I love the classics, but if you’ve seen them all and want to try something new, take a look at these holiday gems:
Desk Set Before smart phones and Google, there were people like the character played by Katherine Hepburn in this romantic comedy, her first color film with her favorite on- and off-screen co-star, Spencer Tracy. She is old school as a researcher for a television network who relies on her reference books and prodigious memory to answer all questions. He’s the tech guy who is installing a computer (the size of a small house). Sparks of all kinds result. (Ages 10-Adult)
Die Hard One of the greatest action films of all time has Bruce Willis as a cop visiting his estranged wife at her office on Christmas eve, just as a group of super-genius bad guys (led by the magnificently malevolent Alan Rickman) take over the building. (Very strong language and explicit and graphic violence — Ages 15-Adult)
It Happened on 5th Avenue A homeless man moves into a mansion while the owner is away for the holidays and soon finds himself hosting some WWII vets and their families. The owner’s daughter comes home and finds herself pretending to be another squatter. (Ages 8-Adult)
An Affair To Remember Get out your handkerchiefs. Cary Grant and Deborah Kerr play a couple who meet on a ship as they are returning home to get married to wealthy, upper-class types who can support them in the manner to which they would like to be accustomed. When they fall deeply in love, they realize they must earn their right to be together. And when tragedy strikes, it will take all the magic of Christmas to bring them a happy ending. (10-Adult) Note: the original version, “Love Affair,” with Charles Boyer and Irene Dunne, is also a wonderful film, but skip the third version with Warren Beatty and Annette Bening.
The Shop Around the Corner Before You’ve Got Mail and the musical version In the Good Old Summertime was this charming black-and-white romance with Margaret Sullavan and James Stewart as warring co-workers in a department store who do not realize that they are in love with each other via a secret pen pal letter exchange. There is also a stage musical version called In the Good Old Summertime. (10-Adult)
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas The Jim Carrey live action version is all right, but this animated film from Chuck Jones is the real Grinch movie, with the deliciously sinister voice of Boris Karloff. (All ages)
“Period of Adjustment” The only way to see this one is in its annual broadcast on Turner Classic Movies as it is not available on DVD. So set your TIVO for this story of newlyweds (Jane Fonda and Jim Hutton) who have something to learn about communication. He brings her to visit his old war buddy who is having some marital problems of his own. This is the only comedy from legendary playwright Tennessee Williams and it is a heart-warming gem.
The Gathering Ed Asner plays a tough, type-A businessman who neglected his family to pursue his career. He asks his estranged wife (the superb Maureen Stapleton) to bring together his grown children and their families for Christmas, and we and they later discover why it is so important to him to make peace with them at last.
Joyeux Noel On Christmas eve 1914, as officers prepared their troops for battle, the soldiers on opposing sides reached out to each other for a spontaneous celebration of Christmas, exchanging chocolates and playing soccer. The famous “Christmas truce” becomes an affecting and inspiring movie. For a similar story, see A Midnight Clear, based on the autobiographical novel by William Wharton.
Little Women “Christmas won’t be Christmas without any presents,” begins one of the most beloved of American novels, the autobiographical story of four sisters from Louisa May Alcott. All three filmed versions are fine, but I especially love this one, with Winona Ryder, Claire Danes, Susan Sarandon, Christian Bale, and Gabriel Byrne.
This Christmas A superb cast including Delroy Lindo, Idris Elba, Loretta Devine, Columbus Short, and Regina King, and Chris Brown nicely captures the rhythm and volatility of adult sibling interactions, a mash-up of in-jokes, old and new and often-shifting alliances, the need for acceptance and approval, and affectionate teasing that sometimes flares up to reveal or aggravate old wounds. Director Preston A. Whitmore has a sure hand in balancing half a dozen different storylines and multiple switches of tone from light-hearted romance to lacerating confrontations and gritty drama. The plots may be predicable but the individual cast members are all superb and completely believable as family, the whole greater than the sum of the parts. And Chris Brown sings “Try a Little Tenderness” and the title song.
