‘TIS THE SEASON
I use things like Santa pictures to provide a visual record of my son’s descent into autism, and the gradual decline of his autistic symptoms. From the excited look on his face before his regression, to the blank expression of a little boy who would only stand in front of Mr. C, to the happy smile of a boy trying to forge a relationship with Santa. A good picture just makes for a happier Christmas.
We try to do Christmas right around the Rankin house. Like many people in post-Katrina Louisiana, we decided to scale back our decorations a little. That means it only took me one full day instead of two to string up the lights outside. Although we have not done “the full Griswold,” you can see our house from a pretty good distance at night.
The radio stays tuned to holiday music, and we actively seek out Christmas movies on television. Every year I add to a long list of Christmas movies I love. From old favorites like White Christmas to newer movies like Elf. I’ll sit and laugh with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation or get into a little more sentimental mood with Love Actually. I’m still trying to figure out an appropriate reaction to Bad Santa, but I think I liked it.
There are five movies I consider classics, with at least one viewing of each being required for a complete Christmas season. In reverse order my favorites are:
5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
This one’s been remade a couple of times. Nothing can touch the original for two reasons: Natalie Wood as the little girl struggling with what to believe and Edmund Gwenn as the real deal.
4. It’s a Wonderful Life
Because NBC now owns the exclusive air rights to this movie, we don’t see it quite as much as we used to. It’s worth a little extra effort to catch it.
3. The Polar Express
It’s rare that a movie can become a classic from the moment it is released. This one qualifies. Believe.
2. A Christmas Story
In what other movie can you hear Santa utter the immortal words: “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.”
1. Scrooge (a/k/a A Christmas Carol) (1951)
Dickens’ classic tale of redemption has been made and remade more probably than any other story. At least two of the versions have been entitled Scrooge, including my favorite, the 1951 movie starring Alistair Sim as the miser. He never stoops to stereotypes playing Ebeneezer, and every moment rings true.
The heart of Scrooge comes toward the end when Ebeneezer, for the first time in many years, decides to seek out the company of others. He goes to the home of his nephew, Fred, to seek forgiveness and share in the joy of the day, but he isn’t at all sure what reception he might find. Scrooge is let into Fred’s house by a young maid, a person that wouldn’t have even registered on Scrooge’s consciousness just 24 hours before. Now he looks to her for encouragement, and it is only after she gives him a little nod, that Ebeneezer can walk into the room where his nephew’s party is being held.
The scene between Scrooge and the maid, in which no words are spoken, is among the finest 30 seconds of film ever presented. That brief encounter reminds me that nobody is truly alone at Christmas. All one has to do is reach out a little.
Enjoy the holidays.