Thursday, December 24, 2015

Thursday Movie Picks - Holiday/Vacation Movies

Written as part of the blogathon hosted by Wandering Through the Shelves. Join us by picking three movies that fit the week's theme and writing a bit about them!

As the British say, "We're going off on holiday!" Well, we're not. But the characters in these movies are!

M. Hulot's Holiday (Jacques Tati, 1953) Jacques Tati's iconic bumbling simpleton M. Hulot goes on vacation to the French coast, and chaos follows in his wake, as it tends to do. There are so many classic gags in this film that I can't pick a favorite - the taffy, the dinner table, the wind in the lobby, Hulot's tennis serve.... and those are just four. This gentle comedy is perfect for introducing younger children to both black & white film and foreign films, since it's just plain funny and uses hardly any dialogue. It's one of my All-Time Favorites.

The Man Who Knew Too Much (Alfred Hitchcock, 1956) Talk about your holiday gone wrong. American doctor Jimmy Stewart and his wife Doris Day are traveling abroad with their young son when Jimmy unwittingly stumbles on an assassination plot. To ensure his silence, his son is kidnapped. Fun for everyone! A remake of Hitchcock's own 1934 film, this is superior in nearly every way, especially during the nail-biting, dialogue-free sequence at the Royal Albert Hall.

Summertime (David Lean, 1955) Spinster middle-aged wallflower secretary Jane Hudson (Katherine Hepburn in one of her best performances) takes the vacation of her life to Europe, and while in Venice, she meets swoon-worthy Rossano Brazzi. A whirlwind romance ensues, changing Jane's life forever. Read more of my thoughts on the beautiful film here.

Merry Christmas, everyone! May your holidays be merry and bright!


  1. Love your picks!

    I know many Hitchcock fans tend to prefer the earlier Man Who Knew Too Much but I've never been able to understand why. Aside from the combined star power of Doris and Jimmy this one just moves better as far as I'm concerned. That Albert Hall sequence is amazing and I mean Que Sera Sera! Come on!

    Summertime is an inspired choice. Kate does lovely work and looks lovely, that white dress flatters her so. Rossano Brazzi is indeed swoon worthy and the locations!!!! So beautiful. The closing shot is a great endcap as well. It's been a while I really must revisit it soon.

    Mr. Hulot's Holiday, which I finally caught up with this year, is daffy and sort of sweet but I didn't adore it. A good film though and one that didn't even occur to me.

    I had a tough time deciding, as I usually do!, between holiday and vacation movies and ended up with three of each that I couldn't bear to eliminate so I decided to split them up into two entries.


    Make the Yuletide Gay (2009)-Olaf “Gunn” Gunnunderson is headed to the Midwest home of his parents for the holidays. The thing is Gunn has a secret, at college he’s an out and proud gay man but at home he plays it straight fearing that his stoner dad and effusive, holiday loving mom will reject him if they know the truth. Soon after he arrives so does his boyfriend whose parents have decided to take a cruise rather than spend Christmas with him. Gunn passes him off as his roommate while his parents try to fix Gunn up with the girl next door. Can they make it through the holidays without his parents finding out and should they? Little known holiday fare with a game cast, including Alison Arngrim (Nellie Olsen from Little House on the Prairie) as the hot pants mom next door.

    Christmas in Connecticut (1945)-Barbara Stanwyck, that most versatile of all the great female Hollywood stars coming fresh off of Double Indemnity, is Elizabeth Lane-the Martha Stewart of her day who writes an advice column in Smart Housekeeping detailing her idyllic life on her Connecticut farm with her husband and baby. One day her publisher (Sydney Greenstreet) concocts a scheme to boost circulation, invite a war hero to her farm for the holidays and the publisher is coming along too. The problem? She lives in a New York walk up, has no husband nor baby and she can’t cook! What to do? She agrees to marry the man whose home she’s been using for a model and heads to the country taking the friend who provides her the recipes she uses along. All seems well…until the very attractive soldier arrives. Breezy comedy with the holiday spirit but not swamped with all the trimmings.

    Christmas Holiday (1944)-This Robert Siodmak directed adaptation of a Somerset Maugham story is one dark, despairing noir. On Christmas leave a young officer receives a Dear John letter. Depressed he wanders into a roadside joint and meets Deanna Durbin, a “dance hall hostess” and she tells him the story of her fall. As a naïve young girl on her own she entered into a hasty marriage to a slick charming man, Gene Kelly, who turns out to be a mother dominated psychotic maniac. When he commits murder she somehow feels responsible, goes into hiding and punishes herself by sliding into a life of squalor. Loaded with and quite explicit (for a 40’s release) in its themes of sexual manipulation, prostitution, incest, self-punishment and very twisted emotional ideas. Deanna sings but her songbird isn’t singled out as anyone special, she’s better than most roadside canaries but her style is beaten down and the patrons hardly break from what they’re doing when she takes the bandstand. A million miles away from the typical Durbin or Kelly vehicles.

  2. Vacation:

    Oh Dad, Poor Dad, Mamma’s Hung You in the Closet and I’m Feelin’ So Sad (1967)-Madame Rosepettle (Rosalind Russell) arrives at a Caribbean resort for a vacation with quite a menagerie, her 24 year old son (Robert Morse) who acts like a 5 year old, his stamp collection and telescope, a pair of Venus Flytraps, her tank of pet piranhas and her dead husband (Jonathan Winters-who serves as narrator) who she’s had stuffed and travels with them in his coffin that she keeps in the closet. While they’re there the hotel’s babysitter Rosalie (Barbara Harris) falls for the infantile young man while Madame is pursued by a crazy ship captain, Commodore Roseabove. Got that? Its theatre of the absurd and the kind of whack-a-doodle thing that could only be produced in the 60’s.

    Deliverance (1972)-Four friends, all city bred, decide to take a vacation trip down a river in backwoods Georgia before a dam is constructed that will wipe it out and flood the surrounding area. Only one of them is really knowledgeable about canoeing but the trip starts well and even has a highlight or two, the famous Dueling Banjos being the most memorable, until they have an ill-fated encounter with some hillbilly moonshiners. Things go about as wrong as possible and their big adventure becomes an endurance test of survival. Raw and vivid with a career best performance by Burt Reynolds.

    Mr. Hobbs Takes a Vacation (1962)-Mr. Hobbs wants to take a nice quiet vacation to the beach for the summer but Mrs. Hobbs insists on taking the whole family, daughters, son-in-law, grandchildren, cook and various drop ins, with them. There goes his peaceful trip. The kind of role that Jimmy Stewart could play in his sleep but he and Maureen O’Hara manage to make the material better than it should be.

    Merry Christmas!!!

  3. Haven't seen any of these. I really, really need to see The Man Who Knew Too Much, though. Great picks!

  4. OK I hope you had a great Christmas! I have still to see Mr. Hulot's Holiday but I was laughing just from the trailer so that is on my list to see. I love the remake of the Man Who Knew Too Much. You know what?....I had read that the original was supposed to be superior and I saw the original after I had seen the remake and kept quiet. I thought the remake was better but felt almost guilty to say this, but not any more. I love this version and I wonder how many people realize Que Sera, Sera comes from a Hitchcock film. I love the last film also. It is a truly romantic film which I enjoy. I had to laugh at the scene where she goes to get her hair done and comes out with the same hair! I was in Venice back in 2009 and it is magical. I am so happy to say I was right at the spot where she fell in (and consequently got something nasty from being in the water)

  5. My mum and Nan love Jacques Tati. I've seen some of his work, its amusing. But I've not seen your pick. I love Hitchcock, even this remake of his own work. I really want to see the first version of the film and compare.