Wednesday, December 21, 2005

5 Movies You Should Watch This Christmas

Because people are always asking me for movie recommendations (a side-effect of being a notorious movie buff and former video store clerk), I thought I'd compile a quick list of my Top 5 holiday movies. If you haven't seen them, treat yourself to a rental this Christmas. If you have, be reminded of how much you love these movies and then go rent them again.

National Lampoon's "Christmas Vacation"

There are times when I seriously doubt my family would have anything to talk about if this movie didn't exist. All year round, we reference and quote lines from it, and then every December like clockwork we all sit down for yet another ritualistic viewing. And you know what? It's always funny. From the opening sequences where Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) has to dig a tree out of the ground with his bare hands to the scene where Cousin Eddie brags about how well-endowed the family dog is, "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" is one of those rare comedies that never drags, becomes heavy-handed, or tries to teach any kind of valuable lessons. It's just funny, period. Check it out...And save the neck for me, Clark.


The Nightmare Before Christmas

If we're really honest with ourselves, my fellow fans of weird cinema, then we should have no problem admitting that, of all Tim Burton's movies, only five or six of them are actually worth watching. The Nightmare Before Christmas is one (try and guess the others.) Honestly, this stop-motion animation masterpiece is so unique and perfectly executed that the mere thought of it is what keeps me shelling out money for tickets every time Tim Burton does another flick.
It's the story of Jack Skellington - the good-natured, but bored leader of Halloween Town - who decides life would be more interesting if he and his friends (vampires, werewolves, and various other things that go bump in the night) gave Santa a break by taking over Christmas for a year. Inexperienced in the way of yuletide cheer, Jack ends up delivering Christmas packages filled with severed heads, bats, spiders, and all kinds of other stuff more suited to Halloween. It's funny in that morbid kind of way - Tim Burton in top form. And it even comes with a love story and a great message about being willing to try new things. Everyone hail to the pumpkin song.

Slutty Santas Vol.17: Nice and Naughty

The good people at Vivid Video have really outdone themselves with this instant holiday classic about two fun-loving girls (Candy and Holly) who are kind of worried that they've been too naughty to get any XXX-mas toys from Santa. In an effort to make things right, they travel to the North Pole so they can tell Santa they're sorry in person. As it turns out, Santa (played by Ron Jeremy of all people) has been hard at work to create a new line of toys just for naughty girls and he can't wait to show Candy and Holly how they work. The girls of course LOVE these new toys of Santa's and spend the rest of the movie demonstrating their many clever uses to each other, Mrs.Claus, Rudolph, Frosty the Snowman, and an ass-load of elves. Talk about spreading the cheer. This one's a perfect stocking stuffer.

Okay, I'm kidding. There's not really a porn flick on my list of must-see holiday movies. That's just a little laugh for everyone who takes time to read these ramblings of mine. Here's my real #3:

A Christmas Story

I don't think it's possible to compile a list of great Christmas movies and NOT include this one somewhere in the top 3. On top of all the classic lines - "You'll shoot your eye out!" "Oh...fuuuuudge," etc. - A Christmas Story provides a flawless picture of what growing up is actually like. Everything from desperately wanting something that you have no means of getting (in this case a Red Ryder b.b. gun), the glaring hypocrisy of adults (Ralphie's foul-mouthed father has no idea where he could have heard the dreaded "F" word), and the way other kids are just friggin' WEIRD ("I like the tin man.") The whole thing works, and it's the kind of family film that just doesn't get made anymore. (Today's family films try so hard to be family-friendly that they end up being corny -- see also "Because of Winn-Dixie.") A Christmas Story, on the other hand, is clean, but very honest. And that's what good storytelling is made of. No need to rent this one, by the way. TBS keeps it in constant rotation.


