The subversive charm of 'Santa Claus is Comin' to Town' - Off-Ramp for December 15, 2012

Leonard Maltin movie picks: try 'Joyeux Noel' and 'Family Stone' for Christmas

John Rabe

Leonard Maltin takes up valuable inches on John Rabe's reference shelf.

It's okay if you're tired of Miracle on 34th Street, A Christmas Story, It's a Wonderful Life, and the other Christmas standards. Or maybe you're just looking for something new to watch this holiday season.

Movie historian and critic Leonard Maltin came up with two options exclusively for Off-Ramp listeners:

Joyeux Noel (2005) tells the story of a battleground truce in 1914. As the movie tells it, based on real events, soldiers on opposite sides in World War One laid down their guns for a few hours to celebrate Christmas in the No Man's Land between the trenches. The movie also tells what happened to them afterward, when they had to face the consequences of being soldiers following their human instincts instead of soldiers following orders. "It's an amazing and I think quite movie, even - dare I say the word - inspiring film," Maltin says.

Family Stone (2005) is less historically remarkable: a family of New England lefties, led by Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson, deal with their son's uptight girlfriend, Sarah Jessica Parker. Complications, comical and tragic, ensue. As Maltin puts it, "It's not a perfect family. It's not a perfect Christmas. I think that's why the movie works as well as it does."

Then, I asked Leonard to indulge me as I promoted the Rabe-Bermudez Christmas favorite, Auntie Mame (1958). Only a small part of the movie happens during Christmas, but I always cry when Mame,  Patrick, and her maid, and butler share their meagre Christmas gifts with each other. Then there's the wonderful release when Beau shows up at the door as, essentially, a male Auntie Mame, and whisks them off to Christmas dinner. (At :54 in the trailer below:)

Please, let us know your offbeat (Off-Ramp?) holiday favorites in the Comments below.

Leonard Maltin is author of Leonard Maltin's 2013 Movie Guide and Leonard Maltin's Classic Movie Guide, both of which make great stocking stuffers.


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