Wednesday, December 24, 2014

My Top 10 Favorite moments from Christmas specials and movies

Whenever the holiday season comes around, I always bring out my collection of Christmas movies and specials. It’s impossible to go a year without those beloved pictures like “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “Miracle on 34th Street”.  I’ve done a list of my personal favorite holiday specials of all time once before, but for this list, I’m going to take a look at all the treasured moments that make these films so wonderful. Those warm scenes that just put a smile on my face and bring to life the joy of the holiday. I’ll have some familiar moments that many know, and I may even have some surprises that you probably wouldn’t expect, but hey, these are just my personal favorite holiday moments, nobody has to agree with me 100%, but do feel free to comment on what some of your favorites might be. 

#10 “Walking in the air” from “The Snowman” (1982)

With its light as air storytelling and rich atmosphere, the 1982 short titled “The Snowman” is simply one of the greatest holiday gems of all time. The story revolves around a snowman that’s brought to life through the magic of Christmas, and he spends the night with the young boy who made him. The highlight is a scene in which the snowman actually flies the boy through the night sky, all set to a magical song titled “Walking in the Air”. It’s just a beautiful segment, the music is so warm and uplifting, plus it’s just awesome that this kid gets to fly around the world on Christmas in a way that’s unique but also in the spirit of the season.  


#9 “The Gift of Friendship” from “Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury” (2011)

This is a very personal entry on my list because I’m a huge fan of “How to Train Your Dragoon”, and I really love their Christmas special titled “Dragons: Gift of the Night Fury”. In this Dragon adventure, we see the real strength and bond between our lead hero and his pet dragon, as a special exchange of gifts is made. Without spoiling too much, the highlight comes at the end, when the measure of their friendship is taken to a new level. If you’re a fan of the series, this scene will only further remind you why we love these characters, and why their friendship is so touching. There have obviously been other touching friendships in the media between a boy and his pet, but this is my personal favorite from one of the greatest animated franchises of all time.  

#8 “There is a Santa and he exists within Kris Kringle” from “Miracle on 34th Street” (1994)

Obviously the original 1947 “Miracle on 34th Street” is the superior holiday classic, however, in my opinion, it’s the 1994 remake that actually has the stronger ending. This is the story of seemingly ordinary man who believes himself to be Santa Claus, which results in him being put on trial to prove his sanity. While no clear facts are made to support his claim, the judge still gives a passionate speech about the collective faith of people who believe in something greater then themselves, like the belief in God, which is based solely on faith alone without any real facts, and determines that by a similar example, there is a Santa and that he exist within a man named Kris Kringle. It’s just a really touching ending and the overall theme of faith over fact is a wonderful addition that the remake took full advantage of.     

#7 “All I want when Christmas comes to town” from “The Polar Express” (2004)

The Polar Express” is another personal favorite that I love to watch every year, I just enjoy the animation, the atmosphere and the simplicity of the experience. For some reason, the scene that always stands out to me is when a lonely boy sings about the simple joys he desperately wants to feel around Christmas, which leads into a duet between him and a young girl. It may seem just a little corny to have these children signing, but I just love this song, I love the melody and really love all the colors and visuals that are displayed in this moment. It’s simply a touching little scene with these two kids, and it just adds a little more magic to the experience.  

#6 “All is Right with the World” from “A Christmas Story” (1983)

When you’re a kid, getting that special gift for Christmas is the only thing on your mind, and that’s the charm that this movie captures so well. It’s all about that wonderful time when we were kids, and Christmas was a magical time of the year. It’s just one of the best feel good moments of any Christmas classic, seeing those kids get that special gift. The best moment of all is that final scene with the mother and father sitting by the lit up Christmas tree as they watch the snow fall, which just seems to sum up the spirit of the holiday in only 30 seconds.  

#5 “Calling a Size Fire” from “Joyeux Noel” (2005)

Based on an incredible true story that’s set during the First World War, French, German and Scottish soldiers are neck deep in the trenches and ready to kill one another. But then, one single soldier comes out of hiding while singing “Silent Night”, reminding everyone that it’s Christmas Eve, and that they should share the peace and love that Christmas is all about. This leads to all three groups calling a Size Fire in light of the holiday, they leave their bunkers, exchange gifts and even hold a mass. It further emphasizes what a powerful time of year this is and how it affects us as individuals. It’s such a powerful moment that’s brought to life beautifully in this movie, and its well worth seeing if you haven’t already.    

