Monday, December 20, 2010

my suggestions for long winter nights

Next to fall, winter is my favorite season. So, it goes without saying that I love dark, wintry, snow-laden movies. You know, the kind that make you deliciously shivery and burrow down into the sofa. Here's a list of my favorite frosty films for the season of nights that are extra long and dark.  Keep in mind, woolly socks and a warm woolly throw are necessary accoutrements.

Wild and woolly wintry epics:

Doctor Zhivago, 1965
David Lean's winter wonderland makes me run for my furry Zhivago hat, gives me a longing for a sleigh of my own and to dive into those great pools of Sharif's eyes.

Hamlet, 1996
Kenneth Branagh directs and stars in this gorgeous epic.  I love to lose myself in this wintry world of Shakespeare.

Reds, 1981
Warren Beatty's epic drama about American Communist John Reed and his relationships with both the Russian Revolution and a writer named Louise Bryant, portrayed by the wonderful Diane Keaton. There's nothing like Russia for winter.

Dark, snowy films, full of the white fluffy:

Smilla's Sense of Snow, 1997
Based on the bestseller by Peter Hoeg, this is a moody mystery that becomes a somewhat overblown, schlock thriller in the second half, but Julia Ormond plus snow is a winning combo in my book.

Onegin, 2000
Martha Fiennes masterful film version of Pushkin's poem Eugene Onegin, a melancholy tale of lost love, starring Ralph Fiennes and Liv Tyler. Gorgeous film. It's one I pop in on a regular basis.

Pelle the Conqueror, 1987
A poignant Academy Award winning film about a Swedish widower and his son who emigrate to Denmark in the late 1800s to find work and a better life. Max Von Sydow is brilliant, giving the performance of a lifetime. 

The Widow of St. Pierre, 2000
Set in 1849, on the Island of Saint Pierre off the coast of Canada, this French film is a human drama of love, sin and redemption. Wonderful performances by Juliette Binoche and Daniel Auteuil. Directed by one of my favorites, Patrice Laconte.

Orlando, 1992
Tilda Swinton stars in this lush, sexy and wickedly funny film based on the gender-bending novel by Virginia Woolf. I asked Santa for this one.

Snow Falling on Cedars, 2000
Based on David Guterson's bestselling novel, set in the beautiful Pacific Northwest, it's the story of a young fisherman who was found dead in his own nets. A Japanese American war hero is accused of his murder. Director Scott Hicks paints the story like a gorgeous watercolor.

Birth, 2005
In this dark, suspenseful film, Nicole Kidman becomes convinced that a ten-year-old boy is the reincarnation of her dead husband. Delicious Hitchcockian overtones.

A few of my favorite Christmassy flicks:

The Thin Man, 1934
I adore the sparkling chemistry of William Powell and Myrna Loy in this three-martini mystery comedy, the first of a delightful series. This one's set during the holidays.

An Affair to Remember, 1957
Cary Grant, at his debonair sexiest, and Deborah Kerr meet on an ocean liner and fall in love. Though each is engaged to someone else, they agree to meet six months later at the Empire State Building, but a tragic twist of events prevents the meeting. Make sure you have a box of tissues handy.

Meet John Doe, 1941
A Frank Capra masterpiece about a journalistic publicity stunt that turns into a national movement. Barbara Stanwyck is incredible, as well as a stellar cast, including Gary Cooper and Walter Brennan.

A Christmas Carol, 1951
Alistair Sim is my all-time favorite Scrooge. Hands down. Everyone needs a generous dose of Dickens this time of year. God bless us, every one.

The Bishop's Wife, 1948
Cary Grant is the dreamiest angel ever sent down by the prayers of a new bishop David Niven, but it's Monty Woolley, in the role of the professor, who I fall in love with every year.


  1. love your suggested films -- I would add an odd one, not very christmas-y but life-affirming -- Frankie and Johnnie -- sometimes necessary at this time of year?

