Victoria Jelinek

Christmas Movie Watch List


Growing up, my family’s Christmas viewing was the films Valley of the Dolls and Lenny Bruce. While these remain staples in my holiday diet, in the years since I’ve lived at home my Christmas movie watch list has expanded.

Of course It’s a Wonderful Life, directed by Frank Capra, is a Christmas classic. The plot is about an angel who shows a man what life would have been like had he never existed. It’s from 1946, so the black-and-white coloring may turn some people off, but it’s worth watching not only ‘cause it’s a great film that any self-respecting cinephile has watched, but because it’s dealing with disillusionment, depression, and the prospect of suicide– avant-garde themes to put on the big screen at the time.

For a bright, silly, funny film with a gracious helping of insight into elfin mores, Elf tops my list. Directed by Jon Favreau with Will Ferrell, it’s the story of a human raised in the North Pole who goes to New York City to find his biological father, played by James Caan. Mishaps and misunderstandings that appeal to all ages and personality types ensue as the two cultures meet.

A Christmas Story is a close second to Elf. Filmed in the 1980’s, it’s circa 1940’s and all Ralphie wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder B.B. gun. In the days that lead up to Christmas, we get to know Ralphie’s family – his father’s penchant for swearing, his mother’s desire to placate, his little brother’s atrocious eating habits, his aunt’s namby-pamby gifts, and the trials and tribulations of playground politics. This is a movie full of warmth that will have you and your family laughing out loud in recognition of its characters, and the circumstances and events of their lives.

While Bad Santa may have made the watch list in my family had it been produced while I was still a tot, it’s not general family viewing. Billy Bob Thornton plays a con man that dresses up as Santa for Christmas in order to earn a bit of dosh, and he simply doesn’t give a fuck about others’ expectations of him once he dons the Claus outfit. Humorous and downright rude, this movie entertains by taking the idea about what a naughty Santa would look like to its extreme.

As a caveat to my final recommendation for Christmas movie fare, know that I grew up with Chevy Chase on Saturday Night Live and am a fan of the cult classic film CaddyShack, so I forgive Chevy his later career transgressions. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is funny ‘cause the Griswold’s family’s mishaps at Christmas could be our own – obnoxious family guests for one thing…






The Monuments Men

monuments_menAt the end of WWII, Frank Stokes (George Clooney) puts together a crew of art experts willing to brave the front lines in order to rescue continental Europe’s cultural heritage from the Nazi’s obliteration of the pieces, and the Soviets pillaging of them.

I unabashedly like George Clooney, who also directed and co wrote this film. I know he’s arguably “too earnest,” and a bit “too slick,” but I don’t care – I appreciate his efforts. That said, this latest endeavor was disappointing. It’s a handsome film, and the concept is great – art geeks braving the ruthlessness of war to do the right thing and save our collective treasures. But the film is not focused, making the pieces incoherent and episodic. It wants to be an important film, asking (repeatedly) whether a work of art is worth a human life. It also seems to want to be like the daring Nazi-bashing escapades of yore, with its whistling score. It also seems reminiscent of a Danny Ocean orchestrated heist. Not one of these objectives is successfully accomplished, though, due to a poorly constructed story that does not have one unifying’ job’ that brings all the seams together. It’s a shame, too, ‘cause the idea has potential, there are several excellent scenes, and the cast is talented…