Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks: Holiday/Vacation Movies


Holiday season means one thing for me:  time off work. And I mean a lot of time. I am currently on Day Five of my Winter Break, furnished by my school district and the loving taxpayers of my county and municipality.

So, it's Thursday...Christmas Eve...and time for another entry in Wandering through the Shelves' Thursday Movie Picks. This week...Holiday/Vacation Movies, which I took as Holiday Vacation Movies. What can I say?...I'm festive.


My favorite holiday breaks happen in November and December. The first, of course, being Thanksgiving, then (after a mere three weeks back at work) Christmas. For my picks this week, I went (as I often do) with the first that came to me: two Thanksgiving, one Christmas, and then a perfect little bonus.

Here are my picks:

Metropolitan
Dir. Whit Stillman, 1990


Winter Break. Freshman year of college. Princeton student and budding socialist, Tom Townsend (Edward Clements) attends a debutante ball in Manhattan on a whim and finds himself at the after-party in the residence of Sally Fowler (Dylan Hundley). There he comes to know the cynical dandy, Nick Smith (Chris Eigeman), the intellectual Charlie Black (Taylor Nichols), and the cute Audrey Rouget (Carolyn Farina), who develops a bit of a crush on Tom after a night of light drinking and talking, mostly about their lot in life as rich kids and various discussions of society and socialism, particularly that of Charles Fourier. Who likes who? Who is dating who? Will you go to the next ball as my escort? Can you even afford to buy a tuxedo? Why does this all have to end? These are all questions thrust at young Tom, a middle-class kid in a world of upper-class snobbery. I adore this movie. Every single second of it. And it is the perfect holiday break coming-of-age story. And "cha cha cha."

Son-in-Law
Dir. Steve Rash, 1993


Thanksgiving Break. Freshman year of college. Pretty brunette farm girl, Becca Warner (Carla Gugino) moves away to California for school and finds it a quite dull, home-sickening experience until she befriends Crawl (Pauly Shore), the RA of her dorm and perennial college senior. When Crawl doesn't have anywhere to go for the Thanksgiving holiday, Becca invites him along, mostly as a distraction from her high school boyfriend, the douche-y Travis (Dan Gauthier), who she fears might ask her to marry him. Filled with your expected 90s-Pauly Shore-movie idiocy, Son-in-Law works. It works because it is actually funny. It is even surprising at times...in quite sincere ways.

The Ice Storm
Dir. Ang Lee, 1997


Thanksgiving Break. Private School. Early 1970s. Smart, awkward, infatuated with a girl named Libbets (Katie Holmes), Paul Hood (Tobey Magure) heads home to suburban Connecticut for Thanksgiving. There, his mother and father, Ben and Elena (Joan Allen and Kevin Kline), are secretly on the outs along with the rest of upper-bourgeois families in the neighborhood, including the Carvers, Jim and Janey (Jamey Sheridan and Sigourney Weaver). Meanwhile, Paul's younger sister, Wendy (Christina Ricci), experiments, in one way or another, with both of the Carver sons, Mikey and Sandy (Elijah Wood and Adam Hann-Byrd). As an ice storm brews, the adults find themselves at a patented "Key Party," while young Paul tries some moves of his own in the city with his best friend, Francis (David Krumholtz), and the lovely Libbets. The soundtrack kicks ass. It is beautifully shot, perfectly written and directed. One of my all-time favorites.

Christmas Bonus (A Gift for My Wife)

The Holiday
Dir. Nancy Meyers, 2006


Christmas Vacation. Work. A British gal named Iris (Kate Winslet) and an American gal named Amanda (Cameron Diaz) need a break from their lives. They find each other on an online house-swapping site and decide to trade lives for a week or so. Of course, once swapped out, some gentlemen come into play. Iris finds something in Miles, the most charming Jack Black of all-time. Amanda finds something in Iris' brother, Graham, the most handsome Jude Law of all-time. Then, there's Eli Wallach as the old Hollywood screenwriter Arthur Abbot, who befriend the Iris character when she needs it most. I have a hard time dealing with Nancy Meyers' films. The characters live in a world that I'm quite sure doesn't exist (but acts as if it does), but this is one of the best ones. My wife loves it. She made me watch it. And I was quite pleased.

Merry Christmas!

17 comments:

  1. Nice unexpected choices! I liked Metropolitan when I saw it but that was long ago and I have only vague memories of it. I avoid all things Pauly Shore like the plague so I've never seen Son-in-Law, I don't think even Carla Gugino who I really like can induce me to breaking down to watch. I avoided The Holiday at first because I find Cameron Diaz irksome but loving Kate Winslet overrode that and I found it a sweet film. Kate's portion was the better half.

    I've rarely walked into a film with higher expectations than I did with The Ice Storm. That Cast! That Director! how could it go wrong? For me it did in every possible way. Sorry but I detested it utterly. Just thinking about it fills me with venom.

    I was torn on the seemingly split choice in the theme...should I do holiday movies or vacation movies or as you did a combo. Since I was only able to winnow down to three of each I decided to separate them into the two categories and have an entry for each.

    Christmas:

    Make the Yuletide Gay (2009)-Olaf “Gunn” Gunnunderson is headed to the Midwest home of his parents for the holidays. The thing is Gunn has a secret, at college he’s an out and proud gay man but at home he plays it straight fearing that his stoner dad and effusive, holiday loving mom will reject him if they know the truth. Soon after he arrives so does his boyfriend whose parents have decided to take a cruise rather than spend Christmas with him. Gunn passes him off as his roommate while his parents try to fix Gunn up with the girl next door. Can they make it through the holidays without his parents finding out and should they? Little known holiday fare with a game cast, including Alison Arngrim (Nellie Olsen from Little House on the Prairie) as the hot pants mom next door.

