Movies & TV

New Year -- and a New Path

It’s a new year.  And, of course, when there’s a new year, people start thinking of their new year’s resolutions.
 
When it comes to resolutions, we first think of ways to improve ourselves.  Number one is usually our health.  We’re going to get in shape, lose weight, get healthy.  Number two is often about our finances.  Save money, make a budget and stick to it, control our spending.  Sometimes we want to improve ourselves in other ways.  Learn something new.  Cooking.  Dancing.  (Hey, those could help with the health and fitness resolution…)  Or maybe we decide this is the year to do some home improvement, either inside or outside.

My Favorite Things

When the dog bites, when the bee stingschristmas at Disney
When I'm feeling sad
I simply remember my favorite things
And then I don't feel so bad
- 'My Favorite Things', Richard Rodgers & Oscar Hammerstein II

I don’t honestly remember when the song 'My Favorite Things' from the musical The Sound of Music first made it onto the Christmas music playlist. I suppose it does talk about “sleigh bells” and “snowflakes” and “silver white winters”, but it has never struck me as overly Christmassy in nature. In the context of this blog, however, it fits perfectly.

The time between Thanksgiving and Christmas is always one of the busiest for many people, myself included. End of year deadlines approach, relatives and friends visit, holiday preparations plow steadily forward, and there are too many parties and get-togethers to number. But even in the midst of everything associated with the holiday season, I still make time to watch some of my favorite Christmas movies.

I enjoy Christmas movies of all kinds – animated, black & white, made for TV, etc. – but there are a handful that I love the most. These are the movies I have to watch each holiday season or I feel like something is missing. For instance, my Mom and I always watch White Christmas while decorating the family Christmas tree. It’s been our tradition for years, and one I would be sad to miss.

For this last blog of the holiday season, Donna (my wonderful movie blogging partner) and I have put together a list of our must-watch holiday movies. What movies do you consider essential holiday viewing?

A Christmas Carol

scrooge's turkeyOf all the traditional Christmas tales, there is one that has been explored in movies and television more than any other: A Christmas Carol. Originally a novella written by Charles Dickens in 1843, A Christmas Carol is an enduring classic of the holiday season. It tells the story of Ebenezer Scrooge, a miserly old man who detests Christmas. On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by three spirits who help him transform into a kinder and gentler man who embodies the spirit of the season.

It’s not hard to see why filmmakers have continually found themselves drawn to retell Dickens’ classic tale. It includes many of the elements audiences find most compelling: a holiday setting; a transformation for the better; a variety of ghosts; and an endearing family who are down on their luck, yet still happy. It is also a story that lends itself easily to adaptation. Dickens’ story has been retold as a comedy (Scrooged), a parody (Blackadder’s Christmas Carol), a musical (A Christmas Carol: The Musical), with Muppets (The Muppet Christmas Carol) and mice (Mickey’s Christmas Carol), a science fiction tale (Doctor Who: A Christmas Carol), and more. Some of the elements might change from version to version, but the general story of transformation and rebirth is always present.

If you’re in the mood to watch a version of the Charles Dickens classic this holiday season, check out the list below. Some of the titles listed below are available through Hoopla, HCPL’s streaming media catalog. If you have questions about how to use Hoopla, please call any of the HCPL locations and ask a librarian for help getting started.

Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town…

Babbo NataleYou'd better watch out, you'd better not cry
You'd better not pout, I'm telling you why
Santa Claus is coming to town
- 'Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town', John Frederick Coots and Haven Gillespie

I’ve said this year after year, but it bears repeating: I love Christmas! Christmas was always a big celebration in my house as a child, so the holiday has always been my favorite. I love putting up decorations (in fact, I’ve already helped decorate 3 different trees!), singing Christmas carols, watching Christmas movies, making Christmas cookies, and picking out the perfect gifts for family and friends.

As a child, one of my favorite things about Christmas was, of course, Santa Claus. I loved picturing him in his workshop at the North Pole, preparing all year long with the elves for Christmas. There was nothing I wanted more than to take The Polar Express to the North Pole and hear the reindeer bells. I even wrote a letter to Santa every year and, once or twice, received a reply! And there was nothing more fun than waking up Christmas morning to find that Santa had eaten the cookies we set out and left presents under the tree.

Although Christmas movies take all forms and genres, Santa continues to be a popular theme. In some, like The Santa Clause, he is the main character, while in others, like Frosty the Snowman, he plays only a minor role. A few of these movies, like The Nightmare Before Christmas, even feature a character posing as Santa for some nefarious purpose. But no matter the role, Santa is always crucial to the climax of the story.

