In Which Our Heroine Contemplates Holiday Entertainment
I haven’t had a new blog post in about a week, but I really really wanted to write one. I’m stressed out, not only by a holiday-related to-do list, but general life nonsense that I’m not blogging about because y’all don’t need to hear about it.
Blogging makes me feel better about everything. But I didn’t have anything to talk about.
Then I thought, well, it’s Christmastime, so I should make some kind of holiday-themed post. My favorite things about Christmas—getting together with loved ones and eating great food, plus that whole “birth of the savior of mankind” thing (even though that wasn’t technically a winter event)—are hard for me to put into a lengthy, pictorial blog post.
So I decided to just talk about my favorite Christmas movies.
Shall we begin?
1. Die Hard
I think the best Christmas movies are the ones you can watch year-round. I suppose that Die Hard barely qualifies as a Christmas movie, since it could take place anytime and the only really Christmassy thing about it is that people are taken hostage at a company Christmas party. Just as baby Jesus would have wanted. But it does have a sort of message about the importance of family and sacrificing for loved ones, and that’s good enough for me. And a movie that pits badass shoot-em-up hero John McClane (played by Bruce Willis at his hottest) and smooth, snarky, and sharply dressed villain Hans Gruber (played by Alan M&$%@#f&%$@ing Rickman) is always good enough for me.
I don’t think two Christmas films could be polar opposites as much as my first two entries, and I love it. First of all, if I write a part two for my Sexiest Men Dead post, Jimmy Stewart will be on it. He’s just lovely. Donna Reed is lovely. Bedford Falls is lovely. Their big old house is lovely. Their kids are lovely. Clarence is lovely. Everything is lovely in this movie. (Except when George Bailey runs into trouble and yells at his kids, then he’s kind of a dick.) (Oh yeah, and I guess Henry Potter is one too, even though he’s hilarious.) No matter who you are, I dare you to watch this movie and not be moved even a little bit by something. Protagonist George Bailey is relatable to just about everyone—maybe you’ve had to set aside or abandon a dream, or felt stuck in a job or town, or had to compromise on something you had your heart set on, or wondered about your purpose in life, or had something fail to turn out the way you wanted. We’ve all been there at some point. And yet George Bailey is not a fill-in-the-blank character—he is distinct, and he’s definitely not perfect. There’s not a single boring character in this movie, and offhand I can’t think of an actor who doesn’t nail his or her role. And, it’s all wrapped up in the ooey-gooey warmth of Frank Capra Americana cheese.
3. The Nightmare Before Christmas
This movie came out when I was 8, but I don’t think I saw it until I was 18. Yeah, it could be a Halloween movie too, but hey, “Christmas” is right there in the title. This movie benefits from having been made in 1993, when Tim Burton was at the height of his twisted quirkiness, Johnny Depp wasn’t in every one of his movies, and he was no longer a parody of himself. (I know, this is technically directed by Henry Selick, but the original story is Burton’s, as is the style.) It’s a cute story in a macabre setting, the songs are catchy, the stop-motion is well done, and the characters are memorable. Jack Skellington is the cutest person ever to sing whilst sporting a deaths-head since the Phantom of the Opera, and Oogie-Boogie is yet another example of Disney giving its villains all the best songs.
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4. Love Actually
I would hate this movie if the cast weren’t mostly from the U.K. It’s sappy, many of its many plots are implausible, it’s often shallow, and it has a lot of crude humor that I don’t usually like. But damned if this movie doesn’t get me every time. Part of it is because of characters–a movie could have the snappiest writing and the most gorgeous cinematography, but if I don’t like any of the characters, forget it. That’s not an issue here. Here, there is a myriad of characters to love, played by some of the best actors the U.K. has to offer. Plus, as superficial as the movie’s sentiment may be, it is similar to It’s a Wonderful Life in that you’re almost certain to relate to something: unrequited love, needy relatives, the death of a loved one, workplace romance, language barriers, betrayal, and so on. The movie, in fact, may be more important than you give it credit for.
5. A Christmas Story
This seems to be a rather divisive one. There are some who hate it because they’re sick of it, others because they just never thought it was funny. I have been watching this movie all my life, and I never love it less for all its exposure. At this point, I have seen this movie so many times that I have trouble pointing out exactly what I love about it. I think part of it is that both my parents like it, and I grew up quoting it with them, so it’s a family-bonding thing. It’s our “type” of humor, and a happy memory. I also love the 1940s setting–even though I’m the least patriotic American you’ll ever meet, I had a thing for the 1940s and WW2-era nostalgia even as a child. Molly was my first American Girl doll. I also grew up with guns, and got a Red Ryder BB gun when I was about 8 or 9, so I always appreciated that part of the movie too. Whatever the reason, my Christmas is not complete without this movie.
6. A Muppet Christmas Carol
It’s really funny that I like this one, because I’m not a fan of either The Muppets or of Charles Dickens. (I’m not anti-Muppets, I’m just not interested.) But I saw this movie multiple times as a chid, and I am pretty sure it’s the only film version of A Christmas Carol that I’ve seen all the way through. It strikes a good tone of silly and dark, and is appropriate for both children and adults. The “happy” and “virtuous” characters are not too obnoxious. It’s faithful to the spirit of the original, there is grown-up humor without being crude (“Our assets are frozen!”) and those little Victorian Muppet costumes are adorable. I was not an anglophile when I first watched this movie, but perhaps my subconscious knew ahead of time. Also, this movie scared me to death, in that I was afraid I was going to grow up to have no friends like Scrooge if I was mean to people, so I guess the movie fulfilled its purpose. The one downside is that it’s the Ghost of Christmas Past, rather than of Christmas Future, that is nightmare-inducing as shit.
7. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (the Mystery Science Theater 300o version)
A Christmas-themed episode of the greatest show that ever graced a television screen. Enough said.
What…that’s not enough for you? *Sigh* FINE. Here, have a clip:
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8. How the Grinch Stole Christmas/A Charlie Brown Christmas/Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (the 1964 version with Burl Ives)
When I was little, I had a tape with all three of these movies (and “Frosty the Snowman,” which I never liked) recorded on them, and because I watched them over and over in that format, the three films are forever lumped together in my mind. Sadly, it’s been years since I’ve watched any of them in their entirety. I won’t go into detail about why they’re on my favorites list, because you probably already know. They’re everything Christmas movies should be: full of nostalgia, entertaining for all ages, and heartwarming without pandering.
9. The Holiday
This is another movie that would be unwatchable for me without the British angle. There are two reasons why this movie has buried itself into my heart like an incurable worm, and I have clips of both of them. Thanks to the magic of YouTube, you don’t have to bother with the rest of the movie. (Unless you want to watch those scenes with better video quality, for which I don’t blame you.)
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MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL, AND TO ALL A GOOD