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It’s not quite the end of the year and I will likely watch one or two more dvds  before then, but we’re having computer connection issues, so I may as well post this now!

And wish everyone a very happy New Year – “Let’s hope it’s a good one,  without any fear.”

Movies and DVDs screened in 2009:

January

Teletubbies – Baby Animals (thanks, Lynn!)

Easy Living (1937) – screwball comedy featuring Jean Arthur, Edward Arnold and Ray Milland

all of season 1 episodes of The Flight of the Conchords (2007 – 12 episodes) – v. funny

Ab Fab episode: White Box (1994)

Ab Fab extra: Absolutely Fabulous: A Life (1992)

Teletubbies – Again, Again!

The Rape of Europa (2006) – documentary about Nazi art looting in WWII

Ab Fab episodes: Season 1: Fashion and Fat (both 1992)

The Savages (2007) – starring Laura Linney, Philip Seymour Hoffman, and Philip Bosco.  Slice of fairly-grim-yet-ordinary life film.  I liked it.

Ab Fab episodes: Season 1: France and Iso Tank (both 1992)

Teletubbies – Look!

Ab Fab episodes: Season 1: Birthday and Magazine (both 1992)

Poirot episodes: Peril at End House (1990) and The Disappearance of Mr. Davenheim (1990)

Ab Fab: Season 2: Hospital (1994)

House MD: Ep. 5×12 Painless (2009)

Weekend at Bernie’s (1989): Funny in places and concept.

Rick Steves in Spain: Barcelona, Segovia, Grenada, and Costa del Sol. Also the Rock of Gibraltar, and Morocco. (2001, I think)

Ab Fab: Season 2: Death (1994)

February

Peter’s Friends (1992): With Stephen Fry, Hugh Laurie, Emma Thompson, Kenneth Branagh et al.  Sort of like a British Big Chill until it turned into a Hallmark Hall of Fame special at the end.

House MD: Ep. 5×13 Big Baby (2008)

Swimming to Cambodia (1987): The inimitable Spalding Gray. I’ve seen this many times and never tire of it.

Ab Fab: Season 2: Morocco (1994)

Ab Fab: Season 2: New Best Friend (1994)

Murder at the Gallop (1963), an Agatha Christie adaptation (hardly) starring Margaret Rutherford as Miss Marple (hardly), which we watched for the sole purpose of seeing this car. (It’s based on the Christie novel After the Funeral, aka Funerals Are Fatal, which featured Poirot and not Marple). Margaret Rutherford manages to make Miss Marple look like a crime-fighting Hyacinth Bucket.

Ab Fab: Season 2: Poor (1994)

Ab Fab:  Season 3: Door Handle (1995); Jealous (1995); Fear (1995); The End (1995)

The Impressionists (2006): Disc 1 (episodes 1 and 2): A 3-hour BBC miniseries about Claude Monet, mostly, and also Degas, Renoir, Cezanne, Manet, and Bazille.

House MD: Ep. 5×14 The Greater Good (2008)

Den Brysomme mannen (The Bothersome Man) (2006): Norwegian dark (very dark) comedy, a vision of dystopia, with some gruesome moments and lots of sterility. Interesting.  Thinking about showing it, with  the excellent Japanese movie After Life, for an ‘after life’ movie series. Need two other movies along the same lines …

House MD: Ep. 5×15 Unfaithful (2008)

March

The Impressionists (2006): Disc 2 (episode 3): Last piece of a 3-hour BBC miniseries about Claude Monet, mostly, and in this episode, more of Manet, Degas, and Cezanne (and his writer friend Emile Zola). I quite liked the series.

House MD: Ep. 5×16 The Softer Side (2008)

The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Season 3 (1972):  Ep. 1: The Good-Time News; Ep. 2: What Is Mary Richards Really Like?; Ep. 3:  Who’s in Charge Here?; Ep. 4: Enter Rhoda’s Parents

House MD: Ep. 5×17 The Social Contract (2008)

The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Season 3 (1972):  Ep. 5: It’s Whether You Win or Lose; Ep. 6:  Rhoda the Beautiful.

