Yes, this article was supposed to come your way in December. So sorry about the delay!
Still, it’s fun to extend my favorite holiday season of the year a bit and share the movies I most enjoyed watching during the month in which we celebrate our Savior’s birth.
There were actually a few movies my family went and watched in theaters. The following ones were the cream of the crop.
While not a Christmas movie, I did see this one during Christmas break.
This true-story film about a couple of fighter pilots in Korean War blew me away. The acting from a few rising stars was superb, and the story was well told. The friendship that was built between Jesse Brown and Tom Hudner was something special.
Fair warning: This movie had me weeping harder than during any other film since The Zookeeper’s Wife. It was that good and that emotional.
My favorite character was Daisy Brown. She was spunky and fun and supportive yet brought a depth of emotion that plucked my heartstrings at every turn. The actress, Christina Jackson, made the most of her scenes from the very first one, perfectly showcasing her amazing talent. I’m eager to see what other pictures she’ll be in soon.
My favorite Christmas movie of all time, this film was a sweet surprise in that I wasn’t expecting it to come back to my local theater as part of a series of throwback specials.
This musical always makes me laugh, tap my toes, sing along, and cry a little. Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera-Ellen might be the bright stars in the spotlight of this family and post-war movie, but there are a trio of supporting cast members who are always highlights in their scenes for me.
Dean Jagger portrayed the discouraged four-star general who found himself without support in his new venture: running his very own ski lodge hotel. There is something about his performance in this movie that makes me want to give him a big ol’ hug — right after I salute him, of course!
John Brascia portrayed a key dancer in the musical numbers the troupe put on throughout the film. His performance was just as outstanding as the equally talented Vera-Ellen, and his smile never fails to earn one in return (at least from me). My favorite number he did in this picture was the duet dance with Vera-Ellen. He matched her pace step for step and made me wonder why he never was able to gain leading-man status in any musicals. He was such a talented performer.
Mary Wickes will always be the actress who gets the most laughter from me in this movie. She was a dynamo of a comedienne, and her timing was superb. One of my favorite lines was in response to the general, who said he’d been through the war without her help: “It took 15,000 men to take my place.” I’m so grateful that my parents got me a biography of Mary Wickes for Christmas. I’m looking forward to learning more about this favorite supporting-cast actress who seemed to pop up in buckets of films I’ve seen on TCM in the last several years.
I recently discovered this interview with Rosemary Clooney, who shared some behind-the-scenes details from the making of White Christmas.
I Heard the Bells
This movie about Henry Wadsworth Longfellow and his family, as well as a famous hymn he wrote, was quite a happy and emotional surprise for me. It was perfectly cast and exquisitely performed. The Civil War era really came alive for me, as did the Longfellow family. The depths and layers of heartache Mr. Longfellow experienced was beautifully captured in this movie. I wept for what he went through and how much his writing was impacted because of the way his life and family were impacted by the difficult, challenging circumstances.
What really captured my interest was, naturally, the fact that he was a writer and that this aspect of the story was portrayed realistically. There is a scene were he struggles with writer’s block. Throughout that entire scene, I kept thinking, “Yes… yes… yes! That’s exactly what happens inside my brain when a scene just won’t cooperate!”
Even more than that, the aha! moment and furious writing afterward rang so true to life. I’ve experienced that precise thing dozens of times over the years, and I can never handwrite or type fast enough to keep up with the stream of words that God sends me in those moments.
This movie was especially meaningful to me because Henry Wadsworth Longfellow was the first poet I came to cherish. During fifth grade at a Christian private school, there was a Longfellow poem in the back of my spelling book that my class studied and analyzed. It was one that I connected well with at the time, and I really hate that I cannot recall which poem of his it was, because I rather enjoyed it. Ever since I studied that poem in the fifth grade, Mr. Longfellow has been my favorite poet. I’m hoping to read this year the book of his poems that I own.
As per usual, my parents and I watched lots of Christmas movies at home during December. We didn’t make it through the entire stack of holiday films we’d pulled from our shelves before I got burned out, but here are a few of the ones we managed to watch and enjoy yet again.
