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As we wind down the year, we’re looking forward to settling in to enjoy some of our favorite Christmas movies…

• “The Bishop’s Wife,” (1947) with Cary Grant, Loretta Young and David Niven, which is a wonderful movie about an angel (Grant) who helps a bishop (Niven) rekindle his faith in man’s essential goodness and belief in the meaning of Christmas…even while finding himself smitten with the bishop’s wife (Young). (Vastly superior to the 1996 remake, “The Preacher’s Wife,” with Denzel Washington and Whitney Houston.)

• “Holiday Inn,” (1942) with Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire, which actually takes place over an entire year but features the first time Irving Berlin’s “White Christmas” was performed onscreen. (We like it a lot more than “White Christmas,” which starred Crosby and Danny Kaye.)

• “It’s A Wonderful Life,” (1946) with Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed. Just because there can’t be a favorite Christmas movie list without “It’s A Wonderful Life”…and besides, we’re a sucker for Frank Capra movies.

• “Scrooged” (1988). It’s got Bill Murray in it. And any list with a Capra movie in it has to have a Bill Murray movie in it just for balance.

And finally, it may seem odd, but we actually have two Hugh Grant movies on our list:

• “About A Boy” (2002) uses the Christmas holidays as bookends for its story, and is a wonderful film about the relationship between a man and a boy, both disconnected and needing to find kindred spirits – it speaks to how Christmas can be different things to different people, and yet be no less important or consequential.

• “Love Actually” (2003) is our favorite Christmas movie of the moment (BIG CAUTION: it is for adults, not kids), a movie that follows eight different British couples in the few weeks before Christmas, and explores the importance and enduring power of love in a way that is sentimental without being cloying. (We admit that not everyone would agree with us in this assessment, and mention it at the risk of being accused of being an old softie. Which we’re not. Really.)

There’s a wonderful opening in which Hugh Grant says:

    “Whenever I get gloomy with the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport. General opinion is starting to make out that we live in a world of hatred and greed, but I don't see that. It seems to me that love is everywhere. Often it's not particularly dignified or newsworthy, but it's always there - fathers and sons, mothers and daughters, husbands and wives, boyfriends, girlfriends, old friends.

    “When the planes hit the Twin Towers, as far as I know none of the phone calls from the people on board were messages of hate or revenge - they were all messages of love. If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around.”

Which seems like a pretty good holiday message.

We also plan on spending the holidays catching up on some end of year films that we haven’t yet seen:

• “Finding Neverland”
• “The Aviator”
• “The Life Aquatic with Steve Zissou”
• “Beyond The Sea”
• “Closer”
• “Million Dollar Baby”
• “Meet The Fockers.”

By the way, keeping in mind that there are a bunch of movies that we haven’t seen, our Favorite Movies of 2005 include:

• “Sideways”
• “Collateral”
• “Super Size Me”
• “Before Sunset”
• “The Clearing”
• “The Bourne Supremacy”
• “Open Water”
• “Ray”
• “The Incredibles”
• “Kill Bill Vol. 2”

As always, we have a wonderful new wine for you to try: a 1996 Lan Rioja Gran Riserva from Spain, which was lush and soft and yummy (to use a highly technical wine word).

And finally, because a number of you asked, we’ll be enjoying two sparkling wines on New Year’s Eve: a Nicolas Feuillatte Rose from France, which is 60 percent Pinot Noir, 10 percent Chardonnay and 30 percent Pinot Meunier, not to mention 100 percent perfect; and a Sofia Blanc de Blanc from the vineyards of Francis Ford Coppola in California’s Napa Valley, which is always wonderful.
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