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Christmas at TFE: The Lion In Winter

Members of Team Experience have been asked to share their favorite holiday film. Here's Dancin' Dan with his...

AH, Christmas! That special time of year when family gathers around the tree to shower each other with love, presents, and good tidings... and backstabbing, long-held resentments, and petty grievances! Which is exactly why The Lion in Winter is my kind of Christmas movie.

Of course families love each other. That goes without saying. But no family is perfect. For many people (I'm tempted to say everyone, but you never know!), going home for the holidays is a prospect that inspires fear and dread. You may only see these people once or twice a year, and there's only so long that certain things can go unsaid...

Anyone who's been in a room with two family members fighting when you have no means of escape will deeply identify with nearly all of The Lion in Winter - Henry and Eleanor are just like your parents, except with more time on their hands to come up with elaborate revenge plots in an attempt to heal old wounds. It is both easier and harder to forgive when a family member hurts you - easy to remember all the love that still exists between you, and easy paste on a smile and say you've moved on... but so difficult to actually let go that inside you nurse that grudge until it becomes a twisted plan to reflect that hurt back out at them, waiting for the moment when your attacker is at their weakest so you can inflict maximum damage. It's a never-ending, vicious cycle, and the scars it leaves never truly fade away.

Of course, it's more entertaining when it isn't your own family, which is why I am so glad we have Katharine Hepburn threatening to peel Peter O'Toole like a pear and Peter O'Toole denying all three of his sons their birthright of the throne. It's familial politics played out on a grander scale than any of us could ever dream, rendered in some of the most delicious prose imaginable. Hepburn, at least, doesn't shy away from the deep hurt these insults and schemes can cause, but it doesn't last for long. There's still hope. There'll be other Christmases, after all. And with all the layers in these dramatics, it's always a pleasure to revisit The Lion in Winter each Christmas. It certainly makes me appreciate my family that much more.


White Christmas by Eurocheese
While You Were Sleeping by Chris Feil

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Reader Comments (13)

Hepburn in The Lion in Winter and Taylor in Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf are peerless as stage-to-screen adaptation performances go. Both are perfect meldings of star, character and material.

December 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterHayden

John Barry's score is amazing!

December 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterAdam Lewis

Where is the Kathleen Turner audiobook spitting those memorable lines?

December 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterPeggy Sue

I just found out that Gregory Peck is the reason why Barbara and Katharine tied that year for the Academy Award. Greg was on a mission to balance the AMPAS Old Guard with some young diverse blood, and he broke the rules and invited Barbra into the Academy ranks. So assuming rightly that she voted for herself, was the tying vote. Thank you, Mr. Peck.

December 18, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

I just caught this for the first time. It was also my first Katharine Hepburn. SO good.

December 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterDavid S.

This is a perfect film for those contentious Christmas gatherings but so much more. Of Kate Hepburn's four Oscar winning roles to me this is the only one that truly deserved to take the prize. That's not to say she didn't deserve more than one, she should have won for Long Day's Journey, but she tears into Eleanor's dialog like a champ and matches Peter O'Toole's brilliance step for step. They are surrounded by a fantastic cast but it's Kate and Peter you remember when the film is over.

The Christmas movie that you can watch any time of the year.

December 18, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterjoel6

The most interesting part for me is that on multiple rewatches my alligience switched to other characters. I keep finding something new and end up seeing the family in a different way.

December 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterTom G

"I'd hang you from the nipples, but you'd shock the children."

one of the best christmas movies. love it.

December 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCharles O

IMO. This is the ONLY Oscar Hepburn actually

should have gotten. Her other 3 were tokens

Morning Glory was OK but not Oscar caliber.

December 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterRdf

Hilarious choice.

I remember seeing this with friends. They hated it, I loved it. They actually let me know that if I didn’t hate it too, we couldn’t be friends anymore.

So I found some new friends. I still don’t get it - what’s not to like? (And I didn’t like being given ultimatums over artistic choices).

December 18, 2018 | Unregistered Commenteradri

Great movie - love that poster

December 18, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterJaragon

This movie is perfection. Eternally quotable, deliciously fun, manages to balance camp and powerful drama in appropriate measures, great score and formidable acting.

"I could peel you like a pear and God himself would call it justice" ♡

@ Rdf - Lion in Winter is Hepburn's absolute best, by far, but given the dire competition, she deserved her Morning Glory Oscar too.

She should also have won also in 1935 for Alice Adams, over Bette Davis for Dangerous. Davis herself said so and always considered that particular work middling and that Oscar a compensation for her snub for Of Human Bondage, the year before.

Also, Hepburn's Long Day Journey Into Night is part of that uncanny 1962 line-up in which all actresses were deserving of the Oscar, give or take one's mileage on Lee Remick in Days of Wine and Roses.

So if you consider 1933, 1935, 1962 and 1968, the four times she deserved the Oscar, she actually has the correct number of wins and half of them for the right races (which is a good stat as far as Oscar politics allow).

December 19, 2018 | Unregistered CommenterCarmen Sandiego

oops, sorry, typo...Barbra. shame on my gay self.

December 19, 2018 | Unregistered Commenterbrookesboy

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