  2. tess what an inspiring list! snow falling on cedars would be close to number one on this list for the golden fish!!! steven

  3. this is a wonderful list...I've seen a few of these...but now will make it a point to check them all out;)

  4. Lovely list of favorites to cuddle up around and spend days and nights in good company and cheery moods.

    Stay warm and dry!
    Happy Holidays!

  5. You have put together a really interesting list of films. Many I've seen and forgotten. Smila comes to mind. My favorite of the list is Orlando.

  6. David, I haven't seen Pelle in a while and am adding it to my Netflix queue. Von Sydow is amazing in it. But when is he not?

  7. Annie, I've asked Santa for "Orlando". I've been nice more than naughty this year, so I hope I get it!

  8. i love A Bishops Wife, its so good, i love A Christmas Carol too, but ive been ruined by newer ones!! I havent seen any of the others, may have to find out about those ones!!

  9. oh yeah --- smilla's sense of snow and dr. zhivago -- two of my faves and all time greats for when you crave that mix of passion and frozen tundra!!!

  10. You have some great ones here! The Bishop's Wife is one of my all time favorites. Dudley is such a dream angel : )
    I also REALLY like Onegin. My favorite scene is the one where she is writing the letter and gets the very black ink all over her white night gown. The stark visuals of this and the rest of the movie is amazing. We need to watch this again!

  11. great list! and that is a lovely and elegant photo of you on the right of your page. happy holidays!

  12. What wonderful recommendations -- many of my own favorites and some that I'd love to see! Thank you so much --

  13. Snow everywhere Tess!! Just showed Mum your Xmas tree picture - she's depressed now. Ours looks nothing like...
    Winter movies on telly here always include Bridget Jones' Diary, Harry Potter and It's a Wonderful Life :)
    I know what to do with my long nights now... Omar Shariff and Cary Grant!!

  14. wonderful list to bring cheer to the long winter.

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  16. I am not a winter loving person, but I love your movie list!
    I just might watch the "The Thin Man" today. Asta!

  17. I like your list Tess, and there are a good many of my favourites on there as well. But do you not have a tradition in the States - like we have over here - of always showing Casablanca at Christmas?

  18. Alan, for some reason, we, here at the manor, like to watch Casablanca on New Year's Eve.

  19. Willow,
    Zhivago is always at the top of my list as well as Alistair Sim's Scrooge.
    Currently, at this very moment, I'm reading Dicken's Christmas Carole.
    Hamlet is a fovorite, and more recently Snow falling on Cedars.
    Must seek out this Onegin now just to see.....

  20. Meet john Doe....just watched it
    wonderful old fashioned movie

    Snow falling on Cedars..I read the to see the did I miss it?

  21. Thank you for the list - a gift. Merry, merry to you dear Willow.

  22. Hamlet. Best ever. Ever, ever, ever. Shakespeare was a glittering genius and a god, as is Kenneth Branagh.

    I have just made an appointment to get a memorial tattoo on the anniversary of my father's death. At the center of the tattoo is a quote from Hamlet:

    "I have that within which passeth show: these but the trappings and the suits of woe"

  23. Great fun, thanks Willow.

    I'll add "The Man Who Came To Dinner" to your wintry epic list. Just because.

  24. Bless you for this list. I've asked Santa for The Thin Man boxed set because you reminded me how much I love those shows. Merry Christmas to you.
    ps - i feel the same way about the seasons. fall is the favorite, followed by winter. love it.

  25. my suggestion for a long winter night is having Omar Shariff knock at my door, and come inside.

  26. “The church is near but the road is icy, the bar is far away but I will walk carefully” Russian Proverb

    Love Zhivago! Not to insult a Christmas classic, but Capra's career was about so much more than just It's a Wonderful Life, so thank you for including Meet John Doe. And Alistair Sims is and will always be Scrooge to me! Might have to watch that one tonight, as it's been awhile.

  27. Great list...thank you. I've gotten some new titles to add to my Netflix list. As far as holiday flicks, I am in a bit of a rut; I know it's corny, but I always watch "White Christmas"...I never tire of it.

