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You know Frank—he's been writing about menswear, sales, television, new shops, the recession, Lisa Loeb, the Golden Girls and getting blasted for Racked for over two years. Well, we think it's time you got to know him and his quirky-irreverent views on life and fashion even better with his column: Love, Frank. Taking the form of an open letter and always signed with love, Frank will rant about whatever style-related conundrum he encounters in a given week. So buckle your two-toned leather Moschino belts, folks, it's going to be ? Something.
Christmas Vacation via the FW
Dear Seekers of Stylish Holiday Films,
Whether you're riddled with Holiday spirit or just want to go to bed, you'd probably agree with the following: Christmas movies are generally kind of awful. Either they prominently feature Tim Allen; or they were filmed in Vancouver for the Hallmark Channel starring someone who once had a career for a budget not much more than what was set aside for your office holiday party; or they're just wincingly saccharine and utterly cheeseball and, thus, totally unwatchable.
There are some exceptions, though—some extremely entertaining and even inspiringly stylish feature films (I'm not touching anything that was made for TV) that might get you through the cable wasteland that is Christmas week. And I'm not even talking about White Christmas, It's a Wonderful Life, or Miracle on 34th Street—those are all golden age classics that are worth a watch and stylish by default. Everything looked great back then.
My personal favorite is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989). First of all: It's hilarious, eternally watchable, and—now—prominently featured in holiday Old Navy commercials. Second of all: That perfect house—one of those flawless, gracious center-hall colonials tastefully furnished and bedecked in toile and porcelain and pre-flash holiday decorations (barring, of course, the exterior light display and the massive Christmas tree) including that lovely wooden advent calendar and all the holiday crystal. Third: Wife and mom Beverly D'Angelo did the whole MILF thing tastefully—that white blouse! Fourth: Juliette Lewis. Finally, and possibly most important: The yuppie neighbors and their Sharper Image gadgets and Italian workwear and their slightly overwrought (but amazing) sunglasses and their chic alcoholism. I love them.
Home Alone (1990): Speaking of enviable center-hall colonials—is there a more perfect house than the setting of Home Alone (there is, it's the house in Father of the Bride—but we can save that for Weddings Week)? Yes, Home Alone is laugh-out-loud funny and super clever and we have all probably watched it each and every holiday season since it came out. But that house! Flocked damask wallpaper and tartan upholstery and Queen Anne-style furniture; the woodwork, the stairwell, the kitchen. It's opulent and visual—a feast. The Mouse Trap-style boobies little Kevin McAllister cooks up to foil those thieves are icing. There are is so much to see in this movie you really just need to watch it every year. The end.
Scrooged (1988): One of many, many takes on Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol, Scrooged features Bill Murray as a cynical television executive with no Christmas spirit. Whatever, right? Wrong—it's from 1988. So it's a feast of high-'80s big money flash meets rough-and-tumble quirk. Murray's suits scream power; the sets are cartoonish and stylish enough to look digitally rendered; and there are so many fantastic pairs of eyeglasses. Plus, you can't go wrong with one of those classic checker cabs.
Metropolitan (1990): Metropolitan is a Whit Stillman film—his first—so you know no visual aspect of this movie is unintentional. The premise: A group of wealthy, young collegiates go from party to party in '80s New York during the high social season over winter break—a world they grew up within and all know is becoming more and more irrelevant. Beautiful dresses, fantastic eyewear, tuxedos, more than one top hat, quietly opulent apartments, and tasteful WASP-approved holiday decor ensues.
Love Actually (2003) and The Family Stone (2005): I don't believe I've ever actually seen either of these movies all the way through. But they certainly have their moments (even if The Family Stone can be a bit of a downer). But, think about it: Love Actually is Christmas in London; bonus points for all the Savile Row tailoring. And The Family Stone is just beautifully lit. Everything is sort of warm and umber-ish, down to Sarah Jessica Parker's crisp olive and taupe suiting (in chic contrast to her character's haute fashion victim aesthetic in Sex and the City).
Elf (2003): Elf is just a really cute movie. Will Ferrell as a giant elf lost in New York couldn't be sweeter. Until you add sweeter-than-sweet Zooey Deschanel as his department store elf love interest. It's all just cute. But look closer: The film clearly references golden age classics with stylized sets and beautiful shots and New York at its Christmas-glamor height. And, while Deschanel is, well, an elf—she always looks unintentionally stunning. Also, there's that hilarious narwhal!
A Christmas Story (1983): A Christmas Story is pure camp—a thirty-year-old movie about thirty years before that. It's the tale of one sort-of awkward little boy and his dream Chritmas gift—an air rifle. Beyond the charming story and all the undeniably funny moments, the kitsch appeal should not be ignored. Pre-hipster holiday sweaters, skeezy novelty lamps, over-the-top department store Christmas displays, hilarious pajamas, all shot and seen through a rose-tinted nostalgia lens—you'd almost think a team of Williamsburg-dwelling ad execs dreamed up the whole thing six months ago to sell really cheap beer.
So, my two cents. Love them? Hate them? Did I miss any classics? Let me know in the comments—I'm always down for holiday cheer.
· Love, Frank [Racked]