Instructional Media Center

Winter Feature • Happy Holidays!?

This holiday season IMC feature comes with help from guest annotator Robin Tovey '97.  In addition to classics of the Christmas variety, the Reed College library has quite the collection of odds and ends, documenting the multifaceted holiday season.  Some of these are musical selections, which are housed in the PARC (the branch library in the Performing Arts Building).  If you notice any glaring omissions from this list, please email me your suggestions.  Enjoy! 
Jim Holmes

The House of Yes - PN1997.2.H678 2012 DVD
The holiday season officially kicks off with Thanksgiving - the setting for this 1997 film, which celebrates intimate family bonds.  Roger Ebert gave the movie a mediocre review but his description sums it up nicely.  "On a stormy Thanksgiving night in 1983, in a Virginia suburb, Marty Pascal brings home his fiancee to meet his family...Few actresses can smolder from beneath lowered brows more dramatically than Parker Posey, and she receives this news with ill-concealed dismay. Her mother does little to reassure their guest: 'Jackie and Marty belong to each other. Jackie's hand was holding Marty's penis when they came out of the womb.'  Outside, the storm rages."  Probably not one you want to watch with your grandparents.

Planes, Trains, and Automobiles - PN1995.9.C6 P56 2009 DVD
Steve Martin is a businessman on a mission to get home for Thanksgiving.  John Hughes has different plans, as he directs a quandary of obstacles catalyzed by self-annointed shower ring magnate, John Candy.  Mostly wholesome hilarity ensues.  You can watch this one with your grandparents.

White Christmas - PN1995.9.C5113 W45 DVD 
Though the Irving Berlin song became popular because of "Holiday Inn" (1942), this technicolor story of song-and-dance men paired with a sister act glows brightest in many hearts.  Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye team up after the war, become successful showmen, and then do a good turn for their old general, a down-on-his-luck hotel owner. All talents converge in Vermont where "it must be beautiful this time of year"... but are the guys blinded by all that snow or the glamour of Rosemary Clooney and Vera-Ellen?

Miracle on 34th Street - PN1995.9.C5113 M57 2006 DVD
Is Edmund Gwenn really Santa or just a slightly touched geriatric? It doesn't really matter given the grandeur of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parade and the charm of a young Natalie Wood. A little Dutch girl who is happily convinced that he is "Sinterklaas" actually steals the show.

Christmas in Connecticut - PN1995.9.C5113 C47 DVD
Barbara Stanwyck is sharp and sassy as a Martha-Stewart faker who is charged with writing up an "All-American Christmas" for her magazine job. Add a wounded GI to the mix and delight in figuring out who is fooling whom.

Meet Me in St. Louis - PN1997 .M4485 2004 DVD
This poignant musical tells the tale of a turn-of-the-century family in suburban St. Louis, a city on the verge of hosting the 1904 World's Fair. The story follows the family through the course of a year, but is most famous for the holiday scene in which Judy Garland sings "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."

Holiday - PN1995.9.C55 H655 2006 DVD
"An unhappy heiress falls in love with her stodgy sister's freethinking fiance." Oh, but this sparkling romantic comedy has so much more to offer: Hepburn and Grant are in fine form and their chemistry crackles over the course of the Christmas and New Year's holidays. The "Cary Grant Tells Off Goldman Sachs" scene questions the (ever-timely) marriage of wealth and character.

Desk Set - PN1997 .D464 2004 DVD
An accomplished team of research librarians at a Manhattan television corporation (led by the super-competent and sassy Bunny Watson, played by Katharine Hepburn) have their systems thrown into disarray by the presence of an efficiency expert (played by Spencer Tracy) peddling his automated invention. Is Bunny more threatened by the “electronic brain” housed in this machine or by the skill and charm of a verbal sparring partner who is on her level? All of the romantic tension and technological intrigue bubbles over in a frenetic scene at the Christmas Eve office party. This film is a buoyant comedy about the fear of being outmoded *and* outmatched.
Trivia: "The International Business Machines Corporation (IBM) was thanked in the credits for Desk Set for their assistance on the film, though the actual EMERAC machine, as portrayed in the film, seemed more like a science fiction concept than a realistic computer, capable of feats no 21st century machine could duplicate."

