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I don’t know about you, but there’s a set of movies I like to watch at time this year to help me get in the “holiday mood.”  Today I thought I’d share some of my not-so-typical holiday favorites, in case you’re looking for new sparkle to make the season bright.

1. “Last Holiday” with Queen Latifah

XMAS_LastHoliday_Right before Christmas, shy New Orleans cookware sales clerk Georgia Byrd (Oscar® nominee* Queen Latifah) receives the news from her doctor that she has less than a month to live. The reality forces Georgia to rebel against the timid life she’s lived, and jetting off on a dream vacation, living like there’s no tomorrow (because for her there isn’t). Georgia succeeds in shaking up a glamorous European resort spa with her new let-loose attitude, embracing a new look … new moves … and commanding the attention of senators and hotel staff alike! LL Cool J, Georgia’s handsome suitor in New Orleans, isn’t about to let Georgia slip away, and chases after to a surprise happy ending. Timothy Hutton, Gerard Depardieu, Alicia Witt and Giancarlo Esposito have rollicking roles in this comedy that’s deep with meaning and big with heart.

This movie delivers on the laughs, but it’s the lessons that keep me watching it again every year. It’s a great reminder about what’s important in life … especially how to live it well.

[This movie is available on Netflix, as well as on Amazon for a very reasonable price (under $10.00).]

2. “The Family Man” with Nicholas Cage

XMAS_TheFamilyMan_Jack Campbell (Nicolas Cage) is king of the Wall Street sharks, scoring killer deals by day and cavorting with escorts by night. He “thinks” he’s happy, but his life of empty luxuries is turned inside out on a lonely Christmas Eve when a gun-packing punk (Don Cheadle)–an angel in disguise–responds to Jack’s altruistic gesture by giving him “a real-life glimpse” of the life he could have had. That is, if he’d married the girlfriend (Téa Leoni) he abandoned 13 years earlier, raised two adorable kids with her, worked in his father-in-law’s retail tire outlet, and lived in suburban New Jersey. Living this “glimpse” of the path not taken—Jack is an Armani-man in a Sears-special world—wondering if he’ll ever get back to luxurious life of callous wealth, or if he even wants to.

This story pulls back the covers on a high-rolling materialistic lifestyle and compares its emptiness with the fulfillment of an average working-class family. Without being preachy, this story conveys what really matters in life.

[This movie is available on Netflix, as well as on Amazon for a reasonable price.]

3. “The Bishop’s Wife” with Cary Grant

XMAS_TheBishopsWife_It’s Christmas, and the Yuletide spirit has yet to warm Bishop Henry Brougham’s (David Niven) Victorian home. Struggling to raise funds for a new cathedral, the preoccupied clergyman neglects his loving wife Julia (Loretta Young) until divine intervention is the only thing that can save their failing marriage. But the handsome and powerful angel (Cary Grant) that is sent in answer to the clergyman’s prayers has a mind of his own, and teaching mortal Henry an immortal lesson in romance isn’t the only surprise he’s got up his wing!

This is a true classic, with enough magic and charm to warm the Grinchiest heart. The recent remake, “The Preachers Wife” doesn’t come close to touching the original! The fact that I’ve had a life-long crush on Cary Grant has nothing to do with my avid recommendation of this movie either.

[This movie is available on Netflix, as well as on Amazon for a reasonable price.]

4. “Annabelle’s Wish”

XMAS_AnnabellesWish_When Annabelle the calf is born on Christmas Eve, Santa comes and gives all the barn animals a special gift: they can talk on Christmas Day! Annabelle is good all year long and decides to ask Santa for a special wish the next year — to fly with his reindeer! But when Billy needs her, she postpones asking for her special favor … at least for a while.

This touching story has many lessons, the best of which is the beauty of unconditional love.

[This movie might be hard to find. It’s not available on Netflix, and the price on Amazon is totally insane. If it comes on TV, record it. If you know someone who has an old copy of this DVD, ask them if you can come over and watch it with them.]

5. “Eloise at Christmastime” with Julie Andrews

XMAS_EloiseatChristmastimeYes, that Eloise, and of course…The Plaza. This delightful story is set just before Christmas, when Eloise learns that Rachel, the daughter of Plaza owner Mr. Peabody, is returning after a long absence to marry mystery man Brooks Oliver. Eloise insists on helping with the Yuletide nuptials, all the while scheming to get Rachel, the true love of her best pal Bill (a free-spirited hotel waiter), together instead. Through all her shenanigans, Eloise infuses everyone with holiday spirit, especially her beloved Nanny, played “rawther” marvelously by Julie Andrews.

Seeing The Plaza resplendent in its holiday finest never fails to get me in a festive mood. Add zany Eloise and her wacky Nanny on top of a pull-at-the-heart-strings love story, and any bah-humbugging vanishes instantly.

[This movie isn’t available on Netflix either, but it is available on Amazon for a very reasonable price (under $10.00).]

What’s your favorite holiday-mood movie?