Friday, December 24, 2010

Unusual Xmas treats...

10. While She Was Out. I found this movie while I was in the thick of my Master's dissertation. Kim Basinger's turn in a low budget neo-noir Christmas ethno-slasher did a lot to relieve some of my building academic tensions. The abused Della runs out of wrapping paper on Christmas eve and runs headfirst into a circle of goons at the mall. They haunt her into a mid-construction housing development and Della snaps, deploying her toolkit to kill all of the baddies. While not Christmas throughout, you do receive a stirring rendition of "I'll Be Home For Christmas" from a suitably shaken Basinger by film's end.

9. Remember The Night.

Not an entirely light-spirited movie, Ms. Stanwyck is arrested just before Christmas only to meet Fred McMurray, whose untarnished reputation as a prosecutor brings him to the stand for some final justice before the Christmas break. The trial is postponed and Babs has nowhere to go, so of course she follows him to Ohio for his family Christmas. This was the first pairing of McMurray and Stanwyck who would go onto co-star in Douglas Sirk's There's Always Tomorrow and, of course, Double Indemnity. It's a rather sober film, with an ending as untidy as they come...

8. Holiday Affair. TCM is apparently the only one able to offer this charmer which stars Robert Mitchum, who turns the attractive widow, Janet Leigh, into the cops for comparison shopping(?). Well, she gets him fired, but, nevertheless, seasonal warmth spreads and there's some really great footage shot in the Central Park zoo. If memory serves me well it all ends in the courtroom again, for some reason. What was it with the forties?

7. Imitation of Life / All That Heaven Allows.

Why on earth would Douglas Sirk leave something glittering and formal as Christmas alone form his signature critical lens - especially when aiming to dismantle celebrity and high society? Well, Christmas isn't really at the forefront of Imitation of Life, there's only the scene early in the film in which a cold-hearted Lana Turner turns away John Gavin (the gall!) and leaves his seasons wishes to the warm ear of Miss Annie Johnson (Juanita Moore), her "maid." Icicles for on everything Lana touches (scroll to minute 8, here). Christmas is much more malignant in All That Heaven Allows, since it spells desolation for Carrie, the widow who leaves her younger lover (Rock Hudson) because of her kids' selfish want for the appropriate image of status. So they buy her a television to keep her company, and there she sits, framed in the black hole of culture, with only a Christmas tree to keep her company.

6. Christmas In Connecticut.

A total charmer with Stanwyck as a phony Connecticut housewife/columnist. She's all Martha Stewart, but in truth she can't cook rice and lives in a small New York City walk up. Trouble ensues when he boss wants her to cook him Christmas dinner... in her Connecticut abode! There's baby swapping and carriage stealing in this wonderful screwball comedy.

5. Female Trouble.

4. Meet Me In St. Louis.

3. Night of the Hunter.

Nothing says Christmas like Lillian Gish with a gun. Robert Mitchum, again, but slightly less fuzzy as he was in Holiday Affair. This is actually one of the best movies, ever, in my opinion. And the Christmas is one of the most Manichean that you'll find. True melodrama

2. Fireworks.

What? There's a Christmas tree in it!

1. Grace Jones on Pee Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special.


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