Current season of Real Housewives of New York.

House MD: Ep. 5×18 Here Kitty (2008)

April

House MD: Ep. 5×19 Locked In (2008)

House MD: Ep. 5×20 Simple Explanation (2008)

Current season of Real Housewives of New York.

Most of current season of America’s Next Top Model.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Season 3 (1972):  Eps. 7-24: Just Around the Corner;  But Seriously, Folks; Farmer Ted and the News; Have I Found a Guy for You; You’ve Got a Friend; It Was Fascination, I Know; Operation: Lou; Rhoda Morgenstern: Minneapolis to New York; The Courtship of Mary’s Father’s Daughter; Lou’s Place; My Brother’s Keeper; The Georgette Story; Romeo and Mary; What Do You Do When the Boss Says ‘I Love You';  Murray Faces Life; Remembrance of Things Past; Put on a Happy Face; Mary Richards and the Incredible Plant Lady (with Craig T. Nelson in a bit part!).

Lars and the Real Girl (2007): Better than I expected after having it recommended as a “feel-good movie.” Really nice, actually. Patricia Clarkson and Emily Mortimer are great.

House MD: Ep. 5×21 Saviors (2008)

Sunshine Cleaning (2008): With Amy Adams, Emily Blunt, Alan Arkin.  House cleaner becomes crime-scene cleaner, along with her slacker sister. The sister action reminded me a bit of Rachel Getting Married (2008). Liked this movie, mainly the interactions between the women, not so much the dad and grandson. (Saw in theatre.)

A Shot in the Dark (1964), an Inspector Clouseau romp.

May

Last couple eps of current season of Real Housewives of New York, plus ‘reunion’ shows.

Last eps of current season of America’s Next Top Model.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Season 4 (1973):  New opening montage, finally. Ep. 1: The Lars Affair, introduces Sue Ann Nivens.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Season 4 (1973): Eps. 2 and 4: Angels in the Snow (Mary dates a younger man!) and The Lou and Edie Story (love that Edie).

The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Season 4 (1973): Eps. 3, 5, 6: Rhoda’s Sister Gets Married (the sister is Debby, not Brenda, who doesn’t seem to exist in this 1973 reality); Hi There, Sports Fans (Mary fires and hires a sportscaster); Father’s Day (Ted’s father shows up after 40 yrs).

The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Season 4 (1973): Ep. 7: Son of ‘But Seriously, Folks’, again featuring Jerry Van Dyke as Mary’s persistent and clingy would-be beau; Ep. 8: Lou’s First Date since his separation, with a rather, er, older woman.

8-1/2 by Federico Fellini (1962): Much more accessible and funny than I expected based on reviews. Mix of reality, fantasy, memory, internal dialogue, conjuring, philosophy. About a film director making a film.  Some great lines and visuals.

June

Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008), dir. Woody Allen.  Pleasant movie, perhaps not as much complexity as some of Allen’s others. Narrated. Amusing and odd to hear Vicky and others speak Woody Allen’s usual words. Explores art, giftedness, fluidity of sexuality, commitment, nature of love, life as art, angle of perception, desire and (dis)satisfaction, etc. Ending seemed true to life.

current season of Jon and Kate plus 8 (though it’s getting tiresome)

current (first) season of Real Housewives of New Jersey, but it was so bad I couldn’t keep watching. Worse than watching a car wreck.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Season 4 (1973): Ep. 9: Love Blooms at Hemples. Rhoda falls in love but takes it too fast. Ep 10:  The Dinner Party.  Sue Anne cooks veal Prince Orloff. Ep 11: Just Friends. Lou and Edie, post-separation.

