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Wednesday, December 18, 2013

James Halcomb: Not just tinsel, favorite films add dimension to Christmas holiday season

Kentucky native Rosemary Clooney, on left, was her "most glamorous" in the 1954 classic White Christmas. She is shown here with co-star Vera Ellen in their classic duet 'Sisters' from the film. (Photo from YouTube)

Kentucky native Rosemary Clooney, on left, was her “most glamorous” in the 1954 classic White Christmas. She is shown here with co-star Vera Ellen in their classic duet ‘Sisters’ from the film. (Photo from YouTube)

Holiday movies, especially since the easier access through Video On Demand and DVD, have become just as big a part of the holiday traditions as any other of the season’s trappings. Here is a list of my top 10 favorites in descending order:
10. A Christmas Story (1983) – The lamp, the tongue, that nightmare visit to Santa and what has to be the most emotionally satisfying pummeling of a child in movie history make for one great holiday treat. I sometimes worry that the film is getting a little over-saturated (the 24-hour marathons don’t help), but this film is a classic and I think will continue to endure.
9. Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) – In my opinion, this is Tim Burton’s best film. Stop motion animation with amazing songs and characters that want to haunt your dreams, but end up in your heart makes me say: “Nice work, bone Daddy.”
8. Die Hard (1988) – It has become in ‘fashion’ to include this on your list these days, but my reason for inclusion is personal. My Mom loved this movie. She would watch it, and the sequel, simply for the snow. I guess Bruce Willis probably didn’t hurt her viewing enjoyment either.
7. Bad Santa (2003) – I will never understand why this movie works, but it does. Billy Bob Thorton is crude, Lauren Graham, while adorable, is strangely compliant with his crudeness, and Tony Cox has got to be the meanest ‘elf’ ever. Somehow, one little boy brings it all together in one of the darkest and sweetest of holiday fare. Be forewarned, this movie is rude and needs the mom from A Christmas Story to come wash its mouth out with soap, but the film’s dialogue sticks with you and so will its story of redemption.
6. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – It has to be here. George Bailey changed every life he touched for the better. Just drink the proverbial Kool-Aid and let him do the same for you. It also happens to have an impressive classic film cast with star Jimmy Stewart shining above them all. The message, even past the sweetness, is a lesson: Every life can make a difference.
5. Elf (2003) – It’s hard to believe that this movie came out the same year as Bad Santa. Traditional in its trappings but hilarious in its execution, mainly due to Will Ferrell, I can honestly say that this film makes me snort with laughter. It is a loving homage and subversion of the Rankin/Bass stop-motion classics of the 60s. It’s very funny.
4. Scrooged (1988) – Bill Murray is at the antithesis of his 1980’s glory in this update of the Dickens classic. It is twisted in all the right ways and will make you feel the need to “let a little love in your heart.” The final minutes when the fourth wall is broken are best experienced in a crowded, enthusiastic theater, but sometimes when I am down, I will just let Murray do his thing.
3. Planes, Trains and Automobiles (1987) – John Candy was a comedic genius. While he tried leading man roles, his turn here playing against his straight man, Steve Martin, allows Candy to just let loose. He is truly a force of nature in this film and really funny.
2. Gremlins (1984) – This film is cartoonish, violent, subversive and downright scary to any kid under the age of 12, but, at the time, it permeated our culture and my fragile little brain. I never really had pets growing up but I wanted Gizmo. I knew that he wasn’t real, but I also knew that he was perfect. This movie was way ahead of its time. How it got by censors with a PG rating I will never know, but this movie helped warp my fragile little mind.
1. White Christmas (1954) – This traditional film with beautiful sets and costume designs, toe-tapping musical numbers with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye in the leading roles has Kentucky’s own Rosemary Clooney at her most glamorous. What is there not to love? Sure, the plot is cheesy and not very believable, but it is stellar to look at, listen to and always puts me in the Christmas spirit.
To see Clooney and Vera Ellen in their classic ‘Sisters’ duet, click below:

To see the hilarious rendition of the same duet by Crosby and Kaye, click below:


James Halcomb is a nurse tech at the University of Kentucky Hospital. The Lexington resident has spent much of his nearly 40 years of life with his nose in a book, his eyes staring at a screen, ears covered by earphones or his mouth stuffed with food. As a result he became an avid film nerd, TV geek, food snob and book buff. He somehow lucked into meeting the love of his life, Tammy, and married her. They also have a 3-year-old-son, Quinn.



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