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Posts Tagged ‘White Christmas’

 

cosmo brown don lockwood singin' in the rain

I’ve been thinking lately about heroes and sidekicks.

I realize it’s a somewhat simplistic way to break down a cast of characters, and not all stories fall into this mold. (So many of my favorite stories center around heroines instead of heroes, but that’s a post for another day.)

I’ve done my fair share of swooning over traditional heroes, literary and cinematic: Aragorn from The Lord of the Rings, Jack Kelly from Newsies, Han Solo from Star Wars (I love a man with a cheeky sense of humor), and – forever and always – Gilbert Blythe. But when two (or more) men get equal attention in a movie or a book, I often find myself falling for the sidekick.

Take the Pirates of the Caribbean films. Like everyone else, I adored Captain Jack Sparrow and howled with laughter at his antics. But I developed a crush on Will Turner: hard-working, dark-eyed, honorable. (At least in the first two movies. We won’t talk about what happened later.)

Or take a classic film I’ve loved for years: Singin’ in the Rain. Don Lockwood (Gene Kelly) is the ostensible hero, and he certainly charms Kathy Selden (Debbie Reynolds) with his smooth voice and dancing feet. But my favorite character has always been wisecracking, loyal Cosmo Brown (Donald O’Connor). He never misses a chance to make a wry quip, but he’s much more talented (and much less egotistical) than Don. Cosmo comes through for his friends when the chips are down – and his “Make ‘Em Laugh” comedy routine is one of the best scenes in the movie.

From the same era in Hollywood, see also: Phil Davis in White Christmas, played by Danny Kaye. Funny, kind, a gifted comedian and dancer, and considerably less conceited than Bing Crosby’s character. I could watch “The Best Things Happen While You’re Dancing” over and over.

In The Holiday, Eli Wallach’s character (a wise old Hollywood screenwriter) tells Kate Winslet’s character, “In the movies we have leading ladies and we have the best friend. You, I can tell, are a leading lady, but for some reason you’re behaving like the best friend.”

I know what he means by that: it’s time for Iris to step up, take control of her life, believe she’s worthy of being loved by a good man instead of that sleazy Jasper. But I think the best friends (Cosmo, Phil, Ron Weasley) sometimes get a bad rap.

In the best stories, the sidekicks are complex, wonderful characters in their own right. And sometimes, when the heroes hew too closely to type, it’s the sidekick who shakes things up, saves the day, or has more freedom to be an individual. (I’m thinking here of A.C. Gaughen’s recent Scarlet novels, a YA retelling of the Robin Hood myth. Scarlet herself is the center of the story, but I preferred Gaughen’s nuanced portrayals of two “merry men” – John Little and Much Miller – to her moody, troubled Robin Hood.)

Don’t get me wrong: I’ll always love Atticus Finch, Lord Peter Wimsey, Joe Willard (from the Betsy-Tacy books) and Rick Castle. But you can also find me swooning – just a little – over Legolas, Mr. Bingley and Sirius Black. And if I had to choose between the stars of Singin’ in the Rain? I’ll be backstage cracking jokes over the piano with Cosmo.

(Image from Well Did You Evah)

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‘Tis the season for apple cider, cups of cocoa, twinkle lights, and – yes – the Christmas movies I pull out every year. Here, in no particular order except for #1, are my very favorite Christmas films:

1. A Charlie Brown Christmas. I get chills when Linus walks onstage, and I’m sniffling by the end of his little speech every.single.time. And oh, how I love Snoopy – the ice-skating scene and the dance scenes crack me up – and the end where they all sing “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” and well, just the whole thing.

2. White Christmas.  I wrote last year about how much I LOVE this movie, though it’s a recent discovery for me. Love, love, love it – the music, the colors, the lights, the dancing, and the love and respect shown the General by his whole division of soldiers. And Danny Kaye’s jokes. And, well, just everything about it.

3. The Muppet Christmas Carol. I’ve always loved the Muppets, and Kermit is my favorite – so what’s not to love about this one? Rizzo and Gonzo crack me up with their narration; the songs are so clever; Kermit makes such a fabulous Bob Cratchit; and Michael Caine is brilliant. And when Scrooge donates an untold amount of money and Beaker gives him his red scarf, I always get teary-eyed.

4. The Holiday. Oh, how I love this little film – it makes me cry and laugh and feel all starry-eyed inside.

5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the original one, dang it). Such fun, colorful animation and a truly heartwarming story – and I love Max, the little dog/reindeer, so much.

6. Miracle on 34th Street – the original, with Natalie Wood and Maureen O’Hara. Such a classic, and I love watching the cynicism melt away as everyone comes to believe that there just might be a Santa Claus.

7. Rudolph, the Claymation version – with Hermey the Elf and Yukon Cornelius. So fun. (“Fog as thick as peanut butter!” “You mean pea soup!” “You eat what you like and I’ll eat what I like!”)

8. Christmas Eve on Sesame Street, mostly for the nostalgic value. We still have the old taped-off-TV VHS – now, most years, we just fast-forward to the scenes of Cookie Monster trying to write to Santa, but eating the pencil, the typewriter and the telephone, and Grover pretending to be Santa and trying to figure out how to get down the chimney. Hilarious and heartwarming, in true Muppet fashion.

What are your favorite Christmas movies?

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