Thanks for the great questions!#1 late 80’s early 90’s. Takes place in CA during WWII. Japanese submarine sailor gets washed on shore and gets cared for by a little boy.#2 late 80’s early 90’s. Little boy has a few ghost friends. I remember something to do with a bus. Also they sing Frankie Valli’s “Walk Like a Man” with the boy.Answer: The first is I’ll Remember April and the second is Heart and Souls with Robert Downey, Jr.My son checked out a movie at a local library about 6 months ago. It was about 3 dads helping their sons build the ultimate pine car derby from a block of pine wood. It becomes an all out competition between the dads and very funny entertaining because I did the same thing with my son. Can’t recall the name of the movie. I would like to purchase it.Answer: Our son raced in the Pinewood Derby, too! The movie is Down and Derby from 2005.Hi Nell, I’m trying to find the name of an 80s or 90s film i watched it when i was like 8 in the movie I think it was set in the future and I remember there being like a game show or something like that that people could watch and they would send a person down this chute (I think the people got this as punishment for crimes) and they would get out at the end of the chute in some sort of maze with levels wear they would have to work there way through with out being killed by other people and things I always thought it was something like blade slider that they called this death game in the movie but not to sure?? thanks for any help, bradAnswer: Sounds like The Running Man with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Years ago on TV I watched an old movie with the setting in the ’20s or ’30s. I don’t recall any of the actors or the title, but the opening scene was in a large city around Christmas time with an old open air limousine giving tours of the residential Christmas lights. One of these residence was owned by a wealthy man that went vacationing every December, and left his home empty. A hobo was aware of this practice, and found a way to gain entry to this house, and lived there while the family was on vacation. The hobo would wear the owners clothes and give away items from the house to the poor people of the community. A grown daughter of the owner came home early and found out what the hobo was doing, and was so moved by his kindness that she talked her father into starting that practice as a family tradition…or at least as I remember it…. Would you be able to identify that movie, or where I might find out more about it?Answer: That’s “It Happened on 5th Avenue” with Victor Moore, Don DeFore, and Gale Storm. Hello, I’ve always wanted to find the name of a movie I watched when I was a girl-late 60’s-early 70’s about a young boy who’s parents died. He goes to live with his uncle who has a shark in an indoor pool. The uncle is trying to kill the boy for his inheritance and the boy and a little girl who he befriends try to kill the uncle first with poisoned mushrooms. Any ideas on this movie’s name? Thank you!Answer: Believe it or not, it is called “Let’s Kill Uncle” (sometimes known as “Let’s Kill Uncle Before Uncle Kills Us”). Thanks for writing!I want to find the title of this one movie in which a career minded single woman finds herself married with children upon waking up after an accident. Please help, thanks.Answer: That is Me Myself I with Rachel Griffiths. Enjoy!I would like to know how to find a movie about a high school wrestling team. It is a comedy about a group of misfits who practice in the boiler room and their coach knows nothing about the sport. I would guess it was released in the early 80’s. I think the name of it is “Take Down.” Any ideas? Thanks!Answer: It is called “Take Down,” and stars Edward Hermann and Lorenzo Lamas. It’s not available on DVD but VHS copies show up on EBay. I am looking for a family Christmas movie I saw many years ago. It’s about a young boy with not long to live. His parents tell him he can have anything he wants for Christmas. He asks for a wolf so his family breaks into a zoo and takes two wolf cubs and they become very close to the dying boy. Answer: That movie is “The Christmas Tree” with William Holden. Looking for the title of this movie (saw it years ago, so will be as accurate as I can):*1920s or early 1930s*Black and White*About an elderly couple that is split up to go with their adult children because they can’t take care of each other any more – wife to son / husband to daughter (I think)…on different coasts…or at least miles apart*Adult kids end up being selfish, terrible people*Somehow the elderly couple escape their kids and meet up in New York and have one last dinner and dance at the Rainbow Room where they celebrated their wedding as well.