#4 “Merry Christmas George Bailey” from “It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946)

Okay, who doesn’t watch this movie every year, I mean it actually has little to do with the holiday, but its message about the beauty of life is just so powerful that it needs to be viewed every year. This is the story of one mans life and how it affects the life of others, which is just as heartwarming, as it is influential and thought provoking. Of course its the ending that everyone remembers, when our hero accepts his life and all the beauty that comes with it. It’s an uplifting ending that always reminds me how precious the gift of life really is, especially around Christmas time.  

#3 “Maybe Christmas means a little bit more” from “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (1966)

How the Grinch Stole Christmas” is hands down my favorite animated holiday short of all time, I love all the colors, the music, the rimes and more than anything, I love seeing the mean-spirited Grinch discover the true meaning of the holiday. It’s nostalgic, it’s cheerful, and can turn any grouchy frown upside down.  

#2 “God Bless Us Everyone” from “A Christmas Carol” (Any Version)

Just like the Grinch, it’s such a treat to see the bitter Mr. Scrooge have a change of heart and understand why this time of year is so special. There are several renditions of “A Christmas Carol” and everyone of them have this heartwarming ending that is guaranteed to lift your spirit, and put you in the loving holiday mood.

#1 “The Birth of Jesus” from “The Nativity Story” (2006)

Well, kind of an obvious choice, what Christmas moment could possibly be more special then the event that started it all. While I freely admit that the 2006 motion picture of the Christmas Story isn’t the absolute strongest, it’s still very respectable of its biblical source material and the films version of the manger scene is sensational. I like that this film depicted it in such a subtle yet uplifting manner. We don’t really see the quires of angles in the sky, and there isn’t an over blown orchestra, instead its kept rather quiet, with a simple musical score filling up the atmosphere. However, you still feel the size and the importance of the moment just from everyone’s reactions, and it always leaves a subtle impact. It’s arguably the greatest moment of the greatest holiday themed story of all time.   

             Merry Christmas 

Friday, December 19, 2014

Christmas songs that aren't house-hold titles (My Top 10 Favorite)

We all know the classic Christmas songs like “Jingle Bells”, “Deck the Halls” and “We Wish You a Merry Christmas”, but over the years, popular musical artists have created their own songs for the holiday. They may not be as classic, but are more modern and in many ways are even stronger. The classics will always have their place, but there are just so many modern songs that can really put me in the holiday mood, and here’s a little list of my personal top 10 favorite Christmas songs that aren't house hold titles. Now many of the songs have had different versions from other artists, so I’ll just pick my favorite musical artist to represent a specific song.    

#10 “The Magic of Christmas Day”- Celine Dion 

Celine Dion is one of those artists that people either really love or get a touched annoyed with. Personally, I think everything her voice touches turns to gold, and her Christmas songs are no exception. One of her absolute best is “The Magic of Christmas Day” which debuted back in 1998. This song has everything that makes a terrific, modern day classic Christmas song, including great lyrics, an especially upbeat melody and Celine Dion at her finest.  

#9 “As Long as There's Christmas” - Peabo Bryson and Roberta Flack

Now here’s one Christmas song that isn’t all that popular but I’ve loved it for years, so I couldn’t help but include it on my list. Granted, this song was packaged with the 1997 Disney sequel “Beauty and the Beast: The Enchanted Christmas”, which really isn’t the best company, but on its own, this is still a splendid song brought to life by two very talented artists. I’d dare say that it’s kind of a touching song that revolves around finding hope during the holiday. You can hear this version on Roberta Flack’s Christmas album, which is where it belongs. If you haven’t heard it yet, do yourself a favor and give it a listen, it’s just the right song to put you in the holiday spirit. 

#8 “Christmas Shoes” – Newsong

I don’t think I’ve ever heard another Christmas song that got me more teary eyed then “Christmas Shoes” by Newsong. In the style of traditional country music, this song tells a narrative story, just in musical form. It’s told from the perspective of a man at a checkout line who takes note of a boy in front of him trying desperately to buy a special pare of shoes for his mother on Christmas Eve. The sad catch is that the mother is dying, and the boy wants to give his mother something really special for her last Christmas. Once the man in line realizes the boy’s situation, he gives the young boy the money he needs to buy the gift. The message obviously revolves around charity and giving to those in need, and maybe I’m just a sucker for this, but it always leaves me feeling choked up inside. This song was so popular upon its release that it was adapted into a novel and even a TV movie with the same title. However, many people really hate this song, calling it disturbing and sadistic, it even popped up on several “Worst Christmas Songs” lists. Personally, I still like this song a lot, I think it means well, it has a very sweet melody, and a warm holiday themed message at the center, just don’t read to deep into it.       

