Saturday, December 25, 2004

My Favorite Christmas Movies

There are a lot of Christmas movies out there, especially if you include the T.V. movies. I looked at over 400 titles before deciding on my favorites, listed below in order of preference (my own):

1. Groundhog Day. This is not your classic Christmas movie. In fact, there's no Christmas in it since it takes place in February. But it's got snow and "the true meaning of Christmas" (you'll find this phrase in every Christmas movie database). It's one of my favorite movies of all times, as Bill Murray relives the same day, over and over, until he gets it right.

2. It's a Wonderful Life. I don't believe It's a Wonderful Life came out as a Christmas movie, and I also believe it was a financial failure when it first hit, failing to find its audience. Well, it has an audience now. Be careful when you watch the rerun on T.V., though, as the versions are severely truncated. The full-length version has a lengthy courtship between Jimmy Stewart and Donna Reed, which, while the sequence doesn't help much with the plot, it sets up his character very nicely and takes the time to do it right. The film was made in 1946, right after World War II ended, and shows a different view of wartime, the kind of scenery the rest of us had to endure while our brothers went off to war. The "Scrooge" in the story takes advantage when Jimmy's uncle misplaces $8,000 of the bank's money. The ending is definitely kleenex-worthy.

3. White Christmas. Nothing speaks to Christmas like this 1954 movie with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye as an entertainment duo who try to save their military commander's dignity while finding True Love. Great, great songs.

4. Scrooge. The version I recommend is the old 1950's one with Alastair Sim as Ebeneezer. You can't have Christmas without Dickens.

5. A Winter Solstice. This was an early Xena: Warrior Princess episode. Since you can't really have Christmas (Jesus Christ came a few hundred years later), we have a "winter solstice" where the plot contrives early versions of Santa, gift-giving, a Christmas tree, and, yes, "the true meaning of Christmas." Uproariously funny and a superb example of why Xena is a cult favorite.

6. Bad Santa. Bad boy Santa discovers the "true meaning of Christmas" only when he leaves the elf and helps the weird eight-year-old boy deal with life's problems.

Honorable Mention goes to:

7. The Bishop's Wife (1947). A superb cast with Cary Grant and David Niven. I always thought these two could switch roles and the movie would work as well.

8. A Charlie Brown Christmas, or actually, all the Charlie Brown Christmas specials. Someone took a chance when they first put these together that kids and adults alike would love a slightly avant-garde view of Charlie Brown's world. Mix in Vince Garaldi's brilliant music for a wonderful treasure.

9. The Lion in Winter. Eleanor of Aquitaine gets loose from the Tower just once a year, for Christmas. While every family may have its ups and downs, none are quite like these.

10. Love Actually. This is a 2003 movie featuring one of the best casts you'll ever see in a modern movie. Several vignettes work well to show us the good and sad of Christmas holidays for several families.

11. The Simpsons Christmas Special. My favorite part: Bart gets a tattoo, but Marge spends all the Christmas money having it removed.

Bad Christmas movies - Ohmigosh, this list could be quite long, especially with all the T.V. drivel out there. But be sure to count among them:
The Adventures of Mary-Kate & Ashley: The Case of the Christmas Caper
Jim Carrey's Grinch
The Nightmare Before Christmas - great (dead) characters with a verrrrry sloooooow plot
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964). 'Nuff said.


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