December 2019 Watchlist

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Though I partook of a few Disney+ offerings and random sci-fi/fantasy outings, December was predominantly a month for annual Christmas movie binging. I apologize in advance for copious use of words such as “heart,” “holiday,” and “classic,” but, hey, it was Christmas!

Arthur Christmas (2011) – 10/10
Filled with heart, humor, and rich animation, Arthur Christmas is a modern holiday classic for the whole family. 
Blackbeard’s Ghost (1968) – 10/10
A gut-busting comedy anchored by a boisterous performance from Peter Ustinov as the titular spirit; possibly Disney’s best live-action comedy ever.
The Bishop’s Wife (1948) – 10/10
An unusual fantasy premise and stellar performances from its trio of leads solidifies The Bishop’s Wife as a holiday gem.
Captain Marvel (2019) – 6/10
A wasted period setting and forced humor aimed at turning Carol Danvers into the new Tony Stark makes for one of Marvel’s most lackluster outings to date.
Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) – 10/10
Funny, touching, and unabashed in its themes of faith, A Charlie Brown Christmas is the best Peanuts special and one of the greatest Christmas specials of all time.
A Christmas Carol (Scrooge) (1951) – 10/10
Mostly faithful with a few tasteful addendums, this 1951 version of Charles Dickens’s legendary tale boasts a performance by Alastair Sim which sets a high bar for all Scrooge portrayals to follow.
A Christmas Carol (1984) – 10/10
An incredibly faithful, cinema quality TV adaptation, featuring a tour de force performance form George C. Scott as Scrooge; possibly the best Christmas Carol on film.
A Christmas Carol (2011) – 7/10
Though some of the visual choices for the heaviest fantasy sequences are questionable, if you’re Robert Zemeckis and directing an animated Christmas Carol, an all-star cast and state of the art motion capture effects doesn’t hurt.
The Dragon Prince, Season 1 (2018) – 6/10
A solid premise, rich world-building, and engaging characters are severely undercut by the juvenile-only humor and gaping logic holes; still, for a kid’s fantasy action cartoon, it’s not bad.
Elf (2003) – 10/10
A hilarious holiday flick that also checks the boxes of “heart,” “sentiment,” and “happiness,” requisite for any great Christmas movie.
Frosty (1969) – 8/10
Though the required logic suspension is a little much even for a kid’s holiday fantasy, Frosty is still a well-animated, charming Christmas classic.
A Garfield Christmas (1987)
Featuring the comic strip’s signature humor and the heart we all know underlies that sarcastic orange exterior, A Garfield Christmas isthe best special in the fat feline’s filmography and a true holiday classic.
Holiday Inn (1942) – 10/10
Memorable musical numbers, intriguing premise, competent plotting, and likable leads make Holiday Inn one of the greatest Christmas films of all time; a severely underrated gem. 
Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992) – 7/10
Though it’s essentially just a remake of the original, the gags are funnier, and Tim Curry’s presence is a definite plus.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) – 10/10
Narrator Boris Karloff, director Chuck Jones, and writer Dr. Seuss combine their distinctive skills to spin an undisputed Christmas legend.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – 10/10
Over 70 years later, Frank Capra’s thought-provoking fantasy drama remains the greatest Christmas-set film ever produced.
The Mandalorian, Season 1 (2019) – 8/10
Though it dips severely in the middle, the inaugural season of the first ever live-action Star Wars TV series is bookended by a set of generally spectacular episodes, anchored by the best sci-fi/western storytelling since Firefly.
Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983) – 10/10
An excellent adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic, starring your favorite Disney characters.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947) – 10/10
A brilliant, Academy Award-winning script and a spectacular ensemble cast unite to create a humorous, unique, and ultimately heartwarming Christmas flick.
Muppet Christmas Carol (1993) – 7/10
The title says it all.
Noelle (2019) – 6/10
A made-for-TV-type holiday movie with a larger budget and better cast, Noelle is fine for the kiddies but far from an all-time great.
Pan’s Labyrinth (2006) – 8/10
A dark, haunting, visually disturbing “historical” fairytale that loses points for glossing over the communist revolutionary undertones of several protagonists—or perhaps quietly championing them.
Red River (1948) – 10/10
Director Howard Hawkes delivers a western masterpiece featuring one of John Wayne’s career best performances.
Rio Grande (1950) – 9/10
The family dynamics between John Wayne’s Captain Yorke and his estranged wife (Maureen O’Hara) and son are so well-played, the film feels flat when it actually gets to the typical cavalry vs. Indians antics in the last act.
Rudolf the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) – 10/10
A feat of claymation, sporting legendary Christmas songs and some pretty weighty themes.
The Santa Clause (1994) – 8/10
A clever, Christmas comedy granted emotional depth by some serious family drama; just don’t ask too many questions about the fantasy premise.
The Santa Clause 2 (2002) – 5/10
Had the filmmakers jettisoned the ludicrous “robo-Santa” subplot and focussed on the story of Santa trying to win the woman of his dreams while bringing his son back from the dark side, they might have made a really good Christmas movie.
The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006) – 1/10
An inane outing that barely resembles the thoroughly enjoyable original that started the franchise.
The Shop around the Corner (194?) – 9/10
Though Margaret Sullavan’s shrewish female lead makes the overarching romance plot a little implausible, Jimmy Stewart’s typically relatable persona and a fine supporting cast carry the intelligent comedy/drama script to a satisfying conclusion.
Sky Captain and the World of Tomorrow (2004) – 8/10
The best 1940s adventure serial homage since Raiders of the Lost Ark; features groundbreaking effects.
Star Wars: Episode IX – The Rise of Skywalker (2019) – 7/10
Though continuity errors and plot holes abound, if you choose not to look too deeply, Skywalker can be enjoyable; at any rate, it’s still better than any of the prequel trilogy films.
That Darn Cat (1964) – 9/10
Disney’s stab a Clousseau-esque crime spoof stands as one of the studio’s best ’60s, live-action offerings.
White Christmas (1954) – 9/10
Not quite as good as Holiday Inn but still a touching classic with catchy, well-choreographed musical numbers.