#7 “Don’t save it all for Christmas Day” – Celine Dion

Celine Dion makes my Christmas list again with a Christmas song from her 2000 album titled “These are Special Times”. This is one of those rare holiday songs that try to be more than just another pretty Christmas song, it’s more thoughtful and gets the audience to reflect on their lives in a simple, yet meaningful way. Christmas is that one time of year in which many people open up to the better parts of their humanity, by being more charitable and more giving. This song encourages the audience to take that to another level, by being just as compassionate, loving and charitable for more than not just this one time of year. It’s all about keeping the spirit of the holiday alive in your soul all year round and it’s handled in a very mature and honest way that doesn’t come off as too preachy. It’s simply a terrific song from a terrific artist.   

#6 “Sending you a Little Christmas” - Jim Brickman (Sung by Kristy Starling)

When I was in elementary school, way back in 2002, my father was deployed with several troops to fight in Iraq, and as a result, he was gone for years. I bring this up because on those years he’d miss Christmas with the family, we’d send him videos and love letters, wishing him a merry Christmas and hoping that he’d come home soon. That’s exactly what this song is about, it’s about sending your love and warm holiday wishes to someone you love, and awaiting that time when you reunite. It’s a song that hits a personal cord with me, and it always seems to leave an impact. With Kristy Starling as the splendid vocalist and Jim Brickman as the talented writer, this is one touching Christmas song that I look forward to hearing every year.   

#5 “Where are You Christmas” – Faith Hill

Children always go through a transition where things are no longer as magical as when they were younger, it’s just a natural part of growing up, and personally that transition wasn't easy for me. I remember reaching a certain age in which I would try desperately to recapture that magic I felt as a child, but once I remembered the simple things like love and charity, I suddenly felt both the cheer and the heart of the season all over again. Faith Hill’s “Where are You Christmas” is simply a beautiful song that addresses that transition we all go through, and what we should do to keep that magic alive in our souls as the years go on. This song first premiered in 2000 along with the motion picture “How the Grinch Stole Christmas”, starring Jim Carry, and personally I think it’s the best thing to come from that movie.   


#4 “Breath of Heaven” (Mary’s Song) – Amy Grant

This is a rare kind of holiday song that doesn’t even sound like your traditional Christmas music. The melody is very somber, almost hunting, but also magical and touching at the same time. It’s a song told from the perspective of Mary as she goes on her journey to Bethlehem, leading to the birth to the baby Jesus on the very first Christmas. It’s such a subtle, yet captivating song that just gives me chills whenever I hear it. I first heard this on Amy Grants “Home for Christmas” album, but it’s also featured on the album for the 2006 motion picture “The Nativity Story”. So while this doesn’t sound like a traditional Christmas song, it’s actually closer to the spirit of the holiday then most others.   

#3 “Grown up Christmas List” - Kelly Clarkson

Anyone who really knows this song would probably associate it with Amy Grant first, and rightfully so, it is her song after all. However, I’ve already praised one of her songs on this list, and personally, I really love hearing this song when performed by Kelly Clarkson. The song itself is very touching and quite frankly one of the most mature Christmas songs I’ve ever heard. It comes from the perspective of a woman all grown up, and looking past her own simple interests and desires. Her Christmas wish reflects on the world as a whole, and what things could be changed for the better. It’s a genuine message for the audience to look past what they want, and to open up to the bigger picture of life. It’s a beautiful song with deep sub text, and even though I personally prefer Kelly Clarksons take on it, Amy Grants is still just as good and conveys the exact same tone and feel.    

#2 “Believe” – Josh Groban

Josh Groban has some terrific Christmas albums, most of which are his versions of already classic songs, but his best original holiday song in my opinion is "Believe". This is one of those songs that can just lift your spirit and put you in the perfect, joyful holiday mood. The song was featured in the animated 2004 motion picture “The Polar Express”, and that’s when I first took note of how beautiful this song is. I love the theme, I love the melody, I love the message, and Josh Groban just puts his whole heart and soul into this, making it a magical and uplifting song that should definitely be heard around the holidays.  

#1 “God Bless Us Everyone” – Sung by Andrea Bocelli

This is the like the textbook equivalent of a classic modern Christmas song, and one that I have to hear every year. First of all, I just love Andrea Bocelli, in fact let me put it this way, if God has a singing voice, it would probably sound like Andrea Bocelli. He just sings like no one else, and puts so much passion and soul into it. “God Bless Us Everyone” is arguably one of his best original songs in years and it just puts me in the holiday spirit right away. This song premiered along with the animated 2009 picture “A Christmas Carol” starring Jim Carry, and isn't this just the perfect song to go with it, after all “God Bless Us Everyone” is the most famous quote from the Charles Dickens classic. It’s uplifting, it’s powerful and its hands down my favorite Christmas song of the modern era.

           The End.