Sideways (2004), the mid-life crisis, male-bonding, wine-tasting movie, which was a re-screening for me. I actually liked it more the second time around, which isn’t saying a whole lot. It’s never really hung together as a film for me. The scene on the golf course is the best.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Season 4 (1973): Ep. 12: We Want Baxter. Ted runs for local office at Phyllis’s behest. Ep. 13: I Gave at the Office.  Murray’s 15-yr-old daughter works for a day or two at WJM. Ep. 14: Almost a Nun’s Story, a good one about Georgette’s reactions to breaking up with the philandering Ted. Ep. 15: Happy Birthday, Lou! Mary’s surprise party for her reluctant guest. Ep. 16: WJM Tries Harder. Mary’s frustrated with the laid-back, inept, small potatoes nature of WJM.

Giulietta degli spiriti (Juliet of the Spirits) (1965), dir. by Federico Fellini.  The simple plotline? “Visions, memories, and mysticism all help a 40-something woman to find the strength to leave her cheating husband.” Otherwise, the movie is a montage of the extreme: blood (vampirism, sangria), sex (from none to implicit in everything), fashion (crazy costumes!), friends and relatives (overbearing and strong personalities, to say the least), fantasies and nightmares, freaks, etc.  Oddly, on the IMDB boards, people seem to agree that the film is full of beautiful women. I was thinking how unattractive all the women in the film are and wondered if Fellini were making some point with his choices! Didn’t like it as much as 8-1/2.

July


Harold and Maude (1971), re-screening. What a lovely movie. I love Maude’s description of her things as “incidental, not integral, if you know what I mean” and the way she throws his ring into the ocean so she’ll always know where it is.

Annie Hall (1977), re-screening. Dir. Woody Allen, with Diane Keaton, Tony Roberts, Carol Kane, Paul Simon, etc.  Christopher Walken has a small role, Jeff Goldblum a smaller one, and Sigourney Weaver a barely visible non-speaking role. Beverly D’Angelo is a on TV in the movie.  I always confused the lobster-catching scene with the spider-killing scene.

Play Time (1967), dir. by Jacques Tati and starring him. In French and English (and a little German) with subtitles.  Tati plays Monsieur Hulot, but unlike in Mon Oncle, Hulot is not always the focus of the film. I found the film visually lush and glamourous, though it’s a commentary on the sterility of modernism and the ridiculous lengths to which ‘keeping up appearances’ can be taken. It’s really a tour de force of modernism with all of its superficiality, alienation, structure without content, form at the cost of function, glamourous and sometimes ultra-hygenic appearance masking the reality of lived life. I laughed out loud a lot. Loved it.

The Mary Tyler Moore Show, Season 4 (1973): Ep. 17: Cottage for Sale. Phyllis the realtor wants to sell Mr. Grant’s house. Ep. 18: The Co-Producers. Mary and Rhoda try to produce a Sunday afternoon talk show but Ted and Sue Ann get in the way.

watched most of two eps. of NYC Prep

Cheri (2009), dir.  Stephen Frears, based on two novels by Colette. Stars (a far too slim) Michelle Pfeiffer, Kathy Bates, and Rupert Friend. I felt lukewarm about the film. Lovely sense of the Belle Époque but I didn’t warm to any of the characters much.  No sexual chemistry between the love interests, though there is a sense that each has found his/her emotional home with the other as mother/son.

August

Easy Virtue (2008), based on play by Noel Coward and using a lot of his music, too. Stars Colin Firth, Jessica Biel, Kirsten Scott Thomas.  Set in England between the wars (1928), it’s about a free-spirited American race car driver, Larita, who impulsively marries a younger man, then to find on meeting his upper-crust family in England (parents and two sisters) that she doesn’t fit in at all with them, or with him.  Biel is stunning and very appealing. Firth is excellent in the role of the father. (Seen twice in Aug.)

