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The Best Holiday Movies Ever Made

With only a few days left before Christmas, it’s time to kick back and take in some yuletide cheer. In fact, it’s almost become a family tradition to watch a Christmas movie favorite with the family. So while you’re waiting for Santa, check out our picks for the best holiday movies ever.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) encounters bizarre relatives and more in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.

After the success of 1983’s National Lampoon’s Vacation, a sequel was sure to follow. Christmas Vacation was next in line and it’s possibly the best of the bunch. Chevy Chase (the very first break-out star of Saturday Night Live, and who now appears in NBC’s Community), is the bumbling yet well-meaning family patriarch, Clark Griswold. And all Clark wants for Christmas is a perfect family holiday.

Try as he might — including sheeting the exterior of the house in lights (25,000 of them, enough to strain the local power grid) and even tolerating low-rent, low-luck Cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) — Clark’s dreams are smashed to bits at every turn. And that’s where part of the film gets its charm. Look for Johnny Galecki (The Big Bang Theory) as Clark’s son Rusty and Julia Louis-Dreyfus (Seinfeld) as Clark’s stuck-up neighbor. With a laugh practically every minute, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is the gift that keeps on giving.

Die Hard (1988)

“Now I know what a TV dinner feels like.” New York detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) finds himself in a tight situation.

New York cop John McClane wants to spend a quiet holiday and reconnect with his estranged wife, the only problem is his wife works in one of Los Angeles’ high-rise office buildings and the building has just been overtaken by terrorists. The terrorist put the building on lock down, unknowingly also locking in John McClane as he arrives at the office to met his wife for the company Christmas party. The rest of the movie plays out like a cat-and-mouse game as McClane starts offing the terrorist one by one.

Per usual, Willis is extremely likeable in the lead role and the movie’s action scenes are intense and well planned. Master thespian Alan Rickman shines as chief bad guy, Hans Gruber. Like Christmas the film returns each year – for a while it seemed that Die Hard was also returning each year, this movie spawned three different sequels (and a fifth rumored to be in the works) and countless knock-offs. Speed for example, starring Keanu Reeves was pitched to studio producers as Die Hard on a bus. But it’s this movie, that set a standard for action movies for years to come.

You think spending the holidays with family is challenging? Stream Die Hard on your iPad and you’ll soon realize that you’re not the only having a tough Christmas.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

The Christmas classic, It’s a Wonderful Life, strikes a blow for the common man, represented here by Jimmy Stewart.

Hollywood tends to make movies about larger-than-life subjects, so it’s interesting that one of the best films ever made is based upon the simple notion that it’s okay just to be an average person. It’s a Wonderful Life tracks the trajectory of ordinary citizen George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart), a small-town guy with big-city dreams that never quite materialize.

In his darkest hour, an angel is dispatched from Heaven to render key psychological aid and show him what life—everybody’s lives—would be like if George had never existed in the first place. Director Frank Capra specialized in making films about “average” American characters and It’s a Wonderful Life may shock first-time viewers with its power and depth.

And the “Christmas miracle” that George receives is only miraculous in its timing; his neighbors come to his financial rescue because he’s spent his entire adult life protecting their interests. When the American Film Institute assembled its ranking of the most inspirational American films ever made, this one topped the list.

A Christmas Story (1983)

A time of simple joys – and the neatest BB gun ever manufactured.

Many people become nostalgic during the holidays about Christmases from their youth. Here’s a piece of nostalgia pie that is effective precisely because it doesn’t remember everything too fondly. Still, A Christmas Story gets the details correct, and that’s the main thing that needs to happen in a nostalgia piece. The charming story is set in the 1940s in hardworking Hohman, Indiana, and concerns the Christmas ordeals of Ralphie Parker, a nine-year-old who’s only ambition is to get the hotshot BB gun of his dreams—despite the resistance he meets from a succession of grown-ups opposed to the idea.

Pudgy, bespectacled Peter Billingsley was nobody’s idea of the ultimate kid star, and that makes him even more likeable as the long-suffering Ralphie. Numerous subplots flesh out the movie, including a hilarious one involving Ralphie’s father (played to ranting-and-raving perfection by Darren McGavin) and his obsession with a novelty house lamp shaped like a female leg. The movie perfectly understands the child’s view of Christmas and his single-minded desire to obtain the must-have gift of the season.

Scrooged (1988)

Bill Murray plays TV executive Frank Cross, Hollywood icon Robert Mitchum makes a cameo as his boss. 

A modern take on Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol starring Bill Murray as the curmudgeonly Francis Xavier “Frank” Cross, a modern-day television network executive who’s loaded with one-liners. While he’s got a fancy New York office and loads of success, he lacks any human warmth or soul.

As the Dickens’ story dictates, the greedy miser has to be shown the error of his ways and reconnect with his sense of humanity. Here, instead of a flying ghost, we’re given a setting-appropriate cab driver who’s able to show Murray a world beyond the hustle and bustle of New York City. Murray built a career playing smug characters who are often vicious with sarcastic put-downs, but he’s never been more hateful or foul than in Scrooged. With an awesome supporting cast and cameos by actor Lee Majors (“The Six Million Dollar Man”), singer Robert Goulet and jazz legend Miles Davis (as a street musician). Scrooged is a movie that ultimately shared the true meaning of Christmas, while laughing all the way.

