At this point, Christmas is probably over-saturated just a little bit. In the case of movies, there's too many of them and not enough time to watch them all -- but that's a good thing. Here's a guide to what you should be watching this holiday season:
The Christmas TV Specials:
- Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
- A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
- Frosty the Snowman (1969)
- Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town (1970)
- The Year Without A Santa Claus (1974)
There isn't anything more comforting in December than the animated TV specials, all of which are stretched out by commercials to almost twice their actual running time. The traditional cartoons have some great moments: The pageant rehearsal scenes in Charlie Brown, Frosty's confusing calls of "Happy Birthday," the entranced cult of the Whos in The Grinch. But the real holiday magic comes in the Rankin/Bass stop-motion movies, notable for their catchy songs, great characters (you can't beat Yukon Cornelius, the Winter Warlock and Snowmiser -- sorry) and subtle city names like Sombertown and Southtown. But why did the people get so ugly and buck-toothed in The Year Without A Santa Claus?
The Best Adaptations of 'A Christmas Carol':
- Scrooge (1951)
- Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol (1962)
- The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
- A Christmas Carol (2009)
A Christmas Carol is one of the most frequently-adapted works of all-time, probably because it's the one Charles Dickens story that doesn't take you five years to finish reading. While the Alastair Sim version, Scrooge, is generally thought to be the best, some other adaptations are just as entertaining, albeit for different, sillier reasons. The Muppets always make everything better (especially Statler and Waldorf as "Marley and Marley"), Mr. Magoo has a surprisingly good singing voice and the Jim Carrey motion-capture film is so misunderstood; wahh, the 3D special effects were too cool and the plot was too depressing... you know, like the original story.
Very Hate-Watchable Christmas Classics:
- Jingle All The Way (1996)
- Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2 (1987)
- Picking Up & Dropping Off (2003)
It's scary how unfunny everything and everyone besides Phil Hartman is in Jingle All The Way. It's scary how stupid the plot of Picking Up & Dropping Off is, even for an ABC Family original (two independently divorced parents meet every year at Christmas when they drop off their kids at the airport and eventually fall in love -- don't they meet people the other 364 days of the year?). And it's truly scary just how hilarious the rampage scene is in Silent Night, Deadly Night Part 2, if only for one line: "Garbage day!"
Actual Christmas Classics:
- It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
- A Christmas Story (1983)
- Miracle on 34th Street (1947) (1994)
- The Santa Clause (1994)
The titles really speak for themselves -- except for maybe The Santa Clause, to which I would say: It's a creative, modern twist on the Santa Claus origin tale that harnesses Tim Allen's best comic instincts and combines the Christmas tradition of the Cosby sweater with the droll, monotone humor of Judge Reinhold. Can't ask for much more than that.
The Best Christmas Movie of All-Time:
- Die Hard (1988)
Um, yeah, it's a Christmas movie: Takes place on Christmas Eve, Holly McClane's gift bracelet becomes a major plot point and "Ode to Joy" is played incessantly throughout the film. You want to start an exciting new Christmas tradition? Watch Die Hard -- you won't regret it.
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