*Last scene they are saying good bye at the train (kids have found them), never to see each other again*Total heart breaker…really good…I think it was a promoted as a “Christmas Movie”Really hoping you can help with this one.Answer: That lovely movie is Make Way for Tomorrow. Thanks for asking!Hi, I’m trying to find an old movie about a girl, maybe 10-12 yrs. old, whose parents find out she has, I believe, 7 days or 7 weeks to live. I think her dream was to become a ballet dancer so her parents take her to the NYC Ballet. If I remember correctly the girl has long red hair, or I may be making that up. There’s a scene where they take a train ride after the ballet, later the girl dies. I hope you can help. Thank you in advance.Answer: I believe you are thinking of “Six Weeks” with Mary Tyler Moore as the mother of a young girl who is dying — and who goes to the ballet and appears in the Nutcracker. I am trying to remember a name of a movie that I watched as a kid…I can remember the whole movie but not the name. It was based on a true story in the 50’s I believe. It was about a young girl that ran away from home because she was abused by her father. She saw an ad where they were looking for a girl to jump horses in a carnival. The horse would run up a ramp and she would have to jump on its back and them the horse would jump into a pool of water. The horse got spooked on one of the jumps and she hit the water with her eyes open leaving her blind.That should jog a memory if you have seen it.Answer: Yes! That’s Wild Hearts Can’t Be Broken with Gabrielle Anwar. It is based on the true story of Sonora Webster Carver. Please help. I’ve been searching for this movie for 30 years. 1940ish film noir. It’s about a woman who kills her lover and his wife while they are sleeping. They have a child about 6 that witnesses the murder. The child has an Indian Chief doll that she calls “Cupid” and she tells the cops that “Cupid” killed her parents. The woman spends the remainder of the movie trying to kill the child. At the end, the woman has on a hat with a long feather that casts a shadow against the wall, the little girls screams “Cupid” as the shadow looks like her Indian doll, and the woman is caught. Excellent movie. Help me!Answer: That thriller is, appropriately enough, called “Shadow on the Wall.” It stars Ann Southern and Zachary Scott, with Gigi Perreau as the little girl. Enjoy!Looking for title of film I saw in 2000, no known actors, about a couple driving through the US desert. They get lost and end up in a town inhabited by dead wild west heroes and villains. Think they have to do a good deed to get to heaven. Good film, need to know the title. Cheers, JohnAnswer: I believe you are thinking of a 1999 made-for-television movie called “Purgatory,” with Sam Shepard, Eric Roberts, and Randy Quaid as Wild West characters who have to redeem themselves to get to heaven. Hope that’s it!I saw it when I was about 7 years old (22 now) If I recall correctly it was an 80’s British fantasy film, but it may have been late 70’s early 90’s. Live action. I believe it began in what was then, modern day England. There was a small boy who was unhappy with his home life. He lived with relatives or something. one night while walking about he stumbles upon an old corked wine bottle and opens it up. Out of the bottle comes a gigantic white head with a long beard that speaks to the boy about how his father is a king of some kind in another land. The boy grabs the floating heads beard and is whisked away to this enchanted land where he meets his father and another boy of his age. Then something bad happens… I recall the boys decked out in armor, hiding in a hole or something. That’s it. If you can help me you will have answered a question that has been beating me senseless for the last 15 years. What is the name of that film?Answer: That’s “The Land of Faraway.” It is sometimes called “Mio in the Land of Faraway.” Enjoy!I am trying to locate the name of a movie from the late 70’s or early 80’s. This movie took place (at least in part) in Venice, Italy. I remember a young couple who needed to ride the Gondolas as the bells were ringing and they needed to kiss while going under a certain bridge whilst a certain bell was ringing in order to establish true love or everlasting love or some such. No idea of actors or title or plot or anything. Only Venice, gondolas, bells and a kiss. I would be so happy if you could figure this out for me.Answer: That