By GORDON GLANTZ
GORDONVILLE — Last week, a survival guide of holiday songs.
This week, pop the popcorn and gather ‘round the TV.
It’s movie time.
Here are 10 you need to see:
10) The House Without A Christmas Tree – You may not have heard of this long-forgotten TV movie starring a much-younger Jason Robards, but the simple period piece set in mid-1940s Nebraska was a December staple from its 1972 airing until the early 1980s. If you never saw it, or are in need of a refresher course, I suggest hunting it down with the same verve I am now doing for Sofia. For what it’s worth, this gets near perfect scores across the board from both viewers and critics.
9) Miracle On 34th Street – Yeah, OK, I may not want to sit through it again, but that doesn’t mean it’s not worth at least one viewing as a requirement for a quick path to US citizenship. Sofia now knows there is no Santa, which is a little sad but also takes a lot of pressure off. Still, a legal argument for his spiritual existence could hit the spot.
8) A Charlie Brown Christmas – Made in 1965, the year of my birth, it should seem dated. And yet, somehow, it never seems to be. Call it a Christmas miracle (nearly 12 years of fatherhood has made me very sappy).
7) A Very Brady Christmas – The Brady Bunch cast was reassembled (sans the original Cindy) in 1988 and the show’s original corniness was a perfect match set against the backdrop of a made-for-TV holiday family movie that led to an ill-fated attempt at a series. As disappointing as that series was, all of us who grew up “Brady” were not let down by this holiday effort.
6) Little Drummer Boy – Made in 1968, in what was called “stop motion,” the figures in this 25-minute short film look so fragile that, if it doesn’t tug at your heart strings, you have none to tug upon. This was my favorite seasonal TV flick at a tender age, which may explain why the song – notably the Bob Seger version – is also No. 1 in Gordonville.
5) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Made back in 1964, with a running time of under 60 minutes, those of us growing up on this – and the song — learned the power of redemption. I know there is some alleged bullying in it, and Santa comes off as a half a jerk, but Rudolph rose above it, literally and figuratively, did he not?
4) It’s A Wonderful Life – It’s a wonderful premise. What if I had turned left instead of right, gone north instead of south, etc.? I actually never saw this, start to finish, until a few years back. What if I hadn’t?
3) The Homecoming: A Christmas Story — Another TV movie, it was based on the novella of Earl Hamner, Jr. (the real John Boy) about his family’s struggles in depression-era rural Virginia. It was so well-done that it spawned the long-running series “The Waltons,” albeit with different actors – thankfully – in a majority of the adult roles.
2) A Christmas Carol — The 1951 version, originally called “Scrooge” — and starring Alistair Sim – reigns supreme over all others (no offense to George C. Scott). I caught this spin of the Dickens classic one lonely Christmas on PBS in the early 1990s and it became required viewing ever since. Sim hits it out of the park as Scrooge, but I want to give a tip of the cap to the women in this film for their nuanced acting. This list – topped by Kathleen Harrison (Mrs. Dilber) and Carol Mask (Fan) – also includes Hermoine Baddely (Mrs. Cratchit), Rona Anderson (Alice) and Olga Edwardes (Fred’s wife).
1) The Godfather — Huh, what? Well, it’s my list and my all-time favorite movie is required viewing in and around Christmas Day. And, while my general sanity is always worth questioning, several outlets do consider this classic an “incidental” Christmas movie (another would be “Trading Places,” for example). It may be because the pivotal scenes take place around Christmas. Example: Michael (Al Pacino) and Kay (Diane Keaton) are walking around New York City while Kay is talking about Christmas gifts she purchased for his family, leading to her noticing a tabloid newspaper headline about Don Corleone (Marlon Brando) being shot. Michael goes into a phone booth (remember those?), while Kaye looks in from the outside, which serves as unspoken symbolism of him locking her out of his small enclosed Corleone enclave. Meanwhile, Tom Hagen (Robert Duvall), is taken hostage while shopping for a sled for his kids, only to be released with a message for Sonny (James Caan).
Honorable Mention: Jack Frost; Trading Places; Full-Court Miracle; Polar Express; Frosty the Snowman; Eight Crazy Nights; Santa Claus is Coming to Town; How the Grinch Stole Christmas.
This column first appeared in The Times Herald on Dec. 23.