It’s that time of year again. The weather outside is frightful (or maybe you’re just a little worn out from all the hustle and bustle). Settling into flannel PJs with the hot toddy of your choice can be a nice way to wind down this month. Particularly if you’re a Netflix subscriber. The popular on-demand movie service has a host of holiday titles that can get you in the spirit — without having to get in your car.
If you’re looking for a Christmas classic, you really can’t do better than spending an evening with Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen. In White Christmas (1954), two song and dance acts (ex-army buddies Crosby and Kaye and talented sisters Clooney and Ellen) team up to save a Vermont inn. It’s filmed in Technicolor and Vista-Vision, and all of the music is by Irving Berlin. In addition to Crosby’s famous and still lovely rendition of the title song, musical numbers include “Snow,” “Count Your Blessings (Instead of Sheep)” and my favorite, “Sisters.”
“Lord help the mister who comes between me and my sister
And lord help the sister, who comes between me and my man.”
Another classic is Miracle on 34th Street. Netflix offers the 1994 remake (there have been several over the years). Although I’ll always have a soft spot for teeny tiny Natalie Wood in the 1947 original, Mara Wilson makes a delightful — and more contemporary — Susie Walker. (You may remember Wilson as the youngest child in Mrs. Doubtfire or as the unstoppable Matilda.) She’s joined by Elizabeth Perkins as her single mother, Dylan McDermott as her would-be father, and Richard Attenborough as the jolly fat man himself.
If you’re lucky enough to have your own little ones around this season, you can treat them to a holiday double feature courtesy of “the house of mouse,” also known as the wonderful world of Disney. Mickey’s Once Upon a Christmas (1999) and its 2004 sequel (aptly, although not very imaginatively, named Mickey’s Twice Upon a Christmas) are holiday anthologies. The first comprises three short segments and the second includes five. You and any young guests will recognize familiar themes and characters: from Donald Duck as “Uncle Scrooge;” Goofy and his son Max trying to prove that Santa is real; and Mickey and Minnie in O’Henry’s “The Gift of the Magi;” to a special appearance by the Fantasia ballerina hippos on ice.
Romantic comedy fans can choose between two highly-rated holiday love stories. In While You Were Sleeping (1995), subway toll-taker Lucy (Sandra Bullock) saves handsome stranger Peter (Peter Gallagher) from an oncoming train. While he’s in a coma, everyone from the hospital staff to Peter’s concerned family assumes that Lucy’s his fiancée. Lucy finally has the family and Christmas she’s always dreamed of, until things get complicated when she falls for Peter’s brother Jack (Bill Pullman). It’s all fairly predictable — needless to say, you can see the happy ending coming for miles — but the cast is top-notch. In fact, leading lady Bullock was nominated for a Golden Globe award.
Serendipity (2001) is a little more metaphysical. After “meeting cute” Christmas shopping for their respective significant others at Bloomingdales, Sara (Kate Beckinsale) and Jon (John Cusack) spend an enchanted holiday evening together. They agree that there’s something special going on, but decide to separate. If they are meant to be, they reason, destiny will step in. Several years later, destiny hasn’t. They’re both about to be married (to other people), but can’t forget that one night, so they decide to take destiny into their own hands. Again, the ending’s no surprise, but the journey — which includes cross-country trips, red herrings, and mistaken identities — is great holiday fun.
On the other hand, Georgia (Queen Latifah) isn’t looking for love in Last Holiday (2006). A mousy introvert, she decides to live what’s left of her life to the fullest. After an at-work accident, she learns that she has terminal brain tumors and weeks to live. Rather than get her affairs in order, she decides to go out in style. She cashes in her life savings and heads off to Europe to see how the other half lives. With nothing to lose, she meets up with a quirky cast of characters (including Gérard Depardieu as a famous French Chef). Of course, the happy ending includes a revised diagnosis and a reunion with Georgia’s handsome co-worker Sean (LL Cool J).