Saturday, December 15, 2007

Scenes and Words By Heart

We've got snow! It's beautiful. It makes me want to do kitchen things.

Ten loaves of homemade bread and six pounds of fudge later, I'm still in a good mood. My mentally unstable cats are off the wall because they smell bread. Yes, my cats crave bread; the three of them will decimate an entire loaf of bread in a few minutes. If it's whole wheat, a few seconds. Go figure. I have to keep the bread hidden; usually, I keep it in the oven. Occasionally, I remember that it's in there before I turn the oven on. . . . There might be some melted plastic clinging to the oven racks. Think "stalactites."

Anyway,* I hid the ten loaves in the guest room. I hope the latch holds. These cats are serious about wanting to get in there.

The house really does smell wonderful. Homemade bread, fudge, chili, and all kinds of spices. . . it's a good mix.

I've been watching my Christmas movies these past few days, too. I count any movie as a Christmas movie if it's got a Christmas scene in it. I began with Little Women (a favorite book since second grade) (does anyone ever get old enough NOT to break down and bawl like a baby when Beth dies?) (I've read this book over forty times and it still hits me hard.) I wish I could take the Katharine Hepburn version (I am eternally haunted by the music and the poetry that's read aloud) and the Winona Ryder version and somehow meld them together; seriously, though, there isn't a movie version yet that can even see the standards of the book on the horizon. The Susan Dey version wasn't too bad, but Professor Bhaer is one of my favorite characters and since this version had William Shatner in that role. . . . well, it didn't work. I tend to get obsessed with certain books and movies; right now, it's Little Women. Then, while shopping with my cousin C, I found a beautiful hardbound Little Women in a used bookstore for a song. It was karma. My old copy had been read and re-read until all the pages were discolored and loose, and the spine had pretty much disintegrated. I won't discard it, of course; it would be like turning my back on an old friend. But it will be nice to initiate a new book into the inner sanctum of obsession.

Then I watched White Christmas. Love it.

Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol. Shut up; I've loved it since I was a little kid. I hate Mr. Magoo, ordinarily, but somehow, as Scrooge, it works. Also, the songs are beautiful.

Going My Way. I first saw this movie on television when I was about five years old. It was my first introduction to opera: Rise Stevens was Carmen. It was also the first time I'd ever heard Ave Maria in any form, and I am crazy about Ave Maria to this day: most every composers' versions of it. Tu Ra Lu Ra Lu Ra was the first lullaby I sang to both of my babies. That fact that I put my own words to all lullabies didn't detract too much from its substance. We were not Catholic, but many of my favorite movies and books were about people who were. Still are.

Holiday Inn. Has anyone else noticed how blatantly racist this movie is? And how truly terrible most of the songs are? This movie gets so much press, but I think it's a stupid, low-class movie. But it is the first appearance of the song White Christmas. Louise Beavers was a beautiful actress, but in this movie she sings a song about slaves and darkies! And Bing Crosby and Marjorie Reynolds sing and dance in blackface for Lincoln's birthday! I would never censor it - I do not believe in censorship - because it was just the context of the times, but I don't have to like it, either. Shallow characters, flimsy plot, less-than-mediocre music. But for some reason, I have to watch it every December.

Love Actually
. My favorite movie of all time, barring classics. I love it so much it's almost impossible to talk about it. I think I know the entire thing by heart. However, I confess that I must be innately cruel because if I were Laura Linney, I'd get an unlisted phone number and jump Karl's bones. Also, I do NOT think Natalie was fat.

Miracle on 34th Street
. The original, with Maureen O'Hara and John Payne, NOT that insipid remake. I will watch only the B/W version; colorizing those old movies is a bad, bad idea. Bad. Whenever I see a cane leaning against a wall, I think of this movie.

A Little Princess. The Wonderworks version, which is the only decent version on the market today. It actually follows the plot; can you even imagine! I love this version so much, and so would you all. That movie that came out a few years ago? Don't even bother. They changed the plot so drastically, the author wouldn't even recognize it. I hate when they do that. Stupid screenwriters. I named my daughter for the main character, but I don't associate my beautiful child with the main character in any of the movie versions except the Wonderworks version.

A Tree Grows in Brooklyn. The Peggy Ann Garner version. This book contains most of the themes of my life, and none of the movie versions can begin to measure up to the book, including this version, but this one is the best. I can close my eyes and SEE the Christmas tree salesman throwing that giant tree at Francie and Neely, and I can see Johnny carrying it up the stairs to their flat, singing carols all the way and uniting all the neighbors for just that one brief moment. . . ., and I can see hungry little Francie wanting that tiny pie so badly that she told a lie to get it, and I love her teacher for explaining to the child the difference between telling a lie and making up a story, and that she should TELL the truth and WRITE the story.

