December 26, 2015

Holiday Film Vault



This week we look at films you most likely will be able to watch at home online (Netflix, cable On Demand, Apple, Amazon Prime, etc.) or DVD.  We hope these films will spark the Christmas spirit that is already alive in you and provide you with humor, insight, and some form of unexpected reverence. Next week we will be out in the theatres again and will review ‘Star Wars: The Force Awakens’.

A 1971 countercultural film, Maude (Ruth Gordon), an 80+ year-old woman who looks at the world in wacky and wonderful ways, meets Harold (Bud Cort) a 20-something obsessed with death, at a funeral. To many, Harold and Maude represents the “pull and tug” of the early 1970s.

Maude, on a regular basis, goes to funerals for people she does not know. Harold, rich and irregular goes to funerals wishing they were his. Their friendship yields startling insights not only to each of them but also to those seeing the film.

This is a good film to see for the first time or to renew yourself during the Christmas season. It is at once tender, forgiving, bizarre and authentic; kind of like being human.

Buddy (Will Ferrell), as a baby crawled into Santa’s sleigh one Christmas Eve and was mistakenly transported by Santa to the North Pole from the orphanage where he lived. 

Will Ferrell’s Buddy is impossible to dislike and easy to love. In fact, he is a Christmastime tradition for many households. Buddy doesn’t know he is different, a fact that may ring some Christmas bells for review readers, and he is a happy elf until, after 30 years living with Santa, Ms. Santa and all the elves, he wises up to being big and not adept at toy-making. So he sets off to New York City to find his real dad (James Caan).

His innocence and joy at everyday things (revolving doors, snowball fights, spaghetti –which he tops with maple syrup because sugar is one of the major food groups) will bring you in touch with the magic of seeing through the eyes of a child even, though, like Buddy, you are chronologically an adult. Watch ‘Elf’ and let yourself be led by the child inside you.

This 2006 film is not a sappy, sanitized and sweet production. We see a pretty tough Mary (Keisha Castle-Hughes), a very human Joseph (Oscar Isaac) and an unbelieving but faithful Elizabeth (Shohreh Aghdashloo). Even the angel Gabriel (Alexander Siddig) is convincing in his exchange with the teenage Mary.

The portrayal of a teenage girl not yet married becoming pregnant and the expected reaction by her betrothed is humanly and realistically acted out. And it’s clear Jesus was about to be born into a world of oppression and fear. The oppressive regime of Herod (Ciaran Hinds) shows the terror of the Roman Empire.

It won’t be hard to see the world of fear that Jesus entered 2,000 years ago has some striking similarity to the uncertain times in which we live.


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