classic, film, Holiday, musical, must see

Classic Movie Review: Meet Me in St. Louis

Once again I have to call this a classic because it is. One of my favorite musicals and favorite Judy Garland movies of all time, released in 1944; this might be her second best known work after Wizard of Oz. I’ll even tell you the best time to watch this film is around Christmas, which I will go into later. As always spoilers ahead.

Beginning in the summer of 1903 we are on a journey with the Smiths, a family living in St. Louis: Father Alonzo (Leon Ames), Mother Anna (Mary Astor), one son Lon Jr.(Henry H. Daniels Jr.) and four daughters Rose (Lucille Bremer), Esther (Garland), Agnes (Joan Carroll) and Tootie (Margaret O’Brien) along with a house keeper Katie (Marjorie Main) and Grandpa (Harry Davenport.) The World’s Fair is a year away and the family is excited, Mr. Smith is questionable. Rose and Esther are struggling with their romantic lives; Rose is expecting her boyfriend Warren Sheffield (Robert Sully) to propose but he has yet to do so and Esther is hopelessly in love with the boy next door John Truett (Tom Drake). When Mr. Smith announces the family will move to New York, the family is devastated because their whole lives are in St. Louis and they will miss the Fair. I cannot go too far without giving away the rest of the movie, you just have to watch it.

This is a film consistently listed as one of the best musicals of all time, and I completely agree. Garland is one of the best actresses ever on film, and she shines just as bright in this film as her other work. However it takes a great ensemble and when it comes to musicals this cast is hard to beat. I also love the stories and how intertwined they are, at first it won’t make sense but give it a few moments and it will. Meanwhile the soundtrack has some of the best songs in a musical. Here are some of my favorites: “The Trolley Song” sung by a chorus of teenagers about the St. Louis trolley and Garland as she imagines about John and “The Boy Next Door” an almost single camera shot with Garland as she expresses her love for John. However there is a song from this film more famous than the film itself, and why you should watch it at Christmas. That song is called “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Yes, one of the most famous and beloved Christmas songs of all time came from this film. Just a heads up the lyrics for this film are different than other versions, you can thank Frank Sinatra for that, but nonetheless hearing Garland sing this song to Margaret O’Brien in this film is hauntingly beautiful. If you are not going to watch this film, although I’d put it on a must watch list, listen to the soundtrack. I promise you will not be disappointed.

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film, Holiday

Movie Review: Last Holiday (2006)

I had to put 2006 because there are different movie titles with that name. This was a loose adaption of the 1950 UK film with the same name and originally was going to star John Candy, but he sadly passed away. A newer version would be made but staring Queen Latifah as the main character. Spoilers will be ahead as always.

Georgia Byrd (Latifah) is a very shy woman selling cooking supplies when she wants to be the one making the delicious food. She lists her dreams in a notebook, which includes traveling, becoming a professional cook and marrying the man of her dreams, her co-worker Sean Williams (LL Cool J). One day while flirting with Sean she hits her head and has to go to the hospital. According to Dr. Gupta (Ranjit Chowdhry) Georgia has several brain tumors from a rare disorder called Lampington’s disease. As her cheap boss will not pay for her operation, Georgia decided to live out the rest of her weeks by quitting her job, gathering all of her money and spending it on the vacation she’s always wanted: the deluxe Grandhotel Pupp in the city of Karlovy Vary in the Czech Republic. Once she arrives Georgia soon becomes beloved by the hotel guests and staff with her free spirit and kindness. She finally gets to do everything she loves, including cook for the hotel chef. However one of the guests, greedy self help guru Matthew Kragen (Timothy Hutton) believes Georgia is trying to sabotage his business, yeah you are not going to like him in this movie. I would go further but I would be spoiling the movie further.

A film I would describe as a feel good holiday movie, “Last Holiday” was another movie to showcase just how good of an actress Queen Latifah is. While critics at the time had mixed feelings of the film, no one doubted her performance. I have always loved Queen Latifah in much of her work, and this is at the very top. LL Cool J is also a good actor and I liked him in this movie, maybe not his best work but still. The rest of the cast was good as well, I actually really disliked Timothy Hutton’s character in the movie as a very greedy man who doesn’t realizes just how unhappy he is. Now begs the question of would I recommend this movie? My honest answer would be yes and no. Yes because it is cute, but no because it is not on my must see list. I will say if you are a fan of Queen Latifah then see the movie.

