Some of My Favourite Christmas Films

At this time of year newspapers, magazines and websites routinely feature lists of the best Christmas movies. I am always surprised by some of the inclusions, invariably disappointed by the omissions, and frequently mystified by the choice of certain interpretations of a Dickens classic over the others available. That said, picking one’s favourites is an inherently subjective exercise – bounded by age and the arc of childhood memory as much as anything – so I thought I would assemble my own list of 10. Well 11 actually, but I’ll get to that.

What follows is what I would hope my nephew and nieces have already seen, or might be persuaded to watch as they grow older. Some have long since entered the classical canon; the others will, I think, stand the test of time. Most have obvious Christmas themes; the others are closely associated with Christmas by virtue of their setting.

1. The Shop Around the Corner

The Shop Around the Corner
Released: 1940
Run time: 99 mins
Director: Ernst Lubitsch
Starring: Margaret Sullavan, James Stewart, Frank Morgan, Joseph Schildkraut, Felix Bressart, William Tracy

One of the best films of all time and Lubitsch’s personal favourite. Spawned passable remakes (the Garland musical In The Good Old Summertime in 1949 and Ephron’s You’ve Got Mail in 1998) but nothing approaching the original. The romance between Stewart (Kralik) and Sullavan (Novak) is superbly played by both, but it is the rest of the cast – Morgan (the owner of Budapest’s Matuschek and Company where everyone works), Schildkraut (as the two-faced Vadas), Bressart (as Kralik’s kindly, if perpetually nervous, friend Pirovitch) and Tracy (who rises from errand boy to clerk) – that elevates this film from great to sublime. A lonely Matuschek describing a proposed Christmas Eve dinner to new delivery boy Rudy near the film’s end is magical.

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Why

I saw Samuel Beckett on the 205 this morning. Ok, not Samuel. He died in Paris in 1989 when I was 22. But his doppelganger. Dark clothes. Amused eyes. That lined face. Matching most every later photograph of the man. With the possible exception of

Ever tried. Ever failed. No matter. Try again. Fail again. Fail better.

I find Beckett largely impenetrable. Anyway he alighted at Patrick Street.

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A Real Corker at Nash 19

Nash 19 - Breakfast

Nash 19 – Breakfast

I like a nice breakfast; I just rarely have one. If I manage to down a decent coffee or two before noon I consider my morning to have been moderately less than miserable. When I’m back in my other home – just outside of Atlanta, Georgia – we will, on the odd weekend morning, stop at our local cheap and cheerful Waffle House, a southern U.S. institution. In the unlikely event you find yourself at one of their grills, add a double order of hash browns to whatever you’re having and ask for them scattered, smothered and covered. Unlike my American wife, whose taste runs to pecan waffles drowning in syrup and butter, I would forever forego anything Waffle House has to offer for a genuine Irish breakfast. And the “Real Corker” (their words) at Nash 19 on Princes Street is as good as it gets.

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Forde’s on the River

Forde’s – Fireplace

Forde’s – Fireplace

Technically the address for Forde’s may be Barrack Street – and it does indeed have a door that opens onto the bottom of that street, below the Flying Enterprise – but in truth the pub’s long facade sits squarely on Sullivan’s Quay, looking out onto the Lee with the South Gate bridge just to the left. If you asked me to choose between my usual stops – Forde’s and An Spailpín – I couldn’t. And wouldn’t. I’m fond of both but frequent them for very different reasons.

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Tuesdays with White Horses

An Spailpín Fánach

An Spailpín Fánach

I wandered in to An Spailpín on my way home late one Tuesday just before Easter for a quiet pint of Murphy’s, and, truth be told, for the comfort of the fireplace in the snug beside the bar after what could most economically be described as a bad day. I was immediately wrapped in the tender embrace of multiple guitars playing Neil Young’s heavenly Unknown Legend (from Harvest Moon), with a majestic male chorus carrying the ethereal beauty of Neil’s lyrics with ease:

She used to work in a diner
Never saw a woman look finer
I used to order just to watch
her float across the floor

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