December in Oregon can be pretty dismal. Last week we had clear skies and temperatures in the high 20s; this week, it’s in the 40s and constantly raining. Thanks to my minimal work hours, I don’t have much excuse to leave the apartment (that, plus it’s uh pouring), and we’re spending more time than we ought to sitting on the couch. Granted, it’s not all time-wasting – we’re applying for jobs, I’m working on my grad school application, and theoretically I’d like to say I’m still working on my book. But with Christmas coming up and people dealing with a lot of stress, hopefully the couch time can include some good holiday movies.
I’ll come right out and admit that this list will be woefully inaccurate because I’ve never seen the classics like “White Christmas” or “A Christmas Story.” I also haven’t seen most of the recent Christmas comedies, like “Christmas with the Kranks” or “Four Christmases,” mostly because I’ve heard they’re not that great. Still, there are mountains of other Christmas movies out there, some good (National Lampoon Christmas Vacation) and others not so good (Santa Clause 3?). These are a few of my favorites.
5. Home Alone. I’m not sure how many sequels ultimately wound up in this franchise, but the first one is deservedly a classic. The booby-traps this kid came up with went down in history, and I’m pretty sure anyone with a Y chromosome who saw that movie before age twelve wanted to be Kevin McCallister. (Probably a good number of girls, too, I’m just guessing.)
4. Die Hard. Originally I was going to use Die Hard 2, but then this conversation happened, after I told Kevin what I was writing about:
Kevin: “Well, I know what my favorite Christmas movie is.”
Me: “Die Hard 2?”
Kevin: “No, Die Hard!”
Me: “Wait, that one’s Christmas too?”
Kevin: “Oh, yeah! (in his Alan Rickman voice) ‘Now I haff a machine gun. Ho. Ho. Ho.'”
Which I guess pretty much sums up how awesome that movie is. If you’re like me and you’re getting tired of seeing clips from “A Christmas Story” everywhere you go, this should be a refreshingly destructive, profanity-ridden change of pace.
3. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer/A Charlie Brown Christmas. These two tie for third because they fit in the same genre: old-fashioned feel-good holiday fun. “Rudolph” came out in 1964 and threw the old Rudolph myth right out the window. Now we have a misunderstood elf who wants to be a dentist! A rootin’-tootin’ adventurer with a team of sled dogs! An island of misfit toys! A really terrifying Abominable Snowman! Plus, this is the movie that gave us “Holly Jolly Christmas,” which is one of my favorite carols. And Rudolph’s crush on Clarice is pretty much the cutest thing to happen in any Christmas movie. The only drawback to this movie is that it can be hilariously sexist at times, what with the main concern being to “get the women home” before they can be eaten by monsters. Which is, you know, very nice of them, but today the modern girl would prefer that Clarice kick the monster’s butt herself.
Meanwhile, “Charlie Brown Christmas” came out in 1965 and if I remember correctly, it was the first animated program to use children as voice actors. I tend to write this one off when it airs on TV, but I end up watching it anyway and I’m always surprised by how heartfelt and revolutionary it really is. It broke the animation rules of the time by using children, as mentioned, and also for including so many biblical references. Linus’s speech – “Fear not, for behold, I bring you good tidings of great joy” – concerned producers at the time, but I think it’s probably one of the most famous moments from the movie:
2. Love Actually. I’m not usually a fan of romantic comedies, but this one is so far from being a “chick flick” that I adore it. It takes the love and hope and optimism and renewal of Christmas and uses it as a prism for a huge assortment of love stories. And not just romantic, warm-fuzzy love, although there’s plenty of that. There’s the boy who has a crush on the cute girl in his class; the aging rocker trying to figure out what makes him happy; the body doubles falling in love on the set; the best man irrevocably in love with the bride. Even the more chick-flicky aspects of it (the guy flying to America to meet hot girls; Hugh Grant as the Prime Minister falling in love with his secretary) are outweighed by the dramatic subplots (a widower grieving for his wife; a woman coping with the revelation that her husband has been unfaithful). All of this centered around the everlasting hope that Christmas will restore the world and everything in it, which is, in the end, what Christmas is all about.
1. Muppet Christmas Carol is most definitely not as serious, because it has Muppets and Michael Caine and a whole lot of singing and dancing. It’s a quirky retelling of the classic story, featuring Gonzo as Charles Dickens, Kermit the Frog as Cratchit, and Statler and Waldorf as the Marley brothers. It has song and dance numbers, ice skating, and a Ghost of Christmas Present with short-term memory loss. The story of Scrooge can be preachy depending on the adaptations, but this one (due to the indomitable spirit of Muppets) is more gentle and hopeful and joyful than most. There’s one line in one of the songs that exemplifies the whole movie: “The message if we hear it is make it last all year.”
But here, don’t take my word for it:
Oh, what’s that? You’re not convinced this is the best Christmas movie ever?