    Christmas in Connecticut (1945)-Barbara Stanwyck, that most versatile of all the great female Hollywood stars coming fresh off of Double Indemnity, is Elizabeth Lane-the Martha Stewart of her day who writes an advice column in Smart Housekeeping detailing her idyllic life on her Connecticut farm with her husband and baby. One day her publisher (Sydney Greenstreet) concocts a scheme to boost circulation, invite a war hero to her farm for the holidays and the publisher is coming along too. The problem? She lives in a New York walk up, has no husband nor baby and she can’t cook! What to do? She agrees to marry the man whose home she’s been using for a model and heads to the country taking the friend who provides her the recipes she uses along. All seems well…until the very attractive soldier arrives. Breezy comedy with the holiday spirit but not swamped with all the trimmings.

    Christmas Holiday (1944)-This Robert Siodmak directed adaptation of a Somerset Maugham story is one dark, despairing noir. On Christmas leave a young officer receives a Dear John letter. Depressed he wanders into a roadside joint and meets Deanna Durbin, a “dance hall hostess” and she tells him the story of her fall. As a naïve young girl on her own she entered into a hasty marriage to a slick charming man, Gene Kelly, who turns out to be a mother dominated psychotic maniac. When he commits murder she somehow feels responsible, goes into hiding and punishes herself by sliding into a life of squalor. Loaded with and quite explicit (for a 40’s release) in its themes of sexual manipulation, prostitution, incest, self-punishment and very twisted emotional ideas. Deanna sings but her songbird isn’t singled out as anyone special, she’s better than most roadside canaries but her style is beaten down and the patrons hardly break from what they’re doing when she takes the bandstand. A million miles away from the typical Durbin or Kelly vehicles.

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  2. Vacation:

    Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad (1967)-Madame Rosepettle (Rosalind Russell) arrives at a Caribbean resort for a vacation with quite a menagerie, her 24 year old son (Robert Morse) who acts like a 5 year old, his stamp collection and telescope, a pair of Venus Flytraps, her tank of pet piranhas and her dead husband (Jonathan Winters-who serves as narrator) who she’s had stuffed and travels with them in his coffin that she keeps in the closet. While they’re there the hotel’s babysitter Rosalie (Barbara Harris) falls for the infantile young man while Madame is pursued by a crazy ship captain, Commodore Roseabove. Got that? Its theatre of the absurd and the kind of whack-a-doodle thing that could only be produced in the 60’s.

    Deliverance (1972)-Four friends, all city bred, decide to take a vacation trip down a river in backwoods Georgia before a dam is constructed that will wipe it out and flood the surrounding area. Only one of them is really knowledgeable about canoeing but the trip starts well and even has a highlight or two, the famous Dueling Banjos being the most memorable, until they have an ill-fated encounter with some hillbilly moonshiners. Things go about as wrong as possible and their big adventure becomes an endurance test of survival. Raw and vivid with a career best performance by Burt Reynolds.

    Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962)-Mr. Hobbs wants to take a nice quiet vacation to the beach for the summer but Mrs. Hobbs insists on taking the whole family, daughters, son-in-law, grandchildren, cook and various drop ins, with them. There goes his peaceful trip. The kind of role that Jimmy Stewart could play in his sleep but he and Maureen O’Hara manage to make the material better than it should be.

    BTW you link over on Wandering only takes you to the site header image that you have to click through to your entry.

    Merry Christmas!

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    1. I like what you did as well with the split. Gives you room for some bonuses. Believe it or not, I've never even seen Deliverance (nor any of your other picks). Man, that "Oh, Dad..." movie. What a title! Sounds like a crazy flick.

      Hope you had a wonderful Christmas!

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  3. I LOVE the Ice Storm. Such a great film. I haven't seen the other two. I do like your bonus pick. I never thought I would, but it was a sweet little film.

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    1. Oh, The Ice Storm! It's so good. So bleak and so beautiful.

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  4. I've not seen any of these. They all sound interesting so I'll definitely keep them in mind. Well, I can't lie, one of them I'll avoid like the plague. I mean, it stars Pauly Shore. I just can't.

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    1. You can, man. You can. Release your inner silly kid. For me, his movies worked because I was fucking 8-12 years old when they came out. So many great memories.

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  5. Thanks for the bonus pick. How can you NOT like that movie?!

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  6. I've seen The Ice Storm, which is excellent, and The Holiday, which is a fun movie. I'd never heard of the other two. Great post, Kevin, and a belated Merry Christmas to you and your wife.

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    1. Thanks so much. Hope your Christmas was great as well.

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  7. I have not seen the first 2 but have seen Ice Storm. I was expecting something huge but felt underwhelmed by it. The last film is sweet and one where I didn't want to punch Jack Black in the face

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    1. Yes. That's a good thing about Jack Black there. Haha!

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  8. The Ice Storm is brilliant (but quite depressing in many ways). Metropolitan sounds intriguing.

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    1. See Metropolitan. It is so great.

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  9. I really like the Ice Storm, such a good movie.
    I have been meaning to see Metropolitan. It's a talky movie right? I tend to enjoy them.

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    1. Very talky. Yes. And such good dialogue.

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