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Jake Perlin, Associate Film Curator, Brooklyn Academy of Music and founder of The Film Desk
"I fucking love Christmas," Jake said, and then sent us this still:
Not only a favorite Yuletide film (which would also include Gremlins, Kren's 9/64 O Tannenbaum or George Kuchar's Christmas videos), but one of my favorite films period is Jerome Hill's Merry Christmas (1969). For three perfect minutes, a hand-painted Joseph and donkey mingle amongst live-action scenes of New Yorkers rushing about, shopping, darting in and out of the Algonquin, taking no notice of the lost, holy visitors. The final tilt skyward as animated snow begins to fall feels wonderful and wistful, always interchangeable emotions when observing the city this time of year.
Richard Brody, Film Editor, the New Yorker and author of Everything is Cinema: The Working Life of Jean-Luc Godard
I'm thinking of a film that's not underrated at all (any more) but which turns on a Christmas tree and a misjudged Christmas present: All that Heaven Allows; and one which was never underrated at all but in which everyone goes up and sees each other between the holidays, The Apartment (how much again depends on the wrong present).
David Schwartz, Chief Curator, The Museum of the Moving Image
I can't resist going with that champion of underrated films, Eyes Wide Shut, with its perverse and pervasive Christmas theme, which functions as critique of capitalism, playful twist on the Schnitzler novel's Jewish subtext, constant source of atmospheric lighting from within the sets... all while engaging with the holiday's themes of childhood and rebirth. Of course, Kubrick's earlier holiday gift was Paths of Glory, which was released on December 25, 1957, causing Bosley Crowther to exclaim "What a movie to open on Christmas."
Dave Kehr, film critic for the New York Times
I'd cast a vote for The Cheaters, a 1945 Republic production directed by one of that studio's B western stalwarts, Joseph Kane, this time working with a cast of major studio supporting players (Billie Burke, Eugene Pallette, Raymond Walburn) and a budget big enough to permit the construction of two elaborate interior sets, which Kane explores with his usual taste for spatial complexity.
The film is a vehicle for Republic's reigning "real actor," Joseph Schildkraut, a Max Reinhardt veteran who played Judas in DeMille's King of Kings and the philandering clerk in The Shop around the Corner (a far greater holiday movie than this, but one I suspect you are already familiar with) He's a broken-down Broadway actor who is adopted as a Christmas "charity case" by a wealthy Fifth Avenue family (straight out of 30s screwball), but after a couple of reels of comedy the picture turns fairly dark when Schildkraut discovers that the family's wealth is based on having cheated a forgotten Broadway actress (Ona Munson) out of a $5 million inheritance. The family tries to make things up by inviting the actress to join the holiday celebration at their country estate, but Schildkraut shames them into coming clean by delivering a brilliant, boozy rendition of "A Christmas Carol." To Kane's credit, the film is never the cozy heart-warmer the front office clearly intended it to be, but something far more discomfiting and original.