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Holiday Movie Roundup

There are plenty of reasons to avoid the humbugs of blockbusters and multiplexes this season

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE screens December 17 and 23 at the Vine, December 22 at the Castro, and December 24 at the Stanford.

We had a blast showing A CHRISTMAS STORY at the Orinda Theatre last night. Despite the lousy weather, nearly 600 people attended the free screening, which was highlighted by a pre-show Q&A with actors Scott Schwartz and Zach Ward, who shared stories about the making of the film. Thanks to everyone who came out, and to Orinda Theatre Square for sponsoring the print fee costs.

I can't say I was dazzled by this week's Golden Globe nominees—I did like Boyhood and Foxcatcher—but there are plenty of reasons to go out to the movies during the holiday season. Let's start with some classy horror films, in theaters now.

Berkeley's Shattuck Cinemas held the sensational vampire film A Girl Walks Home Alone At Night over an extra week. I've been watching an online screener of this weird and wonderful sendup of vampire flicks and spaghetti westerns in bits and pieces, and it something else. Oh, and it's in Farsi! Big props to writer-director Ana Lily Amirpour for a wildly original genre mashup.

This weekend, I finally get to see another acclaimed horror film by a female writer-director, Jennifer Kent's The Babadook, which has been making audiences squeal in terror since its Sundance debut in January. Berkeley's Elmwood Cinemas is getting the East Bay's exclusive engagement this weekend. Can. Not. Wait.

If you're in the mood to see a holiday classic on the big screen, a trip to Palo Alto is in order, where the Stanford Theatre will be showing 35mm prints of Miracle on 34th Street, The Shop Around the Corner, It's a Wonderful Life, and one of my favorite films, Heaven Can Wait (the 1943 version) through Christmas Eve.

Here in Lamorinda, Moraga's New Rheem Theatre will screen the Judy Garland classic Meet Me In St. Louis on December 17 at 1p.m. Meanwhile, Livermore's Vine Cinema and Alehouse has a run of Christmas classics, including It's A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, and White Christmas, over the next few weeks.

You also can check out San Francisco's Castro Theatre. First up is the annual Noir City Xmas double feature on December 17—O. Henry's Full House and The Curse of the Cat People. Then, the Castro has some offbeat holiday fare on December 21, staring with a family matinee of A Muppet Christmas Carol, followed by a double feature of Die Hard and Scrooged. Then, they'll class things up on December 22 with It's a Wonderful Life.

Finally, if the holiday season has you totally burned out by December 26, you can tap your heels together three times and head over to the Paramount Theatre in Oakland. The art deco palace will be showing The Wizard of Oz on Boxing Day at 8 p.m.

See? There's lots to see!

PS: Our Classic Movie Series kicks off 2015 with The Princess Bride on January 8!