It’s early in December yet, but it’s certainly time to start watching favorite Christmas movies! If you’re in the mood for a movie featuring Santa Claus, check out one of the titles below. Many of the movies on the list are meant for children, but that doesn’t mean adults can’t still watch them and remember the magic and wonder of Christmases past.

Maureen O’Hara (1920-2015)

She was truly born and bred in Ireland.  Her given name was Maureen FitzSimmons.  If she could have, she would have stayed with that name.  But her fellow actor and mentor Charles Laughton said that no one would get the last name right and said she should change it to O’Mara or O’Hara.  She balked, saying she wanted to stay FitzSimmons.  Laughton replied, “Very well, you’re Maureen O’Hara.”

Welcome Back to the Big Screen, Charlie Brown!

My brother introduced me to Charlie Brown and the gang.

For whatever reason, the evening newspaper my family got did not carry the Peanuts comic strip.  Perhaps it was in the morning paper.  (Yes, there was a time when cities had a morning paper and an evening one.)  So if my brother had not discovered Peanuts and bought paperback compilations of the daily strip, I’m not certain when I would’ve found the wonderful characters created by Charles M. Schulz.

The Year of the Spy

spiesIn just a few weeks, Spectre, one of the movies I’ve been looking forward to all year finally opens in theaters. The latest in the Daniel Craig-helmed Bond films, Spectre is the highly anticipated follow-up to Skyfall, which opened to critical and audience praise in 2012.

In an odd turn of events, however, Spectre is just one of many spy movies released in theaters this year. These spy movies run the gamut from comic book-inspired (Kingsman: The Secret Service) or funny (Spy), to big-budget sequels (Mission: Impossible - Rogue Nation) or TV spin-offs (The Man from U.N.C.L.E.). This weekend also sees the release of another addition to the genre, Bridge of Spies starring Tom Hanks as a lawyer negotiating a prisoner exchange during the Cold War.

Spies have long been an object of fascination for movie producers. James Bond alone has been the star of many movies over more than 50 years. There is something oddly compelling about their confidence and poise, their ability to read every situation and succeed in their mission. Looking at the diverse array of spy movies coming out this year alone, it is clear that Hollywood’s fascination with that occupation is still holding strong.

If you’re in the mood for a spy movie this weekend, browse the HCPL catalog and request a copy today!

All Aboard!

It starts when we’re very young.  We hear the story about The Little Engine That Could.  We watch Thomas the Tank Engine.  We see the trains on the tracks and count the cars as they pass before us.  And we become fascinated by trains.

The Master of Suspense

hitchcockIt’s finally October, which means Halloween is just around the corner! If I’m being completely honest, Halloween isn’t my favorite of the fall holidays. I much prefer the food and family togetherness of Thanksgiving and, well, everything about Christmas. One of my favorite things about Halloween, though, is the movies.

As a kid I loved classic horror movies like Frankenstein, Dracula and The Wolfman. They weren’t really that frightening, but they still gave me a scare! Now I tend to gravitate towards a different sort of movie at Halloween: psychological thrillers. These are the movies where every character has a secret, no one knows who to trust, and the tension is palpable. In my opinion, no one in Hollywood understood psychological thrillers better than the Master of Suspense, Alfred Hitchcock.

In a career spanning almost six decades, Hitchcock saw the transition from silent films to talking pictures, and black and white to color. He directed movies in both England and the United States, and successfully captured television audiences with his long-running show Alfred Hitchcock Presents. His movies were famous for their psychological twists and turns, unusual camera angles, use of music (or the lack thereof) to underscore tension, director cameos, and blonde heroines. Not only was Hitchcock a master of creating and sustaining suspense (the playground scene in The Birds is a classic example), but he also found ways to push what was acceptable in movies. The shower scene in Psycho, for example, was more violent than American audiences were used to at the time and ushered in a new wave of horror films. Although Hitchcock never won an Academy Award for his direction (he was nominated five times), he remains one of the most influential filmmakers of all time.

If you’re in the mood for a Hitchcock classic this cool weekend, browse the list below and request your favorite!

Celebrate Hispanic Heritage Month with Movies


 

Since September is Hispanic Heritage Month, I wanted to share some great movies by Hispanic filmmakers, which are available in our collection.


For the kiddos!

Carlos Saldanha and Robert Rodriquez

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