Monday, December 5, 2011

The Beginner's Guide to Holiday Films

I make no pretenses about the fact that when it comes to Christmastime Merriment, I'm pretty much a blackbelt. I know a few of you lesser mortals are probably wondering how I do it. But, let's be honest, it isn't a teachable skill.

However, I can and will impart some of my merry-making wisdom to you in the form of a guide, of sorts, of Christmas Films* (which some of you will realize are a key part of the annual festivities as they can and should be watched while decorating trees, baking, cyber-shopping, etc.) So let me break it down for you into some simple do's and don'ts. Ready? Let's begin.

"Smoky Mountain Christmas" starring Dolly Parton and her hair. When it comes to kitschy, corny, twang infused holiday delight, nothing tops Dolly's 1986 classic. This tender, rollicking classic includes such holiday staples as a witch woman, a mountain man, a cottage full of orphans, and John Ritter. But why are you still reading? You should have been sold at "Dolly Parton".
Memorable Quote: "You shouldn't ought to not like people, but if you're going to, he's the one not to like!"-Lorna Davis (Dolly)

"It's a Wonderful Life" starring Jimmy Stewart. I won't beat around the bush here, this movie is aweful. It's about attempted suicide, people. There's your first clue right there. It's about feeling really depressed and deciding to off yourself rather than go on talking with that weird accent that just drives me up a wall. I'll admit that when it comes to Jimmy Stewart and his vocal choices I am nowhere near the bandwagon. Every time he opens his mouth all I really want is for him to stop saying words! However, my antipathy toward the great Mr. Stewart aside (well, not quite aside. Have you seen Mr. Smith Goes to Washington? Yes? My condolences.), the movie itself is just annoying.
Memorable Quote: "What is it you want, Mary? What do you want? You want the moon? Just say the word and I'll throw a lasso around it and pull it down. Hey. That's a pretty good idea. I'll give you the moon, Mary." (Or you could just stop talking, dude. Either way.)

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" by Dr. Seuss, narrated by Boris Karloff. Here we have all that is good about holiday films. A green suessian creature plotting grand-theft Christmas. The songs are fantastic, the lyrics profound, and Boris Karloff's narration is creamy, dreamy and devilish good. Also, I defy you not to get a little choked up when the Grinch hears the whos singing after he's taken their toys.
Memorable Quote: (The whole movie is one long memorable quote, people, but for brevity's sake) "Then he got an idea. An awful idea. The Grinch got a wonderful, *awful* idea!"

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas" starring Jim Carrey. Some movies are bad, some movies are aweful, and some movies should be burned over a ceremonial fire. This thing, this twisted, horrible, mangled reproduction of a Christmas classic is a sin against nature and must be stopped!
Memorable Quote: Nope. Not doing it. I refuse to memorialize a single line from this sick, sick travesty.

"The Muppet Christmas Carol" with Michael Caine. I realize that I lost most of you when I dared insult the oh-so-glorious "It's a Wonderful Life" and you know, that's fine. Those of you that did stick around are now scratching your heads about this one. It isn't classic Muppets, after all. And if you've got a problem with odd accents well....Michael Caine? And I'll tell you, when it comes to this choice even I'm a little confused. But I love this movie. I once watched it on repeat for three days straight while writing 10 final papers for various anthropology courses in college. And still I love it. Still I laugh at the chickens and the rats. Still I love to hate the scenes with Miss Piggy. And still I crack up everytime Michael Caine tries to sing along with the final chorus. Accents aside, Dude cannot sing.
Memorable Quote: "You will love is the AMERICAN WAY! (whispering from Gonzo) is the BRITTISH WAY!" -Sam Eagle

Pretty much any other version of the Christmas Carol, particularly ones starring Jim Carrey (because, after Grinch-Gate, I'm boycotting any and all of his holiday films for now until the end of time. Amen)

"Polar Express" starring Tom Hanks. First of all, kudos to the people who were able to convince Tom Hanks to step into a dimentional realignment machine in order to trap him in a two-dimensional animated movie. The result is just how I like this sort of thing: two parts unnecessary and one part creepy. I like this movie, folks. I just do. I like how it makes me want to drink hot chocolate and ask for a single sleigh bell for Christmas. I like how Josh Groban makes me want to "Believe in what your hear is saying, hear the melody it's playing". I like how Tom Hanks manages to play at least three totally different characters exactly the same way.
Memorable Quote: "The thing about trains... it doesn't matter where they're going. What matters is deciding to get on." -The Conductor (aka Tom Hanks trapped in virtual form)

On the Fence:
"Elf" staring Will Ferrel. I'm conflicted on this one. At first blush it should be pretty cut and dry. Watching Will Ferrel caricature a developmentally disabled person shouldn't be on anyone's holiday to-do list. I still don't see how growing up with what appear to be decently mature elves has somehow stunted his cognitive progress. His elf-dad seems to be a fairly normal guy, after all. And yet, still I watch it with my husband. Still I laugh a bit when he launches himself at the tree to hang the star. I cringe at the many humor attempts that fall flat, true. And Ms. Deschanel looks far better as a brunette (Why the blond here, folks? Why? She can't be the most beautiful person Buddy has ever seen if her hair isn't the color of rancid mayonnaise?). So I don't know. I just don't.
Memorable Quote: "Wow, you're fast. I'm glad I caught up to you. I waited 5 hours for you. Why is your coat so big? So, good news - I saw a dog today. Have you seen a dog? You probably have." -Buddy

"Mr. Krueger's Christmas" -Starring Jimmy Stewart. Because the only way to truly appreciate the creepiness that is Jimmy Stewart is to watch him in this vaguely horrific short film wherein he plays an almost, but not quite, child molester. Done and done.
Memorable Quote:
Clarissa's Mother: Did Clarissa leave her mittens here ?
Mr. Krueger: Oh, yes, yes they're right here.
Clarissa: You hung them on the Christmas tree ?
Mr. Krueger: Well, you remind me of everything good about Christmas so I just couldn't think of a better place. Here... there you are.  

*This is by no means a comprehensive list. So when I fail to mention your favorite holiday film, don't go thinking it's a personal insult. (It probably is, but there's no need to dwell on it) 

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