8-1/2, dir. Federico Fellini (1962): Re-screened this. Just as good the second time. I had missed a few key bits the first time through. See review above (May)

one ep. of In Treatment: Thought I would like it but the first episode (about a young woman in love with her therapist) felt too predictable and false at the same time. Couldn’t watch the next ep. about an Iraq War vet. Sent it back to Netflix.

La Dolce Vita, dir. Fellini (1960): Black and white. LONG (174 mins).  Won the Palme d’Or at Cannes and an Academy Award. Marcello Mastroianni is a tabloid journalist in Rome in the 1950s, mixing with prostitutes, the decadent wealthy, hedonists and jaded women, movie stars, etc. His girlfriend is suicidal and conventional and Marcello (also the name of the character) despises her yet returns to her again and again (and she him). One motif of the film is that of religious objects and echoes in the midst of neo-modernist architecture and mores. Some apparently see the film’s structure as evoking “seven deadly sins, seven sacraments, seven virtues, seven days of creation.” Others see Marcello as a “kind of Dantesque Pilgrim” in “an underworld of 120 different characters.”

re-watched Ab Fab: Season 1: Fat (1993). Season 2: Poor (1994) and Birth (1994). Season 3: Door Handle (1995); Jealous (1995); Fear (1995); The End (1995)

Manhattan Murder Mystery (dir. Woody Allen)

Husbands and Wives (1992), dir. Woody Allen, with Allen, Judy Davis, Mia Farrow, Sidney Pollack. Story of two New York couples dissatisfied in their marriages. The resolutions and lack thereof seem really true to life in many ways.

A Great Day in Harlem (1994), the backstory for the famous photo of 50+ jazz musicians, from Red Allen to Lester Young, taken in 1958 by Seventeen magazine’s art director Art Kane, whose photography career was launched with the photo. Developed in vignettes, anecdotes, performance clips, and videography of the day (shot by Milt Hinton and his wife), the overall story is one of great performers who enjoyed both playing music and spending time with each other. I got the feeling watching the film that a reality show featuring these folks would never have flown because (with perhaps the exception of Thelonius Monk) they didn’t have the overweening egos and insecurities necessary for extreme drama.

New York Stories (1989): Three mini-movies, of which the one by Woody Allen (Oedipus Wrecks) is the only one worth seeing.  Life Without Zoe (dir. Francis Ford Coppola), apparently for children, is execrable, with cringe-making script and acting. The only character remotely worth watching is Hector (Don Novello), the ‘butler’ to a wealthy 12-yr-old girl who lives in a hotel. Life Lessons, dir. Martin Scorsese, is OK but simplistic. It’s about a narcissistic painter (Nick Nolte) who thinks he loves his muses (for most of the sketch, Rosanna Arquette), attractive wanna-be female artists half his age. Oedipus Wrecks (Allen) is about a man and his overbearing mother, who disappears during a magic show only to reappear and hover as a visible and audible presence over New York City until Allen’s character chooses the right woman to marry (i.e., a woman just like his mother).

Flight of the Conchords, Season 2, episodes 1-6:  A Good Opportunity, The New Cup, The Tough Brets, Murray Takes It to the Next Level, Unnatural Love, Love Is a Weapon of Choice. Songs include Femident Toothpaste, Sugalumps, You Don’t Have to Be a Prostitute, Hurt Feelings, Too Many Dicks (On the Dance Floor), Carol Brown, Epileptic Dogs, and others. I esp. liked Murray Takes it to the Next Level.  Seemed to be a lot of Australian-New Zealand jokes (insults) in this batch.

September

Gray’s Anatomy (1996): Spalding Gray’s monologue about his macular pucker (a vision problem) and his quest for healing among psychic surgeons, Indian sweat lodge ceremonies, nutritional ophthalmologists (and their mothers), Christian Scientists, et al. Excellent.

