Thursday, 26 December 2013

Top Ten Festive Films

1.  It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) Another film which has grown in popularity after being shown on television.  The film was listed by the FBI for 10 years as suspected communist propaganda.  Maybe the FBI failed to notice its hero, George Bailey, is a banker and that director Frank Capra was a supporter of Mussolini. It was certainly controversial at the time to deal with suicide (the word is actually spoken during the film) and films about money don’t often tug at the heartstrings the way It’s a Wonderful Life does.

2. White Christmas (1954) I know those pedants amongst you are probably screaming ‘No! Holiday Inn!  Holiday Inn!’ but seriously, this film is better. Get over yourselves. It’s Christmas. Bing Crosby’s version of  Irving Berlin’s ‘White Christmas’ was initially poorly received but  went on to become the biggest selling single of all time

3. Miracle on 34th Street (1947) Of course we mean the 1947 original not the 1994 remake. The film was declared ‘morally objectionable’ by the Catholic Legion of Decency as it portrayed a divorced, single parent.  Despite its obvious Christmas setting, it was originally released in May because Darryl F. Zanuck believed more people went to the cinema in warmer weather.

4.   The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) This was released back in the days when Tim Burton still had an edge. Its mix of old fashioned, Harryhausen inspired stop motion animation and German Expressionist look manage to create something fresh, modern and different.  Danny Elfman’s score is spot on.

5. A Matter of Life and Death (1946) Not as well known as Powell and Pressburger’s mighty ‘The Red Shoes’ this film is still essential Christmas viewing.  The film reverses the effect of The Wizard of Oz by showing the real world in Technicolor and the fantasy world in black and white.  Jack Clayton’s beautiful cinematography makes this a true gem.

6. Raiders of the Lost Ark (1981) This is what we want!  Action, adventure, humour, and a hard drinking, wise cracking, feisty heroine.  Lucas and Spielberg really do bring out the best in each other in this delirious nod to Saturday morning cinema.  Spielberg reigns in the schmaltz, Lucas let’s loose a bit and Harrison Ford is just perfect.

7.  The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) I’m personally not a fan of this watered-down and rather flat version of Lewis’ wonderful, classic children’s’ book.  I include it because it’s got snow, but it really is a case of ‘the book is better’. It was only a matter of time before the story was committed to celluloid but I found it a disappointing affair all round.  Things improved a lot with Prince Caspian.

8. The Wizard of Oz (1939) Not massively popular on its initial release The Wizard of Oz was first shown on television in 1956 and as part of the Christmas schedule in 1959.  Such was the response that CBS made screening the movie an annual Christmas event; it was only televised once a year, on the second Sunday in December, for 30 years and is now the most viewed motion picture on television in history.

9.  Meet me in St Louis (1944)  Vincent Minelli’s musical was both critically and commercially successful and features Judy Garland (again) singing ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. The song was written by Ralph Blame and Hugh Martin for the film and Garland found the original lyrics too depressing requesting that they be rewritten.  The song was later recorded by Frank Sinatra who also requested changes to the lyrics.

10.  Elf   (2003) When this movie’s shown on TV it’s generally considered a sign that “Christmas has truly started”. Sky caused controversy here in the UK by swiping Elf from Channel 4 meaning only Sky Movies subscribers could watch it.  This caused a general outpouring of grief on Facebook and prompted The Telegraph to ask “Did Sky steal Christmas?”

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