A few films to watch on Christmas Eve

A few films to watch on Christmas Eve

“Home Alone,” the most successful live-action comedy of all time until recently, and the inspiration for a whole generation of ’90s kids to create imaginary, elaborate traps with which they could thwart intruders, is really an escalating series of frenzied, violent gags culminating in a not-so-surprisingly sentimental finish. It’s comforting in its familiarity:

A few films to watch on Christmas Eve

even if you’ve seen the movie dozens of times and can predict the jokes a mile away, “Home Alone” is still the zippy, spirited holiday classic that launched Macaulay Culkin’s career and solidified Joe Pesci’s career (ironically, the same year he starred in Martin Scorsese’s “Goodfellas”) as clumsy suburban bogeymen, and Daniel Stern as bumbling suburban bogeymen It’s easy to see why Culkin’s Kevin McCallister appeals to a younger audience: he’s an outspoken rule-breaker who lives by his own set of values. What does he do when his parents leave him home alone over the holidays? He binges on junk food, watches violent movies, and uses his brains and know-how to protect his parents’ opulent Chicago mansion from two inept crooks. The film’s violence is immature and slightly exaggerated—that tarantula-infested staircase scene is particularly revolting—but it’s nowhere like as vicious as its considerably less successful sequel “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York.” Even though you can’t help but marvel at how ridiculous it is, there’s something soothing about that conclusion. Is cheese, on the other hand, always a bad thing in a Christmas movie?

“It’s A Wonderful Life,” a universally recognised Christmas classic, had to fight hard to achieve that status: it flopped at first and was even denounced by the FBI for sympathising with Communists, but it became a beloved perennial via television broadcasts in the 1970s (“it’s the damnedest thing I’ve ever seen,” director Frank Capra told the Wall Street Journal in 1984). “I’m like a dad whose child becomes president.” I’m proud… but the job was done by the kid”). It’s maybe unsurprising, given how much darker and stranger the film is than many people recall. Clarence, the guardian angel of the suicidal George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), shows him how life might have been without him in the film. The Christmas setting feels utterly appropriate, both for the echoes of Charles Dickens and for the spirit of the power of family and community. It’s less concerned with holiday trappings than many of the films on this list, but the Christmas setting feels utterly appropriate, both for the echoes of Charles Dickens and for the spirit of the power of family and community. It’s almost novelistic in its depiction of everyday American life in the first half, but it pulls off a dramatic trick in demonstrating the impact one person has on the people in his life in the second half.

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