September (1987), dir. Woody Allen, with Mia Farrow as Lane, who is recovering from a suicide attempt and breakdown, and Dianne Wiest (Steph) as love interests for Sam Waterston (Peter). These three, plus Lane’s brassy, warm but self-centered mom and her husband, and an older male neighbour who’s in love with Lane, spend a couple of days in Sept. in a big house in Vermont – the whole movie takes place in the house. It falls flat for me because I can’t believe that Sam Waterston’s character would have the hots for Dianne Wiest’s character — she’s so unappealing with her overdone pixie look and her tight grimaced smiles. Farrow is excellent playing a pathetic, whiny victim.

Grey Gardens (1975): Excellent cinema vérité documentary of Big and Little Edie Beale, eccentric and isolated aunt and cousin to Jackie Kennedy, living together in practically one room of their ramshackle, rundown, raccoon-infested mansion in East Hampton and blaming each other for their miseries. Little Edie’s fashion sense is quite unusual. Both like to sing and Little Edie likes to dance and march.

October

L’Avventura (1960) dir. Michelangelo Antonioni, starring Gabriele Ferzetti, Monica Vitti, and Lea Massari. A woman, Anna, inexplicably disappears during a day outing with friends on a virtually deserted rocky Mediterranean island. Her lover and her female friend and others search for her on the island and then back on the mainland but eventually Anna’s disappearance seems to fade in importance. 142 minutes and sometimes it feels like it, but there’s a compelling allure about the film.

Another Woman (1988), dir. Woody Allen. With Gena Rowlands, Mia Farrow, Ian Holm, John Houseman, Blythe Danner,  Gene Hackman. Marion (Rowlands), a 50-year-old professor of German philosophy, thinks her marriage and life are fine until she overhears another woman (Farrow) question her own situation in a therapy session. Compelled to probe, Marion begins to review and question her own judgments, choices, and rationalisations, at first resisting what she finds. Some have aptly (IMO) compared the film to Bergman’s Wild Strawberries because the main characters are similar in type (intellectual, dispassionate, critical) and both find themselves questioning their seemingly successful lives, one in middle age and the other in old age.

How to Murder Your Wife (1965) with Jack Lemmon and Virna Lisi. Lemmon plays cartoonist and confirmed bachelor Stanley, who gets married while drunk to the girl who jumps out of the cake at someone else’s aborted bachelor party, and then spends the rest of the film trying to get unmarried, while using his escapades as fodder for his secret-agent cartoon strip.  The movie is a bit slow and unfocused, though Lemmon’s acting has characteristic verisimilitude; the best lines, intonations, and deliveries  come from Stanley’s friend and lawyer, Harold Lampson, played by Eddie Mayehoff.

As Time Goes By series, season 5 (1996), with Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer. Episodes: Ep. 1 The County Set, posers who won’t leave Jean and Lionel alone; Ep. 2: Lionel’s Ex-Wife, who turns out to be more ‘glamourous’ than Jean imagined; Ep. 3: Lionel’s New Hobby (model boat building); Ep. 4: Avoiding the County Set, which is accomplished when Jean can’t stomach their activities and tells them;  Ep. 5: Broadcast Plan (the TV movie doesn’t go over well in the U.S.); Ep. 6: At Death’s Door (Penny thinks she’s dying and convinces Stephen, too); Ep. 7: Showered with Gifts, by the townspeople at the country house who’ve heard about Jean’s telling-off of the country set.

As Time Goes By series, season 6 (1997), with Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer.

Season 6 episodes: Ep. 1 The Stalker: Someone seems to be stalking Sandy; Ep. 2: The Psychotherapist: Jean misses working; Ep. 3: The Dinner Party, with Penny and Stephen; Ep. 4: What’s Wrong with Mrs Bale? (Lionel sick, Mrs Bale tetchy); Ep. 5: Alistair’s [Faux] Engagement, to Mercury; Ep. 6: The House Next Door: Penny and Stephen are thinking of moving next door; Ep. 7: A Surprise for Jean: Jean is bored and wants a surprise.

November

As Time Goes By series, seasons 7-9 (1998, 2000, 2002), with Judi Dench and Geoffrey Palmer.

