Jack Garner: Dryden's holiday film full of favorites

07:46 AM, Dec 01, 2013

Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) is not so sure he is getting through to Santa in this classic scene from A Christmas Story, showing at the Dryden Dec. 13 and 15. (Gannett)/


Written By Jack Garner At the Movies — AND MORE

The George Eastman House extends holiday wishes to the community every year with a bevy of first-rate Christmas films — and this December is no exception.

From the cynical satire of Bad Santa to the memorable joy of A Christmas Story, from the holiday comedy crime caper of Larceny Inc. to the beloved redemption of It’s a Wonderful Life, the Dryden Theatre is offering something for every holiday mood. And then they’re jumping right into New Year with gremlins and a charming French girl.

Here’s the schedule:

Bad Santa, 8 p.m. Dec. 6 and 2 p.m. Dec. 8. Billy Bob Thornton stars as an alcoholic and womanizing department store Santa for whom the merry-making is a cover for plans to rob a shopping mall. This is a crass farce with just enough heart to earn its holiday screening — but with more than enough shameless cynicism to make this the ultimate adults-only Christmas film.

A Christmas Story,8 p.m. Dec. 13 and 2 p.m. Dec. 15. Celebrate the 30th anniversary of the film that has become, I suspect, the all-time favorite for viewers who grew up in the ’50s and beyond. Based on the childhood memories of the late Jan Shepard, the film offers equal amounts of heart and hilarity.

It’s a Wonderful Life, 8 p.m. Dec. 21 and 2 p.m. Dec. 22. Yes, this is the much-beloved Jimmy Stewart classic about a small-town guy who discovers at Christmas that the life he considers wasted and useless is, indeed, a wonderful life, after all. Though not a hit upon its 1947 release, a long run on television in the ’60s and ’70s brought a revival, and it’s now a holiday staple.

Larceny, Inc., 8 p.m. Dec. 24. Though that title and its star, Edward G. Robinson, might make you suspicious of any holiday connection, this 1942 film is all about the wonders of Christmas, viewed through a crime-caper prism. Based on an S.J. Perelman play, the superb cast also includes Jane Wyman, Broderick Crawford, Anthony Quinn, and a very young Jackie Gleason.

Lethal Weapon, 8 p.m. Dec. 27 and 2 p.m. Dec. 29. Here’s another crime caper film with a peripheral Christmas connection. Mel Gibson and Danny Glover star in the first of a hit buddy-cop franchise. Look for the great Darlene Love as Glover’s wife.

Gremlins and Gremlin 2, a Christmastime little monster double feature for New Year’s Eve, starting at 7 p.m., from director Joe Dante.

Amelie, 2 p.m. Jan. 1. What better way to welcome a new year than with the romantic adventures of the charming young French girl who discovers she has a limitless capacity to bring joy to others? Actress Audrey Tautou and director Jean-Pierre Jeunet both became sensations through this film.

GINSBERG HOWLS. Highly regarded beat poet Allen Ginsberg will be the topic, both on film and in conversation, Tuesday at the Little Theatre, with the 6:50 p.m. screening of Kill Your Darlings.

Daniel Radcliffe, who made his name as Harry Potter, plays young Ginsberg at Columbia University, where he befriends other future luminaries of the Beat Generation, including William S. Burroughs and Jack Kerouac, but also becomes entangled in the murder of a professor. The discussion following the film will be led by Joe Flaherty, founder and director of Writers & Books, and John Roche, English professor at Rochester Institute of Technology and a poet.

A NEW FILM VENUE. Abilene, the bar at 153 Liberty Pole Way in downtown Rochester, is best known for rockabilly and blues, but owner Danny Deutsch is trying something new with the club’s intimate second-floor lounge. He’s converting it to occasional use as a screening room, starting with films every Thursday in December.

The lounge will host a screening of a notorious X-rated film, Anna Obsessed, at 8 p.m. Dec. 5, followed by a Q&A with the film’s producer and writer, Piastro Cruiso. There’s a $5 cover charge. The other films in the series are free, and include Martin Scorsese’s important early works, Italian American and Who’s That Knocking at My Door at 6:30 p.m. on Dec. 12; Eagle Pennell’s Last Night at the Alamo, a highly regarded independent film about the efforts of customers to keep a saloon in business, at 6:30 p.m. Dec. 19; and Sam Peckinpah’s last film, Pat Garrett & Billy the Kid, featuring Bob Dylan, at 8 p.m. Dec. 26.