Thoughts on Christmas Cinema
Christmas movies are unique little oddities all their own. It’s a genre that doesn’t really get treated as such, because you end up with a cross-section of every time period, every medium and every incarnation film has taken since Gaumont and nickelodeons. We could get into the question of why we don’t have near as many Hanukkah and Kwanzaa movies, but I really don’t want to get into socioeconomics of American media/entertainment. Truth is Santa just doesn’t push any agenda outside of consumerism. And hey! You like consumerism don’t you? What are you, commie? Herr Klaus is a man with flair and fashion sense, and he just likes giving away candy and presents to the children of the world once a year, and then retreating to his compound where he lives with his endentured, childlike servants. I mean come on! He did THRILLER, man THRILL- oh wait, someone else.
Lots of people have Christmas Movie Lists, and a lot of them have plenty of my favorite films on there, but I wanted to do a list of my own. Here’s where my theory that Christmas movies are a genre of their own- all Christmas Movie Lists are practically the same.
You have the classics: I love It’s a Wonderful Life- a lot, probably more than is sane. On occassion I spontaniously shout “My mouth’s bleeding, Bert!” and no one ever gets it. I once looped “You’re a scurvy little spider, Mr. Potter!” to improve my Jimmy Stewart impression. I own the DVD.
The animated: The Nightmare Before Christmas is the most wonderfully melancholy, dark and morbidly charming animated film of all time. It is nothing short of genius and Jack Skellington is the coolest character Tim Burton ever had anything to do with.
and the -Christmas-is-secondary: I watch Die Hard every three months, at least. If I’ve watched it too recently I’ll usually watch Die Hard 3 since it is superior to Die Hard 2, which I will only watch during December since it is more properly a Christmas movie.
These and their ilk are the ones you always see listed- and the new stuff: Bad Santa, Elf; own both of them, they’re histerical, I love em, but they’re on everyone’s list and chances are, everyone’s seen them, so I wanted to do a list of stuff you may not have seen, and it’s going to be a little weird, and include a few Christmas TV stuff- but well worth watching if you’re looking for something this holiday season.
Some Tangent Christmas Classics:
Twilight Zone Episode: “Night Of The Meek”- One of the greatest things ever is the fact Sci-Fi Channel shows a marathon of Twilight Zone on New Year’s and among all the great great brilliance that is TZ this episode stands out as one of my favorites. Art Carney plays the against type Santa, the drunken bum who catches the spirit after a little magic ensues. It’s fun and fresh and suitably sappy for the holidays.
X-Files Episode: “How the Ghosts Stole Christmas”- Tis a weird and enchanting one for sure. Scully and Mulder stakeout a haunted house on Christmas Eve. The previous occupants turn out to be Lily Tomlin and Ed Asner and really who doesn’t want to be haunted by Ed Asner? The man rocks. The whole episode is very tongue and cheek, especially when it comes to Mulder, Scully and ‘Mulder & Scully’. Written and directed by Chris Carter, it’s a great standalone from season 6 of The X-Files.
Scrooged- Okay this one is probably on everyone’s list too, but man what a great movie it is. Bill Murray in one of his best roles, with some very warped comedy, and plenty of ghosts, this is one of my favorite takes on A Christmas Carol. Not to mention Robert Mitchum and John Forsythe, John Glover, Bobcat Goldthwait, Alfre Woodard, and a cameo from Miles Davis! I can watch it a billion times and still enjoy every second.
Gremlins- Another somewhat obvious christmas time addition, it gets overlooked sometimes, perhaps for the best. Mostly because it’s evil. PURE EVIL! The saving grace of the film is Gizmo and his super-cute little self. The dialogue and acting are kinda touch and go, but damn, Gizmo is cute as hell.
The Apartment- Not really Christmas centric, but one of the best movies of all time. I always get a kick out of the anecdote that Wilder filmed the office Christmas party on December 23, 1959, to get everyone in the proper mood. I love Jack Lemmon.
Ordinary People- Another really great great movie that sort of incidentially takes place around Christmas. But I think the season has a real purpose in Conrad’s conflict during the movie, and yes, I love Timothy Hutton. And also Donald Sutherland.
A Muppet Christmas Carol- I am obligated to plug any and every Muppet Movie of merit, and this take on Chuck D’s Christmas Carol is no different. It’s the Muppets, it’s great, it’s got Michael Caine as Scrooge, and if you haven’t seen it, I fear for your immortal soul. One of the first major teamups between Gonzo and Rizzo, sets the standard for their repartee in subsequent Muppet appearances.
…and for my Christmas animation I’m going to go with Batman the Animated Series Episode “Christmas with the Joker”- Classic first season BTAS with the regulars, first appearance of Robin, and my faves Harvey Bullock and Commissioner Gordon. To be honest since the BTAS eps are only 30 minutes long, I could throw in Batman Gotham Knights Episode “Holiday Knights” AND Justice League Unlimited’s “Comfort and Joy” for a movie length DCU Animated X-Mas.
So there you are, a mixed bag somewhat, and probably a few that are on other lists as well, but classics are classic for a reason. Happy Hols.