Though you likely are looking to spend this time of year looking at pine trees and Christmas lights, there is something else you should shift your gaze towards…. movies! Sure, there are tons of (now) classic films that celebrate this joyous season, and they all have their place in the grand cinematic landscape. But if you were to ask this cinephile what gets her “in the spirit”, the selections may surprise you. Interested?
Let’s start with a good palette cleanser of sorts. Disney’s Once Upon a Wintertime is right up there with the The Legend of Sleepy Hollow as my favorite shorts in the studio’s animated legacy. Some will argue it tells a very basic tale of boy ruins date with pretty girl – but it does it with such whimsy, well crafted comedic timing, and typical Disney magic, it’s near impossible to not fall for its charms.
It also proudly showcases the artistic brilliance of concept artist Mary Blair, covered in her signature pastel shades and curvy lines. Every shot captures that warm and cozy feeling of the season, and embodies the delicate touches of a vintage Christmas card. Though a bit silly in its depictions of dating by modern standards, it is one of the studios most under appreciated creations, and deserves much more recognition as the years have gone by.
If you’re looking for something that gives you a more mature version of the cozy feeling (even if it isn’t specifically set in Winter), I’d highly recommend The Barretts of Wimpole Street. Though the 1957 version has its pluses, the original 1934 film starring Norma Shearer and Fredric March is incredibly powerful. With beautiful cinematography by William Daniels, director Sidney Franklin brings a wonderful energy to a very by the numbers play-to-film adaptation of the Broadway hit.
Why most people remember this particular rendition of the love story between real life poets Robert and Emily Browning is the outstanding performances. As always, my #1 crush (March) is wonderful here, but it is Norma Shearer who steals the show, and was nominated for Best Actress at the 1934 Academy Awards. And though she and the film were both beat out in the end, Barretts still carved its place in cinema history.
Another forgotten little classic is The Shop Around The Corner (1940), which inspired both the 90’s rom-com You’ve Got Mail and the Tony winning musical She Loves Me. Set amidst the Christmas season, this film spins a familiar tale of a boy and girl who (in person) can’t stand each other, but don’t seem to realize that they are madly in love with one another via a Lonely Hearts Club pen pal service.
With the brilliant pairing of Jimmy Stewart and Margaret Sullivan, director Ernst Lubitsch paints a whimsical portrait of characters in many sorts of melancholy situations. Some feel unfilled in their lives, their loves, marriages, roles – but somehow are all rescued by those around them. And though I personally find She Loves Me to be the most compelling and electric version of this tale, Shop Around The Corner remains a classic because of its wit, boldness, and charm in every frame.
If you’re looking for a film that has as much mystery as it does yummy food for your winter season, there’s always the Oscar winning Mildred Pierce (1945) to solve all your cravings. This masterpiece (which won Joan Crawford her first Best Actress Academy Award) tells the story of Mildred, a woman who finds out her second husband was just murdered. Through a series of stories, we learn of how the title character changed from a sad housewife, to successful single woman, finally back to a now powerful second wife. Plus how crazy the people in her life (especially her first daughter) are.
But what most people tend to remember about Mildred Pierce is the completely delicious drama, and with almost every scene being borderline meme worthy, it is hard not to find something delectable. Couple that with the twist and turns within the story, and you got yourself a successful recipe for a classic.
So, what classic films or shorts do you watch during the winter? What makes you feel comfy as the snow falls, or whatever weather you have to do deal with during this time of year?