Season  7 episodes: Ep. 1:  Pardon?: Lionel’s having trouble hearing; Ep. 2: An Old Flame: Jean is disappointed when she meets up with an old flame; Ep. 3: The New Neighbours: new neighbours move in; Ep. 4: The Bypass: Jean gets the wrong end of the stick when she campaigns against the village bypass; Ep. 5: Too Old… or Too Nosy: Penny and Stephen are fighting; Ep. 6: The Old Folks’ Party: Jean hosts a party for elderly residents of a retirement home. Ep. 7: The Proposal: Alistair proposes to Judy for the wrong reasons.

Season  8 episodes: Ep. 1: A Deeply Personal Problem: Jean wants Alistair to cheer up Sandy and Judy; Ep. 2: Animal Magnetism: A dog follows Lionel home; Ep. 3: The Bathroom: Lionel accidentally walks in on Sandy in the bath and much shame and guilt ensues; Ep. 4: Surprising News:  Penny and Stephen return from holiday in Spain; Ep. 5: Future Imperfect: Lionel worries about his financial situation; Ep. 6: Going Online: Jean feels old and out of touch with the modern world.

Season 9 episodes: Ep. Time to Settle Down: Alistair proposes again to Judy and Harry tells Sandy he’s taken a job in Canada; Ep. 2: Wedding Plans, which start to become larger than life; Ep. 3: The Wedding; Ep. 4: What Now?: Jean tries to bring Sandy and Harry together, and she befriends a homeless girl; Ep. 5: You Must Remember This… (a clip show).

Film shorts: Jan Svankmajer’s Meat love (1988, 1 min.), The death of Stalinism in Bohemia (1990, 15 min.), and Food (1992, 17 min.). All claymation, all pretty grotesque and awful.   Ari Sandel’s West Bank story (2006), pretty funny.   Søren Pilmark ‘s Helmer & son (2006), rather nice.

Flight of the Red Balloon (2007), dir. by Hsiao-hsein Hao and inspired apparently by the classic (1956) short “The Red Balloon”, though the red balloon is hardly part of this movie at all. Juliette Binoche plays Suzanne, a puppet-show narrator and the preoccupied, emotionally fragile and anxious single mother of Simon, a sweet boy (age 9? 10?) who doesn’t say much but who observes a lot. The other major character is Simon’s new childminder, Song, a gentle young woman of Chinese (Taiwanese?) descent who’s a filmmaker. Simon and Song seem to largely inhabit the world of play and the imagination (pinball, Game Boy, art education, filmmaking, puppet shows, music making) and of wistful nostalgia (Simon remembering happy moments with his sister, Louise, who lives with her father in Belgium), contrasted with Suzanne’s busy and unromantic world (puppets aside) of tenancy agreements and disputes with neighbours, financial dealings, arguments with her estranged boyfriend, etc.  Her home is cramped and cluttered and she’s almost always in a rush, a small whirlwind of chaos. I’m not sure how the balloon fits in or how this film pays homage to the short.

December

Doc Martin series episodes (2004):  Going Bodmin: Martin arrives in Portwen as the new GP; Gentlemen Prefer: It’s hard-going for Martin as he gets his practice under way; Sh*t Happens: a stomach bug sweeps the village; The Portwenn Effect:  The Park Ranger has a 6-foot squirrel friend; Of All The Harbours In All The Towns:  An old flame of Martin’s aunt Joan returns to the village; Haemophobia: Martin’s blood repulsion becomes common knowledge in the village.

The Way We Live Now (BBC Masterpiece Theatre), episodes 1-4 (all of them). Based on a book by Anthony Trollope. The production features David Suchet as the crude foreign financier Augustus Melmotte. Romance, adventure, intrigue, period costumes, some witty dialogue.

Julie and Julia (2009), with Meryl Streep, Amy Adams, Stanley Tucci. Julie is a restless, underemployed, 30-ish Brooklyn blogger. Looking for something to give her life meaning, she sets herself the challenge of making all the recipes in Julia Child’s seminal cookbook, Mastering the Art of French Cooking, in a year. I couldn’t get into this movie, probably because although Meryl Streep was a good Julia Child, she isn’t Julia Child, and after watching the real thing on The French Chef dvds, I couldn’t forget that. Stanley Tucci seemed almost wooden in the role of Child’s husband, no more than a foil for Child’s ‘larger than life’ sensibility. Amy Adams is neurotically winsome as Julie, and Chris Messina plays her husband Eric well, but the plotting is tedious and seems to want to fixate on the differences between Julia and Paul’s idealised, sensual and ultra-equal marriage and Julie and Eric’s fraught, almost-sexless marriage. The other baffling focus of the film is the length of time it took Child and her collaborators to get their exceptionally well-written cookbook published, which is certainly worth a mention but not all the air time it consumes here. I would have rather seen more food.

Holiday Inn (1942): What to watch when you want a lot of dancing, some singing (many Irving Berlin songs, including White Christmas), and a little romantic comedy, with some holiday merriment thrown in. Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire star in this film about a singer, Jim (Crosby), who, after being thrown over in love by his singing partner, Lila (Virginia Dale), for her dancing partner, Ted (Astaire), opts out of the show business grind to move to the country and produce dinner shows only on holidays.  He launches his inn as a performance venue on New Year’s Eve, with a new singing and dancing partner, Linda Mason (Marjorie Reynolds), whom Ted (now thrown over by Lila) soon dances with and wants for his own. Jim tries to keep her from Ted and from leaving the inn, which ultimately, of course, backfires as Linda reluctantly gets engaged to Ted and moves to Hollywood to film a movie about the Holiday Inn (are you following?). Happy ending, natch, and some hilarious bit playing by Walter Abel as Astaire’s agent Danny Reed, and Louise Beavers, as Crosby’s maid and cook, Mamie. The Valentine’s Day song, “Be Careful, It’s My Heart” is a real stinker, but Astaire’s Fourth of July tap dancing among the friecrackers is brilliant, and the President’s Day musical hijinks engineered by Jim to keep Ted and Linda from dancing too close is fun to watch.

Christmas in Connecticut (1945):  (Rewatch) One of the best! Smart Housekeeping food columnist Elizabeth Lane (Barbara Stanwyck ) is told by her boss (the excellent Sydney Greenstreet), to host a rescued sailor (Dennis Morgan) for Christmas on her farm so he can see what a real home is like. Thing is, Elizabeth doesn’t have a real home: she doesn’t have a farm, nor a husband nor a baby, though they are all part of the fantasy life she offers her readers in her magazine column. Nor can she cook. Fortunately, her restaurant owner friend Felix (S.Z. Sakall) can cook, and scheme, and her ever-hopeful beau, John (Reginald Gardiner), a socially clueless and OCD architect, offers his farm in Connecticut as the staging for their Christmas tomfoolery.  There are one or two false notes in the dialogue but for the most part, this movie is a romantic comedy lover’s dream.

White Christmas (1954): I love this movie although I despise its central moral: that men should be knights atop white horses, and if they fall off their horses, they need to get back up fast so they can resume rescuing women in their chivalrous way. Bleach. But Danny Kaye is worth the price of admission alone, and some of the dialogue and interactions between him and Bing Crosby are among the best anywhere. I also love the Florida dance clubs (Novello’s, the Carousel Club) and the glamour of it all.

Christmas Vacation (1989), with Chevy Chase, a classic. I never tire of watching it, and I still tear up when Clark is watching old home movies wearing his Russian babushka getup in the attic (accompanied by the Ray Charles’ song, That Spirit of Christmas’). I pre-laugh every time the next-door-neighbours come into view. It’s really genius, the way the music works so perfectly with the action, including “Here Comes Santa Claus” near the end …