  28. Sterling and bullet proof list
    from our Mistress in white,
    there on the icy plains of
    Dublin. But I would like to
    suggest a few more to
    this golden queue"


    THE DUELLISTS (1977)
    WATERLOO (1970)


    THE WHITE DAWN (1974)
    THE SNOW WALKER (2003)
    RUNAWAY TRAIN (1985)
    TRACK OF THE CAT (1954)
    UN COEUR EN HIVER (1992)


    JOYEUX NOEL (2005)

    Some of these cinematic gems
    might compliment your thoughtful
    list. Merry Christmas to all.

  29. Look forward to seeing some of these during Christmas. I love Dr Zhivago!

  30. Super-duper additions, Glenn. My fave from your list is "The Duelists". I don't really consider it a winter film, but now that I think of it, there is that frozen Russian scene. I'm getting the shivers just thinking about it.

  31. Great film suggestions. I have my wool afghan at the ready for wintry movie nights. I never tire of Reds or Dr. Zhivago. Thanks for the reviews -- barbara

  32. I think I've seen just about all of those--they do all sound good for hunkering down in cold weather. Enjoy!

  33. Tess, I've had to crank up the heat in the house just now, after your post! Think I'll copy and paste this post and watch a few of those I've never seen, and watch a couple more again that I have seen!


  34. willow,
    i am seriously going to watch these on my days off.

    xxx merry christmas to you and your family

  35. For Snowy, How about McCabe and Mrs. Miller? Leonard Cohen's music is a perfect fit with this wintry tale.

  36. Willow,
    Your list is great.. many "must sees".... and that Dec 17th picture of you is fantastic!! wow
    wooley socks to you, girl!! :)
    :) The Bach
    Lord Thomas of Wellington

  37. Orlando! I haven't read or watched it yet, but it's near the top of my list. Snow Falling on Cedars, love that one, too. Never heard of Birth with Kidman in it...adding it to my list now.

  38. Tess,

    Your good taste merely multiplies itself in my eyes the more I tap into your blog.

    I can talk movies, but won't. No two people ever have the same lists, but yours shows harmony with major choices of mine.

    Lean's Zhivago. Beatty's Reds. Talk about snowscapes!

    Birth hit me right in the forehead. Gorgeously filmed in 'drablit' winter scenes to fit the grief-encumbered 'supernaturalism' of the events. Wow. For everyone's excellence in it, Danny Huston. Danny Huston. Danny Huston.



  39. Truly, yes! Danny Huston!! Fabulous in "Birth". I also love the close-up shots of Kidman's face at the symphony, with just the music. SO Hitchcock.

  40. Such a wonderful list! Have not yet seen the film version of Orlando...hmmm...Dr. Zhivago is an all-time fave. And Alistair Sim is the only Scrooge. End of discussion ;)

    Now to find the woollies (not Monty)...

  41. Yes...all woollies...including dear Monty!!

  42. I truly can't wait until I can find the time to cozy down and watch a movie or two ... I have added many of these to my list. Thank you!

  43. Come off it Willow. No list would be complete without 'It's a Wonderful Life'.

  44. .... and of course, as you rightly add, 'The Dualists', simply because I was in it!

  45. Your blog is so sensual, so beautiful and so wonderfully poetic. I love to visit you, but I usually forget to leave footsteps behind me.

    By the way, I hope it's okay to add you on my 'love love love' list! Yes Yes Yes I just love your blog! Thanx for your nice nice nice comment at my Wabi & Sabi place!

    P & L
    Agneta, the swedish one ;)

    Ps. "Let me see if I’ve got this Santa business straight. You say he wears a beard, has no discernible source of income and flies to cities all over the world under cover of darkness? You sure this guy isn’t laundering illegal drug money?” ~Tom Armstrong Ds.

