My favorite Christmas movies

I spent some time trying to figure out what to post for Christmas, and finally settled on talking about my three favorite Christmas movies.

Number three may be more Dan's favorite than mine, but we watch it pretty much every year. From the deadly triple dog dare to the family's first experience with Chinese turkey, A Christmas Story is a clever slice of life, a piece of the past that rings true like fine crystal. How can you not love a movie with lines like, "In the heat of battle, my father wove a tapestry of obsenity that, as far as we know, is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan"?

Number two is that old chestnut, It's a Wonderful Life. There's a reason why it's a classic. The opening is so hokey that it makes me cringe, but as soon as the angels start watching George Bailey grow up, I'm hooked. I always feel myself getting sucked in when Mr. Gower, the druggist, starts slapping George around for not delivering the poisoned medicine.

I've often wondered what makes this movie so good. I think it's because it acknowledges how hard life can be, and how unfair, but that life can be worth living, anyway. It's a Wonderful Life is about the value of being a good person, even if you're never rewarded for it.

Just one complaint. In George's alternate universe, he finds that Mary has been sentenced to a fate worse than death: she's the town librarian. I'm a librarian. Being a librarian can actually be a fulfilling and challenging job. Okay, I'm done.

My absolute favorite is... A Christmas Carol. Let's face it, Dickens knew his stuff. A Christmas Carol is the strongest, most moving story ever written about Christmas. And of all the countless adaptations, there is only one that I watch nearly every year: the 1984 television version starring George C. Scott.

There's something magical about this movie. It's a quality production. Scott was a brilliant actor, and we totally believe his transformation. We can see it in his face, hear it in his voice. And Scott certainly doesn't carry this movie alone; the entire supporting cast is as good as he is. Dan and I are both particularly fond of Edward Woodward, who dominates the screen as the immense, be-robed Ghost of Christmas Present. "Are there no workhouses?" he sneers, with transparent glee. "Are there no prisons?" And David Warner breathes life into Bob Cratchit, and makes a caricature into a real person. One of my favorite movie moments is when Scrooge tells Cratchit, who thinks he's about to get fired, "I have no choice but to... double your salary." Scrooge laughs maniacally. David Warner's face in this scene is priceless.

Yes, there are other good holiday movies. There's the wonderful Trading Places, with Eddie Murphy, Dan Ackroyd, and Jamie Lee Curtis. (Although seeing the World Trade Center in the final sequences now feels exceedingly creepy.) I've always loved Fred Astaire, and I'm mildly fond of Holiday Inn. (Although my favorite scene doesn't have anything to do with Christmas. It's the Fourth of July dance Fred does with the firecrackers.) And there's Die Hard. Okay, so it's only nominally a holiday movie, but it takes place on Christmas Eve and it's a classic action thriller. And as an extra added bonus, I can actually see the "Nakatomi Towers" from my apartment building. I think it's on the Fox lot. :)

What's your favorite holiday movie?

9 comments:

Anthony said...

If I had to pick three favorite Christmas movies they'd be 1) "Scrooged" because Bill Murray rocks and we get Bobcat without any talking horses.
2) "Miracle on 34th St" is pretty good, the court scene is the best.
3) It's a crappy movie, but I loved it as a kid and when I was in college it got me hooked on MST3K, "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians."

SimbiAni said...

I love "It's a Wonderful Life" too :D If I had to pick only 3, I'd say "HomeAlone" (only 1 & 2, but they count as one, LoL), "Ernest Saves Christmas" (heehee), and "the Santa Clause" (Tim Allen's, havent seen the 2nd tho)... Oh, and also "Jingle All The Way", "Nightmare Before Christmas", "Prancer", "Greatest Store in the World", and I'm sure there are a bunch of others! Hehe :D

Milferd said...

As for Christmas movies I've never complied a favorite list. It's a Wonderful Life must be on it. It's for kids but I always loved Rudolf the Red Nosed Reindeer. Home Alone is fantastic.

In "It's a Wonderful Life" I understood the fate worse than death for Mary was becoming an "old maid" as in a woman too old to get married and thus forced to work. The old maid concept had not yet died out yet then and thirty I believe was roughly the age woman feared.

onanymous said...

I love 'Nightmare Before Christmas', but my all time favourite is definitely 'Love Actually'.

Mike said...

My favs include:
~Charlie Brown Christmas
~Santa Claus is Coming to Town (claymation)
~Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (claymation)
~Beauty and the Beast Christmas (its either unknown or underrated)
~Bad Santa (freakin' hilarious and surprisingly heartwarming)

Anonymous said...

Hmm, fave Christmas stuff:

Animated (non Rankin and Bass):
The Grinch

Rankin and Bass:
Frosty the Snowman (busy, busy, busy AND Jimmy Durante!)
Rudolf (misfit toys! SNIFF!)
Santa, Baby (Gregory Hines, Eartha Kitt, Vanessa L. Williams, Patti Labelle)
(tie)

Scrooge-related:
Scrooged (Bill Murray)
Christmas Carol (George C.Scott version, most faithful to the book, and a GREAT cast)
Scrooge (leslie Bricusse musical with Albert Finney AND Alec Guinness! Suspenders AND a belt!)

Movie:
It's A Wonderful Life double feature with The Shop Around the Corner (both Jimmy Stewart)

Movie Musical:
Meet Me In St. Louis (Judy Garland AND Margaret O'Brien, and Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas, etc. songs)


Claire

thejanet said...

Favorite Christmas movies, hmmm...

Miracle on 34th Street, little Natalie Woods is sooooo good. Good acting and story all around, just don't make me watch any of the remakes.

White Christmas, while not nearly the movie Holiday Inn is, is a sentimental favorite, my family settled in with popcorn (to string and to eat) to watch it every year.

The Bishop's Wife, and yes, the one with Cary Grant! (Although the remake isn't as terrible as your usual remake.)

My husband would add Meet Me in St. Louis and The Lemon-Drop Kid to those. And probably drop White Christmas.

And we'd both beg for a fourth pick, because It's a Wonderful Life is worth begging for.

Anonymous said...

Favorite Christmas movies: Scrooged, The Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim, The Ref, National Lampoon's Christmas, Charlie Brown's Christmas, Santa Clause is Coming to Town and White Christmas. Can you tell I watch too much TV and love Christmas?

Patti said...

I have a couple of favourites I watch seasonally. Now that we don't have to wait to for Christmas to see them on tv - they are: "The Ref" with Dennis Leary, "Scrooged" with Alistair Sim and "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation".