Friday, December 10, 2010

My Must Watch Movies of the Season

December seems to be the time of year when I have to pull out some of my favorite movies. You have to realize that once I discover a movie that I really, really, like it achieves cult status in my life. That means I've seen that particular movie no less than 20 times and continue to enjoy it. That means that quotes from the film are sprinkled throughout my daily conversation, quotes such as:

  • I carried a watermelon (yes, this quote has much more significance for me than "nobody puts Baby in the corner.") - from Dirty Dancing
  • Fosse! Fosse! Fosse! Madonna! Madonna! Michael Kidd! Michael Kidd! - from The Birdcage. You probably wouldn't want to be around with a friend and me when this movie is on - we can do the entire script.
  • Who ARE those guys? - Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid
  • Everything that happens in the world does not happen to you personally - The Way We Were
So, here are the must see films in my personal December Film Festival every year:

Wonder Boys - This features a wonderful ensemble cast including Michael Douglas, Robert Downey Jr, Tobey Maguire, Frances McDormand, Katie Holmes, Richard Thomas and Rip Torn. How does one even describe this film? Michael Douglas is a former brilliant novelist who is down on his luck and teaching a college in course in writing. He recognizes the amazing talent of student Tobey Maguire. His agent, Robert Downey Jr, flies into town accompanied by his transvestite friend for Wordfest, a confab for writers. The story involves the killing of the blind dog belonging to Douglas' department head, who is married to the head of the college, who Douglas happens to be having an affair with. One of my favorite scenes is where Douglas, Maguire and Downey improv potential character development and plot lines about a man they see sitting in a bar who they name Vernon Hardapple. Another favorite scene is when Maguire rattles off a laundry list of Hollywood suicides - in alphabetical order. Truly, this movie is just about impossible to explain because it is so bizarre. That's why I love it. Bizarre story, great characters and a quite twisted story line. Why is this film on the December viewing list? There's snow on the ground during quite a bit of the film.

The Holiday - This is another ensemble piece starring Jude Law (number one reason I watch this over and over), Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jack Black and Eli Wallach. It's definitely a chick flick. It's about two women who are distraught in their love lives and careers who decide to exchange their homes for two weeks. Cameron packs up her life in L.A. to stay in the cold wintry and damp English countryside, while Kate leaves her English cottage for a mansion in L.A. They end up meeting their love interests during the switch. And the very special bond that develops between Kate and Eli Wallach, (who plays an Oscar winning screenwriter from the golden age of Hollywood) provides a significant contribution to the story. This is one of those feel good movies of the season - even when I already know how the story ends.

Last Holiday - Another chick flick? This one stars Queen Latifah as a hardworking sales clerk in a department store owned by Timothy Hutton, who becomes the villain in the story. She has a crush on coworker L. L. Cool J (before he hit the little screen in NCIS: Los Angeles). After hitting her head, a cat scan  reveals that she has an incurable, rare disease and only has a month to live. She cashes out all of her financial resources and decides to do all of the wild and crazy things on her bucket list (no, wait, that was a different movie). Latifah's character is lovable and delightful and it's wonderful to watch her develop into the secure and confident woman she becomes. Can't reveal the ending, but if you like sappy chick flicks, this one is for you.

White Christmas - No December Film Festival is complete without White Christmas - another ensemble film (do I sense a theme emerging here?). The cast includes Bing Crosby (of course), Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, Vera Ellen and a supporting cast of Mary Wickes and Dean Jagger. Released in 1954, it's the story of two old army buddies who become the toast of New York as song and dance men, Wallace and Davis. The Haynes sisters (Rosie and Vera) are night club performers who meet up with the guys, and through a twist of fate wind up at an inn in Vermont, which is run by the guys' former Army general, played by Jagger. The film is a showcase for several songs by Irving Berlin, set to the theme of preparing for a theatrical show to help bring the inn back to life. I've watched this movie so many times that a couple years ago, I just watched the DVD version with the alternate commentary track by Rosemary Clooney. That was enjoyable, except, she would get so engrossed in watching the film, she would go several minutes without offering any commentary!

Christmas in Connecticut - This 1945 film stars Barbara Stanwyck as a magazine writer who has created an entirely fictitious persona that she is a perfect housewife living in the country with her husband and baby. In today's culture, she would have been known as the Martha Stewart of her day. Not at all true - she's actually a New York social gadfly who couldn't even boil water if she had to. To carry out the ruse for her boss, she decides to marry her sometimes companion - that is until serviceman Dennis Morgan shows up on the scene. Hilarity ensues as she tries to keep the farce going. It's a lighthearted and fun film.

That is my December Film Festival - and having seen only Last Holiday so far this year, I'd better get busy watching these movies that are as comfortable as an old pair of flannel pajamas.


  1. As an avid movie watcher, I usually see a lot during December, not at home, but in the theater. Today, my husband and I are seeing, "The Tourist" then next week it is "The Fighter"...which was filmed in my city, and I had the pleasure of seeing some filming, and the actor, Mark Wahlberg. Loved your list, and several are on my top list as well. You've got good ideas for this blog.

  2. Barb - I definitely want to see The Tourist! Have also seen some previews of The Fighter that look good!