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film, Holiday

Movie Review: The Holiday

If there was such a thing as a perfect romantic comedy this may take the top prize. Once again spoilers will be ahead.

“The Holiday” follows two different women, reporter Iris (Kate Winslet) and workaholic movie trailer producer Amanda (Cameron Diaz), but they are in the same boat; unlucky in love. Iris is hopelessly in love with fellow reporter Jasper Bloom (Rufus Sewell) despite the way he treats her while Amanda breaks up with her boyfriend after he cheated on her. With the Christmas holidays coming up, both women want to get away and through a home exchange website (that actually exists) they are able to make it possible.

Iris absolutely loves Amanda’s home in Los Angeles, while Amanda quickly grows bored until she is visited by Iris’s brother Graham (Jude Law). They quickly form a connection, in more ways than one. Meanwhile Iris forms friendships with Miles Dumont (Jack Black), a music composer, and her neighbor Arthur Abbot (Eli Wallach) a once famous screenwriter who encourages Iris to have more “Gumption” in herself. Along the way both Amanda and Iris end up discovering more about themselves through their new relationships. Sadly that is about as far as I can go without spoiling.

This film is very adorable and so perfectly cast; according to IMDB the way the script was written had Diaz, Winslet, Law and Black in mind for the roles, and it was spot on. Both Winslet and Diaz’s characters are relatable to many women who watched the film, and let’s be honest ladies we would love if a guy like Law or Black’s characters just happen to come in to our lives. What I did not expect to enjoy so much was Wallach’s performance; he was very good as a man who is very sweet to Iris and just wants to live out the rest of his days. Apparently he was so energetic on set the director had to remind him to slow down and act like an old man (guy was 90; I’m impressed)

Overall if you want a rom com night this should be at the very top of the list. It is cute, the characters are relatable and the story can happen any day of the week. I promise you will not be disapointed.

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Holiday

Christmas Memories

Before I go into my post, I want to wish everyone here a Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, New Year; Happy Holidays.

The holidays in my family are always a treat. Truth be told I rarely remember presents, but I do treasure the memories I made with my family over the holidays. My mother’s side always celebrated Christmas while my dad’s side celebrated Hanukkah. Yep I celebrated both holidays; my co-workers say I’m lucky, getting more presents. Honestly getting presents is not what I love about the holidays; it’s being with family.

Hanukkah is always fun in my home, depending on what night of the year it lands on (this year is Christmas Eve!) Unlike most Jewish families mine open all of our presents on the first night. I remember getting Broadway Plaques of shows I’ve seen or shows I’m going to see thanks to my parents. My brother, real simple anything Batman related you can possibly think of. We do keep traditions alive by lighting up the menorah. Again we are not traditional. Instead of lighting candles we have an electric menorah with bulbs instead of candles. It’s just me, mom, dad and my brother; my grandmother lives in Florida and my uncles are too far away.

Christmas has many great memories for me. We would go up to my aunt and uncle’s home in Connecticut, and they had a HUGE house. My grandparents, aunts, uncles and cousins would all be there; it was awesome. Gathering around the tree, opening presents, my uncle playing “A Christmas Story” non-stop, and ended with Family BINGO. It was like that for a few years until my aunt and uncle moved to Manhattan. We would then celebrate Christmas in my grandparents home, until they both passed away. Since then Christmas was spent sadly far from the family for a while, meeting when we could. Thankfully my aunt and uncle decided to retire in Brooklyn and my uncle’s girlfriend has a great home in Albany as well. We meet when we can, this year we will be on Christmas Day.

My family does have a tradition. All the adults pull a name out of a hat. If they are not in the immediate family we have to buy presents for them. We are allowed to ask if there is something specific they want. No gift cards, unless asked and maximum is $100. This year I bought for my aunt, no spoilers here, but I hope she likes my present. One of my most memorable presents came from my cousin. I had asked for about ten DVDS of movies I loved but did not own. I told him if he could buy three or four of them that would make my Christmas. Some DVDs would have been difficult to find so i told him not to worry if he couldn’t. Come our meeting, I opened his gift (which looked like a shoe box) and all ten DVDs were inside. I could not believe it, had to give him a big hug after. Not my gift, but my uncle is a little nuts and would give random gifts to all of us. My mother, his sister, would receive this for a gift: a frog statue dressed like a butler and a tray. We still have it.

These are some of my wonderful holiday memories, I hope to make some more tomorrow. Once again, Happy Holidays.

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