It is that time fo year where Rankin/Bass's wonderful classic fill your screen, when you still laugh at every blunder by Clark Griswald, when you watch countless versions of A Christmas Carol, and root for a boy to be gifted a BB gun. Ah yes, Christmas time brings many memories through film and we all have our favorites, our "must watch" list. However, do you ever mention a movie to find yourself confronted with - "BUT That's not a Christmas movie?" ME TOO! That's why for this holiday season, I present you with my December film series: Yes, it is a Christmas Movie. For this series I will list four movies I always watch at Christmas and list reasons they are a holiday movie and should be added to you annual movie rotation.
First Up: L.A. Confidential (1997)
The 1997 film adaptation of James Ellroy's neo-noir novel L.A. Confidential (published in 1990, the third novel in his L.A. Quartet series).
Set in the early 1950s Los Angeles, L.A. Confidential has everything: the "good" cop with a jawline that won't quit (Sergeant Edmund "Ed" Exley, played by Guy Pearce), the "mindless thug" cop who avenges battered women (Wendell "Bud" White, played by Russell Crowe), cops obsessed with the limelight and happy to earn cash on the side (Sergeant Jack Vincennes, played by Kevin Spacey), a classic American-Irish police captain (Captain Dudley Smith, played by James Cromwell), shady newspaper reporters, "Off the record, on the QT, and very hush-hush." (Sid Hudgens by Danny DeVito), ladies of the night with hearts of gold (Lynn Bracken by Kim Basinger), upscale pimps and entrepenuers (Pierce Patchett, played by David Straithern), plus mob throwdowns, narcotics, sercret code words( "Fleur-de-Lis" , "Rolo Tomassi"), diner massacres, set-ups, shakedowns, celebrities, inserted real locations / people/ and events, my favorite insult ever "Righteous Trash."..... oh and did I mention CHRISTMAS. Here are five elements in L.A. Confidential that let you know this is definitely a Christmas movie.
1. The film starts out on Bloody Christmas
Bloody Christmas was an actual event that happened on December 25, 1951. Los Angeles Police Department officers actually did beat up seven men (five Hispanics and two young white men) and left them with broken bones and ruptured organs. After an investigation, eight police officers were indicted for assult, 54 were transferred, and 39 suspended. Just let those numbers sink in.
Here is how the event was represented in the film (spoilers for those who have not seen the film)
2. Christmas Lights Make the Perfect Backdrop for Justice, aka "The ghost of Christmas past. Why don't you dance with a man for a change?"
Not a major spoiler, but the film sets up the character of one Wendell "Bud" White. He does not like seeing women get pushed around by men. How does he spend part of his Christmas Eve? Putting away a man who just got a little rough with his wife. In the background there are houses decorated with lights and wreaths - aka the perfect backdrop for justice.
3. Bing Crosby and the Andrew Sisters are a Soundtrack to Christmas
You cannot make it through the holiday season without hearing the bass-baritone voice of Bing Crosby or the harmonies of the Andrew Sisters. That is a simple fact. Though not a Christmas Song, Ac-Cent-Tchu-Ate The Positive, the first song you hear in L.A. Confidential - it will have you thinking of other Crosby / Andrew Sister collaborations and most likely humming their Christmas song: Mele Kalikimaka, Happy Holiday, Christmas Island, Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, to name a few.
4. Holiday Parties and one Christmas Tree / "Movie Premiere Pot Bust"
Sadly, I could not find the clip online, but hopefully you will get the drift. Kevin Spacey's character Sergeant Jack Vincennes goes from hob-knobbing at a Badge of Honor (a popular TV police drama series Jack consuls on) to busting two kids smoking pot next to a Christmas Tree - thanks to a tip off / setup by by Danny Devito's Sid Hudgens. Oh and the guy covering his face in the bottom photo (note the Christmas Wreath behind him) - that is Simon Baker before he was a Mentalist.
Sid says it best: "'It's Christmas Eve in the City of Angels and while decent citizens sleep the sleep of the righteous, hopheads prowl for marijuana, not knowing that a man is coming to stop them! Celebrity crimestopper Jack Vincennes, scourge of grasshoppers and dope fiends everywhere!' Ya like it, Jackie boy?"
5. Merry Christmas: Old Hollywood Christmas Fashion
No offense, but when else can you pull off this look in L.A. besides Christmas (it is just to warm otherwise)? However, now that I live in Wisconsin, I need to find a cloak like this for Christmas.
There is plenty of time to rent L.A. Confidential for free from your local library, but you can also rent it on Amazon, request the disc from Netflix (sadly not available for streaming), or check out a local independent video store (yes - they still exist).
I hope soon this Christmas favorite of mine will soon be a favorite of yours.