A scene from Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
Well, it’s that time of the year again to spend all our hard earned cash in the name of capitalism. Just kidding folks, I’m no sour puss, I actually love this time of year, not so much because of the gifts or even the Jesus (which most don’t even care about anyways) but more because of the happiness, the parties and the general good vibes everyone emanates. Made up holiday or not, Christmas makes everyone a little bit nicer don’t it? So anyhow, here’s my list of Christmas movies. Now this isn't a list of movies that take place during Christmas but aren't really about Christmas, like say Die Hard (1988), Batman Returns (1992) or Gremlins (1984). Nope, this is a list about straight forward movies that are about Christmas itself. I’ll apologize in advance, I haven’t seen A Christmas Story (1983), Miracle on 34th Street (1947), Arthur Christmas (2011), It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) or A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) yet, so forgive me for not including them. I've included a group of films that I like to revisit during this special time of year; maybe you guys will enjoy them too.
A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas (2011)
Comments: Now here’s an extremely funny Christmas movie, first off, it’s about two pot heads, which immediately makes everything funnier, but it’s also a film that puts Harold and Kumar’s friendship to the test. We've seen them become inseparable best buds (no pun…oh whatever, it was intended) through the past two movies, but on this one they've drifted apart. Harold has become something of a professional and Kumar well, he’s a complete looser who dropped out of college, to make matters worse, he’s just discovered he’s going to be a dad. Can Kumar live up to the responsibility of being a father? Do Harold and Kumar still have anything in common? Will they still be best buds for life? Or will Santa try to bring these two knuckle heads together again? Not gonna lie to ya, this movie aint sweet and pretty or politically correct, in fact it’s the complete opposite of that, so if you can’t take a movie where Santa gets a shotgun blast to the head, don’t even bother. But if on the other hand, you want to laugh your ass off during Christmas, this is the ticket for you.
Quote: “No can do man, I gotta stay here and smoke this weed, or else, I won’t get high.”
Comments: So this movie is just nuts, mostly due to the fact that Will Farrell is the star. It’s all a game of contrasts: Farrell is so big and loud and elves are usually the complete opposite of that, small and quiet and well, the contrast is just hilarious. It’s also a fish out of water story in more ways than one. First, Farrell is a human living among elves, which presents its own set of problems because he is just so damn big! Then he ends up going to the real world, to find his human family, so now he is out of place as well because while he is a human, he was brought up by Santa’s elves and so he is always unusually happy and jolly all the time. Funniest part is how all things Christmas make him extremely excited; he gets this crazy rush whenever anything related to Christmas is mentioned, but of course, this all works because it’s Farrell playing the elf.
Quote: Upon seeing a fake Santa at the mall Buddy the elf gets close to the guy and tells him: “You sit on a throne of lies!”
Comments: Directed by the one and only Richard Donner (The Goonies and Lethal Weapon) this modern take on Charles Dickens classic stars Bill Murray as Frank Cross, a Scrooge-like character who is the greediest, most selfish bastard you will ever know. He runs a television station and wants to do a version of Scrooge that has scrooge shooting machine guns and spewing hatred, just so the ratings can go up. Too bad for him he gets visited by the Christmas ghosts and you know how that goes. It’s a modern version of The Christmas Carol, with some of the ghosts looking all scary and frightening. The special effects are pretty nifty on this one, you’ll dig the ghosts! One of them is played by New York Dolls front man David Johansen! On top of this, the film also has this really acid, black comedy to it, the real miracle is that somehow the film manages to have real heart to it; some scenes really get to me. Trust me, by the time the film finishes, you’ll be singing Christmas carols at the top of your longs, with Bill Murray no less.
Quote: “For a couple of hours out of the whole year, we are the people we always hoped we would be!”
Jingle All the Way (1996)
Comments: Consumerism at its ugliest is not a pretty sight; just ask all those folks who have died while trying to buy their 51 inch flat screen television on the infamous ‘Black Friday’! If you ask me, it’s one of the things I hate the most about Christmas. What Jingle All the Way does is make fun of all that, if you've been out on last minute Christmas shopping, you'll love this one, it will no doubt make you laugh out loud. It’s the story of a father trying to buy that special toy that his son wants for Christmas; problem is that it’s sold out everywhere! And he promised his son this toy for Christmas! Everything is made more hilarious because the father is played by Arnold Schwarzenegger, who by the way had a way with comedies. He made me laugh in Twins (1988), The Last Action Hero (1993) and Kindergarten Cop (1990) and yes, he made me laugh with this Christmas movie as well, especially in that scene where he has to fight a bunch of fake Santa’s, a funny scene made even better because one of the fake Santas is played by James Belushi! Recommend it because it shows that Christmas shouldn’t be so much about the gifts; it should be more about the quality time we spend with each other.
Quote: “We get one day a year to show we’re not screw ups, and what do we do? We screw it up!”
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) and (2000)
Comments: Of course the real Christmas classic is the animated version of this movie which I also highly recommend, it was directed by animation legend Chuck Jones and has the Grinch voiced by none other than Boris Karloff, this short film is both magical and weird at the same time, but very Christmassy none the less. Then there’s the Ron Howard directed film, which also has its merits. I like it because of how effectively it brings to life Dr. Seuss’s unique looking characters and the world of Whoville. Visually, it’s amazing and Jim Carrey as The Grinch is perfect.
Quote: “Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t thought before. Maybe Christmas he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps means a little more!”
