Christmas on Becca's Books | 'A Merry Movie Marathon' by Katie Oliver

~ A Merry Movie Marathon ~

By Katie Oliver

What do you think about when Christmas time draws near? Presents? Trimming the tree? Cookies and hot chocolate? Sledding in the newly fallen snow? Or perhaps your thoughts turn to food. Stuffing yourself on roast turkey and dressing, for example, and pumpkin pie.
I think of all of those things. But mostly, I think of my favorite holiday films. There are so many classic movies to choose from - It's a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, A Christmas Carol, Miracle on 34th Street - that's it difficult to choose just a few. 
In the days leading up to Christmas - when I’m wrapping presents, or baking cookies, or just chilling after a long day of shopping - I pour a tumbler of Baileys, grab a few still-warm-from-the-oven chocolate chip cookies (don’t judge, it’s the holidays), and settle down to watch “Love, Actually,” “The Family Stone,” “White Christmas,” and (of course) Ralphie’s tireless quest for a Red Ryder BB gun in “A Christmas Story.”
Sure, I’ve seen all of those movies a gazillion times. But they never get old. They’re like your embarrassing uncle Ray - familiar, yes, and predictable, for sure; but in the end, no matter what, family is family. It’s true that Ray always downs one beer too many and invariably starts an argument, tells an off-color joke, or asks if your cousin Jane is pregnant (she’s not); but you can’t imagine Christmas without him. (Jane, on the other hand, most certainly can.)
In "White Christmas," two Army buddies (Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye) decide to surprise their retired commanding officer, whose Vermont inn is struggling to stay open, by throwing a star-studded song-and-dance show to bring people to the inn for the holidays. The men fall in love with two sisters (Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen), one who sings and one who dances, leading to comedy, romance, and misunderstandings aplenty.

[Trivia: Rosemary Clooney didn’t sing a note in the movie. She had a recording contract with Columbia, but because the film’s soundtrack was released on Decca, Peggy Lee’s voice was dubbed in. And the "Sisters” dance routine (one of the funniest scenes in the movie) wasn’t in the script, but got added after Bing and Danny got to larking around on set.]
Another of my Christmas favorites, “The Family Stone,” has it all - laughs, drama, and more than a few tears. Sarah Jessica Parker is an uptight career woman who agrees to spend Christmas with her fiancé Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) and his family…and they hate her pretty much from the first moment they meet her (especially Everett’s sister, Amy (Rachel McAdams)).

The only one who understands her – and likes her all the same – is Everett's younger brother, Ben (Luke Wilson). ‘You have a freak flag,’ he tells her. With his encouragement – and a few drinks at the local bar – she finally loosens up and lets her freak flag fly. And then some. 

And it certainly wouldn’t be Christmas without the Parker family – mom, dad, Ralphie, and little brother Randy – in the hilarious and heartwarming tale of Ralphie’s burning desire for a Red Ryder BB gun in “A Christmas Story.” Ralphie nearly shoots his eye out, gets a bar of Lux soap thrust in his mouth for saying a Very Bad Word, and suffers the indignity of wearing a pair of pink bunny pajamas (a gift from his aunt Clara) on Christmas morning. 
The neighbors’ dogs invade the kitchen on Christmas Day and devour the family’s turkey; so Ralphie’s dad loads everyone into the car and they have dinner at the local Chinese restaurant instead, because it’s the only place open.

But my absolute, number one, it’s-not-Christmas-without-it film is “Love, Actually.” Written in the aftermath of 9-11, the story follows ten different London couples in the month leading up to Christmas. There’s Billy Mack (Bill Nighy), a fading rock star whose crassly commercial Christmas song is a smash success; Juliet (Keira Knightley), newly married to Peter, who learns his best friend Mark loves her and always has; writer Jamie (Colin Firth) who falls in love with Aurelia, his Portuguese housekeeper who doesn’t speak a word of English; and Hugh Grant as David, the new prime minister who’s attracted to a junior member of the household staff at Number Ten Downing, Natalie (Martine McCutcheon).
And of course, there was THAT dance...

The film also tells the story of David’s married sister Karen (Emma Thompson), who finds an expensive necklace tucked in her husband’s (Alan Rickman) jacket pocket. She’s thrilled but doesn’t let on she’s seen it. When the family exchanges presents, she opens his gift expecting to find the necklace, but instead gets a Joni Mitchell CD. She realizes he’s given the necklace to someone else – his sexy young assistant, Mia. The pain on her face – and her valiant efforts to hide her anguish from her family – are heartbreaking and always, always make me cry buckets. 
Still...I know that everything will work out in the end, for everyone. True love will prevail, misunderstandings will be cleared up, and Christmas dinner will be served…whether it’s Peking duck in a Chinese restaurant (with waiters singing "Fa Ra Ra Ra Ra") or a roast turkey with all of the trimmings at home.
It doesn’t matter if the goose is dry or the mincemeat pie is store-bought or if uncle Ray is being...uncle Ray. As long as everyone sits down together at the Christmas table to enjoy food and companionship and maybe a laugh or two, that’s all that really matters. Family – whether it’s our relatives, or simply a gathering of friends who make up our own unique family - is everything.
All the rest is just tinsel on the tree.

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