Wednesday, December 20, 2006

A Woman’s Christmas Film Wishlist

This time of year, a lot of us rent holiday films to get us into the spirit. 90% of those films center around male characters - it’s not what you first notice about them but go to the holiday display at your local video store and you’ll see what I mean. Tim Allen and Chevy Chase and Michael Keaton and the Grinch are all over the place. Nothing wrong with those movies - but I submit to you MY list for holiday viewing:

White Christmas
Rosemary Clooney, Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Vera Ellen
Not only is this confection warm, traditional, packed with familiar tunes and just sentimental enough to get your annual dose of schmaltz - the women match the men for spirit, talent and screen time throughout the film. Bing Crosby was, arguably, the king of old hollywood musicals - but he more than met his match in Rosemary Clooney.

The Family Stone
Sarah Jessica Parker, Diane Keaton, Luke Wilson, Rachel McAdams, Dermot Mulroney, Claire Danes, Craig T. Nelson
Because the female lead is successful and still a nice woman who has insecurities and issues. Because all the women in this film are strong and smart. Because Diane Keaton is fabulous. Because it’s a holiday film for adults. Intelligent adults. Because it’s not simple, it’s not just happy and it’s that much better for it. and last but not least... Because Luke Wilson is completely adorable.

The Long Kiss Goodnight
Geena Davis, Samuel L. Jackson,Craig Bierko, Brian Cox
It’s Christmas time and Geena Davis is an amnesiac who has built a life for herself in a sweet sleepy town as a schoolteacher, mother and wife. Then her old life and memories begin to surface and it turns out that she’s really a former spy / assassin of some sort and she bleaches her hair and blows things up and gets to hang out with Samuel Jackson. Cheese? Yes! This movie is a CHEESEFEST! Also great fun and I, for one, like a few non-traditional choices for my holiday viewing. Plus I have this weakness for movies that feature women kicking butt.

Home for the Holidays
Holly Hunter, Robert Downey Jr., Anne Bancroft, Charles Durning, Geraldine Chaplin, Claire Danes, Dylan McDermott
I think it is impossible that you might NOT know about this film. And it IS a Thanksgiving film. But it’s also a family - a crazy, stress-you-out, embarrassing family - that will make you think of your own crazy relatives and that completely gets the fact that you can love people and want to strangle them at the same time. They aren’t caricatures. They are warm, wonderful, complex characters surrounding one 30-something woman who has made that fateful return home for Thanksgiving. Claudia is at a crossroads in her life and that crystaline moment of taking in a view of one's own life and starting anew is captured so beautifully and with such humor amidst the frenetic family gathering. It’s it an absolute joy and a brilliant piece of filmmaking packed with flawless performances (David Strathairn's cameo is particularly brilliant - funny and heartwrenching all at once).

Love Actually
Alan Rickman, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Martin Freeman, Hugh Grant, Laura Linney... ok. everyone is in this movie.
This movie embraces what women have known for years - that love stories aren’t just about romantic love. They are about parents and children, brothers and sisters, husbands and wives and everything in between. Great love stories aren’t just about joy or flirtation; they can also cover loss, longing, yearning, hope and betrayal. Not all loves are meant to work, not all stories have a happy ending. That makes the happy endings that do happen that much more precious. The thing about Hugh Grant being the British Prime Minister is a bit absurd, but the stories are wonderful and subtly intertwined and interspersed with the signs of Christmas going on all around.

And For The Feminist’s Little Ones:

Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas
Features the voices of Jim Henson, Frank Oz and Jerry Nelson, among others
Emmet Otter’s mom is raising him by herself and this sweet children’s Christmas flick is all about the bond between mother and son and how the two try to get the best present possible for each other in spite of their financial woes. A great choice for kids which is heavy on the warm Christmas spirit and leaves out the commercialism.

A Charlie Brown Christmas
The Whole Peanuts Gang
I love this movie, although I am not thrilled with the commercial vehicle it has ironically become for TV advertising. All the same, it's not Christmas without Charlie Brown's little tree which has become an icon for the "real" spirit of Christmas. I also love that Charles Schultz was far ahead of other cartoonists in presenting a cast of characters that has just as many girls as boys. This is far too rare in popular comic strips and children’s cartoons. Schultz created widely varied characters including a tomboy (Peppermint Patty), a strong willed but feminine girl (Lucy), girly girly (like Sally) and the shy, bookish girl (Marcy). I love Peanuts for it’s humor and warmth, but also for the fact that it has always represented girls equally.

Please email me or comment on here with your own suggestions!
Also - click on the film name to reach it's page on the Internet Movie Database.


  1. love love love emmet otter's jugband christmas. too bad they don't show it on tv anymore :/

  2. Wow, I thought my mother and I were the only ones out there who had ever seen Emmet Otter's jugband Christmas.

  3. Yeah, isn't it odd how cool things can find their way into deserving hands?

    I like waffles.

  4. I see you are wise in the ways of waffles.

    I don't remember any Christmas movies where waffles fature heavly... oh! wait - I am wrong! In the Calfornia Raisin Claymation Christmas Special the pigs sing "Here we come a waffling" instead of "here we come a wasseling"