Reprising from 2007:
I love It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, and A Christmas Story as much as anyone. I love the bittersweet struggles of George Bailey and never get tired of seeing him try to resist falling in love with Mary when they’re on that phone call to Sam “Hee Haw!” Wainwright. I love the way Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as Wallace and Davis preserve the old general’s pride when they help him keep the resort going. And I love the way that Ralphie and his family find that Christmas is not about neatly wrapped gifts and perfectly harmonized carols or even a turkey dinner. That last scene, when they all laugh, knowing that this will be one of their best Christmas memories ever, is one of my favorite moments in any film I’ve ever seen. I’ve already written about how much I love every version of A Christmas Carol.
So, let’s assume you’ve seen all those already this year and are looking for something else. Here’s a list with one for each of the Twelve Days of Christmas. And I’d love to hear about your favorites, too.
This year’s Washington Jewish Film Festival has an outstanding schedule, once again celebrating the “incredible diversity of Jewish life, culture and history through innovative film and invigorating programs.” I am always inspired by the scope and quality of the films in this festival, a combination of documentaries, feature films from Israel, the US, Argentina, Germany, the UK, and more, and re-discoveries, including the only appearance on film by legendary Yiddish theater star Boris Thomashefsky in a comedy with a “My Favorite Wife”-style plot called Bar Mitzvah and the rarely shown film noir Force of Evil, starring John Garfield from blacklisted director/screenwriter Abraham Polonsky. The festival will also have the premiere of The Debt, with Helen Mirren and “Avatar’s” Sam Worthington as Mossad agents who tracked down a Nazi war criminal.
This year, I am also especially looking forward to a new documentary about writer/activist (and my college professor) Grace Paley, Jews and Baseball: An American Love Story, The Infidel, a satire about a Muslim who learns he was born Jewish, and Coffee — Between Reality and Imagination, a collection of short films by of Israeli and Palestinian filmmakers to create a program of short films inspired by the common theme of the universal beverage.