Holiday Movie Watching, Dos and Don’ts Part Two

Donna Reed suffering a fate worse than death.

Donna Reed suffering a fate worse than death.

(Part one of Holiday Movies Dos and Don’ts)

So to recap from yesterday, yea on the original The Grinch who Stole Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street. Stay away from the remakes of both of those. Yes to Reginald Owen, Alastair Sim, and Vanessa Williams in their versions of A Christmas Carol. And, remember the combination of Jim Carrey and Christmas do not make a good movie.

It’s a Wonderful Life is a well known Christmas classic and one that has been parodied several times. (see last episode of Dallas, for example.) It held a certain charm during my childhood, mainly because it was on tv all the time, due to the fact it was in the public domain for several years starting in the 1970’s. It was entirely possible that one could channel surf between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and find it on three different channels, at three different points in the movie. In the mid-1990’s, the film was no longer considered part of the public domain, and so is shown far less frequently. It’s a Wonderful Life is one of those movies that people either love or hate. I was discussing this with my co-worker, yesterday who expressed her displeasure with the movie. Personally, I really like it, and have tried to catch it on the big screen when I can. And, of course we librarians are equally amused and bemused by this scene and this scene.

Comedies are a popular genre of Christmas movies. My other co-worker was sharing with me this morning her family tradition of watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation every year. It’s not my favorite in the series (that would be European Vacation), but it is definitely funny. It will give you a whole new appreciation for your neighbors who put up a ridiculous amount of Christmas lights.

Other fun family comedies include the first two Santa Clause movies, Elf, and Scrooged (that could have also fit under A Christmas Carol adaptations). I used to include Home Alone on this list, but that movie seems to get less funny the older I get. Do avoid the third movie in the Santa Clause series, and any sequels in the Home Alone series.

Of course, the best Christmas comedy classic is A Christmas Story, based on a series of Jean Shepherd’s stories. It manages to capture the spirit and the season without having one serious moment. Taking place in pre-World War II Indiana, it’s the story of Ralphie Parker who wants a ,”A Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time” for Christmas but too many people warn him that he’ll shoot his eye out. Of course, this is only the backdrop for a movie which teaches a lot of important life lessons, such as Palmolive is the most delicious option when it comes to soap, don’t lick flagpoles in the middle of winter, and sometimes a lamp may be a major award. There were two sequels made to this movie, and I say avoid them both.

Here is the rest of my list, of movies that are nice and movies that are naughty.

Check These Out

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas: that poor little tree
  • Holiday Inn: Not just a Christmas movie but it did introduce the song “White Christmas”. Plus, I like this movie better than White Christmas.
  • Meet Me in St. Louis: Not specifically a Christmas movie, either, but it features Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Just skip the next scene with Margaret O’Brien’s Tootie having an inexplicable breakdown.
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: An elf who wants to be a dentist. The Island of Misfit Toys. Big Daddy from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof disguised as a snowman. I can’t get enough of this one.
  • The Nutcracker with Mikhail Baryshnikov: This was the version shown on PBS throughout my childhood. While not everyone likes an adult Clara, the dancing from both Baryshinikov and Gelsey Kirkland are beautiful. Being a Bostonian, I still prefer the Boston Ballet’s production, but this is a great alternative.

Don’t Even Bother Looking for These

  • Twas the Night Before Christmas: I know I won’t make friends by putting this on the list but I have always disliked this special. Santa is creepy looking. I can’t get the song, “Christmas Chimes are Calling” out of my head. It’s named after a poem which actually has a different name. And what’s with the mice? Such a beautiful poem. Not a beautiful cartoon.
  • Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (1986) and George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (1993): The first has gorgeous sets designed by Maurice Sendak’s which are also used as his illustrations for E.T.A. Hoffmann’s book. The production has an extremely creepy tone, though. The production also can’t decide if Clara is a little girl or an adult, so she’s both, which is odd. The second title isn’t so bad except it features a prepubescent (non ballet dancer) Macauley Culkin as the Nutcracker Prince. Kevin Kline’s narration is also completely unnecessary.
  • Fred Claus: The premise is kind of clever and it has potential to be very cute but it’s just, well, not.
  • Anything produced by the Hallmark Channel or starring Valerie Bertinelli

What are your favorite specials and movies? Which are the ones you’re tired of seeing on tv every year? Write them in the comments below.
posted by Laura

Urban Fiction

I love ordering urban fiction for the library.   Here is a great place to read about street lit.

