Welcome to CinemaToast

(December 2001)

We're moving into the holiday season and truly, this is a much more sober time than in years past. However, movies can take us away from our overburdened worldly cares and give us a sense of genuine joy and feeling of celebration. We at The Toast love It's A Wonderful LifeChristmas and even more, we take pleasure in the innocent and sincere happiness that Christmas brings to children. Christmas is magically re-born for us every year through the eyes of children.

About the movies. The perennially holiday favorites should not be dismissed out of hand. The Toast loves the Christmas classics. For example; It's A Wonderful Life (1946) is a wonderful movie with timeless appeal. There are the well-known pleasures of Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed (was there ever such a sweet and wholesome actress as Donna Reed who was, at the same time, so damn sexy?) We also enjoy the guys from whom Sesame Street's Bert and Ernie got their names; Ward Bond as Bert the cop and Frank Faylen as Ernie the cab driver. Finally, there's Gloria Grahame as Violet, the "bad" girl. Violet sashays down the street and Bert and Ernie's eyeballs almost pop out; and a driver crashes his car because he's ogling Violet when she crosses the corner. The Toast has a soft spot for "bad" girls and Gloria Grahame played a passel of them, especially in film noir.

Miracle on 34th SteetWe always believe in Santa Claus after we watch Miracle on 34th Street from 1947. Who wouldn't? Edmund Gwenn IS Kris Kringle in his relentless goal of spreading the true spirit of Christmas despite the rampart commercialism facing him. He grabbed an Academy Award for the role. Did you know that to get permission for the Macy's/Gimbels rivalry that is so important to the plot of this movie, the producers had to agree, before release, to show the completed film to Macy's top executives and Gimbels senior executives and get their Oks? They were shown the film (separately) and both companies loved it.

ScroogedIt may not be your classic, but every Christmas we at The Toast watch the Bill Murray comedy Scrooged (1988). It's cheerful anarchy and total disrespect for all Christmas customs is a nice balance for us against the other holiday falderal that we love but which can become cloying. Standouts, in a very funny cast, are Carol Kane as the darling but brutal "Ghost of Christmas Present" and Bob Goldthwait as Bill Murray's hapless victim. Karen Allen (a favorite of The Toast) has second billing after Bill Murray but only appears in a few scenes as the beautiful love from the past.

We're pleased to bring your attention to a couple of new pieces here on CinemaToast. Andy Baron has another perceptive essay on a Stanley Kubrick classic. Read his piece on The Killing (1956). Additionally, The Toast is very excited to have a very early look at Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone (2001) from Valentina Alexander.

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