It's a Wonderful Life – PN1995.9.C5113 F7365 2006 DVD
Not so wonderful if you're George Bailey, who finds himself drunk and suicidal after a financial blunder threatens to bankrupt the town of Bedford Falls.  A guardian angel sets George straight by showing him life without George.  Life without George includes a bar where the bartender says this - "Hey look, mister. We serve hard drinks in here for men who want to get drunk fast, and we don't need any characters around to give the joint atmosphere".  Additionally, it appears to have a lively nightclub scene. I can't help but think some folks might have preferred this version of the town.  This alternative life also has George's wife living out her years as a spinster librarian, continuing to perpetuate negative stereotypes about the anti-social nature of librarians.  Shame on you Frank Capra.

A Christmas Story -  PN1997 .C4451999 DVD
All Ralphie wants for Christmas is a gun. Other subplots include a fishnet-stocking-leg-lamp, the king of all swear words, a bully beat down, and a tongue-to-frozen-flagpole myth. Originally the film didn't garner much attention or critical acclaim but later gained tremendous popularity on television.

Gremlins – PN1995.9.M6 G74 2007 DVD
When a father gifts his son a mysterious "mogwai", the adorable, cuddly creature comes with a rather ominous set of handling instructions – foreshadowing the imminent series of events that threaten to wipe out an entire town on Christmas eve. Film critics have suggested the mogwai's transformation into gremlin - a thinly veiled criticism of Western perversion of Eastern culture.  But really it's about creative and violent muppet extermination

8 femmes - PQ2680.H663H852 2002 DVD
A holiday musical from La France!  While everyone is home for Christmas, the patriarch of a wealthy family is murdered.  One of the eight women in his life is guilty.  The phone line has been cut and a fierce winter storm prevents anyone from coming or going.  Nothing left to do but sing!  Starring a young, up-and-coming Ludivine Sagnier (singing the movie's most catchy tune) and the ageless, inimitable Catherine Deneuve. Incroyable!

The Nightmare Before Christmas - PN1995.9.C5113 T56 2008 DVD 
Jack Skellington "The Pumpkin King" has grown tired of the same old Halloween.  Jealous of the popularity of Christmas, Jack sets out to remake the holiday in his own likeness and in musical fashion. Tim Burton's unique animation technique set the bar for modern day stop-motion animation, sparking a renaissance in the genre.

The Preacher's Wife - PN1997 .P752 2002 DVD
Based on Robert Nathan's 1928 story The Bishop's Wife, this 1996 movie version casts pop-icon Whitney Houston as the preacher's wife with Denzel Washington playing the holy protagonist.  When an inner-city pastor turns to god to save his congregation, an angel is sent to the rescue.  Though pure in spirit, the angel can't help but turn his eye towards the preacher's attractive wife and a variety of mostly wholesome pursuits play out - the culminating jazz club scene being a vehicle for Houston's sensational singing. 

A Christmas Carol - PR4572 .C575 2007 DVD
"Darkness is cheap, and Scrooge liked it." - until he met the ghosts of Christmas. Scared the Dickens out of him!  DVDs feature a restored version of the original 1951 black and white film and a colorized version.

Christmas in Germany - GT498.49 N64 1987 video
Curious about Weihnachten in Deutschland?  One of the Christmas traditions that Germany gave us – Christmas trees! Also, in Germany, Christmas Eve is a magical night when animals can speak. Erstaunlich!

Black Mirror - White Christmas - PN1992.77 B57248 2015 DVD
England's modern day Twilight Zone tries their twisted hand at a Christmas special.  In a mysterious and remote snowy outpost, Matt and Potter share an interesting Christmas meal together, swapping creepy tales of their earlier lives in the outside world.

