By Tim Smith

Halloween special? I had intended to provide a quick update on our festivities tied to the recent holiday, yet sadly they also happened to coincide with my submission date for the column, so I'll defer to next week. I'm anticipating that there will be much to report, so hope to 'See you in the paper.'

While anticipation runs high for the aforementioned news, December 20, 2019 looks to be shaping up to be one for the record books and/or certainly, the memory banks.

I have been encountering Internet ticklers, (no, not Twitters), on the pre-opening sale of tickets for the final Star Wars film in that nine film canon.

“Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker” hits the big screen on December 20th. We will be attending that first week, its a family tradition, it's just a matter of coordinating dates so that we can all talk about it at the same time. Yes, I know, a tough one, but that's our family.

Anyway, while working through all of that I remembered that another major film was being released near that 12/20/19 date.

After a quick scan through available sources I discovered that the screen version of Andrew Lloyd Webber's stage musical, “CATS,” is also opening on December 20th. "Holy film release date, Batman!!!"

What will make this battle for year ending box office supremacy interesting to contemplate is that the films' appeal, on the surface, to different core audiences, however, each grouping has been raised coinciding with the rise of digital imagery technology.

Historically, “Star Wars” will complete its 42-year saga, with familiar characters in an established story progression. “CATS” will present a successful stage classic in digital form.

How do you take those brilliantly conceived feline costumes and make them 'believable' on screen? Could this finally be the battle royal for tech supremacy rather than story/character progression that we have been waiting for since the first “Star Wars” film was released in 1977?

What may separate the two is the celebrity factor, and that is just the nature of where we are today. Now don't get me wrong, the roster of feline-human actors in CATS includes James Corden, Jennifer Hudson, Sir Ian McKellen, Taylor Swift and Dame Judi Dench, and that in and of itself will draw me to the experience. I just believe that one of the ways that we relax in this climate of personality is to return to story, and that is in all of its digital glory this season.

I am also curious to see what “CATS” director Tom Hooper has up his creative sleeves.

He guided a personal favorite, “The King's Speech,” to Oscar victories for best actor, Colin Firth, best picture for that year, as well as a best director trophy for his case. He previously had brought the trend establishing “Les Miserables” to the big screen that earned an Oscar win for Anne Hathaway.

J.J. Abrams is directing “Star Wars” and is known for his surprises as well. Whew, what a match-up.

Finally: These films appear poised to set up a truly competitive box-office weekend right before Christmas that we have not experienced in some time. When putting all of that together, I determined that for the film fan, their stocking stuffer list is quite clear for Santa.

"A painting is never finished – it simply stops in interesting places." (Paul Gardner)

Arts and About, sort of: This is a bit more home based as we are enjoying the Hallmark Channel's catalog of new holiday films. A fast growing tradition, their story formula seems to work nicely, and it takes us back to a kinder and gentler period.

That also means that 1983's “A Christmas Story,” although not a Hallmark presentation, that follows the wonderful adventures of growing up "Ralphie," cannot be too far away.

Holiday spirits: I'm embracing new avenues for enjoying the music of the holidays, and that includes Pandora.

I'll look forward to relaxing with my 'stations' and that equates to the talents of Diana Krall and Steve Tyrell. Both have vocal signatures that are classically shaped with orchestrations, especially those behind Ms. Krall, that are heavenly. Can't wait to hear what they will do with Christmas favorites.

Can it truly be less than a month until Thanksgiving, in our towns?

Welcoming you into the room and provoking conversation, since 1/29/06 {For HP}

See you in the paper.

t A s

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