Edward Scissorhands

Making his second appearance here on my holiday movie countdown is filmmaker Tim Burton with his enchanting fairy tale of a movie, Edward Scissorhands...Okay, I know what some of you are thinking. You're thinking that Edward Scissorhands isn't specifically a "holiday" movie. Okay, fair enough. But, so much of the movie takes place during the Christmas season - including, of course, the famous "dancing in the snow" scene - that I've just always kind of equated the two. A lot of people, including my own mom, initially shy away from this movie, assuming that a story about a guy who has scissors for hands is a little too far out there for their personal tastes. But, that's not really true. Aside from Edward's hands, the story is incredibly straight-forward, and it illustrates valuable lessons about loving people for who they are and the power of love to inspire art. There's also a lot of sub-text about how miracles come from unexpected places, and well, if that's not a holiday message then I don't know what is. This one's safe for the kids, and you owe them at least one viewing of it. Just make sure you have a box of Kleenex ready for one of the most heart-wrenching expressions of affection ever caught on film:

Kim: (to Edward) Hold me.
Edward: (brief hesitation filled with longing) I can't.

I lose it every time.

Bad Santa

There are a lot of things that I find funny, dear readers, but I very rarely laugh out loud. Oh sure, I chuckle a lot. I do that annoying little giggle that I wish I could surgically remove. But really laughing hard at something? That's not usually in the cards. The first time I saw this movie, however (and Keith can back me up on this), I totally lost my shit. Billy Bob Thornton stars as Willie, an alcoholic, prostitute-loving thief who poses as a mall Santa so he can steal money from department store safes. Not surprisingly, he's not very fond of kids, which spells trouble every time he has one on his lap.

He tells one kid to "watch the bladder, Santa's really gotta pee." Another kid asks if he's really Santa, to which Willie replies, "No. I'm an accountant. I wear this f**king suit as a fashion statement." And of course if you've ever spent any time around my mom and I, you've undoubtedly heard us rattle off my very favorite Bad Santa exchange - the one where the kid sits on Willie's lap and asks for a fraggle-stick car, only to be met with a harsh "What the f*ck is that?!" It's a jet-black comedy, but you know I wouldn't have it any other way.

It's worth mentioning that a lot of people find this flick nothing short of sacreligious. They say it's wrong to place such a horrible character in the middle of a Christmas story, especially when he has such awful things to say to kids. I, however, have a little theory that I'd like to pass along. Please keep this in mind when watching this movie.

Okay, if you were to judge him using any Christian moral standard, you would basically be forced to say the character of Willie is a sinner. He's a thief, a drunkard, and a genuinely unpleasant person. He's also a sexual deviant, has little to no respect for others, and is occasionally prone to acts of violence. In short, he's anything but an upstanding citizen. During the course of the movie, however, he comes into contact with a young boy who, for one reason or another, loves him unconditionally. No matter how badly Willie treats him, no matter how many times he yells at him, the kid never seems to stop caring. Finally, in a scene that basically turns the movie around, the kid gives Willie a Christmas present - a wooden pickle he carved himself. Noticing that the pickle has a strange brown gloss over it, Willie asks, "Why'd you paint it brown?" The kid replies by saying, "It's not paint. It's blood from where I cut myself making it for you." Then, as evidence, he lifts up his hand so Willie can see the wound. In that moment, Willie has a strange revelation - for the first time he feels as if someone cares about him. And from there on out, he starts warming up to the kid, and eventually...well, you'll just have to see it for yourself.

Anyone with even an elementary understanding of Christian theology can see the parallels that are being made here, and it's because of these parallels that I'm happy to call Bad Santa my #1 holiday movie pick. It fully demonstrates the meaning of Christmas without getting all cheesy, and when it's over you can't help but feel that maybe Bad Santa isn't so bad after all.

Well, there they are. Holiday movie recommendations from me to you. Don't say I never gave you anything...Merry Christmas, all.


Blogger reddoorjen said...

I know that this is supposed to be your list; however, you've left off my fav holiday picks, and I can't just let you forget about them. It is just not Christmas without Nestor the Long-Eared Christmas Donkey and the Year Without Santa~~I mean, you cry in Nestor and then sing "I'm Mr. Heat Meiser, I'm Mr. Sun" a few times. Rankin & Bass = Christmas...and you totally left them off your list! And so everyone knows that I do watch movies for people over the age of 3, Love Actually is my true fav holiday flick. So there's my comment on you lil list, J dear....see you tomorrow!

12:01 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...


Interesting movie list. We recently watched Christmas with the Cranks, even though it isn't an instant classic, it is still worth watching(in my humble opinion). Enjoy.

Mike Johnson

10:46 AM  

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