Comments: This is another Christmas Carol version I love because of its catchy tunes, yes my friends, this is a musical, and it’s a damn good one! This one is my favorite because I have fond memories of watching it on Christmas Eve on a cold winter night in New York City. Me and my brothers, we loved singing the catchy tunes on this film, our favorite always was “Thank You Very Much!” We also get a wonderfully grouchy performance from the great Albert Finney as Scrooge, one of the best Scrooges ever, highly recommend this one!
Quote: “The thing is to try and do as much as you can in the time that you have. Remember Scrooge, time is short, and suddenly, you’re not here anymore.”
Rare Exports (2010)
Comments: So here’s an interesting film, it originated with a series of short films directed by Jalmari Helander, which made fun of those Santa’s we see in the mall. He later expanded these shorts into a film called Rare Exports, which kept the same spirit of the short films: criticizing the hell out of Christmas. This unorthodox Christmas film falls in that pantheon of films that show Christmas as one big fat lie. In many ways it’s a huge critique on Santa Claus and what the character symbolizes, a monster of consumerism. In this films case, Santa Claus is an infernal beast hell bent on eating children. See the symbolism here? You teach your children about a jolly fat man coming down a chimney and your basically feeding to the monster of consumerism. But symbolisms aside, this is a cool Christmas horror film that actually shows a part of Christmas that is very true. Of course we can make of Christmas what we will, the idea behind many of the films I’ve mentioned on this post is that Christmas shouldn't be centered around material things alone.
Quote: “The real Santa was totally different; the Coca-Cola Santa was just a hoax.”
Rankin Bass Christmas Classics: The Little Drummer Boy (1968), Santa Claus is Coming to Town (1970), Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (1964)
Comments: These Rankin Bass Christmas classics are special for me because I grew up watching these on television when I was a kid, they were required viewing during Christmas time, a pity they don’t show them that often anymore. I love them for various reasons, but mainly because they are stop motion animated. I’m pretty sure we wouldn’t have A Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) if it wasn't for these Christmas specials. There’s a couple more of these out there in case you guys are interested in seeing them all. They are: The Year Without Santa Claus (1974), Jack Frost (1979), The Leprechauns Christmas Gold (1981), Pinocchio’s Christmas (1980), Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July (1979), Rudolph’s Shinny New Year (1976), The First Christmas (1976) and that’s without counting their holiday specials which were done in traditional animation! Rankin and Bass really milked that Christmas cow for all it’s worth! If you want an old school Christmassy feel for your Christmas watching, then you can’t go wrong with any of these classics.
Quote: “But what would happen if we all tried to be like Santa, and learned to live as only he can give: of ourselves, our talents, our love and our hearts?”
Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)
Comments: Here’s a Christmas movie from the guys who brought you all those Superman movies from the 80’s (the Salkinds) so you can expect the same kind of cheesy effects you’d find in say Superman III (1983). This movie comes to us from the same director who brought us Jaws (1978) and Supergirl (1984), so take that for what it’s worth. Actually, this is an excellent Christmas movie, it’s an origin tale for Santa Claus, we get to see how he actually became Santa Claus and all that. Then we go into a story about how one of Santa’s elves, the one named Patch (played by the ever entertaining Dudley Moore) goes to the dark side of the force and teams up with an evil toy maker who wants to eliminate Santa Claus so he can corner the toy making market. Production wise this movie is pretty impressive, and dare I say magical, this one has Christmas spirit levels on HIGH! Trust me! You’ll believe in Santa again. I like how they depicted the North Pole and Santa’s toy factory. It’s a fun part of the movie. Bonus: the great John Lithgow plays the evil toy maker.
Quote: “He had a broad face and a little round belly that shook when he laughed like a bowl full of jelly!”
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Comments: I know there are tons of adaptations of Dickens ‘A Christmas Carol’, but this one is one of my favorites probably because it feels like a real, true blue Muppet movie. I know Jim Henson had nothing to do with this one; save for having created the Muppets themselves, but somehow, to me this was one of the last Muppet movies to really feel like a Muppet movie. Well, this one and Muppet Treasure Island (1996). These movies still retained that certain magic, that certain I don’t know what that makes up that genuine Muppet feel. That’s probably because these films were directed by Brian Henson, Jim Henson’s kid. So anyhow, that aside, this movie has a real Christmas feel to it as well, it retells A Christmas Carol, but with that Muppet flavor, that muppet sense of humor. From what I hear, it’s actually one of the most faithful adaptations of the book.
Quote: “And my name is Rizzo the Rat, wait a second! You’re not Charles Dickens!”
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1988)
Comments: This is the one that I always watch on Christmas Eve, no matter what! What I like about a lot of these Christmas movies is how they make fun of the holiday, and this is the one that does it the most. For example, this one makes fun of the craziness that happens in the maelstrom of a household during Christmas Eve, with lots of family coming over to visit. Holy Moly, I always laugh like crazy during the Thanksgiving dinner scene…oh my god! Clark Griswold tries to make everything jolly and proper, trying to follow traditions, trying to achieve perfection in family traditions, yet things always end up in disaster, with hilarious results! The cast has remained the same for years, Chevy Chase as Clark Griswold is beyond funny, I mean we're talking about The Chase here! Beverly D’Angelo is still the sweet, sexy momma; only the kids change from film to film and on this sequel one of the kids is played by Juliette Lewis! So anyhow, this is an all around great Christmas film, actually, this one is my top favorite.
Quote: “Worse? How could things get worse? Take a look around honey; we’re at the threshold of HELL!”
HAPPY HOLIDAYS FROM ME, THE FILM CONNOISSEUR! THANKS FOR READING!