This Week's Pics: Miracle, Wonderful Life, Sunset Boulevard

Happy first of December and welcome to what should be the beginning of the Christmas season! I say "should" because we all know that Jolly Old St. Nick starts making appearances as early as October. Personally, I think he should be outlawed from showing his face until at least after Thanksgiving. Give the poor old Turkey his time to shine; the poor holiday barely has a chance to make itself known, squeezed in between Halloween and Christmas. Why aggravate the problem by starting the yuletide season early?

Anyway, with Christmas fast approaching, you can bet that the local theatres will be screening season films, many of them fantasy-oriented. This week offers two familiar titles:

  1. IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE on Monday and Wednesday at the Bay Theatre in Seal Beach. 8pm both nights.
  2. MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET at the Old Town Music Hall on Friday (8:15pm), Saturday (2:30pm and 8:15pm) and Sunday (2:30pm).

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE is commonly considered a holiday classic. Although modern audiences might question the storyline (in which the lead character played by James Stewart gives up his own hopes and dreams), it is worth seeing. Eventually, he becomes so despondent that he wishes he had never been born, and an angel shows him how much worse life in his small town would have been without him.

34TH STREET is a bit more questionable for inclusion here. Technically, the story is about a crazy old coot who plays a department store Santa Claus - and thinks he really is Santa Claus. However, the film's final punchline leaves open the possibility that he truly is the imaginary character

In case that is too much Christmas cheer for you, my real Pick of the Week is SUNSET BOULEVARD, which plays at 8pm on Thursday as part of the American Cinematheque's 10th anniversary celebration of reopening the Egyptian Theatre. No one but me seems to realize that this is indeed a horror film. Literally, the story is about a down-on-his-luck screenwriter who becomes the boy-toy of a former silent movie star, but metaphorically, all of the horror elements are there: the young man who pulls into a  secluded mansion; the sinister manservant; the funereal atmosphere; and most of all the aging woman who sucks the vitality out of him like a vampire. Read an in-depth review of the film here.