I Just Like to Smile…Smiling’s My Favorite (Andy)
Elf (2003): Before Iron Man, actor/director Jon Favreau’s greatest achievement was Elf, a movie so enriched in holiday spirit, laughs and heart it literally smells like candy canes and gingerbread. Elf inhabits the best-of-both worlds, as there’s enough light fare for the kiddies, but also enough Will Ferrell (Land of the Lost) zing to satiate the adults. If you missed this flick, I suggest a viewing ASAP. Nothing is funnier than Ferrell as a human trying to be an elf, and nothing is more adorable than Zooey Deschanel (500 Days of Summer). I just want to hug her and have her sing me to sleep.
And That’s How I Found Out There Was No Santa Claus (Dan)
Gremlins (1984): The Joe Dante directed, Steven Spielberg produced and Chris Columbus screen written comedy horror may not be the first movie you think of when you hear Holidays, but Gremlins stands as a delightfully nasty Christmas-crashing party. It’s not every day you receive a Christmas present that spawns scaly demons that murder, pillage and generally crap on a sleepy Christmas-time town. I can’t think of another holiday movie that so darkly and hilariously punches Christmas in the face with multiple Santa bashings, capped with this story as told to the movie’s hero Billy by his girlfriend:
“The worst thing that ever happened to me was on Christmas. Oh, God. It was so horrible. It was Christmas Eve. I was nine years old. Me and Mom were decorating the tree, waiting for Dad to come home from work. A couple hours went by. Dad wasn’t home. So Mom called the office. No answer. Christmas Day came and went, and still nothing. So the police began a search. Four or five days went by. Neither one of us could eat or sleep. Everything was falling apart. It was snowing outside. The house was freezing, so I went to try to light up the fire. That’s when I noticed the smell. The firemen came and broke through the chimney top. And me and Mom were expecting them to pull out a dead cat or a bird. And instead they pulled out my father. He was dressed in a Santa Claus suit. He’d been climbing down the chimney… his arms loaded with presents. He was gonna surprise us. He slipped and broke his neck. He died instantly. And that’s how I found out there was no Santa Claus.”
Happy Holidays, everybody!
Let’s Go Get the Shit Kicked Out of Us by Love! (Andy)
Love Actually (2003): This movie wasn’t embraced by critics, especially the way Americans were portrayed as cocky curmudgeons by director Richard Curtis, but those points miss the point. Love Actually is stacked with great acting (Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Bill Nighy, Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Keira Knightly to name a few) and the interwoven tales of holiday love are broad and tender to cover the widest range of hearts. Coming shortly after 9/11, I think this movie carried a great message: Love actually is all around. And, as many characters say during the film, if you can’t be honest with your feelings on Christmas, well, when can you?
Here’s a link to my favorite clip from Love Actually.
Marry Chrishmash Ev’rybawdy! (Dan)
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946): The end-all-be-all of holiday movie classics. Released just after the end of a bleak World War II, It’s a Wonderful Life took decades to become the holiday staple it is today. And sure, It’s a Wonderful Life is a Holiday movie standard, but the Jimmy Stewart, Frank Capra Dickens-inspired tale earns it. Self-affirming, generous and uplifting, everyone needs to know they’re loved and valued during the holidays and this one charmingly shows why.
Merry Christmas! Shitter was Full! (Andy)
Christmas Vacation (1989): The third installment in the Chevy Chase National Lampoon’s Vacation movies is an all-time holiday classic. Clark Griswold invites his extended family over for the Christmas holidays and instead of the fun and merriment, he gets cranky in-laws, a rabid squirrel and, of course, Uncle Eddie. Bring this movie up in conversation and you’re bound to hear endless quotations ranging from “Bend over and I’ll show you,” to “we’re gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny f**king Kaye. And when Santa squeezes his fat white ass down that chimney tonight, he’s gonna find the jolliest bunch of assholes this side of the nuthouse.”
Flick Says He Saw Some Grizzly Bears Near Pulaski’s Candy Store! (Dan)
A Christmas Story (1983): Yes, this sucker’s been run into the ground by endless TBS repeats and infinite “Best Christmas Movie” list-topping, but don’t let that turn you off. The story of a boy, his Christmas dream and all the growing up that goes along with it is pitch perfect in its visitation of childhood fears, imagination and mundanery. The Christmas consumerism and commercialism is on full display here, but parental love and wish fulfillment serve as a consistently funny and heartfelt reminder of the best Christmases gone by.