The Nutcracker - M1520 .N87 1990z video
Ivan Vsevolozhsky, director of the Imperial Theatre in St. Petersburg, commissioned Tchaikovsky to write the score for the ubiquitous Christmas ballet in 1892, which opened to mixed reviews. The iconic bell-like sound associated with the "Dance of the Sugarplum Fairy" came from a newly invented musical instrument - the "celesta". George Ballanchine's 1954 staging with the New York City Ballet cemented The Nutcracker into American holiday culture.  This VHS version goes back to the country of origin - filmed at the Bolshoi Theatre.

A Hanukka Celebration - M1850 .H368 2003 (PARC)
One of the problems in looking for Chanukah selections is spelling the holiday.  While the Library of Congress settled on one version (Hanukkah) catalogers prefer to use the container title, which means there are dozens of Hanukahs in the library catalog.  The Naxos compilation featured here is a combination of choral and woodwind versions of traditional songs recorded between 1992-2001.

The Hebrew Hammer - PN1995.9.H96 H42 2004 DVD
Mordechai Jefferson Carver, known around the world as the famous "Hebrew Hammer", fights to save Hannukah from the clutches of the evil son of Santa.  Adam Goldberg and Andy Dick play the former/latter in a hilarious Shaft-meets-Austin-Powers style action adventure.

South Park: The Spirit of Christmas - Youtube
The genesis of the long-running animated sit-com was this holiday short dreamed up by Trey Parker and Matt Stone in 1995.  Probably another one you don't want to watch with Grandma and Grandpa.

The Apartment - PN1995.9.C55 A67 2008 DVD
Jack Lemmon's flat serves as a corporate love nest for everyone but him, and this gets him down.  However, Shirley MacLaine is more depressed and actually tries to off herself on his watch. He is in a fine fix playing nurse, covering for his boss, and repressing his unrequited love for her, played out over Christmas and featuring a very lively holiday party.

James Brown's Funky Christmas - Alexander Street Press (streaming database)
When you're hosting that holiday party - and eggnog takes it next level - but you want your dance party to stay thematic - the Godfather of Soul will save you. 

A Charlie Brown Christmas: Vince Guaraldi Trio - Alexander Street Press (streaming database)
This quintessential Christmas soundtrack provides the perfect calming backdrop to the chaos of the holiday season. Recorded in 1965, the music is mostly instrumental jazz interpretations of Christmas classics.

It's a Bad Brains Christmas Charlie Brown - youtube
If the sappy, saccharine Charlie Brown Christmas isn't your style, try this flavor.

Music for Christmas - Christmas music from the 12th to the20th century - M1629.3.C5 M875 1993 (PARC) 
800 years of Christmas music.  Some very ominous tunes.  Sing along in English and Latin.

Songs, Drones and Refrains of Death ; A little suite for Christmas, A.D. 1979 - M3.1.C965 S664 1991 (PARC)
George Crumb really knew how to write the holiday hits.

Traditional Christmas Carols - Pete Seeger - M1629.3.C5 T733 1989 (PARC) 
Christmas tunes with banjo and harmonica accompaniment from the one and only Pete Seeger who performed at Reed on a couple of occasions.

Four Christmas carols taken from scarce reprints of early manuscripts - PN6110.C5 F7 (library stacks)
Scarce reprints of early manuscripts?  Sounds like thesis material...

Winter Concert 1994 - IMC archives
A concert of English Christmas music with the Chorus and Collegium Musicum
Listen to Reedies belt out traditional English Christmas music – back when Commons was the college's performance venue.

The New Oxford Book of Carols - M2065 .N48 1992 (PARC)
Sure, traditional Christmas caroling may have gone the way of the fruitcake but that's all the more reason for starting your own modern day gang of roving carolers.  Take it to the masses.  600+ pages of all the classics.