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Big screen, small folk: An elf filmology
Don't think elves go to the movies? What do you think they do during the off-season? Of course, none of those elves see as many movies as I do. Reindeer have lots of time to take in the flicks.
You know how sometimes the projector in your local multiplex breaks down during the movie, or the film is out of focus or much too loud? That's because I was trolling about the theater the night before, delivering a private screening to a few dozen elf pals, a demanding audience.
And don't think they don't have their stars: Tinker Bell has been ranked No. 1 by Elf/ilm Quarterly every year since 1954; even Julia Roberts trying to fill Tink's slippers in "Hook" couldn't topple our favorite pixie.
So, here's my guide to films that feature elves. VHS or DVD versions make great stocking stuffers, or maybe you'll catch one at a theater near you. Just don't be surprised if your box of Junior Mints or Gummy Bears seems a bit light (I have a sweet tooth, too).
1. "Lord of the Rings: The Two Towers" (2002)
I will no doubt be sneaking through exit doors on many a night once the middle section of Peter Jackson's epic trilogy opens next month (scheduled date: Dec. 18). We'll cheer for the Hobbits once again, and while more than a few elves will show up sporting walking sticks, pointy hats and fuzzy feet, most of us will be waiting for the entrance of Cate Blanchett, who returns as Galadriel, Queen of the Elves. Ralph Bakshi's 1978 animated version also works, but last year's "The Fellowship of the Ring" gave us Gil-Galad, King of the Elves, in a too-brief role. In part two, Galadriel promises a star turn that might--dare I say--rival Tinker Bell's.
2. "Tom Thumb" (1958)
Ah, if only your Hollywood still made movies like this one. An old couple wishes for a son, and their wish is granted. He turns out to be no bigger than a thumb, but full of impish charm, much like ... well, let's just say elves all over identify with this itsy-bitsy hero and this heartwarming musical. Director George Pal was a puppeteer in Hungary who later became known for his science fiction movies like "Atlantis," but to elves he'll always be their auteur. The movie deservedly won a best effects Oscar in 1959, and the songs, including two from Peggy Lee ("Tom Thumb's Tune" and "Are You a Dream") are first-rate.
3. "The Wonderful World of t0he Brothers Grimm" (1962)
This was my introduction to Cinerama, as this film was the first Hollywood release in the late, great widescreen format, and it has spoiled me. Since this movie was made for Cinerama, It loses a lot on the small screen, but still delivers. Our old buddy George Pal ("Tom Thumb") joined with Henry Levin for this tale about Wilhelm and Jacob Grimm, who, after all, are elves' unofficial biographers. Pal directed the animated fairy tale sequences--the best part of the movie--including "The Cobbler and the Elves," "Rumpelstiltskin" and "The Dancing Princess." Enchanting, even without Cinerama.
4. "Rudolph, The Red-Nosed Reindeer" (1964)
This perennial holiday TV favorite is a must-see, because of the pivotal roles of Herbie the "misfit" elf who wants to be a dentist, and Alfie Scopp's menacing Head Elf, a realistic rendering of the sort of driving taskmasters that elves employed at the North Pole have had to contend with since Santa doesn't get involved in workshop disputes. Elves just love the message that even misfits can end up leading Santa's sleigh and the special stop at the island of misfit toys (I've always secretly wished for a Charlie in the Box). We also love the stop-action animation (take that, CGI!) and all those great songs, especially the ones sung by Burl Ives.
5. "Under the Rainbow" (1981)
I know, I know. Most of you thought I was going to end this list with "The Wizard of Oz." The munchkins are part of the elf family, so "The Wizard of Oz" will always be on the all-time favorites list, even though as a wee one, I was terrified of the Flying Monkeys and the Lollipop Guild. But, like all movie fans, I have guilty pleasures. This wacky Chevy Chase/Carrie Fisher comedy features one of my favorite stars, Billy Barty, whose career started in silent comedies. It's about a Los Angeles hotel that draws unsavory characters, including the actors and actresses working on "The Wizard of Oz." These folks, many of them visiting Hollywood for the first time in their lives and thrilled to be participating in a big movie, spend their off-set time drinking, carousing and generally misbehaving. Sure, some of the gags are un-P.C., as you humans say, but you were expecting "Citizen Kane"?
Flicker is really freelance writer Loren King, who is not a reindeer.