It’s your friendly KF on KND Editor April Hamilton here, to share what’s become a holiday season tradition for me, and as I’ve only recently learned, a lot of others, too.
Starting soon after Halloween and stretching out into about mid-January, I stream a small selection of favorite movies—movies I’ve already seen often enough to have virtually memorized—over and over again. While I’m crafting. While I’m working. While I’m preparing holiday cards. While I’m doing pretty much anything that allows for video to be playing in the background. Comparing notes with some Facebook friends, I learned I’m not the only one who does this.
I like having these familiar movie friends playing in the background while I do other things instead of just having holiday music, and I especially like being able to stop what I’m doing to watch favorite scenes when they come up.
My personal endless loop consists of, in no specific order: Love Actually, You’ve Got Mail, When Harry Met Sally and one action/adventure. Last year’s action/adventure was Jurassic Park (the original, first movie in the franchise). This year, it’s Pirates of the Caribbean: At World’s End.
Love Actually (R, 4/5 stars, currently priced at $2.99 to rent in SD / $3.99 in HD, $9.99 to own in SD / $12.99 in HD)
What It’s About: This movie combines a series of loosely connected characters and vignettes that explore pretty much every kind of love and type of relationship: familial, marital, parental, puppy love, lust, new love, loneliness, unrequited love, love between friends, and how our choices—sometimes purposeful choices—can sabotage love and ruin relationships, or open us up to love and relationships in new ways.
Why It Makes The Rotation: This film has it all: humor, poignancy, uplifting scenes and devastating ones. The performances are all fantastic, and the situations are touching and believable. It doesn’t hurt that the stories all take place in the 5 weeks leading up to Christmas, so the scenes are peppered with holiday decorations, events and music.
You’ve Got Mail (PG, 4.5/5 stars, currently priced at $2.99 to rent in SD / $3.99 in HD, $6.99 to own in SD / $7.99 in HD)
What It’s About: This is a remake of The Shop Around The Corner, updated with a technological twist and a closer look at how commercial trends have very real, sometimes negative impacts on lives. Kathleen Kelly (Meg Ryan) has inherited the charming, small children’s bookstore her mother used to run. Joe Fox (Tom Hanks) is leading the megastore charge for his family’s Fox Books Superstore business, opening a new branch just around the corner from Kelly’s shop and dooming it to fail. Little do these two rivals know, they’ve been anonymously chatting with one another online and falling in love. When Joe’s true identity is exposed to Kathleen, is there any way he can salvage the relationship?
Why It Makes The Rotation: Even though this movie spans a much longer time period than the holiday season, I always think of it as a holiday movie, probably because so much of it takes place in and around shopping and retail situations. The script (co-written by Nora Ephron) is whip-smart and crackles with humor, and while this is definitely a love story, it never sinks into cliche, treacle or platitudes. Of course Hanks and Ryan are fantastic, as are the supporting cast.
The film also has a special place in my heart because it takes place in the bookish world, and offers a very realistic window into the time period when Borders and Amazon slowly but surely killed off virtually all independent bookstores. Little did we suspect Borders would ultimately fail, and Amazon would ensure its survival and dominance by branching out into all kinds of merchandise instead of sticking to books alone. As both an author and bookworm, I’m particularly fascinated by this.
When Harry Met Sally (R, 4.5/5 stars, currently priced at $2.99 to rent in SD / $3.99 in HD, $9.99 to own in SD / $12.99 in HD, currently included in the Prime Video catalog)
What It’s About: Two recent college grads, Sally and Harry, share a ride from Chicago to New York, where each intends to launch into adulthood and career. They initially dislike each other. Sally’s optimistic, somewhat compulsive and picky nature grates on the cocky, negative, brash, know-it-all Harry. As the two mature and change, they continue to cross paths across the years, eventually becoming friends, then something more.
Why It Makes The Rotation: This is another Nora Ephron script, and she rarely disappoints. The genesis of the relationship between Harry and Sally is sometimes funny, sometimes sweet, sometimes sad, but always relatable and real. Of course Crystal and Ryan are excellent in it, and again, the supporting cast shines. It’s another story that spans far beyond the holiday season—12 years in all, in fact—but I think of it as a holiday movie because certain important scenes take place around the holidays and really stand out.
What It’s About: As agents of the East India Trading company expand their control of the seas, capturing and executing every pirate they can find, as well as anyone caught consorting with pirates, pirate Captain Barbossa decides the Pirate Lords must convene to address the situation. The only problem is that Jack Sparrow is one of the Pirate Lords, and never passed his authority on to a successor before he died. So Barbossa, Will Turner, Elizabeth Swann and the voodoo priestess Tia Dalma must find a way to rescue Jack from Davy Jones’ Locker, beyond the edges of the map.
Why It Makes The Rotation: I know the other three films here—which never leave the holiday rotation—are all romantic comedies, but believe it or not I am not a fan of the genre in general. The three I highlight here are chosen specifically because of the ways they’re different from a typical rom-com, but even so, I can only handle so much lovey-dovey nonsense before I need a kind of mental palate cleanser. Hence, the action-adventure slot.
To me, At World’s End is the best of the Pirates franchise so far. It has all the action, excitement, adventure and supernatural touches of the first two movies, but it adds a level of emotional depth not found in the others. The further exploration of Davy Jones’ backstory makes him a more sympathetic and tragic character, and the Pirate Lords / Pirate Code mythos is interesting, believable, and funny at times. A cameo from Rolling Stone Keith Richards as Cap’n Teague, Jack Sparrow’s father and Keeper of the Pirate Code, is great.
Whether with these movies or favorites of your own, consider starting your own holiday video endless loop tradition!