sweet movie is “A Little Romance” with Diane Lane. Enjoy!Hi Nell, I’m sorry to bother you but I’m trying to find the name and the movie itself if possible, it’s a Snow White and Seven Dwarf’s movie, but its not the cartoon, in this one its an older film and Snow White is taken in by the Dwarfs while young and raised by them, and the first time the Queen visits her, she sews her into a shirt so tight it smothers her until the dwarfs get home and cut her out of it, I’ve looked everywhere and all I ever get is the Disney movie, which disappoints me as I know there has to be other such movies even beside the one I’m hunting for, makes it very hard to locate. If you could help, I’d really appreciate it. Thank you, BonnieAnswer: Not a bother! I enjoy movie questions. You are thinking of a 1987 film starring Diana Rigg.Please help me with the title of this movie. The movies is about a single parent (mother) whose child (boy)is very gifted with an extremely high I.Q.. A psychiatrist (female) at a local university discovers that the child is very intelligent and she attempts to have the child taken away from the mother as she feels the child deserves a better home.Answer: That movie is “Little Man Tate,” starring and directed by Jodie Foster.I am trying to find an old American movie, probably from the 1960’s or 1950’s about a kid who lives in an isolated cabin in a forest with his parents, and his friendship with adeer’s cub. His brothers and sisters all died at childhood and his mother detached herself from her living child. In the end of the movie the father shoots the deer. Black and white movie.Answer: That lovely classic film is “The Yearling,” based on the beloved book by Marjorie Kinnan Rawlings. It stars Jane Wyman and Gregory Peck and won an Oscar for cinematography.I hope that you can help me with this movie I am trying to find. The movie is a 1930’s 1940’s black and white film, it is about a man who is hired to impersonate a missing family member who is quite eccentric named Skylar to save the family inheritance.Answer: I love that movie! It’s “Miss Tatlock’s Millions” with John Lund. I am trying to recall a movie that came out in the late 50s or early 60s about a man who feared being buried alive. It was kind of hokey and I think it had Vincent Price in it.What can you tell me about it? Can you remind me how it ends?Answer: Vincent Price appeared in “The Oblong Box,” where characters are buried alive, but I think you are remembering “Premature Burial” with Ray Milland. Both are directed by Roger Corman. I hope that’s it!I’m trying to figure out a movie I saw a long time ago. All I can remember is it was in a different century, like the 1800s or something, and this young girl was in love withlike her music instructor or something and they passed letter to each other. Her father finds out and fires him. Then I think he goes out one night and the maids or whatevertake her to see the guy. Maybe they get caught, I don’t remember. I know this isn’t much to tell, but I hope you can help me out cause it’s driving me crazy!!Answer: That sounds like “Valmont” with Fairuza Balk and Henry Thomas. I hope that’s it! If not, try ‘”Dangerous Liaisons,” based on the same book, which has a similar scene.I am trying to find the name of a movie with a yellow lab and a little boy that get stuck in a storm and stranded with just their boat as shelter? The boy wears a red jacket I believe.Answer: I believe you are thinking of “Far From Home: The Adventures of Yellow Dog,” starring Jesse Bradford. Excellent movie.I am looking for a film that is kind of older and the man starring in it has a half scared face i believe from burns when he was younger, he lives in a big house alone and plays a piano. The towns people think he is evil or bad or something already but when a little girl continues to come to his house for piano lessons i believe, one day she injures herself and he saves her and surprisingly takes her to the town himself to save her and the towns people think and believe he is the one that hurt her on purpose and i believe the kill him but i am not for sure but i was wondering if you could help me remember the name of this movieAnswer: That sounds like Rigoletto: A Musical Fantasy Ringing of Truth and Filled With Mystery and Love, a 1993 video that was part of the excellent Feature Films for Families series.
Thanks to all who entered! Winners of the “Flipped” DVD are:
Ken W., Indiana
Chris D., California
Julie C., Illinois
LaDonna J., Ohio
Jennifer F., Illiinois
This is a brilliantly edited compilation of the movies of 2010. How many can you identify?