Originally posted December 9, 2009.
Well, I hope you all had a fantastic, beltline-busting, Thanksgiving… and that you are prepared for the Countdown to Christmas. I’m sure some of your neighbors jumped the gun and got their lights up before November 26 (and if you are included in that group, shame on you. No lights, no tree, and no fucking Christmas music until the day after. There’s no discussion about this… the cavemen made a pact about this and we’ve all agreed to uphold it for eternity. So stop cheating, for little Christ child’s sake!).
That said, since this won’t get posted until post-Thanksgiving, I’m going to try and get in the spirit somewhat and list my five favorite holiday movies of all time.
Before we get to the feature-length fare, let me first list my top 5 best children’s specials. I know you watched these as a kid and I know you’re trying to convince your own kids why Charlie Brown is cooler than Shrek (speaking of which, have you seen that Shrek special? It’s even more annoying than those movies, which is saying a lot).
Top 5 Chistmas Specials
With apologies to The Star Wars Holiday Special. Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol and The Year Without a Santa Claus (which, let’s face it, is Heat Miser and Snow Miser and 20 minutes of bookended crap), here’s my five:
- 5. Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town (1970): Face it, origin stories/movies rock. And what’s cooler as a kid than to learn how Kris Kringle became Santa Claus? Fred Astaire narrates and Mickey Rooney plays Santa in what is often the most underrated/overlooked special of the season.
4. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966): Maybe this one got a little tarnished because it now shares a name and mental space with that abomination that Jim Carrey shat out. But that aside, it’s brilliant, led by the fantastic narration of Boris Karloff.
3. Frosty the Snowman (1969): Hap-py Birthday! Another standout narration performance, with Jimmy Durante taking the honors this time (I’m convinced to make another Christmas classic, you’d have to hire Morgan Freeman. “I’d like to think that the last thing to go through Professor Hinkle’s head – other than that carrot – was knowing that Frosty had gotten the best of him…” How cool would that be?)
2. Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964): My kids’ favorite, hands down. The island of misfit toys, Hermey the dentist-wannabe, Yukon Cornelius, the Abominable Snowman, a cranky Santa, Rudolph’s mentally abusive parents (way to give the kid a complex his whole young life, Donner… I’m sure being perpetually forced to cover up his nose won’t scar him for life or anything), and the great Burl Ives. Does it get any better than this?
1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965): The Godfather of Christmas specials, likely never to be topped. Seriously, when Linus does his speech on what Christmas is really about, don’t you still get the chills? It almost makes me remember that this Christmas thing is all about god n’ stuff.
Couple that with the coolest dancing scenes in movie history and you’ve got gold, Jerry, gold!
Top 5 Holiday Movies
Okay, on to the movies…
First the honorable mentions: Gremlins (1984), Bad Santa (2003), Die Hard (1988), The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) and March of the Wooden Soliders (1934).
- 5. Trading Places (1984): Maybe not what you were expecting, but this used to be a family staple at the Sergott house come holiday time. In my defense, it does take place from the Thanksgiving to New Year’s Day, with references to all three holidays (including Christmas) sprinkled in. Add to it the fact that it’s one of the funniest movies ever made, and you could do a helluva lot worse.
- 4. Scrooged (1988): Screw that traditional Dickensian crap and give me Bill Murray as self-centered TV executive Frank Cross. This movie would’ve sucked balls without Murray… all of the characters are played by some extremely annoying people – including the likes of Carol Kane, Buxter Poindexter and Bobcat Goldthwait – but just being in the same frame as Murray makes them so much better than they should be. He’s the Magic Johnson of comedy (y’know, without the HIV).
- 3. Miracle on 34th Street (1947):
Gooi wat in mijn schoentje
Breng wat in mijn laarsje
Dank U Sinterklaasje
Man, I love that song
Okay, so back to the old school traditional stuff for a minute. First, don’t get this confused with either one of the lame remakes (’73 or ’94). Those are terrible. The ’47 version is superb, with a performance by Edmund Gwenn that makes you really believe he is Santa Claus, and a child acting job that is actually good (a young Natalie Wood).
2. A Christmas Story (1983): This is like crack for a movie quote-addict like me.
Oooh fuuudge! …Only I didn’t say “Fudge.” I said THE word, the big one, the queen-mother of dirty words, the “F-dash-dash-dash” word!
Fra-gee-lay. That must be Italian.
Over the years I got to be quite a connoisseur of soap. My personal preference was for Lux, but I found Palmolive had a nice, piquant after-dinner flavor – heady, but with just a touch of mellow smoothness. Life Buoy, on the other hand…
Deck the harrs with boughs of horry… fa ra ra ra ra, ra ra ra ra!
Try not to love this movie. I TRIPLE-dog-dare ya…
1. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946): Yeah, yeah… I know… you think I should’ve put A Christmas Story #1. But I’m sorry… there is only ONE movie that makes me get all teary-eyed every time I see it, and here it is. Who hasn’t thought they’ve done nothing with their lives at some point, or have been so frustrated as to wish they hadn’t been born (um… it’s not just me, right? Anyone? Um… perhaps I’ve said too much).
All right, but you know you’d want to see the impact you’ve made on people’s lives if you could. You watch George Bailey go through hell and back, only to realize (as his brother toasts him at the end of the movie) that he’s the “richest man in town.”
Damn. I just started tearing up again… every freaking time.
Anyway, happy viewing.