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Mr. Arkadin

Home Alone

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I revisit Home Alone every year. Growing up with that film and moving into adulthood with it has been curiously poignant. It's a tremendously well-made picture, and a surprisingly moving one.

Some observations:

1) Structure and pacing doesn't get much better in films of this sort. Scenes transition flawlessly between different moods and tones. Gags are timed with great precision. It's a lot of broad comedy, but broad comedy done very well.

2) Home Alone understands both child and adult psychology very well. The McCallisters are very far from a model family, but they're nevertheless a very plausible family, and the basic setup of the film is equally plausible. Watching this over the years since its initial release, it's interesting how my emotional investment in the story has shifted from Kevin to the adults (primarily his mother and the old man he befriends). Both perspectives are evenly balanced and given equal emotional weight, allowing both children and adults an entry point into the story, and through its events, a kind of meeting point in a story about family disagreement and the petty ways we hurt one another.

3) Catherine O'Hara is some kind of miracle. She's funny and sincere in equal measure, and delivers two moments that I find kind of shockingly heartbreaking in a comedy of this type. The first is when she pleads with the couple to allow her on to the flight, which is as earnest and moving a portrait of parental desperation that I've seen on film. The second is her reunion with Kevin. If you watch her closely, in just a second her face shifts from motherly anxiousness to the fear that she's irrevocably traumatized and wounded her child. It's pretty brilliant in its effortlessness, a grace note that speaks volumes.

4) John Williams was born to write Christmas music. Home Alone wouldn't be half as great without him. 

5) The film doesn't really suggest that the McCallisters are a particularly religious family, but it still makes church a site of emotional comfort (it becomes a safe space for Kevin twice in the story) and of emotional healing. The film pivots on his conversation with the old man in the pews.

6) Between this and Planes, Trains and Automobiles, I'm really missing John Candy.

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Yes! still my favorite Christmas film after all these years. yes I know there are better ones, but this one sticks with me. childhood favorite

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This film came out when I was 20. I don't think I've ever forgiven it, or the John Hughes films of that era in general, for the mainstreaming of crotch-trauma humour in kids' movies.

I never did see the sequel. Should I? (Whether because, or in spite of, the Donald Trump cameo?)

(I think I did see the third film, which came out after I had become a professional critic. But they had a whole different set of actors in that movie.)

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10 hours ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

I never did see the sequel. Should I? (Whether because, or in spite of, the Donald Trump cameo?)

No. It's terrible and tarnishes the first film.

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On 12/10/2016 at 9:33 PM, Peter T Chattaway said:

This film came out when I was 20. I don't think I've ever forgiven it, or the John Hughes films of that era in general, for the mainstreaming of crotch-trauma humour in kids' movies.

I never did see the sequel. Should I? (Whether because, or in spite of, the Donald Trump cameo?)

(I think I did see the third film, which came out after I had become a professional critic. But they had a whole different set of actors in that movie.)

It's the exact same movie just in New York and without John Candy.

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Buckeye Jones wrote:
: It's the exact same movie just in New York and without John Candy.

Ah, kind of like how Die Hard 2: Die Harder was the exact same movie as Die Hard just at an airport and without Alan Rickman?

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29 minutes ago, Peter T Chattaway said:

Buckeye Jones wrote:
: It's the exact same movie just in New York and without John Candy.

Ah, kind of like how Die Hard 2: Die Harder was the exact same movie as Die Hard just at an airport and without Alan Rickman?

Yeah, but HOME ALONE 2 is much worse than DIE HARD 2.

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I return to A&F just to defend Home Alone 2

Objectively, it's not a good movie, let alone a great one. And having a general idea of what you like and don't like, Peter, I'm sure you'd loathe this one as well.

But man, do I love this movie. I've watched it at least yearly since the mid-'90s, sometimes more than four times in a season. It's a carbon copy of the first Home Alone, maybe with some more weird cruelty in it, but I adore it. I love the jokes, I love the pacing, and I love how it treats NYC. I love Brenda Flicker in it. I love how it makes fun of Florida, a state I generally loathe. I love how it takes the traps from the first time and shoots them into the stratosphere (I mean, Marv and Harry would've been dead this time around before the even entered Uncle Peter's house). I've used so many lines from this movie in day-to-day conversation that I've basically become a walking HA2 quote generator. 

I think it has a few genuine moments in it, but I really won't try to argue for them. Is it better or worst than Die Hard 2? Good question. That said, I'm also of the mind that Die Hard 2 is one of the worst sequels of all time, so I might not be the right person to ask.

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