Wednesday, December 19, 2012

Top Five Christmas movies

I've considered doing a list like this for a long time, but I never had enough choices to pad it out. You gotta have at least five to make it work, and obviously I am going to have somewhat subversive tastes in Christmas movies. So here they are, in the order in which I first viewed them, not the order in which they were released.
  • Batman Returns – Michele Pfeiffer in a black latex catsuit against a backdrop of icy unfeeling Gotham City. Plus Danny DeVito snickering and shuffling across the screen, and Christopher Walken parodying himself. Plot and character development are irrelevant here; this is all about the avatars. Best line: "I don't know about you, Miss Kitty, but I feel soooo much yummier."
  • The Ref – Dennis Leary is a cat burglar who botches his getaway and takes bickering marrieds Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey as his hostages. They are on the verge of divorce, and their couples therapy is going nowhere. Leary ends up refereeing their bitter arguments--and eventually the dynamics of the whole nasty family--at gunpoint. Very funny and very foul-mouthed, and of course the performances of the three master thespians are terrific. But probably my favorite part is Glynnis Johns (whom I last knew as the sweet-faced, soft-voiced Mrs. Banks from Mary Poppins) playing the relentless, iron-fisted family matriarch. Best line is when Leary threatens to tie her to the back of a truck and she replies contemptuously, "You don't have the balls."
  • The Long Kiss Goodnight – This one is more nostalgia than anything. Geena Davis wasn't the first, nor the best, of the new wave of kick-ass heroines in the 90's--that honor goes to Linda Hamilton. Nevertheless this movie gets props for its mockery of the buddy format--with the buddy played by hapless, flapless, Samuel L. Jackson. Naturally, he gets most of the good lines, but his best moments are when he doesn't speak at all. Like when we think all is lost, but suddenly the opening lick of "Bad to the Bone" rips out and Jackson sits up, bloody but galvanized, in the front seat of his car. Or after the climax when he's driving through a hailstorm of flaming debris and the little girl shrieks, "Don't hit the cars!" and he gives her a look of utter WTF incredulity.
  • Die Hard – Mayhem, improbable stunts and witty rejoinders accompanied by multiple renditions of "Ode to Joy." I watched this again a couple weeks ago and I couldn't help noticing, it is oddly more feminist and multicultural than much of what has come out of Hollywood in the 30 years since. Best line: Although the "yippy-ki-yay" line has become something of a signature, it's a  throwaway in the context of the movie. My personal favorite is when Alan Rickman is on the phone listing the terrorist group members he (ostensibly) wants freed as part of his phony negotiation. The last one he lists is "Asian Dawn," which draws a perplexed look from Alexander Godunov. Rickman puts his hand over the phone and hisses, "I read about them in Newsweek."
  • Bell, Book, and Candle – The clothes. The Zodiac club. The mid-century Christmas decorations.  The magic. The clothes. The romance. Kim Novak's sleepy-eyed purr. And yes, the CLOTHES. The only thing I dislike about this movie is the ending. I keep wishing some bright young female director--Drew Barrymore, maybe--would remake it and change the ending so Gillian doesn't give up her powers for love. Best line: After Shep says "Magic In Mexico" sold like the Kinsey report, Gillian smirks and says she figures the author was just fed a lot of fake touristy stuff. Shep replies, "Maybe they did the same to Kinsey."

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