White Christmas (1954)

Power Couples: (from left to right) Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby and dancer Vera-Ellen. Danny Kaye was the reigning funnyman of the day, while Crosby was a chart-topping crooner. 

Inspired in part by the classic title song sung by Bing Crosby, White Christmas was the  most successful film of 1954. The song went on to become the biggest-selling recording of all time (with more than 50 million copies sold), White Christmas demonstrates that “Glee” wasn’t the first show where characters just suddenly break out into song, and everyone instantly knows all the lyrics.

The movie reflects back on a simpler and more wholesome time period and makes for fine family viewing. The catchy tunes, all written by master American composer Irving Berlin, are some of the most memorable movie songs you’ll ever hear. The film’s direction, by Casablanca director Michael Curtiz, is transparent and effortless. And the singing and dancing (and romancing) by the cast (Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney, Danny Kaye and Vera-Ellen) couldn’t be more entertaining. Will the big Christmas show be enough to save the retired general’s ski lodge? Will Bing and Rosemary patch up their budding romance before the big finale? Will we hear the title song during the movie’s stirring closing? Will it snow on Christmas Eve? White Christmas is a grand piece of Christmas entertainment, and was the very first film produced in VistaVision, an early widescreen projection process.

Home for the Holidays
Holiday movies are now an understood part of most families’ Christmas traditions. No wonder films are a great way to bring the family together. Be sure to capture the memories with your DSLR camera or other means of digital filmmaking. And don’t forget – take time, to take in one of the Christmas classics above.


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posted by DMA Jordan in Digital Filmmaking,News Blog and have No Comments

Why Did Steve Jobs Wear a Black Turtleneck?

Apple’s former CEO was recognized as a technology innovator. He reinvented media distribution, and pioneered technology with products like the iPhone 4S and iPad. But what Steve Jobs was not known for was his fashion sense.

Steve Jobs in Paris in 1998, introducing the new iMac.

Unlike his hi-tech hardware, Steve Jobs stuck to routine fashion –  like a black turtleneck, Levi’s 501 jeans and New Balance sneakers. But Jobs didn’t always dress that way; in the 1980s he sported bowties and even vests.

Image Conscious
In the late 1990s, Steve Jobs started wearing black turtlenecks and sneakers. The outfit would ultimately make him the most recognizable CEO in the world. At times his plain and predictable look was parodied on Saturday Night Live and even The Simpsons, but Apple’s famous co-founder probably would have never adopted his trademark outfit if his employees hadn’t rejected the corporate uniform he wanted them to wear.

Pixar paid tribute to Steve Jobs with this image featuring Woody, Wall-E, Buzz Lightyear and other famous Pixar stars dressed in Jobs’ signature black turtleneck.

In Walter Isaacson’s new authorized biography of Steve Jobs, Jobs revealed to Issacson in an interview before his death how the late Apple CEO developed his trademark look. The new book (which releases October 24) is the culmination of forty interviews that were conducted with Jobs over a two-year period. The book is also said to include  interviews that took place just weeks before Jobs’ death on October 5.

From Issacson’s book, courtesy of Gawker:

On a trip to Japan in the early 1980s, Jobs asked Sony’s chairman Akio Morita why everyone in the company’s factories wore uniforms. He told Jobs that after the war, no one had any clothes, and companies like Sony had to give their workers something to wear each day. Over the years, the uniforms developed their own signature styles, especially at companies such as Sony, and it became a way of bonding workers to the company. “I decided that I wanted that type of bonding for Apple,” Jobs recalled.

Sony, with its appreciation for style, had gotten the famous designer Issey Miyake to create its uniform. It was a jacket made of rip-stop nylon with sleeves that could unzip to make it a vest. So Jobs called Issey Miyake and asked him to design a vest for Apple. Jobs recalled, “I came back with some samples and told everyone it would great if we would all wear these vests. Oh man, did I get booed off the stage. Everybody hated the idea.”

In the process, however, he became friends with Miyake and would visit him regularly. He also came to like the idea of having a uniform for himself, both because of its daily convenience (the rationale he claimed) and its ability to convey a signature style. “So I asked Issey to make me some of his black turtlenecks that I liked, and he made me like a hundred of them.” Jobs noticed my surprise when he told this story, so he showed them stacked up in the closet. “That’s what I wear,” he said. “I have enough to last for the rest of my life.”

Wholly Original
While Steve Jobs may have been seen as a fashion oddball, his style was called ”wholly original” by acclaimed designer Ralph Rucci. No matter if you were a fan of his style or not, he certainly was an original.

More insight into the life of Steve Jobs will be revealed with his first and only biography, which hits stores in October.


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posted by DMA Jordan in Apple,News Blog and have No Comments