Good Christmas Vibrations

I like to wait 'til at least the day after Thanksgiving, but once that light goes green, it's fun to get in the mood during the season with not only decorations, but with Christmas music, movies and TV specials. Here are a few suggestions, most of which you can find and purchase at our amazon store. Christmas Recommendations It's become something of a cliche to watch It's a Wonderful Life once a year, but that doesn't stop us in our house (I'll have an extended post about that movie in the coming days). A Christmas Story has been an annual favorite since making it's debut in 1983. (The book that inspired the movie is Jean Shepard's short story collection, In God We Trust, All Others Take Cash. Although the rest of the stories are not in the Christmas theme, it's well worth a read.) For gut-busting laughs, nothing beats Will Ferrell in Elf, which also has a a lot of heart while riffing on Rankin-Bass Christmas specials. Zooey Deschanel is a revelation, and her duet on Baby It's Cold Outside with Leon Redbone over the credits is fantastic. Coincidentally, one of the elves in that movie (and a producer of the film) is none other than Peter Billingsley, who plays Ralphie in A Christmas Story. I'd encourage all to read Dickens' A Christmas Carol. It's only fifty or so pages, and one may find in it a few things that may surprise; it's been watered down in many forms and adaptations over the years. I still find the 1951 movie version (with Alastair Sim as Scrooge) the best and most faithful, although the more recent TV version (USA network; 1999) featuring Patrick Stewart is also true to Dickens and has its moments of merit (especially Stewart's take on Scrooge waking up on Christmas morn). In another slim volume, Truman Capote's poignant autobiographical A Christmas Memory, li'l Tru finds a gleem of hope when two lonely souls find comfort in each other's company. William Joyce's Santa Calls is a classic for the whole family, painted in a style reminiscent of N. C. Wyeth, while all Joyce's own. And although I found the movie extremely creepy, Polar Express by Chris Van Allsburg is everything the movie is not. xmas07plugs02.jpg After quitting his Bloom County comic strip, Berke Breathed produced a couple fine children's books featuring the penguin who occasionally drops his derriere, Opus. A Wish For Wings That Work is a splendid book that pays homage to and deconstructs the children's classic, Goodnight Moon. An animated adaptation of the book was broadcast in 1991. Long since unavailable, and sporadically seen since, I'm pleased to say it's finally been released on DVD this year. So I can retire my old second generation VHS copy. For goofier, campier Christmas fun, check out the Pee Wee's Playhouse Christmas Special, which packs in more weird cameos and crazy content than any hour-long TV special can usually muster. For more traditional holiday TV fare, the latest DVD of How the Grinch Stole Christmas is far superior to the DVD released a few years back (wherein the Grinch appeared a sickly mustard yellow). And there's nothing like A Charlie Brown Christmas, which not only brings back memories, but still holds up. Keep the glow of that show lingering by listening to the soundtrack by Vince Guaraldi. A big part of why that original show stands the test of time is his jazzy music. For more of the same, Ella Fitzgerald's swinging Christmas album keeps the toes tapping...for me, right to the egg nog! For more relaxing moments, various Windham Hill artists contribute to The Carols of Christmas, which provide a peaceful new age twist to old classics, or A Music Box Christmas. Those glistening chimes filled our house every Christmas when I was growing up in Chicago. There are many more I could mention, and I'm sure you have favorites I've never heard of, and if so, please leave a comment. I'd love to expand the collection. Merry Christmas!

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