Holiday Movie Watching, Dos and Don’ts Part Two

Donna Reed suffering a fate worse than death.

Donna Reed suffering a fate worse than death.

(Part one of Holiday Movies Dos and Don’ts)

So to recap from yesterday, yea on the original The Grinch who Stole Christmas and Miracle on 34th Street. Stay away from the remakes of both of those. Yes to Reginald Owen, Alastair Sim, and Vanessa Williams in their versions of A Christmas Carol. And, remember the combination of Jim Carrey and Christmas do not make a good movie.

It’s a Wonderful Life is a well known Christmas classic and one that has been parodied several times. (see last episode of Dallas, for example.) It held a certain charm during my childhood, mainly because it was on tv all the time, due to the fact it was in the public domain for several years starting in the 1970’s. It was entirely possible that one could channel surf between Thanksgiving and Christmas, and find it on three different channels, at three different points in the movie. In the mid-1990’s, the film was no longer considered part of the public domain, and so is shown far less frequently. It’s a Wonderful Life is one of those movies that people either love or hate. I was discussing this with my co-worker, yesterday who expressed her displeasure with the movie. Personally, I really like it, and have tried to catch it on the big screen when I can. And, of course we librarians are equally amused and bemused by this scene and this scene.

Comedies are a popular genre of Christmas movies. My other co-worker was sharing with me this morning her family tradition of watching National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation every year. It’s not my favorite in the series (that would be European Vacation), but it is definitely funny. It will give you a whole new appreciation for your neighbors who put up a ridiculous amount of Christmas lights.

Other fun family comedies include the first two Santa Clause movies, Elf, and Scrooged (that could have also fit under A Christmas Carol adaptations). I used to include Home Alone on this list, but that movie seems to get less funny the older I get. Do avoid the third movie in the Santa Clause series, and any sequels in the Home Alone series.

Of course, the best Christmas comedy classic is A Christmas Story, based on a series of Jean Shepherd’s stories. It manages to capture the spirit and the season without having one serious moment. Taking place in pre-World War II Indiana, it’s the story of Ralphie Parker who wants a ,”A Red Ryder BB gun with a compass in the stock, and this thing which tells time” for Christmas but too many people warn him that he’ll shoot his eye out. Of course, this is only the backdrop for a movie which teaches a lot of important life lessons, such as Palmolive is the most delicious option when it comes to soap, don’t lick flagpoles in the middle of winter, and sometimes a lamp may be a major award. There were two sequels made to this movie, and I say avoid them both.

Here is the rest of my list, of movies that are nice and movies that are naughty.

Check These Out

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas: that poor little tree
  • Holiday Inn: Not just a Christmas movie but it did introduce the song “White Christmas”. Plus, I like this movie better than White Christmas.
  • Meet Me in St. Louis: Not specifically a Christmas movie, either, but it features Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”. Just skip the next scene with Margaret O’Brien’s Tootie having an inexplicable breakdown.
  • Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer: An elf who wants to be a dentist. The Island of Misfit Toys. Big Daddy from Cat on a Hot Tin Roof disguised as a snowman. I can’t get enough of this one.
  • The Nutcracker with Mikhail Baryshnikov: This was the version shown on PBS throughout my childhood. While not everyone likes an adult Clara, the dancing from both Baryshinikov and Gelsey Kirkland are beautiful. Being a Bostonian, I still prefer the Boston Ballet’s production, but this is a great alternative.

Don’t Even Bother Looking for These

  • Twas the Night Before Christmas: I know I won’t make friends by putting this on the list but I have always disliked this special. Santa is creepy looking. I can’t get the song, “Christmas Chimes are Calling” out of my head. It’s named after a poem which actually has a different name. And what’s with the mice? Such a beautiful poem. Not a beautiful cartoon.
  • Nutcracker: The Motion Picture (1986) and George Balanchine’s The Nutcracker (1993): The first has gorgeous sets designed by Maurice Sendak’s which are also used as his illustrations for E.T.A. Hoffmann’s book. The production has an extremely creepy tone, though. The production also can’t decide if Clara is a little girl or an adult, so she’s both, which is odd. The second title isn’t so bad except it features a prepubescent (non ballet dancer) Macauley Culkin as the Nutcracker Prince. Kevin Kline’s narration is also completely unnecessary.
  • Fred Claus: The premise is kind of clever and it has potential to be very cute but it’s just, well, not.
  • Anything produced by the Hallmark Channel or starring Valerie Bertinelli

What are your favorite specials and movies? Which are the ones you’re tired of seeing on tv every year? Write them in the comments below.
posted by Laura

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