Annabelle’s Wish (1997) Another from that questionable zone between TV special and feature movie. This is, by all accounts, a mediocre work, filled with corny writing, cornier music, decent-at-best animation, and a plot that’s padded in some odd places in order to stretch a thirty minute story to the hour mark. And yet I adore Annabelle’s Wish and gladly revisit it every few years, because there’s a great big heart at the center that’s so strong and lovable, all flaws become moot. Toss aside everything else, and we get a touching story of a boy and his cow, a friendship where sacrifice comes without a doubt. There’s a tenderness at play here, an uncynical, unironic kindness that carries the film when its lesser elements cannot.
You Only Live Twice (1967) Earlier this week, I posted on Twitter something about how You Only Live Twice wasn’t the best Connery Bond film, but it’s certainly my favorite. That’s an unintended backhanded compliment, though, unfair to a fantastic movie that’s on my short list of best (not just favorite) Bonds. (My original wording was, I suppose, a way of saying From Russia with Love is slightly better, but Twice is also excellent, and given the choice, I almost always pick the latter – but that train of thought doesn’t fit as well in 140 characters.) Twice has everything I want in a 007 picture and nothing I don’t: it’s an oversized globetrotting adventure with slick pacing that keeps the plot from buckling under its own weight, packed with tremendously exciting action sequences, sly performances, a snappy screenplay (it’s a shame Roald Dahl never bothered to pen more Bond movies…), and some of the franchise’s best music. My daughter thrilled to the ninjas and to Blofeld’s reveal (she’s a Dr. Evil fan), while I keep thinking back on that epic helicopter shot of Bond making his rooftop escape, chased by dozens of thugs. Filmmaking bravado, perfect for 007.
Die Hard (1988) Some people who insist no movie, no matter how great, is perfect. Those people have obviously never seen Die Hard.
It Happened on Fifth Avenue (1947) When I first reviewed this one a few years back, I was taken in by its charms but not entirely overwhelmed, finding the story too busy and unnecessarily long. But it never left my mind, so I revisited it the following December… and the one after that, and the one after that, and the one after that. This is one from my “originally underestimated, now fully loved” file, an endearing comedy whose crowded plotting has grown on me, and how. I’m not even sure what I was thinking when I complained about some of the performances; there’s not a dud in the bunch, and the cast is perhaps the film’s best asset in crafting a mountain of friendliness and warmth. This is now one of my favorite holiday movies, one I anticipate every year. And that wobbly table scene is still wonderful.