For some reason, I am on top of things this Christmas. I am done Christmas shopping. My iPod has been loaded with holiday music for weeks. I have mailed out presents that need to be mailed out. I brought in Christmas cookies to work. (Sure, I didn’t make them myself, but I helped mold them and take them in and out of the oven.) I haven’t sent out Christmas cards, but – in my defense – had already decided not to.
Yeah, I am bragging a little bit, but it’s earned — I have never, in my 27 years, been ready so early. I am the queen of last minute shopping, and piggybacking on my older sister for Christmas gifts. (Every year, I forget to get a present for someone and ask her if we can give said person a “joint” gift — read: can I give you money for what you already bought? But not this year, my friends! This year I am ready!)
To that end, tomorrow night, my friend and I are going to have a Christmas movie marathon. We’re going to do some old school classics (White Christmas), some classics with which we aren’t so familiar (The Shop Around the Corner, if I can find it, and A Christmas Story) and classics that kinda suck but you have to watch for mocking material (Holiday Inn).
So today, I was sitting at work, listening to Christmas music, when I started making a list of my favorite Christmas movies. It’s not too shocking – I am a traditionalist when it comes to holiday cinema – but I thought I’d share nonetheless.
– “Not for a kid in the second grade. You can get beat up for wearing something like that.”
I know what you’re thinking. Home Alone ? Really? Yes. Listen, a few weeks ago, I was just like you. All I remembered was the caper stuff with Kevin and the Wet Bandits. Which – funny the first time in the movie theater, but after that, not so much. However, over Thanksgiving, my family and I watched it, and, seriously, this is an underrated movie. (Due to it being over-hyped back in the day. Underrated because it was over-hyped. Weird.) Forget all the caper stuff toward the end. Watch for Kevin buying a toothbrush, confronting his fear of the basement, and tricking the pizza guy. Funniest moment in the movie – the pizza guy’s reaction to Angels with Dirty Souls. “I’ll give you ten seconds to get your ugly, yella, no good keister off my property before I pump your guts full of lead!” Watch for John Candy and his polka band. Watch for Catherine O’Hara. Forget the subsequent sequels and what the movie did to MacCauley Culkin’s life. It really is a great movie. And, bonus: Has a totally kick ass soundtrack.
At the very least, watch for this sequence:
– “To me you are perfect.”
I mean, how can one not love this movie? It’s a love letter to Christmas. It’s from the same people who brought you About a Boy and High Fidelity. And the cast – Hugh Grant, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Bill Nighy…. I’ve actually read several negative reviews of the film, and…I don’t get it. It’s not the greatest film of all time or anything, but…Christmas, love, loss, family… Sure, some plot lines are stronger than others, but they all have their strengths. I saw this film three times in the theater, which is my official Sarah Stamp of Approval (see also: Dan in Real Life, Moulin Rouge). What can I say? Sometimes I like movies that make me feel good, especially around the holidays, and this one is just right. (This film also has an excellent soundtrack.
I mean if this doesn’t make you tear up…
Well then maybe this will:
(There’s happy parts, too, I promise.)
“‘ ‘Atta boy, Clarence.”
It’s a Wonderful Life
This is one I grew up watching. It’s a favorite in my family. I remember in high school health class, they played this the last week of the semester, as we had finished everything up and had nothing to do. And someone in my class had actually never seen it before. I was shocked! (Really, I was.) I honestly didn’t understand how someone could go their who life without knowing Bedford Falls, George Bailey or Clarence. The beauty of this movie is, I grew up watching it, and yet, every time I see it, it feels brand new. I’m not sure why. And you can never go wrong with Jimmy Stewart. It’s a Wonderful Life is cheesy, sure, but, much like Baz Luhrman, Frank Capra earns his cheese. I haven’t seen this one in a few years, and I think it’s time to bring it out again. Sing it with me now, “Buffalo girls, won’t you come out tonight, won’t you come out tonight, won’t you come out tonight. Buffalo girls won’t you come out tonight…and dance…by the light…of the moon.” Oh, hot dog.
“Come here, you weird, little man!”
There’s many incarnations of Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. This one is my favorite. Though I won’t fault anyone for being skeptical about a musical version of the classic tale, don’t knock it till you’ve tried it. And again, the cast – Albert Finney (who won a Golden Globe for his performance), Sir Alec Guinness… Fun fact: I used to be terrified of this film. When we first saw it, I couldn’t have been more than 9, and my sister, 13. All was well and good until we got to the part where Scrooge gets a visit from the Ghost of Christmas Future, who eventually leads Scrooge to his grave. Scrooge falls into it, and, for just a second, the mysterious Ghost of Christmas Future unveils his face- which is a skeleton. My sister and I were terrified. We refused to watch the movie for years. But then, one Christmas, I decided to be like Kevin McCallister and take on my fear, and told my parents I’d watch it again. And man, am I glad I did. This movie you guys, is amazing. And it makes me cry more than any other Christmas movie does. Finney’s performance is so extraordinary. I really believe he’s that mean old miser, and then, when he has his transformation? Forget it. I’m a goner. Here’s the beginning of a new Scrooge:
You can’t see me, but I’m crying. The best part though, is the final words of the film, which, if I weren’t already a basket case, put me over the top:
“I don’t know if you can hear me, old Jacob Marley, and I don’t know whether or not I imagined the things I saw, but between the two of us, we finally made a merry Christmas, didn’t we? I have to leave you now. I must go and get ready. I’m going to have Christmas dinner with my family.”
(And, I’m crying again. I think you have to hear him say the words, but every time, man. Every time, it makes me weep.)
– “It must be wonderful in Vermont this time of year. All that snow.”
Well, we’ve arrived at last, and how can the number one slot be filled by anything else? It’s Bing freaking Crosby, for goodness sake! And Danny Kaye! And Rosemary Clooney! Singing the music of Irving Berlin!
The truth is, this is a totally cheesy movie, and unlike Baz and Capra, it’s perhaps not earned. But I love it anyway. I love everything about it – how it is so quotable, (“Mutual, I’m sure.” “How much is wow?” “Somewhere between ‘ouch’ and ‘boinnggg'” “What happens when you eat liverwurst?” “You dream of liverwurst.”) the singing, the dancing, the mad-cap antics of Phil Davis and Judy Haynes, the blossoming love between Betty and Bob, Vera Ellen’s amazingly tiny waist and incredible legs, the nosy housekeeper, who almost ruins EVERYTHING, (And every year, I get angry at her. Like, I actually think it’s going to turn out any different, if I just watch it enough times.) the ole General Waverly. And yes, I admit it – when everyone stands for General Waverly in the end and starts singing “Because we love him, we love him…” my eyes are not tear-free. I can go a year or two without seeing any of the aforementioned movies. But, Christmas isn’t Christmas for me without White Christmas. It’s a yearly requirement.
Fun fact number two: Growing up, I always thought that people really bought Bob and Phil as the Haynes sisters. It really took me years, more years than I’m willing to admit, before I understood that the audience knew it was Wallace and Davis.
In my family, the guy who pops up is simply known as “The Guy With White Teeth”. (You might have to maximize the screen to get it.)
Happy holidays, everyone! I hope you’re able to enjoy your favorite Christmas/holiday movie this year.
Video(s) of the day: Two things we should remember all year round, not just at Christmas time:
and — (Fun fact number three: According to the audio commentary, these are all real – they sent a crew into airports.)