Did you know that we have a display in the fiction room of current urban fiction?

Did you further know that I would love to hear your suggestions for titles that you would like to see here at the WPL?

posted by Louise

Holiday Movie Watching — Dos and Don’ts

The Muppet Christmas Carol answered the age old question: What would happen if Miss Piggy and Kermit reproduced?

The Muppet Christmas Carol answered the age old question: What would happen if Miss Piggy and Kermit reproduced?

Gearing up for Christmas? Counting down the days until New Years? Have you been lighting your Chanukah candles? (Walgreens has some really nice ones, by the way, if you’ve been slow on getting them). Finding yourself with you (and your kids) a lot of time off. Happily, many of you will be spending time with family. On the other hand, many of you will be spending time with family. So, if you’re trying to avoid spending time with the relatives, or if you’re sad because the relatives are far away and you won’t be with them, this year, why don’t you try getting a holiday themed movie from the library? Here are a few tips on getting a good one.

There are a lot, and I mean, a lot, of Christmas type specials and movies out there. A lot of them are great. And some of them are really not very good. And others are just downright bad. For example, while the classic cartoon, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is fantastic, the Jim Carrey live action version is not. Give me Boris Karloff reading Dr. Seuss over Jim Carrey being, well, Jim Carrey any day.

Watching the original Miracle on 34th Street is always a treat. Natalie Wood was an amazing child actor, and even I believed that Edmund Gwenn was Santa Claus. Stay far away from the 1994 remake, however. Even that cute little girl from Matilda can’t save it.

There are so many versions of A Christmas Carol and considering that the library is closed half day on Saturday, and all day Sunday and Monday, I really don’t have the work time to list them all. Definitely see the 1938 version featuring Reginald Owen as Scrooge and pretty much the entire Lockhart family. (Lassie fans will recognize a very young June Lockhart, aka Timmy’s mother, as one of the Cratchit children). 1951’s Scrooge is excellent and is considered by many to be the best film version of Dickens’s original story. And, I shouldn’t admit this in a public forum, but in spite of myself, I did enjoy Vanessa Williams in A Diva’s Christmas Carol. That could be the Ugly Betty fan in me, though. As for one to avoid, I hate to say that I was really disappointed with A Muppet Christmas Carol. The movie wasn’t bad, but the the Muppets had to play second fiddle to adults too much throughout the movie. (I love Michael Caine, but not when he’s stealing screen time from Kermit as Bob Cratchit). The best part of viewing this version is that we finally see what Kermit and Miss Piggy’s offspring would look like. (For the record, the boys are frogs and the girls are pigs.) Another one I would avoid is Mickey’s Christmas Carol, but that may be my bias because it scared me when I was a child. Also skip Disney’s A Christmas Carol with a Jim Carrey voiced Scrooge. (Notice a theme here regarding Jim Carrey and Christmas movies?)
posted by Laura
Read part two of this post.

Top Ten “Grown Up” Book Circulators 2011 WPL

Here are the top books from the adult collection in terms of number of circulations this year and total number of circulations:  Click on any of the titles to reserve them!

The winners for non-fiction are:

Bossypants  by Tina Fey  

Unbroken:  by Laura Hillenbrand 

For Fiction

The Sixth Man by David Baldacci 

Toys by James Patterson  

Mystery by Jonathan Kellerman

Save Me by Lisa Scottoline

Tough Customer by Sandra Brown

Now You See Her by James Patterson

Scarlet Nights by Jude Deveraux

Tenth Anniversary by James Patterson

posted by Louise

The Passing of Two Authors

Frances and her very cool china tea set

This has been a sad week for the writing community. Russell Hoban, author of the beloved Frances books, passed away on Tuesday, December 13. Christopher Hitchens, author of books such as God is not Great, passed away on Thursday, December 15. The two authors wrote for extremely different audiences and this will probably be the last time that they are mentioned in the same space, but both had a great impact on readers.

