Tag Archive: A Christmas Story

The Best of Christmas

Family Movie Night

By Karyn Bowman

Do you have your must-watch movies during the holiday season?

I know I do.

Just like those must have treats, the holiday season doesn’t feel right without certain movies.

christmas-cookiesOne holiday treat I miss are the mini pecan pies one of my mom’s friends used to make. She used a cream cheese dough that was perfect with the custard and nut filling. But Chris has been gone for too many years and I never could re-create them.

However, I can make kolachi cookies and plan to do so this year. I think one Saturday will be spent in the kitchen rolling out dough and filling them with apricot or cream cheese filling. I wouldn’t mind making white chocolate cranberry oatmeal cookies as well. And I think the kids want those peanut butter cookies with a chocolate kiss in the middle. Somehow it doesn’t seem like Christmas without them.

One thing I have never been able to do is make a decent pie crust until I found a recipe that called for half butter and half shortening. Forget the Martha Stewart food processor version. This recipe never falls apart on me or make me wish I hadn’t attempted a homemade crust. Now I just need to learn how to make those pies with the beautiful leaves and vines.

A Christmas Story Peter IMDb com

Ralphie talks to Santa in “A Christmas Story”; Picture from IMDb.com

As for movies, it is never really Christmas without watching A Christmas Story. Will Ralphie get his rifle? Will his dad win the battle against the furnace? Will his little brother ever get to go outside without looking like the Michelin Man? I know all the answers to these questions and I don’t care if I have seen this movie a thousand times. I love spending time with this family. So much so that we have taken on a family tradition of going to the Chinese buffet for our Christmas meal – without the duck.

Another tradition I like to include is A Charlie Brown Christmas. Sometimes I feel as if the music is too much of a minor key while other times it leaves me breathless and happy. But the story is the thing here as Charlie fights against the commercialization of the season. It is symbolized by his friends and family desire to be the biggest, brightest of the season and his rebellion of picking a Christmas tree that is the saddest one on the lot. Joy is the end result as we remember the Christmas story.

The Nativity Story poster IMDb com

Poster image from IMDb.com

With so many biblical movies in the past few years, the one I lean towards in The Nativity Story (2006) starring Keisha Castle-Hughes and Oscar Issac as Mary and Joseph. It shows the time in which Mary is betrothed – unwillingly- to Joseph. A message from an angel changes her life, puts her in great danger, and challenges Joseph to act with faith. While the movie was made quickly, I find it beautiful to watch and deeply compelling. Each character grows more precious in my eyes as I come to understand their bravery, knowledge, and wisdom.

All of these are watchable by many member of the family. But the one I love most of all is Love Actually. I watch it with the husband or girlfriends because it has enough swear words and sexual situations to be uncomfortable with my adult children or mother.

Love, Actually IMDb com

Poster image from IMDb.com.

That is despite it being a movie that is best for late-teen to adult viewing. And yet, what I love about this movie is its message of hope in most cases. That we can find love with the right person. It’s just that there are many definitions of love in this movie and not all of them are happy. Couples are challenged, find that while love exists it cannot work for them, or that the person they love the most is never who they expected. And all of this takes place during the Christmas season.

Without any of these my Christmas is a little more lackluster, a little less teary, a little less hopeful.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Family Movie Night

by Karyn Bowman

Now that the holiday season is here, TV stations are filling their line up with every holiday movie ever made.

The problem is, some of these movies are truly horrible.

The other night my kids were watching Santa Paws, one of the Air Bud sequels. I was only listening to the dialogue and it was grating. We declared bedtime and were able to turn off this clichéd mess of a movie.

Just because a movie is meant for kids, does not mean it has to be stupid. Just because advertising for a movie says it is family friendly, that doesn’t mean you have to watch it. When there is less demand for a movie, it slowly disappear from the TV landscape. That is what thankfully happened to Santa Claus Conquers The Martians (1964).

So what would I suggest?

Image from IMDb.com

Let me give you my five holiday must see movies/special for kids.

5. Are We There Yet? stars Ice Cube and may seem like an annoying family flick featuring a guy who is not necessarily family friendly. But there is a message about what a family really is and how you have to understand that other people’s actions are not your actions.

The story is about a businessman who doesn’t like kids but falls for a woman with two precocious darlings who drive away every potential suitor. When she suddenly needs help getting the kids up to her work, the Cube willing says he can help. There are some funny moments and strange moments but also some sweetness and understanding.

