“That Got Me To Thinkin’…?” Chapter 26 “My Top 5 Christmas Movies”
By Bruce Williams
Narrowing it down to just five favorite Christmas movies might seem easy on its surface, but when other people started weighing in convincingly with their opinions and picks, I had to stop and ponder it a little bit. I knew right off what would post at Number One, but then it got kind of fuzzy and eventually downright tough to round it off in the end—so here we go…
#1 “It’s a Wonderful Life”
Old, outdated, black-and-white, but with the perfect don’t-be-an-asshole and be-grateful-for-what-you-have sentiments. Jimmy Stewart’s impossibly earnest George Bailey and a young, crushable Donna Reed pair perfectly as George travels through the horror of a Bedford Falls gone Pottersville without his steady hand alive to guide its townspeople. My wife and I always watch this on Christmas Eve, in bed, after the hard work of making all the Christmas magic under the tree and above the fireplace has been completed. I still get choked up every time when the community shows up in droves to bail Bailey Building and Loan out from under the bank inspector’s watchful eye at the very last minute, topped off by the return from war of heroic brother Harry. American Gold.
#2 “Santa Claus Is Comin’ to Town”
I love all the claymation movies (“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer” & “The Little Drummer Boy”), but the Santa Claus origination story—warmly voiced by Mickey Rooney and Fred Astaire—was pure wonder for me as a child…especially because there were no DVRs or even VCRs back then so you had to find it on the schedule and be present in front of the giant box we called our tv to witness its unmitigated glory. Also featuring the delightfully awful Burgermeister Meisterburger, who has to catch himself when momentarily distracted from his tyranny by the simple joy of a colorful yo-yo. No other movie makes me feel more like a kid again than this special, enduring one.
#3 “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”
Clark Griswald and Cousin Eddie—two of Christmas cinema’s most enduring and quotable characters come alive in this timeless depiction of what it means to be the anchor of a big family when the whole world is determined to drag you undersea. Chevy’s tantrum when the outdoor Christmas lights fail to cooperate is epic, and anybody who’s had to deal with tangled cords and dead strings in the freezing cold knows exactly what this furious eruption is all about. And we all have some Cousin Eddies lurking in the trailer parks, eager to come and fill a plate and clog a toilet once or twice each year. This movie hits home more as I age and begin to feel the pull of aging elders simultaneously coupled with the needs of raising kids.
#4 “Daddy’s Home 2”
A bit of a surprise at #4, this 2017 instant classic brings back feuding Brad (Will Ferrell) and Dusty (Mark Wahlberg) and adds their dads John Lithgow and Mel Gibson, who essentially gets to play his awful self (without the racism) in a way that actually makes you like him a little again. The surprise Big Kiss and I Love Yous in the final scene always make me giggle out loud and smile—reminding us that in all families, regardless of their mix or how they’re formed, kids just need to be wanted and loved. Plus it’s hilarious along every step of the way. If you haven’t seen this one, add it to your regular holiday repertoire. Viewing of the original version provides some depth, but is not required to enjoy the sequel.
#5 “Home Alone”
A loveably inventive Macaulay Culkin versus a scheming Joe Pesci and an inept Daniel Stern. This is another seasonal gem I can watch over and over again and still laugh at the almost cartoonish pain inflicted on the burgling duo by the outsmarting Kevin. There were a total of five movies in this franchise, but never venture past the first two that Culkin stars in because the last three will just make you angry and solidify all the ill will you might harbor toward overly-precocious child actors (and their assumingly unbearable stage mothers no doubt hiding in the wings).
Now, it must be noted here that my favorite holiday movie (and favorite film of all time) is “Planes, Trains and Automobiles,” but it is essentially a Thanksgiving movie, as Steve Martin is trying to get home against all odds for that particular holiday. My kids absolutely love “Elf” and “The Polar Express,” and my wife always watches “The Family Stone” which I’ve grown to love by osmosis. “Bad Santa” you say? “Scrooged”? “The Grinch”? Those are all fun, but I’m sticking with my Top 5, and considering the inordinate amount of time I spent thinking about it, they’re well deserved.
My last thought (and maybe an entire other column) is devoted to the tripe churned out at Christmastime on the Hallmark Channel:
“My Christmas Love”
“The Sweetest Christmas”
“A Very Merry Mix-Up”
“A December Bride”
“A Christmas Prince”
Et cetera, ad nauseam.
And I haven’t even begun to scratch (and sniff) the putrid surface of their catalogue of terribleness. If you’re a single gal (with cats) currently smarming away with a glass of Chardonnay, an Afghan and these visual turds, so help you. That is all for this week—an early Merry Christmas to all and happy, joyous viewing!