Sunday, December 8, 2013

Movie Party

There are many movies I love that very few other people have seen. Each month, I try to remedy that by hosting a movie party for my friends and choosing great movies they probably have never heard of. This month is themed with Christmas movies. Although time restraints and unforeseen circumstances dwindled the attendance this month, we had a good time eating Ange's pizza and watching great movies. 
I started the show out with the most depressing film. I saw "Little Match Girl" for the first time at Cinevent and when it ended, I literally had tears in my eyes. When a cartoon can do that, it is really something special, so it is no wonder that this one was considered for an Academy Award. It is available on Youtube but it is slightly cut. The powerful ending was truncated so the poster included it at the end as a supplement. 
Next, we watched our first feature, one of my favorites: Susan Slept Here. I am a Dick Powell fanatic, so I've seen this movie many times. In fact, I have both the record sung by Dick and the one by Don Cornell. I also have all of the lobby cards from this film except the title card, several movie stills, an insert and the sheet music. It is set at Christmastime but it isn't heavy on the typical themes of family, forgiveness, and giving. Instead, it is a quiet romance with a lot of comedy and colorful characters. There is a lot of 50s opulence here with beautiful women (Debbie Reynolds and Anne Francis), great sets, and reflections of a different mindset. It is absolutely worth seeing at least once, if not twice then three times and on and on.
“Christmas Comes But Once a Year” is a Fleischer cartoon that I saw many times when I was a kid. There is something so quaint and wonderful about the Fleischer cartoons. The ones I like best don't feature characters you see everywhere, like the Looney Tunes or Betty Boop. They have cherubic but nondescript characters that let you focus on the story and the backgrounds instead of just the people involved. This one features a kindly old man who remedies the orphan home's failed Christmas. 
Our short film was Laurel and Hardy's "Below Zero." Although this isn't Christmas-themed, there is lots of snow, and I take any excuse I can find to show Laurel and Hardy. They were a great comedy team and I always get a laugh out of them, especially Stan's cry face. 
Last we watched A Holiday Affair, which I believe to be the best unsung classic Christmas film out there. It has an excellent cast: Janet Leigh, Robert Mitchem, and Wendell Corey, not to mention the adorable Gorden Gebert. He is so natural as little Timmy to the point that even his awkwardness with his lines works in his favor; he just seems like a real kid. This movie toggles between a cozy apartment to big department stores to the streets of New York. They all have become iconic locations for Christmas films, and they're all
on full display here. The love story seems genuine and realistic, even though there are indeed some things about this movie that are dated. However, since Christmas is the perfect time to be nostalgic, this is in no way a hindrance. I love this movie, and I hope that after you see it, you will too.
RADIO: Cinnamon Bear “Roly-Poly Policeman”, Jump Jump and the Ice Queen “A Doll For Jump Jump”, Jonathan Thomas and his Christmas on the Moon “Under the Witch’s Spell”
SONG: “Jingle Bells” by Dick Powell 
GIFT MEMORY: By the time I got into my second year of college, I had hundreds of film reviews on I began getting friend requests from people with similar interests, which were mainly old movies. One person was named Bobby, and we became e-mail buddies. He had been interested in black and white movies for a long time so he had lots of great recommendations, and we would often trade movies back and forth. He introduced me to the film “Miracle in the Rain” and to the films of Deanna Durbin.
He also loves Christmas, and we began exchanging gifts. The stacks of presents, mostly film related, grew each year until he went completely overboard and sent me a giant stocking packed with great films. I refused to open it until Christmas day, so a huge package sat wedged between the tree and the couch for weeks. My mom couldn’t wait to find out what he sent me, and kept begging me to open it early. Then, on Christmas morning, I began opening present after present, shocked that they just kept coming, and shocked that he cared that much to send so many things. I even felt guilty that I was still opening and my family had run out a long time ago.
I am forever grateful to Bobby for his massive contribution to my film library with things like the Lon Chaney collection and Random Harvest and Ruggles of Red Gap. We no longer talk as much as we used to, and financial obligations have ceased the gift exchange, but I still consider Bobby to be a friend and we swap Christmas cards each December.

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