Thursday, December 17, 2020

Two (New) Must-See Christmas Movies

I woke this morning to a gentle rain falling outside my bedroom window. Here in the Treasure Valley the temperature has climbed into the high 30's, and the rain melts the weekend's snow and Tuesday's ice. Rambo sits on the sill batting the cords of the blinds. He wants to go out, but knows he can't.

It is a week before Christmas 2020, the last major holiday before the new year. Most will be happy to see 2020 end, but a flip of the calendar won't wipe away our ills. Even with vaccines for Covid-19, the experts are predicting the virus will continue to wreak havoc and claim lives well into 2021.

In the midst of the madness, our hearts and eyes turn to anything that will lift our flagging spirits. The local Christian station KTSY 89.5FM has been playing Christmas music since November 1st. My Facebook and Twitter feeds displayed gorgeously-decorated trees well before Thanksgiving. Until 2020, this practice was frowned upon. But if it brings us joy, who cares about convention?

Many of us began watching Christmas movies early, those light-hearted clips of love and a belief in something bigger. Netflix, Hulu, and Amazon Prime rolled theirs out early. The other stations may have too, but those are my three go-tos. We all have our favorite Christmas movies, and there are many from which to choose. But I prefer romantic comedies, and have invested in the DVDs and/or bluerays.

Until last year, my top two favorite Christmas movies were Love Actually and The Holiday. But one day in December 2019, I ducked into our local $3.00 movie house, Reel Cinema, and took a chance on a film called Last Christmas. I had watched the trailer on Fandango, but other than that, I'd heard nothing about this little gem.

I loved it so much, I went back a week later to see it again. Then I rented it from Redbox a couple weeks after that.

And yes, it spiraled to the top of my Most-Loved Christmas Movies list. And it was the first Christmas movie I watched this year. Here is a post I wrote on Facebook after watching it on November 16, 2020:

"This year I started my Christmas-movie watching with Last Christmas. If you love romcoms and haven't seen this movie from last year, don't wait any longer. Especially if you have an intimate knowledge of depression and/or addiction. Or are a George Michael fan.

Last Christmas is a romcom with a twist, starring the amazing Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding. Written by Emma Thompson, who also plays a great role as Emilia's mother, and her husband, this movie has a LOT of heart.

As Emilia's character slides deeper into her own personal morass, she meets the unlikely character played by Henry Golding. The lovely Michelle Yeoh plays a spicy "Santa", the owner of a year-round Christmas shop in London, and Emilia's boss.

I won't tell you any more. But if you love romcoms and/or Christmas movies, don't miss Last Christmas. Btw, I recently found the blueray at Walmart for $12, and I'm hoping one of the big players - Netflix, Prime, or Hulu, offers it for free."

Recently, one of my patients told me about a Netflix Christmas movie, an animated film called Klaus. I watched it yesterday and - WOW! I now have another new favorite.

In the beginning, the main character, Jesper, is none too likeable. The son of a rather severe and wealthy Postmaster General, Jesper is lazy and selfish and full of himself. Fed up with Jesper's entitled shenanigans, his father sends him to Smeerensberg in the far, far, faaaar frozen north. He must either turn the zero-mail being sent from that island-town around—or he will be cut from the family purse strings with not a cent to his name.

Read Roger Ebert's Review of Klaus

For the sake of honesty, I admit that I nearly stopped watching this film. The people of Smeerensburg were even more awful than Jesper. But when Jesper meets Klaus, a disillusioned toymaker and isolated giant of a man, things begin to turn around.

Here's IMDB's blurb, which captures the heart of the story in a nutshell:

"A simple act of kindness always sparks another, even in a frozen, faraway place. When Smeerensburg's new postman, Jesper, befriends toymaker Klaus, their gifts melt an age-old feud and deliver a sleigh full of holiday traditions."

That first line - a simple act of kindness always sparks another - is key to the remainder of the movie. And to life, I might add. This charming film has now been added to what has become my Top Four Favorite Christmas movies. Below those are movies like Scrooged, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, White Christmas, occasionally Die Hard, It's a Wonderful Life, and Miracle on 34th Street.

I also watched a few cute ones on TV - The Dog Who Saved Christmas, Small Town Christmas (both with Dean Cain), and others whose names aren't coming to me now. But each and every one of them lifted my spirits. And made me forget about Covid and what it's done (and doing) to our world for a while.

What are your favorite Christmas movies? Did you start watching early this year?

Have a safe and happy (Covid-free) holiday. Stay well and be safe!

That Rebel, Olivia J. Herrell, writing as O. J. Barré

P.S. I will be sending the first prequel to the Awen trilogy (A New Home) to my newsletter subscribers on Christmas Eve. If you're not already registered, enter your email address to join my mailing list (Muse & News). You will NOT be spammed and you WILL get this nice little Christmas present in your virtual stocking on Christmas Eve.

O. J. Barré is the author of the Awen trilogy, an urban fantasy with an alien invasion set in 2042 Atlanta. Steeped in current, ancient, and future history twists, Book One, Awen Rising debuted July 2019. Book Two, Awen Storm, released May 2020. Book Three, Awen Tide, arrives Summer 2021.

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