This is a reprint of an Interview I published last year for a Tumblr site run by Riffle.
Author and Film Critic Alonso Duralde loves the movies and he loves Christmas, so who better to write the ultimate guide for holiday films than him.
Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas (published in 2010 from Limelight Editions) is just that, the ultimate guide to holiday films as Mr. Duralde delves into the best and worst big screen Christmas offerings and takes the reader beyond the known classics such as It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story. Not that they don’t play a significant role in the book because they do!
Not only is Alonso the author of this and 101 Must-See Movies for Gay Men, but he is also the film critic for The Wrap/Reuters and co-hosts the fabulous movie podcast Linoleum Knife with Dave White (who is also a prominent film critic, for Movies.com). He regularly appears on What the Flick?!, part of the Young Turks Network on YouTube, and serves as the senior programmer for OutFest Film Festival in Los Angeles, is a pre-screener for the Sundance Film Festival and is a consultant for the USA Film Festival in Dallas. He has written for outlets such as MovieLine, Salon, MSNBC.com and HitFix and has appeared in documentaries on TCM, IFC and Starz and on radio programs like Press Play on KCRW (a public radio station in Santa Monica, CA). To say that Mr. Duralde knows and loves film is an understatement!
We sat down with Alonso to discuss his book as well as his thoughts on what makes certain films ‘holiday classics’, and what his own Christmas viewing traditions are.
What inspired you to write ’Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas’? (Great title btw!)
Thanks! I surveyed my friends for suggestions, and Dave Cobb came up with that one. The inspiration came from listicles that I’d been writing as far back as the late 1980s, of “alternate” or “unusual” Christmas movies, and since I’m a huge fan of both movies and Christmas, it seemed like a fun project to tackle.
What did you feel make some of these movies a traditional ‘holiday classic’ (like ’It’s a Wonderful Life’ and ’A Christmas Story’) rather than just a Christmas movie?
I think different viewers have their own take-away from the movies they choose to watch each Christmas, whether it’s nostalgia or redemption or the affirmation of familial bonds. The people who watch Die Hard every December do so for different reasons than the people who watch White Christmas (not that you can’t watch both, of course).
What do you think it is that make Christmas movies so intrinsic to the holiday season unlike other holidays which don’t have as many titles dedicated to them?
So much of the way we celebrate the holiday is tied into longstanding traditions: the foods we make every year, the songs we listen to, the stories we re-tell, the family rituals. The best Christmas movies are the ones that push our emotional buttons about what we feel about the season while also standing up to repeated viewings year after year after year.
Is there a Christmas movie that you feel is underrated? How about one that you feel is overrated?
Part of why I wrote the book was to draw attention to movies that people might not know about, whether it’s a romantic comedy likeRemember the Night, Some Girls or It Happened on Fifth Avenue or a tear-jerker like I’ll Be Seeing You or a terrific family movie like Prancer or Unaccompanied Minors.
I don’t know about Christmas movies being overrated – either you respond to certain one, or you don’t, and there’s no talking anyone out of either position. I myself am not a giant fan of The Nightmare Before Christmas (even though I love the songs) or Bad Santa(even though I love dark comedies set at Christmas), but I understand why people do. One of the most interesting parts of researching the book was reading the initial harsh reviews of beloved classics like White Christmas or Christmas in Connecticut, which were initially dismissed as “twaddle” or “sentimental hogwash,” when that’s exactly what so many of us are looking for every Christmas.
I know ’ELF’ and ’Love Actually’ have recently made their way onto the list of seasonal ‘classics’, are there any titles that you see becoming future classics?
If there’s any justice in the world, Arthur Christmas will find the audience it deserved – the film opened opposite two other big animated titles, and the US marketing campaign was pretty terrible, but the movie itself is wonderfully charming and hilarious. It’s from the Aardman Animation team in England, and it makes me laugh and cry, which is the mark of a movie I’ll want to dig out every year.
Do you have a traditional ‘must see’ movie that you watch by yourself, or with family and friends, every year, and why – and/or when did it start?
I grew up watching It’s a Wonderful Life with my family, but this was back in the 1970s, when the movie was in public domain and pretty much aired 24/7 for the entire month of December. In recent years, I’ve turned my siblings onto some great dysfunctional family comedies like The Ref and La Bûche, and my husband and I always watch White Christmas, the musical Scrooge – and It’s a Wonderful Life, but in L.A. we have the luxury of getting to see it on the big screen.
You can purchase a personally autographed copy of Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas from Alonso for $20 (includes shipping within the USA) by e-mailing him at firstname.lastname@example.org. It is also available through Amazon.com http://amzn.to/1x4CjZT.
– Sean Wicks