With the snow coming down outside it looks like this will be a good night to curl up with some cocoa, turn the lights on the tree and relax with a great Christmas movie. Folks have been bugging me to do a top ten list, apparently all good blogs have top ten lists, so I figured this was as good a time as any, especially since when I made my list of favorite Christmas movies, there happened to be ten, so here are my top ten Christmas movies, in no particular order.
Of course, it is the quintessential Christmas film and one of my all-time favorite movies. Frank Capra and Jimmy Stewart convinced me that things should work out for the best and that if you were right there was no way you could lose. Adulthood has changed my views on this a little, but I still want it to be true, and I still fight for the world they created. Once in college, a friend from Sweden began to ask me about Christmas in the US. All I needed to show her about what Christmas means in America was this movie. We watched, we cried and caught a little of the spirit of Christmas on an April afternoon.
Is a Christmas movie, actually. It is also a great romantic comedy, and one of my favorite films of recent years. I tend to forget that the entire story takes place during the holiday season and in fact many of the plot points hinge on it. It is a great little film to watch anytime, but add tinsel and mistletoe and you will fall in love all over again, actually.
I am an occasional Muppet fan. Loved Sesame Street, loved The Muppet Movie, loved The Muppet Show, even loved the Muppets 3D thing in Orlando, but that raggedy Muppet demon Elmo has nearly ruined them for me. Still nothing can tarnish my memories of watching Emmet Otter. Not only was I entertained, but I learned many valuable lessons. What lessons you ask? Well, I refuse to put a hole in the washtub, I always have a back-up plan, I am closer now than ever before and I know that to be a real winner you need a raspy voice, good lighting, platform shoes and a cape. So I try to keep those things on hand.
I am talking about the 1947 original, in black and white. No colorization, no remakes, no thank you. The characters all have a healthy dose of holiday disfunctionality, but the message is happy and everyone gets what they deserve in the end, plus it has a courtroom scene that shows how things should work in our legal system. I always love the fact that this movie is almost an advertisement for Macy’s, even though it was made well before the “product-placement” era.
Truman Capote’s biographical tale of growing up in poverty, but not knowing he was poor. Hats off to my high school English teacher, Mrs. Brown who introduced this great story to a bunch of disinterested students. At the time we were too busy making fun of Truman Capote’s voice to get the story, but in later years I returned to the short story and the video. If you ever get the chance, check out David Alford’s one-man show adaptation of this story, for an especially wonderful holiday treat. For the record this one is almost impossible to find, so if you have it, I want a copy.
Actually, I have a love-hate relationship with this film. I love the memories and the anticipation, but once I am actually watching it, I get bored pretty quickly. Still, where would we be without Yukon Cornelius and the Bumble. You could really expand this one to include all of the Rankin-Bass specials of this time, for the characters, if not for the stories. Can you say Heat-Miser? For that matter, does anyone else think that John Kerry’s uncanny resemblance to Cold-Miser hurt him in the 2004 election?
I know that the story is old and tired and that there have been way too many remakes, but this has got to be one of the most memorable, plus most versions of it have the Pluto’s Christmas Tree, featuring Chip and Dale short included, which is better than a whole bucket full of Scrooge’s. Actually, there are several good versions of this story, but this is my favorite. I do have to admit the Bill Murray’s Scrooged is a strong, but offbeat contender.
Every little cedar I see in the woods becomes Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tree and the soundtrack runs in my head all through the season. Last year my wife directed a live version of this and still I can’t get enough. Even though I am not normally a particularly religious guy, I do like the fact that they did not shrink away from their “reason for the season” message. If this one doesn’t make you want to do the Snoopy dance, then your heart may be three sizes too small.
Another of those that I forget is a Christmas movie, or at least is a movie set at Christmas. Once again Frank Capra works his magic, to make us feel like there is a better world out there, or perhaps that we used to live in a better world and have lost our way. Either way, he makes us want to be better citizens, and I am all for that. Even though his characters are always flawed, they seem to be underpinned by the belief that they can make a difference and that good is possible. That is a nice departure from most modern films.
I don’t know if there is a movie that has done more to add to the pop culture of Christmas. Whether you have seen it or not, I bet that apsects of it have crept into your vocabulary and I would daresay that your cultural Christmas literacy is incomplete without a viewing of this classic. I rewatched this one this week and I will have to say that it is less kid-friendly than I remembered, but we still howled with laughter.