learning some kind of false-note message at the end. And it gave Darren McGavin his best role next to Kolchak-The Night Stalker. So to Bob Clark, I dedicate this Christmas to you.

As for the rest of you...Merry Christmas and don't shoot your eye out.
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