Saturday, November 27, 2010

Film List - this year's Christmas plans

As at this time last year, I am beginning to lay my plans for a week or two of thrifty and unsocial hibernation around the turn of the year, snuggled up at home with the DVD player.

I haven't had a major splurge of purchasing for a little while now, so I'll probably go out and see what I might have missed amongst the recent releases (a lot of people I know seem to have enjoyed Guy Ritchie's Sherlock Holmes).  However, amongst my sprawling library of classics, these are the ones that I'm feeling would be most appropriate - for me - for this holiday season.

Films I Plan To Watch This Christmas

The Wizard of Oz 
(Dir. Victor Fleming, 1939)
I had intended to watch this last Christmas, anticipating that it was about to be returned to me by a former student I'd lent it to a couple of years or so before.  I was meeting her for lunch on the day I wrote last year's post - but she again forgot to bring it with her.  I only finally recovered it a couple of months ago.

Bonnie and Clyde
(Dir. Arthur Penn, 1967)
A fairly recent acquisition, this.  I'm curious - but also a little nervous - about how well it will bear up.  I think I've only seen it once in my life, when it was shown as the 'Monday Film' on BBC1 in the early or mid-70s.  As a kid of not yet 10, or not much more than 10, I found it extremely disturbing, haunting.  I'm not sure that it will seem so potent to an adult.  But much of the point of my private Christmas Movie Festival is nostalgia - recreating favourite film-watching experiences from the past, particularly from my childhood.

The Producers
(Dir. Mel Brooks, 1968)
I'm not sure if I have this on disk or not.  If not, I must scour the city's DVD stores for it.  It is far, far, far too long since I saw this.  And my first encounter with it was as a 'Christmas film' on BBC2 in my childhood: very late at night, because of its challenging content - so I was able to enjoy it on my own, long after my parents had gone to bed.

Cinema Paradiso
(Dir. Guiseppe Tornatore, 1988)
It's a long, long time since I've seen this one as well.  I recounted here how strongly it affected me on first viewing, because of the peculiar circumstances of my life at the time (I was near suicidally depressed after a very severe and painful illness).  Tornatore has such a painterly eye for composition.  I was enraptured by the opening shot - a bowl of lemons on a whitewashed windowsill - and sat in the dark of the cinema beaming to myself, thinking "Oh, I am going to love this!"  I just hope the version I've acquired here is not the 'Director's Cut' - a tiresomely overlong version that clunkily seeks to 'explain' much that is merely alluded to in the original release (and which even includes a brief, rather sordid reunion between a middle-aged Toto and his long-lost sweetheart).  I am rarely won over by these extended versions of films (even if they might have some merit if approached in isolation, in practice they are always labouring against the associations and the affection we have built up for the film in the version in which we first experienced it); in the case of Cinema Paradiso, the original theatrical version is infinitely better.

(Dir. Brian De Palma, 1983)
Tony Montana seems to keep cropping up in conversation just recently; it seems to be some sort of cosmic hint, the kind of prompt that should not be ignored.  I might run a back-to-back comparison with Howard Hawks's 1932 film of the same name.

(Dir. Sergei Bondarchuk, 1970)
The Christmas film extravaganza has to include at least one big old historical epic.  And this is one that I first saw on TV at Christmas, as a kid, so it should conjure all the right nostalgic resonances.

The Blues Brothers
(Dir. John Landis, 1980)
Now, I know I have this one, but.... I haven't seen the disk around for ages.  I hope I didn't lend it to someone!  I'll have to do some excavating in the piles and piles of DVDs I have lying around to see if I can find it.  I think it's at least 5 or 6 years since I last saw this - far too long.  When I was at university, I'd probably watch it at least half a dozen times a year.  I mentioned recently that I thought this was probably the most quotable - and widely quoted - film of my lifetime.  I was then reminded it of even more forcefully by blog-buddy JES posting this rather wonderful music video which parodies the Ray Charles sequence from the film (a new song by Hansen, of all people!).

Oliver Twist
(Dir. Roman Polanski, 2005)
I bought this when it first came out, but somehow never got around to watching it.  Now may be the time.  A little bit of Dickens is more or less de rigueur at Christmas, after all.  I might treat myself to a comparison viewing of David Lean's (almost certainly far superior) 1948 version as well.

A Fred Astaire film
I am shamed to discover that I don't yet own any!  A trip down to the 'golden oldie' store next to the Drama Academy is definitely called for.  I think Flying Down To Rio or The Gay Divorcee would be at the top of the wish list.

