Only Planet

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Friday, December 19, 2008

Is it a Wonderful Life?

‘Tis the season for holiday movies, both sappy and sublime. And it’s also the season for sharing, whether it be colds, or cookies, so I’m sharing with you some of my favorite movies that are set at this time of the year.

The Sappy:

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: Okay, Wally World mugs of eggnog and membership to the jelly of the month club may not be your idea of what makes being with family over the holidays special, but hey—the first time I saw this was during my first week of law school finals, and the stress load was pretty intense—so Christmas at the Griswold’s will always feel like a place of refuge for me.

Die Hard: Didn’t you know? Die Hard is a classic holiday story. Bruce Willis saves his wife from an evil, pre-Snape, Alan Rickman, which becomes the highlight of the company party. If only Andy’s holiday parties were so memorable…

Love, Actually: It rivals Harry Potter for the number of huge British stars, and rates high on the sap meter, but when Emma Thompson figures out her husband—again a churlish Alan Rickman—is cheating, while Joni Mitchell sings in the background, well—it’s so sad.

The Sublime:

A Charlie Brown Christmas: Pure 100% nostalgia. Watching it put me back in 1974. Lying on the couch in footie pj’s, giddy with anticipation for Santa’s visit. Linus’s speech, the timeless music of Vince Garauldi, and Charlie Brown’s tiny tree all make this a perfect Christmas movie.

A Christmas Story: Poor Ralphie, all he wants is a Red Ryder BB gun, which his mother (and Santa) are sure will put an eye out. The pink bunny suit, the leg lamp and Christmas dinner at a Chinese restaurant—weren’t these moments from my own childhood Christmases? Funny trivia bit: Peter Billingley, who played Ralphie, has been in Elf and Four Christmases.

The Godfather: Okay, it’s not really a Christmas movie, but it’s such an awesome movie, and there is a scene where Michael Corleone is buying Christmas gifts, only to find out that his Dad has just been shot in what is the beginning of a gangster war. And there’s nothing like a shot-up Don to bring the family together during the holidays.

Hard to Classify:

It’s a Wonderful Life: Hard times due to a banking debacle, and too many real-life Mr. Potters trodding on the small guy makes watching It’s a Wonderful Life especially poignant this year. Sure, there are some sappy moments, and who named their kids ZuZu in 1940? But what I found to be truly heartbreaking is George Bailey’s desire to see the world, go to college and chase his fortunes outside of Bedford Falls, only to be thwarted by circumstance and obligation to family whenever an opportunity to leave appears.

Like George, I too wanted nothing more in my life than to leave my own Bedford Falls, see the world and get an education. It didn’t matter that college was only three hours away, it might as well had been a whole universe apart.

Unlike George, I was able to leave. I went to the University of Montana and then proceeded to travel to over 40 US states and 30 different countries. While I’ve kept a few of my friends from Bedford Falls (they too left, some chose to return), I’ve made friends in all the places I’ve settled.

I don’t know; I have always wondered if George had left Bedford Falls, would he have gotten interested in medicine and found a cure for a type of cancer? Or would he have pursued his interest in building and made architectural masterpieces that the whole world would enjoy? I know that is not the story, but I was never one to assume that his life in BF was the best version out there.

But the message is that a rich man is the one who has a lot of friends, and I heartily agree, friends make life richer, during good times and bad. Happy Holidays to all of our friends in Bedford Falls and beyond.


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