It has been an excellent two weeks of movie watching for me, though that mainly applies to the non-holiday films I’ve seen. Films like The Irishman, Knives Out, and Cobra thrilled me, while old favorites like Murder, My Sweet and Charade remain as wonderful as ever. The Irishman may end up as my favorite film of the year, with heavy competition thanks to a strong 2019 following a disappointing 2018. A few days ago, I saw The Irishman trending on Twitter and, as is usually the case, I was bothered to find out why. A large number of tweets (no doubt from the legion of bitter Marvel fans) took to Twitter to bash The Irishman as too long, and to nitpick at other details. Scorsese, of course, commented earlier this year that Marvel films are essentially uninteresting to him and not cinematic. This upset a lot of people and sparked debate among cinephiles. It also led to Scorsese, himself, writing an excellent essay fleshing out his thoughts on the subject. In any case, I have to believe the pushback on Scorsese’s film stems from this incident, or perhaps the film’s star, Robert De Niro, and his being more outspoken about politics lately, because The Irishman is a great movie.
I’ve watched 20 movies over the past 2 weeks and three of them were Christmas films. I thought when I rented the movie Holiday that it would be number four but it was more to do with New Year’s Eve than anything so I’m not counting it.
2003, Directed by Jon Favreau
Loud, obnoxious, annoying adults would seem a difficult fit for a family Christmas film, and yet Elf manages to make it work. Will Ferrell plays Buddy, a human raised in the North Pole by Papa Elf (Bob Newhart), who is finally told the truth one day: his real father, Walter (James Caan), lives in New York, and is on the dreaded naughty list thanks to his selfish, workaholic attitude. Buddy travels to the Big Apple in time for the holiday season and hopes to connect with his father, but his eternal cheer makes him a fish out of water in New York. Elf is a very funny family film and really inspired work. Think of the casting. Bob Newhart, for example, in a small role. Faison Love and Peter Dinklage are both funny and memorable in their small parts. Elf is definitely one of the few Christmas pictures I look forward to each year.
#10: Holiday Rush
2019, Directed by Leslie Small
Successful, affluent radio DJ and widower, Rashon Williams (Romany Malco), goes to work one day to find that #1) the station’s been taken over by a larger company and #2) he’s fired. Left to manage with less while dealing with his four spoiled children, Rashon hurries to come up with a long term solution with his partner, Roxy (Sonequa Martin-Green), who he may be falling in love with. There’s very little meaningful tension in this movie, which has been true of all the Netflix Christmas films. Things work out and they work out well in Holiday Netflix land. My bigger concern was that the leads already love each other as soon as the film opens so there’s not much draw there, and most of the “obstacles” that exist in Holiday Rush involve rich kids not getting a horse for Christmas. Not very compelling, but the film succeeds in the same way that all of these feather-weight Netflix Christmas movies do: by being likable rather than being interesting.
#11: Holiday Affair
1949, Directed by Don Hartman
Widowed mother, Connie Ennis (Janet Leigh), meets department store salesman, Steve Mason (Robert Mitchum), one day and the kind, charismatic guy complicates all of her carefully considered life-plans. For one thing, she’s already practically engaged, to nice, secure Carl Davis (Wendell Corey). Holiday Affair plays out slowly, with no trumped-up action and little fuss. It’s all dialogue (witty and intelligent) and engaging characters. It’s also an attractive look at New York back in the 1940s during the Christmas season.
-Walter Tyrone Howard-