I make no qualms about it, I can be cynical. Breaking Dawn beating The Muppets at the box office? Clearly a sign of our society going down the drain. The fact that Alvin & The Chipmunks: Chipwrecked even exists? Shameless cash grab and an insult to our children’s intelligence. Christmas decorations on sale before Halloween? Rampant commercialism.
However, though any amount of Christmas celebration before Thanksgiving will draw sneers from me, once the turkey and stuffing (or in my case a gas station rib sandwich, but that’s another story) has been consumed, my cynicism goes into hibernation, having gorged itself on preemptive holiday festivities, not to emerge until the lights come off the tree. For the most part. Hey, I can’t help it if every radio station playing Christmas music feels the need to play the same 20 songs ad nauseum.
The biggest impact comes in the form of my favorite pasttime: movies. 11 months out of the year, I am incredibly discerning about what kinds of movie I watch, but come late November, all that gets tossed out the window, pure, uncut nostalgia takes over, and regardless of quality, if an ample amount of holiday spirit is present in the film, I am going to, at least, enjoy that movie. Which isn’t to say I only watch holiday schlock, on the contrary, several of the films I hold as mandatory viewing, I would stack against the greatest that cinema has to offer.
Let’s take a closer look at what I consider “required viewing” come holiday time:
Home Alone: A prime example of my cynicism taking a holiday, as this is a movie that lots of “cool” people love to deride. Whether it’s the abundance of slapstick or the presence of Chris Columbus in the director’s chair, a lot of people tend to overlook the heart and Christmas spirit present in this holiday classic (yeah, I said it). Because it’s totally there if you look. From Catherine O’Hara’s relentless quest to get home to her son, to Macauley Culkin’s steadfast refusal to let harm come to his home around the holidays, to the scary old neighbor’s tearful reunion with his son and granddaughter, this is a flick that is unfairly criticized and one that I will watch every year until the day I die.
A Muppet Christmas Carol: Gonzo and Rizzo the Rat provide narration that plays jump rope with reverence, Michael Caine gives an impressively straight take on Scrooge, the atmosphere turns downright chilly when called for, and the whole thing is bursting with phenomenal music. It all comes together as not just one of the Muppets greatest film outings, but as one of the better adaptations of the Dickens classic. Not to mention one of the most fun Christmas movies there is.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer/Santa Clause is Comin’ to Town: These two Rankin/Bass specials are classics for a reason. Their indomitable spirit and whimsy is more than enough to overcome any wonky animation or questionable characterizations (although seriously, why is Santa such a jerk to Rudolph?).
Scrooged: This Bill Murray outing loses too much of its bite in the sing-along ending, but the entirety of the flick that precedes that is delicious black comedy. Murray’s at his sarcastic best, Carol Kane is brilliantly deranged as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the whole thing is packed with enough fantastically creepy imagery to provide viewers a darker option for when they get a little sick of Frosty.
Elf: Another Christmas movie that critics occasionally like to drub. Yes, the movie gets a little treacly at times, but that’s because it’s a CHRISTMAS MOVIE! I know that sounds like a cop out, but it’s just a fact. Sure, a lot of Christmas movies will find a dark edge to explore, but at their core is unfiltered warmth and goodwill, which I guess is too much to stomach for some people when it’s presented in as pure a form as it is here. But a truly stellar Will Ferrel performance should undercut a lot of that, because he has rarely been better.
A Charlie Brown Christmas: Hey! A Christmas special that acknowledges how commercial the season has gotten! And how the spirit of the season can still be salvaged if you just try! And- what? This thing’s 45 years old? That can’t be right.
Die Hard: Because it’s Die Hard.
Gremlins: A woman gets shot out her window from a hot-wired stair-climber, a snow plow crashes through an old couple’s living room, a girl tells the tale of how her father broke his neck trying to surprise his family, and a little green monster explodes in a microwave. Merry Christmas!
The Santa Clause: I know not everybody enjoys the comedy stylings of Tim Allen and I will grant that this flick is far from the gold standard as far as child acting is concerned, but it’s a clever twist on the story of Santa Claus and it features a delightfully prissy supporting performance from Judge Reinhold. Say it with me now: a Weenie Whistle.
Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas: This oft-forgotten Jim Henson special contains some less-than-stellar marionette work and is almost crushingly wholesome. It’s also a stone-cold favorite in the Jorgenson household and we will fight you to the death if you hold it in anything less than the reverence that it deserves. Am I being serious? Yup.
It’s A Wonderful Life: I’ve brought it up before in this space how much I enjoy this film, and it stems from my parents sitting me down every year to watch it. A tradition that continues to this day as the thing I look forward to more than most things out of the entire year. That’s how great It’s A Wonderful Life truly is. I cannot sing its praises enough, from James Stewart’s phenomenal lead performance, to the fantasy storyline that has been parodied so often it is literally engrained in the cultural subconscience, to the joyous conclusion that shows that a life well spent is worth far more than any amount of money you could misplace inside a newspaper.
So that’s it, more or less. My required viewing for the holiday season. There are other movies that I try to make time for, like A Christmas Story, Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, Frosty the Snowman, Nightmare Before Christmas, and others, but these are the absolutes. If I don’t watch these movies sometime between Thanksgiving and Christmas, well, just think of all that fodder my cynicism will have once it wakes up.
Posted under Kyle's Adventures in Pop Culture
This post was written by Kyle on November 29, 2011