With the holiday season in full effect this week, we wanted to take a moment to share our thoughts on everyone’s favorite seasonal genre: Christmas movies.
White Christmas (1954)
By Braden King
In recent years, starting with the release of X-Men on DVD in 2000 and continuing with the parade of superhero movies that have followed, my family tradition has been to watch the latest comic book blockbuster on Christmas night. It may not be the most romantic way to spend the evening, but there is something about coming back from visiting friends and family, gathering around the fireplace, sipping a hot chocolate, and watching a bullet bounce off Brandon Routh’s eye that just feels right.
There is one real Christmas movie, however, that will always represent the season for me more than Ang Lee’s Hulk ever could. That movie is White Christmas, starring Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Ellen.
White Christmas is a 1954 musical that takes place mostly in the Green Mountains of Vermont (looking remarkably like the Green Mountains of Los Angeles), where World War Two veterans/Broadway stars Bob Wallace (Crosby) and Phil Davis (Kaye) team with the Betty and Judy Haynes (Clooney and Ellen) to save the hotel of their former General (the awesome Dean Jagger). If that sounds confusing, well, it is. But the plot of this movie is secondary to the showy sing-and-dance numbers (TAP!), the banter between the leads, and the obligatory warm, cuddly and snowy ending. Directed by Michael Curtiz (best known for a little movie called Casablanca) White Christmas is beautifully shot and well paced. It’s a slapstick, happy, breezy flick that gets smiles from viewers both young and old.
Also, it’s my mom’s favorite Christmas movie. That may not be the best reason to loveWhite Christmas, but it’s not the worst either. Every time the soldiers come together on Christmas Eve to sing to the General, she’s guaranteed to tear up. It’s the reason I love movies so much in the first place (not the crying part, of course), because they have the power to make us feel. No movie has made me feel more like Christmas than this one. Not even Blade Trinity.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
It’s A Wonderful Life is hands down the BEST HOLIDAY MOVIE THERE IS! No, you shut your face, it’s the best. In case you haven’t seen the movie (it came out in 1946, come on!) I’ve provided a brief synopsis below. Additionally, I apologize for telling you to shut your face; you were probably just going to ask what the film was about.
We follow George Bailey, an archetypal good guy, growing up, falling in love, and starting a family, all the while deferring his own dreams in favor of helping others. Finding himself down on his luck and questioning the choices he’s made George turns to suicide. The suicide attempt is thwarted by Clarence, an angel, who proceeds to show George how life would be if he had never been born.
BE PREPARED: This movie will rip out your heart strings and use those strings to fashion a lyre on which Orpheus will play the most despair-filled song you’ve ever heard, only to save you from this crushing darkness (on par with The Nothing) at the eleventh hour through love, family, community, and friendship (Hee Haw and Merry Christmas!). The film will cause you to have all of the feels; you may throw up, YOU WILL CRY and you will definitely be thankful for all of the people in your life.
In the interest of full disclosure it should be noted that I haven’t watched It’s A Wonderful Life sober since 2007. The holidays, am I right?
The Santa Clause (1994)
For those of us that grew up in the 1990s, The Santa Clause is your jam. I mean, honestly, is there anything more nineties than Tim Allen? But on a more serious note, The Santa Clause is important to me because it’s the one mainstream Christmas movie out there that depicts family life in a way that I could actually identify with. Rather than a the essentially stable albeit eccentric families found in classics like Home Alone or A Christmas Story, this story centers around a family awkwardly adjusting to divorce.
Many of the elements that drive the film’s plot – e.g. the constant disruption of the joint custody dynamic, the petty ex-spousal bickering, the mom’s elementally lame but well-meaning boyfriend, and the relentless stigma and mistrustfulness that society has of non-traditional family structures –were all too familiar to me and a lot of other 90s’ kids I knew.
Although the divorce rate itself went down during the 1980s and 1990s, that statistic is a bit misleading. Between 1980 and 2000, the total number of single-parent households in America steadily increased (and is still increasing). As a percentage of households that have children, single parents went from 19.5% in 1980 to 27% in 2000. So it’s no stretch to say that for a lot of people out there, the quintessential 1990’s family was a divorced family.
