Roz Revisited: Holiday Movies I Love

December 21, 2012

See the post for details.

Above: Frank Morgan in silk p.j.s in Lubitsch’s wonderful “Shop Around the Corner.” Faber-Castell Pitt Artist’s Calligraphy pen in a medium (6 x 9 inch?) Fabriano Venezia journal.

For today’s suggested “re-read” I’m sending you to a post I enjoyed writing so much that I actually turned it into a page—that’s right, you can find it any time of the year, easily, by looking in the Pages list in the left column of the blog for “Films for the Holidays.”

Every year there are new films to watch during the end of year movie theater holiday season. By all means, go out and watch all that you can.

But if you’re at home and have some free moments and are wondering what might be entertaining you’ve got my list and my reasons why. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.

And, because I just rewatched it last weekend for the umpteen-millionth time and loved every minute of it, I’m also adding my recommendation that you watch “Shop Around the Corner” staring James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan (and of course the ever wonderful Frank Morgan—who shouldn’t only be remembered for the multiplicity of brilliance in “The Wizard of Oz”). 

“Shop” is a sweet little romance which grabs you from moment the ominous chords of “Ochi Tchornya” sound out while the MGM Lion roars. That musical introduction is a hint to not trust the bright, light music which follows. This is more than a romance, it’s a movie about perception, commerce, the distribution of wealth and power, the corruptibility of wealth and power, the salvation of self through learning to trust others, and finally (because it is a romance) lessons in how to avoid becoming “psychologically mixed-up” and live an authentic life all while creating a family that matters.A portion of the movie takes place at Christmas, so I think I can include it in the Holiday Films list—though since all my holiday films are really about family it has a place there anyway.

And before you write in and rave about “You’ve Got Mail” (the Nora Ephron retooling of “The Shop Around the Corner”) go watch “Shop” again. I love Ephron’s work, but “Mail,” despite the great work by the cast is not a classic. “Mail” suffers from the sulphurous odor of unresolved ethical and moral issues relating to personal and big business (and I’m a fan of both). “Mail” has always had an ominious quality that isn’t fully worked out for me.

I believe that in the reorganization of her action Efron actually made it impossible to work out her dramatic conflicts. Can a modern woman move past the destruction of her mother’s dream book shop and on to something else, just because the something else she moves on to is her “real” calling, if the man she loves is the person who pushed her yet destroyed that dream shop? Ephron is telling us yes, but every time I watch “Mail” the ending falls flat. Wait, perhaps it’s the way the protagonists become inappropriately emotionally intimate with each other while each is living with other partners.

I think the most romantic situation would be to own your bad choices, clear the muck out of your life, and then go meet your goals—finding love along the way. But that must not be modern enough. Instead of a bright future for the protagonists I see the seeds of destruction already planted in their relationship. At the very least they’ll need some serious counseling. It’s still not satisfying as a romantic movie.

Perhaps Ephron’s point is that there is no way in the modern world to avoid “becoming psychologically mixed-up.” But Lubitsch was wiser than that. 

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