With Thanksgiving weekend here and December 25th exactly a month ahead, we at Steven James will suggest a few holiday movies – and give a shout out to an old Christmas season TV classic (that often flies under the radar). Each of the selections has a holiday theme – but most of all, each is an entertaining flick depending on your personal taste! Here are our top picks for best holiday movies.
In the classics department – although it’s on the newer side of classics since it’s a 1983 movie – we’ll go with A Christmas Story. How can it be denied? It’s off-center nostalgic look at 1940s Middle America and Ralphie’s yearning for an official Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas (despite being told by his mother, his teacher, and even Santa that he’ll shoot his eye out!) has won the hearts of millions. Ralphie and his winter gear; the classic performance by the late great Darren McGavin; the dangers of licking metal poles in sub-freezing temperatures; and of course the leg lamp – each of these and more put it on the selection list. Since 1997, TBS loops it for a 24-hour plus marathon on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. And this year, A Christmas Story The Musical is coming to Rochester as part of the RBTL line up! Shows run December 12th through December 17th.
Next, on the list, we’ll go with The Polar Express, a classic holiday book that was made into a fine film in 2004 by director Robert Zemeckis. The book by Chris Van Allsburg was published in 1985 and the film came out in 2004. It was the first feature-film to animate human actors with live action motion capture animation. Tom Hanks plays the conductor who brings a child on the holiday adventure of a lifetime along the train named The Polar Express.
The holiday season TV classic aforementioned is 1970’S Santa Claus Is Coming to Town. Directed by the masters Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr., it is a fantastic stop-motion animated show with the voice talents of luminaries such as Fred Astaire and Mickey Rooney. If you haven’t ever watched it with your kids, it’s definitely one to look for during the holiday season with great songs, memorable characters such as the Heat Miser, the Snow Miser, the Winter Warlock, and the classic bah-humbug character named Burgermeister Meisterburger. The greatest part about Santa Claus Is Coming to Town is that it’s an origin story, explaining all the reasons why Christmas traditions have become what they are: why Santa first had to bring toys by moonlight, slide down chimneys, use the flying reindeer – and even how he met Mrs. Claus!
Back to the movies – and away from the cheerful holiday stories – we’ll put an action-lovers’ selection on the list – actually a pair of them. The original Die Hard and the sequel Die Hard 2: Die Harder both take place during the Christmas holiday. In the 1988 original, Bruce Willis’s iconic character John McClain must battle master terrorist Hans Gruber who has taken over a Christmas party in Nakatomi Plaza in LA. Gruber, of course, makes the fatal mistake of taking McClain’s beloved wife as one of his hostages! And only two years later, poor Mrs. McClain’s holiday luck goes sour once more as terrorists take over landing operations at Dulles Airport as she is on a flight trying to touch down there. While these pair of blockbusters (or Bruce Willis) may not be everybody’s cup of tea, for the action-thriller lovers out there, they are true holiday treats.
And, for the top of the selection list for holiday movies, we are going with one that went from classic book to iconic animated TV special to fabulous live-action adaptation. It’s the 2000 Ron Howard-directed How The Grinch Stole Christmas starring Jim Carrey. Carrey has always been an acquired taste – some love him and others find him way too over the top – but his performance as the miserly Grinch who eventually has his tiny heart enlarged by the love of the townspeople of Whoville is a masterpiece. Based on the genius work of Dr. Seuss, the feature film is visually stunning, has great special effects (Carrey’s makeup is perfect – but it was so difficult to wear for hours at a time that he almost had to quit the film), and of course the film comes with a story that reminds all of us that the spirit of Christmas isn’t found in the material presents under the tree but in the hearts of people in our world.
That is the Steven James Holiday Viewing List for 2017. There are so many, many more that can be included – and they will be at some point! As storytellers ourselves, we always like to blog on both current and classic films and television offerings. Stay tuned. In the meantime, your story has power too. Contact Steven James and we’ll help you tell it!