Rise of the Guardians
This adventure story was about several holiday figures, such as the tooth fairy and Jack Frost. I found this story charming and enjoyable, even if there are some words I would have preferred not to have inserted into a children’s movie. (Any movie, really, but especially children shouldn’t be exposed to them but often are, sadly.)
What always stands out to me is that fear is overcome by joy. Isn’t that the perfect example of Christianity? The joy God places into our hearts overcomes the fear inside of us. With joy bursting at the seams of us, fear has no space left to claim. This is a reminder I get every time I watch Rise of the Guardians, even though it is not a Christian film.
The secret to that is looking for God in everything around me. Honestly, the more I look for Him, the more I find Him. His fingerprints are all over the place, and I love getting glimpses of His goodness in even general market entertainment.
It Happened on Fifth Avenue
I cannot believe how long it took me to discover this gem of a Christmas movie. It’s been a favorite of mine for a few years now, ever since I saw it for the first time. The cast is amazing and the comedic timing a glimpse at cinematic perfection. The plot is delicious, focusing on a vagrant and several other people living in a mansion that has been closed up for the season.
If you haven’t yet seen this movie, I highly recommend you find a copy quickly, whether it be via purchase or library rental. It’s a winner anytime of the year and always makes me smile and laugh. I love the heartwarming quality to it and the lessons the various characters learn along the journey.
Here’s a little peek:
It’s a Wonderful Life
Such a classic, this one! This story about a man who discovers his worth and impact in life has delighted me for years upon years. It’s a favorite that I reserve for only Christmastime, as it just feels right during that season. The lessons in it, however, I carry with me throughout the year.
Every interaction we have impacts lives: our own and that of other people. Even before I watched It’s a Wonderful Life, I tried to live my life if a way that positively impacted those around me. After having watched it what feels like a zillion times, I try even more to remember just how much meaning there is in every encounter I have with fellow human beings.
I love the helpful spirit the character of George Bailey exudes throughout the picture. The way he comes to the rescue for his community is so encouraging. Would that every person in the world would adopt this attitude when opportunities to help came along in their lives!
My parents have long lived out having a servant’s heart, and I’m utterly grateful for their example to live up to in my own ways. Even now, this very week, I’m hosting a writing camp and encouraging Christian writers in their journeys. This is such a privilege, one which I do not take for granted.
This movie about miscommunication and surprises gone wrong during Christmas is another charmer. It’s got humor and romance and witty banter, along with some heartfelt moments that extract a few tears from me nearly every time I watch it.
Usually, my favorite characters are Charles and Faith. How could they not be with the perfect chemistry, delicious banter, and quick as a whip wit that is bandied about so easily between the two? The performances Tom Cavanagh and Gabrielle Miller gave to this production were the best of their careers, hands down. Totally award worthy, for sure.
However, this time around, I found myself enjoying the characters of Ray and Jason in new ways than normal. It seems like every time I watch this movie, I gain a new and deeper appreciation for those two guys (and the gals they each romance).
During this most recent viewing, it struck me that actor Gil Bellows (Ray) has this subtle yet rich way of listening to his fellow actors as he works. His eyes sparkle as he truly takes in what they’re saying. It’s almost like he intentionally listens with meaningful intent.
(Yes, this note is going into my One Word journal, as my word is “listen” and the above thing is something I want to contemplate further. It won’t hurt to have to rewatch the movie to take more notes on Gil’s listening skills, right? wink, wink)
And Andrew Francis (Jason) might play a total frat boy role, but there’s this underlying charm and tender heart that comes out really well in the latter couple of scenes. One thing that really made me smile was the bit where he makes carrying a large, already decorated Christmas tree look really easy. Usually, I’m looking elsewhere during that scene, because there’s such a romantic moment happening with a couple of other characters, but this time, it was neat to see how casually effortless Mr. Francis made his part look.
Funny enough, this movie also featured a writer’s block thread. Must’ve been a theme for me this holiday season. Good news is, I wasn’t suffering from the same malady myself. Story ideas have been plentiful lately, thank the Lord.
Which movies did you enjoy over Christmas or earlier in December?
Note: I will be skipping January’s movie wrap-up since I wanted to fit December’s in even though I missed the month for that one. I had a lot to say, as you can tell. Hopefully the movie wrap-up will be back in February.
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