It’s the first year in a long time where I’m actually excited for the holidays. Weird, right? I’m actively seeking out that holiday cheer to counteract all the B-A-D bad this year. Hand to God, I played Christmas tunes on Spotify this year, cuing those jams up of my own free will. No pressure, and no forced smiles. I even went out of my way to bake bread and cookies.
In years past, I would just look forward to a break from the hum-drum of the day-to-day. I’d lazily skip putting up the decorations in lieu of finding a quiet spot at home to curl up with a book. But we, as proud Americans, have killed the magic this year. All of it. Seized hostage by a ceaseless pandemic, we further entrenched ourselves into two main camps and lobbed barrages of polarizing soundbites and threats at one another. It was exhausting, and in the fog and desiccation of a world starved of joy, I realized how hungry I was for flights of fantasy and magic.
And I can’t count on streaming platforms to entertain me these days…. My Netflix and HBO feeds are all serious dramas all the time. Which is why I’ve put together a holiday watchlist, one that can be viewed in the span of 24 hours (with about 10-15 minutes free for bathroom breaks).
It’s a recharge, a way to imbue my spirit with creative energy needed for 2021. Before you ask, no, Die Hard is not on this list. I love Die Hard. It’s terrific, but it’s not a film I feel like watching around Christmas. These picks are… different, mostly.
I first discovered the name ‘James Horner’ in 1993. I was small and just starting to read, but his name scrolled across the screen during a viewing of The Land Before Time, a favorite film at that time. I couldn’t help but take notice, as I was receiving a film education early, from a father who loved to dissect the working pieces in order showcase and share the many components that made a movie such a mystifying, magical, and surreal art form. One of the elements he zeroed in on was the power of music. He’d blare it from the speakers when my mother went out some nights. My father would play movies in the other room when he made dinner, just so he could hear the sounds…
…because the film’s visuals were already firmly implanted in his mind, and by listening to the music, he could relive the story again.
The Land Before Time became one of the first film score obsessions I’d carry with me. I’d watch the movie constantly, sometimes putting it on in the background while I played with toys. The music hit all the right notes — adventure, terror, courage, curiosity, birth, death, and the breath of wonder of a world around us that was magical and new. In moments of doubt, when the burden of my parents’ divorce weighed heavily on my mind, The Land Before Time was a score that even promised hope, that asked me to endure and climb over the mountain to see what was on the other side. There was a whole world out there, and though the one I was familiar with was crumbling, a new landscape was on the horizon. Always.