Five Holiday Movies And Why They Last
The holidays mean movies, and boy howdy are there a lot of them. I’ve picked five, which is a good number for a countdown, and these are movies that have stayed with me for varying reasons through the years, unlike, say, A Year Without Santa Claus or It’s A Wonderful Life, neither of which I have ever seen. It’s true! I have never seen them. What happens when a bell rings? Don’t ask me! Who is the Heat Miser? You’ll have to ask someone else. But lest you think I am a complete grinch, (I know who that is!) here are five that keep coming back every year, and the reasons why.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: This movie, following the Griswolds as they stagger through the holiday season with the hapless Clark at the helm, is my dad’s favorite film. Whether it’s the Christmas turkey disaster, or the outside lights disaster, or the visit from Cousin Eddie disaster, NLCV delivers cheap but relate-able material, is highly quotable, and at its core, is about a man with very little luck and a lot of heart, just trying to give his family the best Christmas ever, even if it quite literally kills him. It’s goofy as all get out, but your dad probably loves it too. It lasts because families are messy and flawed, and try to do their best, even though sometimes it all falls apart, but they keep going. Clark Griswold is a perfect example of this.
A Christmas Story: This one can be polarizing. People seem to either adore or loathe the misadventures of Ralphie and his family as our young hero dreams of a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, which is met at every mention with “You’ll shoot your eye out!” It’s a simple, sweet retrospective of the 40s, and if that’s your thing, you’ll love it. It’s another favorite with your parents’ friends, but could very well be too slow-paced and treacly for the kids. The whole “gee whilikers, the good ol’ days sure were great!” thing gets cloying, but it’s a crowd favorite, and there’s usually at least one channel that shows it for a 24 hour marathon on Christmas. That’s way too much Ralphie for me, but it’s cute. Just don’t be surprised if you try to show it to the kids and they whine that they’re booooooooored, this is duuuuuuuuumb, where are the suuuuuuperheroes. That will probably happen.
Scrooged: Now we’re talking. I love Scrooged, and while some people might say “well, it’s Bill Murray, that’s all you need to know” I say nay! Sure, it stars Murray and his unique take on the Scrooge character, and it’s hilarious and touching in the right moments, but it has a stellar supporting cast (Alfre Woodard! Carol Kane! David Johansen!) that rounds out the tale of the greedy man who learns the real meaning of the season in the very apropos setting of the indulgent 1980s. It’s howlingly funny (Carol Kane makes me cry-laugh every time) and Bill Murray finds that balance that only he can between hubris and hilarity that makes Scrooged one of the best adaptations of the tale ever put to film. Plus, as with NLCV, there are enough pratfalls and physical comedy to keep the kids entertained.
Love, Actually: Ahhhhh, this movie. Loved by some, despised by others, (seriously, the people who hate this movie HAAAAAAAAAATE this movie) the film follows a huge cast of characters in London who are all somehow intertwined at the holiday season. This one is for the adults, for certain, mostly because of one of the sweetest storylines, which involve two body doubles in an adult film who fall for each other, but it’s the painfully emotional crumbling relationship between the late, great Alan Rickman and the wonderful Emma Thompson that really makes this film one for the ages. In a stale marriage that unfortunately involves a flirty co-worker of Rickman’s, the story of the necklace and the Joni Mitchell cd is heartrending. Will they stay together? Won’t they? SHOULD they? It’s a relationship that can be discussed at length whether you love or hate the movie, and that’s saying a lot for the film itself. I happen to love the movie, but I completely understand why it’s such a polarizing work.
Home Alone: Want to show the kids how difficult it was to live before the internet? Want to watch a movie that literally would never exist these days because of Facetime and GPS? Want to watch the horror on their faces when they watch a kid have to survive on their own without Siri? Have them watch Home Alone. It will be a wild new world for them. They’ll be outraged. Horrified. Angry. It’ll be great. You’ll love their reaction, and isn’t that the best holiday present of all? I thought so.