Thursday, December 15, 2005

Studicus' Holiday Movie Guide

Wow, some weeks, when you're in the mood to write, you're in the mood to write!

So, I proudly present my Holiday Movie Guide. For once, I'm getting away from the sarcasm that pervades today's society (and, obviously, 99% of my posts), and writing something a little more light-hearted.

Yeah, yeah...we'll see how long that lasts.

Now, for the movie guide, I'll name the movie (duh!), mention my personal favorite scene (aka the "Quintessential Moment," or "QM"), give a brief plot summary, say what makes the movie work, and list my favorite quote (the "FQ"), which is my favorite, not necessarily the one most identified with that movie.

This is in no way an attempt to be a definitive guide to holiday movies. In fact, you'll find some notable ones missing. These are just movies my family and I enjoy every year.

The Movie: It's a Wonderful Life

What happens? George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) always dreamed of leaving Bedford Falls and seeing the world. But no matter how close he is to getting out of town, his commitment to the Building and Loan always manages to stop him from leaving. When life gets out of control, and there's a scandal at work, George contemplates cashing in his life insurance policy by jumping off a bridge. Fortunately, his guardian angel Clarence is there to help him realize that, no matter what, he really has a wonderful life.

QM: For me, there's no better scene in this movie than when the evil Mr. Potter offers George a job, and it's such a good offer, he's almost suckered in. But George's good character never waivers, and he turns Potter down. It's kind of like when Luke Skywalker tosses his lightsaber aside, and tells the Emperor, "I'll never join you."

Why it works: It's probably the sappiest movie of all time. Yet, it endures, thanks to the strength of Jimmy Stewart. Never once do you doubt his good nature, and even when things get rough, you're sure he'll do the right thing in the end. Without George Bailey's integrity, this movie would be absolutely nothing.

FQ: You sit around here and you spin your little webs and you think the whole world revolves around you and your money. Well, it doesn't, Mr. Potter. In the whole vast configuration of things, I'd say you were nothing but a scurvy little spider. And...[looks at Potter's assistant] And that goes for you, too! (George Bailey)

The Movie: White Christmas

What Happens? Song-and-dance men Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) and Phil Davis (Danny Kaye) are forever linked because Davis saved Wallace's life during World War II. They become major stars, and find love, music, and their old commander in Vermont. When they discover the General's lodge is struggling because there's no snow for the holidays, they agree to put on a holiday show, and get the old unit together to surprise The Old Man.

QM: For me, it's when General Waverly comes in, and sees members of his old unit in uniform that makes the movie. It sets up a fantastic finale complete with the title song and snow everyone's been so desperately seeking. To see a general who's led men into combat get so emotional just gets me. Of course, you can't go wrong with Bing's and Danny's rendition of "Sisters."

Why it works: Simply put, the chemistry between everyone in this movie is fantastic. You really believe Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are old war buddies. While Crosby is the star, it's Kaye's hysterics that really stir the pot. And, when you add in the Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney dynamic, it's just too much fun.

FQ: It's cozier, isn't it? Boy, girl, boy, girl. (Phil Davis)

The Movie: Christmas Vacation

What happens? The ever-lovable Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) tries to deal with the many issues surrounding Christmas, including unwieldy relatives, shopping, sledding, and his Christmas bonus from work. The results are typically hilarious, especially when they involve Clark's favorite relative, Cousin Eddie.

QM: There are many great moments in all of these movies, especially this one. But when I think about White Christmas, the very first scene that comes to mind is when the squirrel jumps out of the Christmas tree, and causes all sorts of havoc for the family Griswold. It's just one of those moments that'll get you rolling on the floor. It's the one scene every member of my family jokes about during the holidays.

Why it works: Chevy Chase makes this whole thing go. His manic performance as the sweet/smart-aleck/aloof Clark Griswold is fantastic, even though he played the same character in previous movies. Of course, it doesn't hurt that he has help from screen legend Randy Quaid, whose great work as Cousin Eddie pretty much steals the show.

FQ: We're gonna press on, and we're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f****** Kaye. (Clark Griswold)

The Movie: The Santa Clause

What happens? Scott Calvin (Tim Allen), a divorced father, has a run-in with Santa Claus on Christmas Eve. When he startles Old Saint Nick, the Jolly Old Elf falls off the roof, and doesn't survive. Scott and his son Charlie then climb into the sled, and deliver all the toys. Scott finds out from Head Elf Bernard that he's a victim of the Santa Clause, and must now be the new Kris Kringle. The revelation wreaks havoc on his personal and professional life, with often hilarious results.

QM: My family and I watch this movie every year. For some people, a little Tim Allen goes a long way. But I've always found him entertaining...I blame multiple seasons of "Home Improvement" for that. My favorite scene in this movie, though has little to do with Tim Allen, and everything to do with Judge Reinhold. When his character Neil gets the Oscar Meyer weinie whistle, and blows into with the reverence of a Catholic priest during Mass, my brother and I die laughing. It's so absurd!

Why it works: I think a lot of it has to do with Tim Allen and the chemistry he has with his movie son in this flick. They've got a great relationship that helps turn Scott Calvin from a cynical and disappointing father into the generous and heartfelt Father Christmas. My favorite little moment in the movie is when Tim Allen holds up a toy tool belt...a not-so-subtle nod to his role as Tim "the Toolman" Taylor.

FQ: Just because you can't see something, doesn't mean is doesn't exist. (Charlie)

The Movie: Elf

What happens? Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell) grew up in the North Pole, but just can't cut it as a toymaker. He's too tall, and, even though he's full of Christmas Spirit, isn't quite fit to be a worker Elf. After a particularly bad day, he decides to travel to the magical land of New York to seek out his read dad. While there, he makes it his mission to get everybody into the real spirit of Christmas.

QM: This comes when Buddy confronts a mall Santa in front of a kid, and it gets out of hand. The guy insists he's Santa Claus, but Buddy, who knows the REAL St. Nick, gets pretty confrontational for an elf. His line, "you sit on a throne of lies," pretty much sums up Buddy the Elf.

Why it works: Will Farrell is terrific. He has this earnestness and innocence that really shine through during the movie. And James Caan is a great foil as Buddy's real dad, who puts up a tough front before finally giving into his "inner elf." Just a fantastic holiday movie all around, and a very new addition to my family's annual Christmas celebration.

FQ: Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color? (Buddy the Elf)

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