Midnight Express
(Dir. Alan Parker, 1978)
Gosh, yes, it's years since I've seen this too.  In fact, I may have seen it only once, early in my undergraduate career (at the marvellous Penultimate Picture Palace in Oxford).  I remember it as a huge pop culture phenomenon during my childhood, something that was notorious as a film far too disturbing for younger children or teenagers to be exposed to, a film even my macho brother seemed to have found rather unsettling, and a film that everyone seemed to have heard about even though perhaps not that many had actually seen it.  I'm not sure if I have a copy of this: another quest may be necessary.  I am definitely a bad machine.

Inglourious Basterds
(Dir. Quentin Tarantino, 2009)
I saw this early this year, but I feel I'm definitely ready for it again.  It's not by any means my favourite Tarantino (not at all his "masterpiece", as he jokingly insinuates at the end), but there's so much going on in it that I think it will repay several rewatchings.  Tarantino, I suppose, falls into the category of 'guilty pleasures': the violence is often unpleasant, and the humour dark and perverse, but... he does it so cleverly, he creates such irresistible romps.  In this film he has masterfully recaptured the tone of the WWII comic books that were so popular in the UK in the late 60s and early 70s (I must have read dozens of them; mostly hand-downs from my elder brother).  I'm not sure if QT realises this, though; did that genre also exist in America when he was a kid??

Music and Lyrics
(Dir. Marc Lawrence, 2007)
I'll probably be watching quite a few rom-coms over this period (another of my unexpected 'guilty pleasures'!), but this Hugh Grant/Drew Barrymore charmer has become a particular favourite in recent years.  My buddy The Chairman gave it to me as a Christmas present three years ago, and it has become something of a tradition that I watch it again at this time each year.


JES said...

What an excellent list! Although I've seen (or seen again) a good number of those recently, I'll resist the temptation to make any comments in advance of your (re-)watchings. But December may leave you feeling at once quite sated and hungry for more, as movie marathons often do for me.

Oh, btw, on one of my Web peregrinations I recently came upon this project: Honky's Movie Year. It's a blog, apparently started on a dare by a friend, documenting one man's effort to watch a movie a day for an entire year. Once he'd achieved that, the tap seems to have been uncloseable -- he's now in his second year. His first post -- the Introduction -- is here. In the post after that, he laid down his ground rules.

I'd love to try a project like that sometime. On the other hand, I have no idea how I could have much of a "real life" with that at the back of my mind (and foreground of my calendar) every day!

Froog said...

Oh dear! Just following his blog could eclipse one's 'real life'!!

Here I am starting to think, "Well, I ration myself to reading two posts a day, I'll have caught up with him by the beginning of 2012..."

Hopfrog said...

One of the bars I frequent here has old movie posters on the wall and one of those posters is the one for Cinema Paradiso. Every time I am in there I can't help but stare at that poster while my drinking mate is going on about something. Absolutely loved that film, it brings out some raw emotions through some subtle ways that I have yet to understand. Regardless, staring at that poster it always brings back those feelings.

Good list but not really holiday themed. If your looking to throw a couple of seasonal movies to sort of get in the spirit here are some that I enjoyed:

I'm sure you've seen em both, but I'll throw them in, overplayed or not, I gotta watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles as well as A Christmas Story whenever they are on.

A couple you may not have seen: Home for the Holidays. The movie stars Holly Hunter, its a bit of a chick flick, but I really enjoyed it. Holiday Inn, the classic with Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby. As a child of the 70's and 80's, I often envy that essential slice of Americana that seemed to have existed in earlier decades. I think this movie captures that slice, then again, not having been there I cannot say for certain.

Froog said...

Hmm, Holiday Inn is a tempting possibility, HF.

I noticed a little while ago that comedy drama The Family Stone (I don't even remember buying this; suspect it may be one I inherited from a departing friend) had a Christmas setting, so deferred watching that until the end of the year.

However, for me the Christmas movie festival is really more about trying to recreate my childhood memories of watching a lot of movies at Christmas. And in England we tend to be a bit disdainful of holiday-themed movies: most of them are pretty terrible. The BBC, in particular, used to go movie-crazy at Christmas, usually having at least one major first-run film on BBC1 each day for 8 or 10 days, and 2 or 3 well-loved classics. BBC2 tended to go more for themed seasons: a Billy Wilder film - or two - every day throughout the holiday, for example. And in the mornings, on either channel or both, they'd usually go through a lot of old black-and-white stuff... so you could catch up on Chaplin, Harold Lloyd, the Marx Brothers. Great days! I get quite misty-eyed just writing about it.

Overall, though, the emphasis is simply on good movies. And the ones I choose are quite likely to be predominantly feelbad rather than feelgood!

Of course, if I could find The Muppet Christmas Carol somewhere....