In just 18 days, it will be Christmas. The holiday season is upon us, which means it’s time to put away our differences in the interest of peace on earth, goodwill toward others, etc, and kick back to the 1898 film Santa Claus. Yes, I said, 1898, a one minute short/silent film, directed and produced by George Albert Smith. In that one, Santa slides down a chimney, stuffs some stockings, and promptly disappears into the ether.
Thomas Nast, the legendary illustrator, included Charles Dickens, in the reinterpretation of the Christmas story for non-believers, for children, and for those of little and perhaps no faith. Nast popularized the image of Santa Claus in the pages of Harper’s Weekly, one of the 19th century’s most-influential periodicals. His first Santa illustration appeared back in 1862, the s-called “war on Christmas” began. Thus, a holy day transformed into a holiday. The world’s 2 billion Christians will celebrate the ancient story of a child born to a Jewish couple in Bethlehem 2,000 years ago.
Since Thanksgiving, everyone has been watching Christmas movies, either on the Hallmark Network or Netflix, or yes DVD’s. Here are some favorite Christmas movies; For many people it’s the 1990 “Home Alone.” Everyone knows that nostalgia and holidays go hand and hand and both have a way of warping emotions. That’s why it’s impossible not to include “Home Alone” -the John Hughes-scripted, Chris Columbus-directed hit in which Macaulay Culkin finds himself unexpectedly left behind when his family mistakenly flies to Paris without him. Culkin is charming, and the sentimental ending works every time. Actually all of the “Home Alone,” franchise are worth watching.
Then we have “The Holiday,” a 2006 film starring Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet. Cameron plays a editor of movie trailers and Kate Winslet plays a British newspaper reporter who decide to swap houses shortly before Christmas. This leads Winslet’s character, now in L.A., enjoying a beautiful house and befriending an aging screenwriter played by Eli Wallach and eventually falling for a kindhearted composer played by Jack Black. Meanwhile, Diaz, falls for the brother of Winslet’s character, played by Jude Law. Just a cute Christmas movie, which is inspiring.
Daddy, tuck me in! Yes, the film released in 2003, “Elf” is on the list of best Christmas movies. Will Ferrell, stars as Buddy, a grown-up human who thinks he’s an elf from the North Pole. Eventually he has to find his way into the human world when he travels to New York City in search of his birth father played by James Caan. He meets and falls in love with a cynical department-store employee Zooey Deschanel. A truly, heartfelt movie.
The same year, 2003, “Bad Santa,” was released, a mean-spirited black comedy, which somehow loops all the way back around to being a heartwarming Christmas movie. The film stars Billy Bob Thornton. His performance as a hard-drinking con artist who uses his work as a mall Santa as a setup for grand larceny, seems to pull it off. With able support from Bernie Mac and John Ritter, director Terry Zwigoff keeps the humor dark without losing sight of his character’s humility-however deep they might sink into a drunken haze. The ultimate classic is “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Jimmy Stewart as George Bailey, a man whose goodness and generosity has touched more people than he realizes. Curiously, the film didn’t go into wide release until after Christmas in January 1947, which might have contributed to its underwhelming box-office performance. It came to life in the 70s and 80s, where its depiction of one man’s dark night of the soul connected with a new generation.