“As rare as they are, canonical Christmas movies remain a compulsive annual holiday-viewing rite,” begins Michael Atkinson. “For four or five weeks, the ordinarily neglected mid-century past emerges into the mainstream…. It’s the only time of the year in which it’s permissible and universal to listen to and sing along with old pop music that’s not merely 30 years old, but 70 years old. (Crosby’s ‘White Christmas’ single debuted in 1942.) This is no small potatoes to the historically conscious among us who not only believe that a cultural object shouldn’t be forgotten or denigrated because it is not brand spanking new, but that such an object may very well be more fascinating and profound and beautiful because it is that old, because it has survived and acquired the patina of retrospection and comes bearing the freight of history.” What follows are a few well-stated thoughts on the impact of WWII, via pop culture, on the very idea of Christmas all the way up to the present moment.
Also at Sundance Now, Nick Pinkerton: “‘Why do filmmakers think it’s such a good story, anyway?’ Pauline Kael wrote with regards to the life of Christ—an attitude with which I would heartily disagree. But since ‘Tis the Season, I’ll nominate another Yuletide fixture as persistently problematic in cinema: Kris Kringle, Father Christmas, The Fat, Jolly Old Elf, Ever-lovin’ Santa Claus.” This is one fun survey.
A marvelous video essay by Michael Koresky and Casey Moore
“Not Your Typical Christmas Movies” is an annotated list from Susan Doll at Movie Morlocks: “The Grinch in me leans toward those holiday-themed movies in which Christmas provides an ironic, tragic, unusual, or unique backdrop to the narrative.”
Oliver Hunt‘s top five choices at Gorilla aren’t exactly holiday standards, either. Topping Bob Sassone‘s list of “6 Other Christmas Movies You Should Be Watching” is Peter Godfrey’s Christmas in Connecticut (1945) with Barbara Stanwyck, screening this afternoon and evening at Film Forum. Also writing for Esquire, Garin Pirnia picks out some fun trivia from Caseen Gaines’s book, A Christmas Story: Behind the Scenes of a Holiday Classic.
“This weekend I finally got to introduce my family to Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas,” writes Christopher Campbell at Movies.com. “It was such a special moment that I had to share the news on Facebook. It got many likes. People love that little Jim Henson film. Someday I’ll try to do the same thing with Santa Claus: The Movie. It won’t be nearly as enjoyed. It won’t receive any Facebook likes. Nobody, and I mean nobody, loves that almost forgotten box office bomb. Except me.”
Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) screens today at Century Theatres around the San Francisco Bay Area, and Brian Darr reminds us that it wasn’t entirely a flop upon its release, nor was it completely forgotten before it became a perennial holiday favorite in living rooms coast to coast: “Now annual screenings in cinemas and on television stations are joined by annual internet articles about the film’s history as a target of anti-Communist investigation, about its surviving cast, and more. My favorite new-for-2013 piece of It’s A Wonderful Life effluvia is a newly re-cut trailer put together by the Cinefamily (formerly Silent Movie Theatre) in Los Angeles for its current week-long 35mm run of the film. Enjoy!”
Update, 12/26: Geoffrey Macnab picks ten favorites for the Independent.