No. 11: Miracle on 34th Street
1947, dir. George Seaton. The iconic Christmas movies of two successive generations—the Baby Boomers have It’s a Wonderful Life, Gen X has A Christmas Story—are set in pastoral wonderlands that pleasantly hum, like crickets chirping on a summer night, with the certainty of faith. By contrast, the greatest Christmas movie ever made takes place in midtown and on the Upper West Side, and throbs with Manhattan’s jazzy agnosticism. It is not by means supernatural, metaphysical, or even spiritual that you are asked to believe that the nice man with the white beard named Kris Kringle is the one and true Santa Claus, but with reference to that most Jewish of mediators, the law itself. Alfred, the Jewish janitor at Macy’s, has his life enriched by Kris even if he is too old to believe in him; the tragedy and redemption of the Dutch orphan girl cannot help but remind one of all the little Jewish Dutch girls who weren’t even so lucky. These ecumenical trappings serve to remind you that, regardless of your faith, Christmas truly is that most wonderful time of the year.
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