Of course, The Santa Clause is first and foremost a comedy. But there’s also something very deep and poignant about the idea behind the story of a divorced father who has lost meaningful touch with his son, and the extent to which he’s willing to mold a new identity in order to bridge that filial gap. The idea that this father would purposefully adopt a supernatural identity in order to accomplish reconciliation is both a deep well of comedic mileage and intriguingly dark in its psychological implications.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
By Andrew Kipp
Looking for the perfect Christmas movie to watch this holiday season? Well ladies and gentlemen, look no further than Dr. Suess’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!
You may be thinking that this seems like an obvious choice, and it is, but it’s also a GREAT choice.
Because How The Grinch Stole Christmas! is incredibly easy to watch (only 26 minutes in length), and it never seems to get old, no matter how many times you’ve seen it. And perhaps most importantly, it’s EVEN BETTER to watch stoned.
You thought watching the Whos of Whoville playing with their toys and singing Fah Who Foraze! Dah Who Doraze! was trippy before? Do yourself a favor this Christmas Eve and smoke a little weed before watching this animated holiday classic. It will blow your mind.
The movie, for those of you who have been locked in Ariel Castro’s basement for the last 15 years, is actually based on Suess’s book that was published by Random House in 1957. It tells the story of the Grinch, a grumpy, fuzzy, green hermit who lives in a cave at the top of snowy Mt. Crumpit with his dog Max.
The Grinch concocts a plan to steal Christmas from the Whos of Whoville, but fails miserably, teaching us all that being a mean-spirited asshole on Christmas never EVER pays off.
When I was a kid, I couldn’t understand how the Whos could still be so happy on Christmas without their presents! It was dumbfounding to me that any kid could enjoy Christmas without getting all their favorite toys.
This holiday season, while you’re on drugs, watching the movie and thinking about how many drugs Dr. Suess must have been on when he wrote the story, also take time to think about the valuable lessons he’s trying to teach us. The most important lesson is that Christmas isn’t about getting presents; it’s about sharing precious time with the ones you love.
Love Actually (2003)
If you’ve been living under a rock that doesn’t have Netflix for the last 10 years, Love Actually did two very important things: it cemented (and launched) about 10 people’s careers, and told the very intimate and intersecting stories of mostly likable folks in London around Christmas time.
If you ask most people, they’ll say, “I like the one where Keira Knightley’s husband’s best friend is in love with her and holds up epic posters professing his love on Christmas Eve” or, “I like the one where the guy who plays Mr. Darcy falls in love with a Portugese woman who thinks she can save paper from a water-soaked destiny!”. To all of you, I say – no. Those are not the best. You can like them, sure, but no, I don’t, actually, love them.
The stories for me that make this holiday movie what it is are starkly different from one another, but equally as valuable. The first is the tragically vulnerable story of Karen (played by the imitable Emma Thompson) dealing with the discovery of her husband’s affair with a wide-eyed secretary that, at best, is just sex, and at worst could be love. Karen’s reliance on Joni Mitchell to get her through the deterioration of her marriage at Christmas time, and her refusal to allow her children to feel that pain speaks to me in a way that the other stories don’t. That’s Christmas. Not literally, but Christmas often forces us to confront the reality of our lives – the good and bad, and still find a way to appreciate one another. Karen did that without a guarantee of a ‘happily ever after’, because she had to; because to two little kids, her strength meant their happiness.
The other for me is the bloke who flees England on an epic journey to find American pussy in the great state of Wisconsin. Do I think that guy actually met Denise Richards or some chick that resembled her? No, I don’t – but I understand his pursuit for something better, and I understand why the idea of Christmas pushed him to that. He didn’t like what he saw in London, and he balled out and went looking elsewhere. His blind optimism is also a part of Christmas. All ye who stumble must also have faith.
Why are these two stories the best for me? Because they just are. They’re realistic. They’re a little bit pathetic and a little bit hopeless and ultimately, even the guy who had a group-bang in Madison, Wisconsin didn’t really get his happily ever after, either. He had one good night. But they both represent a more realistic Christmas – finding strength or hope in your own private way, and holding on to that for self preservation and the preservation of the people around you. For me, that’s love, actually.