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Christmastime video viewing with ‘nary a reindeer in sight

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. (BP)–Tired of the barrage of TV shows and “family films” with Santa as the star or featuring a mouse that saved Christmas?
Here’s a list of films that contain positive messages about family and the true meaning of the season, as well as some that entertain without crudity or profanity.
The True Meaning
JESUS OF NAZARETH — This Franco Zeffirelli epic production of the life of Christ is considered by many as the best film about Christ. Acclaimed for its thorough biblical and historical research. A very moving and spiritual experience with many memorable performances. Robert Powell heads an all-star cast.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE — George Bailey wishes he had never been born. When the angel Clarence grants him that wish, George is able to see what life would have been like for his friends and relatives had he not been around. James Stewart’s George Bailey reminds us that we touch so many lives and can have a real influence on those souls. Not rated, it does contain one suggestive remark made by onlooking men as the town’s wild girl walks by.
THE FOURTH WISEMAN — Gateway Films/Vision Video. Martin Sheen, Alan Arkin and cameos by other well known faces. Based on the Henry Van Dyke tale of a good magi seeking the birthplace of Jesus but, because of his duty to others, is delayed in the desert for 33 years, only to see (from afar) the Savior as he is being crucified. He spent his life searching for the Messiah in order to give valuable treasures, but one by one he sells his priceless gifts to help others in need. Full of illustrations of how our Lord would have us treat our fellow man.
A DREAM FOR CHRISTMAS — A Baptist minister moves his Arkansas family to Los Angeles during the Christmas season of 1950. Unfortunately, the church elders have neglected to inform him that the church he’s to pastor has been set for demolition. The family must work to save the church. Lessons: family togetherness, faith, perseverance.
THREE GODFATHERS — John Wayne, Pedro Armendariz and Harry Carey Jr. portray three outlaws who come across a dying woman and her newborn baby. The symbolism between the Christ child and this new foundling has a redemptive effect on the three bandits. Sincere performances, beautiful cinematography and the skillful direction of John Ford highlight this classic western.
COTTON PATCH GOSPEL — A musical comedy/drama placing the gospel of Matthew in modern-day Georgia. Funny, moving, inspirational. A treatment of the New Testament effective for both teens and adults. Bookstores can order it from The Bridgestone Production Group.
Got Teens?
GREAT EXPECTATIONS — Several Oscars went to this Edwardian saga about an orphan and his mysterious benefactor. John Mills heads the English cast. Far superior to the remakes.
ALAN & NAOMI — Drama. PG (contains no bad language or off-color humor). Very touching tale of a young boy helping a traumatized girl who witnessed her father’s murder by the Nazis. Good performances.
WHISTLE DOWN THE WIND — Hayley Mills, Alan Bates. Three children mistakenly think the fugitive hiding out in their barn is Jesus. A delightful comedy/drama with Hayley giving the best performance of her career. The only drawback: The misunderstanding comes from the wounded and dazed convict, uttering “Jesus Christ” when he spots the girl. She has just asked him, “Who are you?” Therefore, the film’s one profanity sets up the whole premise. A gentle allegorical film. At the end, as the convict is captured and being led off, the girl’s faith is not shaken. She informs a little friend, “You missed him, but he’ll come again.” Charming and symbolic, with lessons in faith, compassion and courage to stand for what you believe.
Got Little Ones?
LITTLE HOUSE ON THE PRAIRIE; THE LORD IS MY SHEPHERD — Troubled Laura Ingalls learns a lesson in love from a kindhearted hermit, who may be more than he seems. Lessons in faith, family love and forgiveness.
A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS — A perfect animated tale by Charles Schultz with the “Peanuts” gang searching for the true meaning of Christmas. Great dialogue, charismatic voice performances and an award-winning jazzy score by Vince Guaraldi. A rarity — cartoon heroes quoting Luke’s gospel, proclaiming the Christ child as the Messiah.
CHRISTMAS STORIES — Four delightfully told bedtime storeis from Children’s Circle Home Video. Stories include “Morris’s Disappearing Bag” — a last present under the tree contains a bag that causes you to disappear, and “The Clown of God” — a once-famous juggler, now old and penniless, gives one last performance on Christmas Eve.
MAGOO’S CHRISTMAS CAROL — The myopic curmudgeon plays Ebenezer Scrooge in this delightful animated musical version of the Dickens’ timeless classic. With the voice of Jim Backus, the superbly adapted teleplay by Barbara Chain and the music and lyrics of Jule Styne and Bob Merrill, you find true children’s programming doesn’t have to be condescending.
THE GREATEST ADVENTURE — THE NATIVITY — Three young archeologists go through a time portal and find themselves in Jerusalem during the birth of Christ.
THE LITTLE DRUMMER BOY — The seasonal song comes to animated life with the capable voices of Greer Garson, Jose Ferrer, June Foray (Rocky & Bullwinkle) and Teddy Eccles. Opens with a quote from Luke 2, then segues into story of a bitter orphan who’s kidnapped by a Fagan-like villain. The boy is full of anger until he beholds the Christ child. Lesson: hatred is wrong.
Need A Laugh Without the Ho,Ho,Ho’s?
IT’S A MAD, MAD, MAD, MAD WORLD — A non-stop laugh-a-thon as a group of motorists learn of a fortune buried 200 miles away. Rated G.
JUST HEAVEN FUN — Taped at Bel Air Presbyterian Church in Bel Air, Calif. Robert Lee is a gifted and clean comic. You’ll not only laugh your head off at his observations concerning the “paradoxes” of the Christian faith, but be inspired as well. His comedy centers on things that affect us all — families, jobs, faith, relationships. For more information call 1-800-340-5004.
Tired Of Christmas-Themed Programs?
BABETTE’S FEAST — Based on a short story by Isak Dinesen about two sisters in a small Danish town who take in a homeless woman as their servant. A beautiful story of devotion and sacrifice urging us not to hide behind our religion, but to put it into action. Viewing this 1987 Best Foreign Film winner is like enjoying a fine old painting or a sumptuous meal. Easy-to-read subtitles.
PLACES IN THE HEART — A literate script presents a determined widow (Sally Field) bent on saving her farm during the ‘30s Depression. Contains perhaps the greatest ending to a film this film buff as ever seen. A repentant adulterer is finally forgiven when his wife, moved by the pastor’s sermon, takes her husband’s hand during the service, signifying the restoring of a relationship through Christ’s love. Just as we put our hankies away after that moving moment, another symbolic healing occurs. I won’t give that one away. Trust me, it’s powerful!
SOUNDER — Paul Winfield, Cicely Tyson. Rated G. Stirring story of a black sharecropper’s family during the Depression. Nominated for Best Picture in 1972 along with the lead actors.
THE SUNDOWNERS — Robert Mitchum, Deborah Kerr, Peter Ustinov. Traveling Australian sheep-herding family is headed by freedom-minded Mitchum and loyal wife Kerr. This is superior storytelling, with great dialogue and performances by the leads. Contains gambling and Mitchum gets drunk in a scene, but the film spotlights family love and honor.
THE GREAT ESCAPE — All-star cast includes Steve McQueen, Charles Bronson, James Coburn, Richard Attenborough and James Garner. Splendid wartime drama of men set to escape a Nazi P.O.W. camp. Based on a true story. Entertaining script, cast and musical score. And no profanity!

    About the Author

  • Phil Boatwright