We all have our favorite movies to watch this time of year — something musical and cheerful or comic and satirical or sentimental and life affirming. All of them are readily accessible, whether you download, stream or rent them, or stumble across them while channel surfing, or perhaps have them in your own DVD collection.
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Whether it’s Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen playing matchmakers for Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney or Chevy Chase trying to outdo everyone else with the Christmas lights on his house or James Stewart finding his way thanks to a bumbling angel named Clarence, everyone has that special Christmas flick that just has to be watched in the days leading up to Dec. 25.
And if one of yours happens to be “White Christmas” or “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” or “It’s a Wonderful Life,” you might want to consider taking the family to see it in a movie theater, on a really big screen with full stereo sound and an auditorium full of like-minded fans.
Those are among the eight films being shown in local theaters during December, each one just for a day or two.
“Miracle on 34th Street” (1947/1994, G/PG). The “real” Santa Claus (Oscar-winner Edmund Gwenn/Richard Attenborough) faces a challenge when an adorable little girl (Natalie Wood/Mara Wilson) refuses to believe in him. Both theatrical versions of the classic story will be shown on Saturday, the black-and-white original at 1 p.m. and the color remake at 7 p.m. (Saturday, Nov. 30, Peery’s Egyptian Theater, Ogden)
“White Christmas” (1954). Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye are a singing, dancing, comedy team after meeting during World War II, and when they discover that their former general (Dean Jagger) has an inn that’s suffering due to lack of snow, they decide to bring people in by putting on a show, with help from Vera-Ellen and Rosemary Clooney. Delightful musical comedy with songs by Irving Berlin, a reworking of the Crosby-Fred Astaire “Holiday Inn,” just gets better and more endearing with each viewing. (Sunday, Dec. 1, 2 p.m., and Wednesday, Dec. 4, 2 and 7 p.m., Cinemark Theatres)
“A Christmas Story” (1983, PG). When this film debuted in 1983 it became an instant favorite, and you can’t escape it this time of year. But why would you want to? Set in the 1940s, it’s a story we can all relate to, even in this technological era, as young Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) yearns for a Red Ryder rifle for Christmas, though Mom (Melinda Dillon) is afraid he’ll put out his eye. And Darren McGavin is great as “the old man.” Many wonderful vignettes, nice period atmosphere, with a perfect cast and capped by Jean Shepherd’s delightful narration (adapted from his stories). (Tuesday, Dec. 3, 10 a.m., SCERA Center, Orem)
“Rifftrax: Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (1964). Fans of “Mystery Science Theater 3000,” a TV series with characters making snarky remarks as they watch bad movies, know that “Rifftrax” is their latest variation on the theme. Here, they will perform live, lampooning the ridiculous kiddie film of the title, which has Santa and two children abducted by aliens and whisked to Mars. (Thursday, Dec. 5, 7 p.m., Cinemark Theatres)
“A Man Called Peter” (1955). Excellent biography of Peter Marshall, from his early life, his migration from Scotland to the United States, receiving his spiritual calling, ministering over small congregations to his eventually being called to the New York Avenue Presbyterian Church in Washington, D.C., which leads to his being appointed twice as Chaplain of the Senate. A reminder that Hollywood was once respectful of religion and faith. (Friday, Dec. 6, 7 p.m., free, BYU, Provo, http://lib.byu.edu/sites/artcomm/)
“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989, PG-13). Chevy Chase, Beverly D’Angelo and Randy Quaid regrouped for the third time in the Vacation franchise, this time spoofing such holiday traditions as getting a tree, decorating the house, fixing a turkey dinner, accidentally wrapping a cat as a gift (!). Some funny episodes mixed with some gags that are surprisingly vulgar in this context. (Sunday, Dec. 8, 2 p.m., and Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2 and 7 p.m., Cinemark Theatres)
“Meet Me in St. Louis” (1944). Bright, colorful cotton-candy musical about a middle-class family in St. Louis as the city is preparing for the 1904 World’s Fair. Distinctive period flavor with a series of sequences that reinforce early 20th-century family values. Introduced the song “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.” Judy Garland is at her best but young Margaret O’Brien steals the show, winning a special child-actress Oscar for her performance. (Tuesday, Dec. 10, 10 a.m., SCERA Center, Orem)
“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946, b/w). What can be said about this one that hasn’t already been said a thousand times? James Stewart is perfect as a decent everyman whose life doesn’t go the way he wants it to, but with the help of an angel (played wonderfully by Henry Travers) he eventually finds out the hard way what’s really important and what he has meant to those around him. Fine supporting cast and sterling direction by the great Frank Capra. (Dec. 12, 7 p.m., free, BYU, Provo, http://lib.byu.edu/sites/artcomm/, also Sunday, Dec. 15, 2 p.m.; Wednesday, Dec. 18, 2 and 7 p.m.; and Tuesday, Dec. 24, 2 and 7 p.m., Cinemark Theatres)