Christmas, more than any other holiday – except perhaps Halloween – feels custom-made for movies. So many classic Christmas films have been made over the years that popping one (or more) in during the build up to Dec. 25 is a firm tradition for many families. Usually Christmas movies are a home affair: curl up on the couch, build a fire, drink some cocoa and enjoy Yuletide cheer on TV. But this year, let me encourage you to bundle up and head over to Circle Cinema in Tulsa to catch one of the greatest of all Christmas films on the big screen.
What exactly makes White Christmas so special? Is it the rich chemistry between Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney? The deep bench of songs, which contains many riches beyond just the title track? Or maybe it’s the warm, homey setting in the Northeast of long ago. Whatever the strands, they combine to make a wistful, wonderful Christmas gift that looks even better in a theater. As a bonus, Circle Cinema’s organ will accompany select viewings with live music.
Mel Gibson’s new film, Hacksaw Ridge, is one of the odder war films of recent years, not least in its choice of subject matter: It follows Desmond Doss (Andrew Garfield), who received a Medal of Honor in World War II despite his insistence on complete pacifism. Doss worked as a medic and dragged close to a hundred men off the battlefield that gives the film its title, and this structure too gives the film a distinctiveness.
Largely bloodless for its first half, it builds to an orgy of violence on the field, which Gibson gives a haunted feel. Where most war films would stop, however, Hacksaw Ridge begins, and the film then details Doss’s determined rescue of his wounded compatriots. The film falters a little, substituting caricature for a more nuanced view of the Japanese across the lines, but overall it offers a steady, fascinating look at one man’s principled clinging to nonviolence in the midst of so much killing.
For those decidedly not in the mood for holiday spirit in their films, Warner Home Video is releasing a new 4k HD version of Martin Scorcese’s Goodfellas on Dec. 6. Often considered Scorcese’s masterpiece, the film has been parodied and imitated so many times that it’s almost impossible to approach it with fresh eyes, but that’s what the film demands and deserves. Full of bold, bravura filmmaking (all the freeze frames, the famed Copacabana scene), the film feels much shorter than its epic 2½ hour run time.
A less ponderous gangster film than those made by Scorcese’s contemporary Francis Ford Coppola, Goodfellas opts for a straightforward, at times almost giddy approach to the Mafia. Newbie Henry Hill (Ray Liotta) quickly gets seduced by the criminal lifestyle and rises through the ranks to become a powerful, wealthy man – before everything crashes down around him. Scorcese gives the film a pulsing energy that makes it feel breathless and relentless.