4. Any holiday special put out by Bass/Rankin. They might be 40 years old but these specials, such as Santa Clause is Coming to Town and Rudolph the Red-nose Reindeer, are wonderful in their story telling and musical numbers. The animation is old fashioned stop-action figures but it feels substantial.

Image from IMDb.com

3. There is one TV special that people make time for and that is A Charlie Brown Christmas. First shown in 1965, this show has been a classic ever since Charlie Brown tried to organize the Christmas play and needed a tree for the stage. It laments the advent of commercialism in the Christmas season and gives us the story of Jesus’ birth. It is 25 minutes of perfection.

2. My next two could be interchangeable, they are so good in their story-telling and acting. But let me throw out Miracle on 34th Street from 1947. This is the king of Santa movies, of Christmas stories, of finding hope and faith when common sense tells you not to do it. Edmund Gwynne plays Kris Kringle who replaces Santa at the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade. He continues on with his role during the holiday season, changing the company culture (long before the term was coined) in his kind and gentle way. But an idiot decides to get back at him and he is in Bellevue. Before you know it, he is in court trying to prove he is the real Santa Clause. This ensemble does such a great job it is not hard to believe that this movie was a big hit when it was released in the summer of 1947.

1. Granted, this movie gets shown all day on Christmas day and you might be tired of it. But A Christmas Story ranks as one of the best Christmas movies ever because ever vignette in this movie feels true. We all know someone who put their tongue on a metal pole. We all know about bullies and being incredibly wrapped against the winter’s cold and presents that are ridiculous but must be gratefully accepted. And we all know about the dream present – the one that keeps us up at night in anticipation.

The cast of Darren McGavin, Melinda Dillon, and Peter Billingsley were absolute perfection. There was chemistry among them that made you feel as if it was a real family. I never get tired of watching this movie and that is the sign of a well-made flick.

Image from IMDb.com

Now there is usually an honerable mention; a movie that did not make the list because it is a #6 but the reviewer still thinks it is worth watching. For me that movie is The Polar Express. The animation is gorgeous, the story telling is wonderful.

We follow a boy who is wavering on his belief in Santa and Christmas. Then, on Christmas Eve, the Polar Express stops in front of his house. He runs out and looks at the huge train in the street where no tracks had been placed. The conducter says to him “Well, are you coming?” And that is all we need to start a adventure.

 Next time I will list my favorite holiday movies for adults.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Are You Dreaming?

Family Movie Night

This summer the movie Inception caused a big stir because it is a mystery.

Michael Caine and Leonardo DiCaprio in "Inception." Picture from IMDb.com

The story is about a man who steals things after gleaning information from people’s dreams. It has come at a cost. But then he is given an opportunity to reverse it all and find redemption. It is not easy and there are times that it seems the obstacles are too large and too conveniently placed.

It is a movie of such skill in storytelling and confusing clue-giving that no one is really sure what the story is about or how it ends. People had to see this movie over and over in attempts to understand the movie and figure out just how the story resolves itself.

"Inception" director Christopher Nolan; Picture from IMDb.com

Christopher Nolan directed this movie and recently gave an interview in Wired magazine that gave no clue about the ending. He put forth impressive non-answers that would make the CIA proud. His point is to let the audience think about the story and come up with their own suppositions.

I have not seen this movie which is why I am looking forward to its release on DVD. I am looking forward to watching it and re-watching it so I can figure out the storyline, what is a dream and what is not. Granted I will have to watch Leonardo Di Caprio a lot but it is a sacrifice I am willing to make. It is rated at PG-13 and would be best suited for those in junior high and older.

It is a movie that may be in one of the ten nominated for best film when Oscar season rolls around. I am willing to bet it will receive honors in the technical aspects. Please let me know what you think of this movie which has been called the thinking man’s blockbuster.

Ralphie talks to Santa in "A Christmas Story"; Picture from IMDb.com

As the Christmas season rolls along, it seems as if there are so many movies to watch. One of my favorites for the season is A Christmas Story starring Peter Billingsley as Ralphie. Set in the early 1940s, it is a slice of life picture about a young boy’s desire for the perfect Christmas gift – a red rider bb gun.

There is so much about this movie that I love. Every scene is a treasure trove of memories and joy. Who can forget the scenes of the tongue on the pole, the flat tire, meeting Santa and the dogs on Christmas day?

The Infamous Leg Lamp; Picture from IMDb.com

There are so many things to love about this movie that is perfection in the casting in every principle player. Plus it is a movie the whole family can watch together.

Until next week, see you in the rental aisle.

Let the world know about your latest pick for Family Movie Night and drop a note below.