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:
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."
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)
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.