  46. Agneta, it would be a great honor to be on your love love love list! Yep, you got the Santa thing right...hahah!

  47. Great list! Some I have NOT seen...will write down a couple for my enjoyment over Christmas vacation!

  48. Excellent movie ideas! Oh yeah. Hey maybe you're going to open a small cinema in downtown Willow in 2011. Maybe that's what I "saw" in my vision.

    Hey Willow, happy solstice. May the light return. Shalom!

  49. Excellent suggestions! As I look out my window, I think I'll re-watch Doctor Zhivago.

  50. Tess, what a wonderful list! I will try my best to find these wonderful works and enjoy them all, again. BTW, love your Dec. 17th photo. How beautiful you are!! Happiest of Holiday Seasons with your loved ones.

  51. Great list of films. Any film with Cary Grant is perfect, but The Bishop's Wife is one of my favorites! Loretta Young is lovely in it. Enjoy your snow!

  52. Wonderful list, Tess! They should show some of these in the TV Christmas schedules instead of a lot of ******! I would have to add Hepburn and O'Toole's 'The Lion in Winter' though!

  53. Yes yes. When the Thames freezes over in Orlando. A good pick.

    I thought that was WT under the blanket in your snowy picture.

  54. Pup, he does look strikingly like my WT! That's why I chose it! :)

  55. Derrick, yes, "Lion in Winter" slipped by mind. It's is a MUST!!

  56. nothing like a list of movies to use as a great time-sucker over on Netflix...quite a few of your choices have leaped to the top and Smila is streaming!
    YAHOO et merci

  57. We are getting so little snow here in RI that I fear that watching these movies will be my only source of this pleasure...

    The movies that I have seen on your list are among my favorites too...which leads me to be quite sure that I will love those that I haven't yet to Netflix...

  58. What a wonderful list!! Some of my absolute favorite films were mentioned like Doctor Zhivago and Orlando!

    Have a wonderful pre-Christmas time!

  59. I am right on the same page with you on the love of have a wonderful winter suggestion list....Hope you and your family have a lovely Christmas! :-)

  60. I have never seen "Reds". No idea why I've missed it all these years when Diane Keaton is the actress I'd want to be if I could choose...

    I love the classics. You have some good choices; I'm inspired to think of my own now.

  61. Merry Christmas, it's gonna be a cold one for sure. All these movies,
    The bishops wife (Loretta Young)
    My mother and I saw all her movies and Fallin snow on Cedars was great. I have to look into the windows of St. Pierre sounds interesting, Love suspense.

  62. Hi! Willow...
    Great list Of Christmas films...Speaking of, Christmas...Let me say...Happy Holiday Season!
    to you, your family and readers too!
    DeeDee ;-D

  63. tweeted and shared.

    many of these, I don't know. perhaps one day - i will again slow my life's pace enough to savor such treats...

  64. Tahnk you for THE W List! I would love to just take a whole week planned around celebrating these of these days....I WILL! THE LION IN WINTER has always been #1 with the Colonel and me. We adore the soundtrack which features "The Christmas Wine."
    I know I have suggested this film before, but you really must find it: FIRELIGHT. Before I ever saw this film, I had always dreamed of a bedroom with a fireplace. Now, it is a must. I will give no more details here (blush). Just see the movie. A winter story...but not a Christmas story. I know that Netflix has it.
    For the Christmas holidays, I really love revisiting a little one hour piece produced by the children's WONDERWORKS series entitled MIRACLE at MOREAUX. It stars Loretta Swit as a French nun who is a teacher caring for school children sent to the country for their safety during the winter of December 1943. Very dramatic and one of the many thousand of other stories which parallels that of Anne Frank: children struggling against the darkness of war.

  65. FireLight, thanks so much for your suggestions! I'm off to add them to my ever growing queue... :)

  66. Great list Willow, some there I must watch again, or for a first time! We just watched the French movie Merry Christmas (Joyeux Noel) with beautiful Diane Kruger - very good but makes one recognize the foolishness of war.


Inject a few raisins of conversation into the tasteless dough of existence.
― O. Henry (and me)