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December 6, 2009

Snuggle up with some Christmas favorites

By Sister Helena Burns, FSP


’Tis the season to watch your favorite Christmas movies. Here are the results of an informal poll of folks’ favorite Christmas flicks.

People of a “certain age” mentioned “those ’70s TV specials”:

“Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer”: The granddaddy of all stop motion movies. First aired in 1964, it has been telecast every year since, making it the longest running Christmas TV special.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas”: animation, 1965. Charles Schultz fought to have Linus’ recitation of the Gospel of Luke (2:8-14) included.

“How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”: animation, 1966. Probably Dr. Seuss’ most wickedly funny and poignant work.

“The Little Drummer Boy”: stop motion, 1968

“Frosty the Snowman”: animation, 1969. Like other Christmas TV specials, it’s based on a song.

“Santa Claus is Coming to Town!”: stop motion, 1970

“The Year Without a Santa Claus”: stop motion, 1974.

■ What was the No. 1 most beloved movie?

Frank Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” by a wide margin.

Second place: “The Muppet Christmas Carol”: Jim Henson and Co. did Dickens proud. This is a masterpiece in felt (with two live actors).

Tied for third place: “White Christmas,”1954, Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye; “Miracle on 34th Street,” old and new versions (1937 and 1994);

Following that: “A Christmas Story,” 1983, with the “you’ll shoot your eye out” BB gun;

“Elf,” 2003, Will Ferrell. It seemed all true Christmas classics had been made until this one;

Home Alone: 1 & 2, ” 1990 and 1992

“A Christmas Carol,” Dickens (“the older ones”)

■ Other favorites (in descending order of popularity):

“The Christmas Shoes,” 2002. This tearjerker is about a boy who tries to buy a pair of Christmas shoes for his dying mother to “meet Jesus” in. A sequel called “The Christmas Blessing” is about when the boy grows up.

“The Polar Express,” computer animation, 2004.

“The Nativity Story,” 2006. St. Joseph steals the movie, but he didn’t need to, because now he has his own movie, “The Nativity Story” 2009.

“Holiday Inn,” 1944, Bing Crosby

“The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” 1983, Loretta Swit. A bunch of scruffy kids find their way into a school play and everyone learns the true meaning of Christmas.

“The Fourth Wise Man,” 1985, Martin Sheen. Based on the short story, “The Other Wise Man,” by Henry van Dyke.

“The Juggler of Notre Dame,” 1984, based on a French legend of the 12th century.

“It Came Upon the Midnight Clear,” 1984, Mickey Rooney. A retired cop takes his California grandson to New York City to see a white Christmas.

“The Bells of St. Mary’s,” 1945, Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman.

“The Miracle of the Bells,” 1948, Fred McMurray.

“The House Without a Christmas Tree,” 1972, Jason Robards. In 1946, a little girl wants nothing more than a Christmas tree.

“A Child’s Christmas in Wales,” 1987, based on Dylan Thomas’ recollections

■ Sister Helena’s picks:

“Mystery of the Three Kings,” 2002, American PBS. We know a lot more than you might think about the Magi and the star.

“One Magic Christmas,” 1985. Mary Steenburgen, Harry Dean Stanton. A down-on-their-luck little family has few prospects for Christmas.

“Joyeux Noel,” 2006. The true story of WWI soldiers from France, Germany and Scotland calling their own cease-fire and fraternizing on Christmas.

■ Sister Helena’s musical Christmas picks:

“The Nutcracker Ballet”; “Celtic Woman”; Any British boys’ choir; “Smoky Mountain Christmas,” music video of the gorgeous Smoky Mountains in the snow with wonderful Appalachian folk instruments. “Christmas Angel: A Story on Ice,” featuring Dorothy Hamill and Mannheim Steamroller music.

■ Sister Helena’s picks for the kids:

Hannah-Barbera’s Greatest Adventure Bible Series “The Nativity,” “Nicholas: the Boy Who Became Santa,” “The Story of Silent Night,” “The Town That Forgot About Christmas.”

■ Is there such a thing as Advent movies?

These have Advent “clips”: “Advent Calendar on DVD: A Christmas Countdown for December” and “Advent Calendar on DVD 2: Christmas Carols Edition,” “Stories of Christmas,” Father Tony Scannell, OFM, and Father Murray Bodo, OFM.