Ever since I reached the age where I was socially expected to disburse Hanukah gifts, the high holidays have been somewhat stressful for me. It was fun at first to see everybody so pleased with my thoughtful gifts. Then, seven years ago, I ran out of gift ideas - hence the stress.
No worries, though. When the stress kicks in, I sit back, relax, and enjoy one of a plethora of holiday movies. Thanksgiving, Christmas, Hannukah, New Year - whatever. If it has something to do with turkey, Santa, menorahs or midnight then I want to see it.
These are a few of my faves, organized by holiday:
Planes, Trains & Automobiles - The first time I watched this was in Argentina with my dad. It's a comedy, but a strange one in that at one point in the movie, the f-word is used 18 times in one minute. Also, there are airplanes in this movie.
Scent of a Woman - This movie takes place during Thanksgiving Break. This is not a movie that you necessarily sit down with a cup of cocoa to watch. It is too intense for that. It is worth the watching for three great scenes: the tango dance, the dinner, and the school disciplinary hearing. My grandfather, Fidel, was a huge fan of this movie.
The Dreidel of Life - This inspirational story is about a family of four struggling to make ends meet in Brooklyn. The oldest child, Jacob Storellistein, develops a keen skill with the dreidel at school. In spite of the family's financial difficulties, Mr. Storellistein, who works as a baggage handler for United Airlines at JFK Airport, surprises Jacob placing a dreidel in his stocking on the holy third day of Channukah. Inspired by his father's generous gift, the shy Jacob enters a dreidel spinning tournament at the local synagogue. When he wins and advances to the regional tournament, where the grand prize is $100,000, the family sees a way out of poverty - on the back of Jacob's special talent. They put their life savings together to send Jacob to the regional tournament in Tenafly, NJ and are shocked to find out their son will have to beat Eli Castrowitz to claim the title, the son of famed dreidel spinner Seth Castrowitz. With all of the family's savings on the line, will Jacob come through? It's a story of despair, hope, faith, and finally, redemption. Starring Jonah Meyerson as Jacob, and an inspirational performance by Jason Alexander as the legendary Seth Castrowitz.
Trading Places - No, this is not the David Paterson story, although the similarities are uncanny. A rich, Wall Street-type white guy is busted with a hooker, loses his job, and a black guy from Harlem replaces him. That's a little too eerie for me, thank you very much.
Home Alone - A classic that I am still more than happy to sit through. Although I am bit disappointed that the airplanes shown for the trans-Atlantic flights are Boeing 757's. That's so unrealistic. Duh!
A Christmas Story - Licking a flagpole covered in ice. 'Nuf said.
New Years (moments)
Godfather II - "I know it was you Fredo. You broke my heart. You broke my heart." All of this, of course, preceded by an on screen kiss between Michael and Fredo. Not only is it a theatrically captivating scene, but it's also interesting for the history buff. The scene takes place as Cuba is overtaken by Fidel Castro.
When Harry Met Sally - "When you realize you want to spend the rest of your life with somebody, you want the rest of your life to start as soon as possible." What a line. I've always wanted to use that one.
Groundhog Day - I don't think that there are many movies dedicated to Groundhog Day, but even if there were, this one would still be my favorite.