While You Were Sleeping. Orphaned Sandra Bullock watching that family interacting at Christmastime, with wistfulness in her face and gratitude in her eyes. . . . Love it. LOVE it.

Toys. It's zany and colorful and I love it! It's also got a fantastic soundtrack.

You've Got Mail. I love watching Meg Ryan trying to untangle Christmas lights and make her store viable even when she knows it's a lost cause.

Mixed Nuts
. But I've talked about this one before.

Scrooged. I love Bill Murray. And has there ever been a more sincere and engaging smile than Karen Black's?

Yours, Mine, and Ours. NOT that stupid remake, oh holy scheisse NO. The version you want is the Henry Fonda/Lucille Ball version. It's not even a true representation of the book, but it's a fun flick, and you'll never forget THEIR Christmas morning!

Babes in Toyland
. Again, not the Drew Barrymore/Keanu Reeves version. That one is so terrible it defies description. No, I mean the Disney version with Annette Funicello and Tommy Kirk and the Tin Man Ray Bolger, and is there anybody else who thinks his character was pretty creepy and predatory? It's silly, but I saw it when I was a little child and my standards were different. Not lower, just different.

I have never cared for A Christmas Story. I do, however, like several other Jean Shepherd short stories.

I doubt that many of you have ever heard of Miracle at Moreaux. It is, however, one of my favorite Christmas videos. I highly recommend it. It's based on the book "Twenty and Ten," by Claire Hutchet Bishop.

When Harry Met Sally. I love it for many reasons, one of which is the Christmas scene where Sally is trying to drag her tree from the lot to her apartment, disregarding Harry's voice mails and feeling very lonely.

Love Story. There are several Christmas scenes in this film, my favorite of which is the one where Jenny is directing the choir. However, the music of the final Christmas scene is lovely beyond belief.

Hanging Up. The first time I saw this movie, I hated it; it was just too personal at the time. Now, however, it's one of my favorites. Eve and her father, choosing a Christmas tree and screaming "To hell with her" about their mother/wife, is a great scene.

The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus
, by L. Frank Baum. There are two film versions of this fantastic book; get the claymation one, not the animated one. This is the Wizard of Oz author, folks, and his Christmas story is AWESOME.

I also love those old Christmas cartoons from the thirties, forties, and fifties, especially the nostalgic or sad ones.

Perhaps this is not a good time to confess that I own a copy of Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.

MASH. All the Christmas episodes.

Scrubs. All the Christmas episodes.

YouTube. I go there and search for the videos to my favorite Christmas songs, and scenes from my favorite Christmas movies, and old variety show Christmas segments.

This is just a smattering, of course. There are many more Christmas movies, or movies with a Christmas scene in them, that I love, or like, or put up with, or hate. Heh.

My VERY favorite Christmas movie is George C. Scott's A Christmas Carol. I actually adore almost all the versions of A Christmas Carol, but Scott's is my favorite. My father used to read this story aloud to us ("Daddy, what's a doormouse, and why is it deader than any other kind of mouse?") and it haunted and hypnotized and fascinated me, and still does. In the 1951 version, which WTTV Channel 4, pretty much the only station we could get back then, used to show every Christmas afternoon, the guests at Fred's party are singing "Barbara Allen," and it was the first time I'd ever heard that song. It haunted me for years; I loved it. Not getting to watch that movie was one of the reasons I balked at going to the family reunion on Christmas afternoon; every chance I got, I went back home and tried to catch some of it. I was in college before I was able to watch the whole thing straight through!

I have never seen most of the newer (after 2000) Christmas movies. I don't usually care for movies that mock Christmas or make evil entities out of sweet Christmas characters. Some things should not be parodied or made into twisted perversions.

I love all the sweet Christmas television shows, too, but with no small children living here any more, I have to sneak over to YouTube and watch them when I'm alone in the house haven't seen them on the TV in years.

As for my favorite Christmas book that is not A Christmas Carol, it would have to be What Child Is This, by Caroline Cooney. I love it so much it makes my heart hurt. I even have the audio book in my car. And yes, I know it by heart. Every word. It makes me cry out loud every. single. time. Not just tears. Sobs.

The Little House books have wonderful Christmas chapters, too. You want the Garth Williams illustrations, not the new ones. And yes, I know all of them by heart.

Whenever I find a movie, book, poem, song, play, etc, that I love, I learn it by heart.

When you learn things by heart, you have them with you, always.

*Please take note: there is no "s" at the end of this word, ever. Thankyouverymuch.

Posted by Mamacita (The REAL one) @ 10:00 PM | |


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