Christopher Hitchens had a large number of fans, and a large number of detractors. The writer was never afraid to speak his mind, whether it was his views on religion (he was a devout atheist), a popular President (he was not a Ronald Regan fan), or the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan (he was a staunch supporter of them, surprising many as he was known for his mainly liberal views). He had choice words for a great many people, including Mother Theresa, Prince Charles, and George W. Bush. His books were written on a variety of subjects, and included Arguably, Hitch-22, God is not Great, Thomas Jefferson, author of America, Why Orwell Matters, Letters to a Young Contarian, and The Trial of Henry Kissinger. You can read his obituary or this appreciation from a Houston Chronicle writer.

Russell Hoban was the author of my beloved Frances books. (All, except for the first title, Bedtime for Frances were illustrated by Russell’s wife, Lillian). I loved the way Frances could make up songs at the drop of a hat, whether it was an ode against eggs, a song about making bargains with friends, or playing with others. If you are a budding philosopher, Frances’s views on life are unprecedented. For instance, in A Birthday for Frances, Frances explained to her mother why she was singing “Happy Thursday” to her imaginary friend, Alice, and not “Happy Birthday”. Since no-one could see Alice, she couldn’t very well have a birthday. Frances’s mother does not agree and says that even those who can’t be seen have birthdays. Frances, however, reminds her mother, that Alice is always the girl whose birthday it isn’t. Pretty deep stuff when you think about it!
As for this Frances fan, my favorite title in the series is A Bargain for Frances. I learned all about the dangers of making deals with friends, the consequences of “no backsies” and how cool it was to own a china tea set.
Of course, Mr. Hoban’s repertoire expanded far beyond Frances. He also wrote several adult books, including Turtle Diary, Pilgermann, and Riddley Walker. Read more about the author in his obituary or this appreciation written by a fellow librarian at Arlington’s Robbins Library.

posted by Laura

50 Plus, Some Sites to See

Have you ever heard of the International Council on Active Aging?

The Age Friendly Philosophy of the International Council on Active Aging is here to support your active life.

You can choose an active life by:

  • being physically active for 150 minutes a week. That’s only 2.5 hours, out of the 168 hours in the week. You can achieve this goal by doing your physical activity in as little as 10 minute at a time. It takes only 10 minutes at a time to feel better and have more energy.
  • exercising your mind through reading, hobbies, discussions, games and classes. Staying mentally active keeps you alert and engaged in life.
  • staying connected to your friends, family, colleagues and neighbors. Talk on the phone, visit and e-mail the people around you

How about getting some free health information from the Harvard Medical School?  Click here.

Or try Care About Your Care.  They will help you to assess the quality of your health care.

Better still, come to the Waltham Public Library.  Or call us!  We can help you find what you are looking for!

posted by Louise


Despite the fact that winter doesn’t officially start until the Winter Solstice on December 22nd, the cold weather of winter has finally arrived. That means snow! Did you know that there is a National Snow and Ice Data Center? The cold weather also brings a need for warm clothes donations. Besides helping others, donating clothes is one way to clean out your closets and make room for holiday gifts. Local places to donate clothes include The Salvation Army and The Community Day Center of Waltham.

On Saturday, December 17th children are invited to make a snow and winter clothing wreath during our drop-in craft from 10:30am-11:15am. Also check out the many stories and information books the Children’s Room has about winter.

Happy winter!
posted by Lisa

Rental Bucks

Looking for a stocking stuffer for the Waltham Public Library patron in your life? Try Rental Bucks!
$5 gets you 6 $1 coupons good toward Friends of the Waltham Public Library Rental items! That’s right, 1 is free!
Stop by the AV Room, Children’s Room or either Circulation desk to buy yours today.