Jim Herring (aka Jimmy da Fish) opened the door for a discussion of Christmas movies in his earlier post, so I am walking through that door to throw in my two-cents. First, though, are you wondering where all the good Christmas moves are on television this year? I have hundreds of satellite channels of nothing, but I haven’t found all my favorites yet.
So, what are those favorites? Well, this is my list, your mileage may vary, but I will try to justify my thoughts. Let’s start with a Thanksgiving movie that helps set up the Christmas season. Planes, Trains, and Automobiles has a special meaning to airline employees who try to travel standby during the holidays. You have to expect disruptions and delay, while trying to remain flexible. However, I have yet to hear of anyone of whom I know who has driven a torched K-car down Illinois Interstates. The officer asks John Candy if he thinks the car is safe to drive, and I eagerly await the response. Wait for it…”Yes, Officer, Yes, I do!”
This sweet and funny movie leads us up to the big enchilada, the mega-holiday, the one that keeps kids of all ages awake for days in anticipation of finding a Red Ryder BB gun under the tree. My favorite “serious” Christmas movie is It’s a Wonderful Life. Filmed immediately after World War II, Frank Capra and his outstanding cast really define the Christmas Spirit. What could easily come off as corny and overblown is sincere and touching in Capra’s hand, and the ending probably fits the desire of returning vets to put the evil out of their lives and to get on with living. I think the move frustrates a modern audience seeking “closure.” For that, you have to view the “sequel” that Saturday Night Live did of George Bailey, his friends, and his brother Harry going over to “take care” of Old Man Potter.
Scrooged with Bill Murray is possibly the best movie version of Dickens’s A Christmas Carol. It replaces the hard, emotionless accountant, Ebenezer Scrooge, with a cold heartless television network executive, Frank Cross, played by Murray. Carol Kane, as the Ghost of Christmas Present always leaves me laughing (“Sometimes you have to *slap* them in the face just to get their attention!”), and besides Kane and Murray, the cast includes Robert Goulet (as himself), Robert Mitchum, Jamie Farr, Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Alfre Woodard, and Michael j. Pollard, just to name a few.
If the lesson of Scrooged is to appreciate the blessings around us, the morals of the next movie is don’t count your eggs before they hatch and don’t dump the toilets of your RV directly into a storm drain. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation reunites the Griswolds with Cousin Eddie. This is one movie that gets funnier every year, whether it’s going overboard on the house decorations, driving the snooty neighbors crazy, or Cousin Eddie dumping the RV toilet down the storm drain while wearing pajamas, a robe, smoking a cigar, and drinking a beer.
The Home Alone movies are classics, and the second one, which is set in New York has some great Big Apple winter scenes. In spite of Kevin’s antics, I always feel a little melancholy after watching either of these two movies, and just this morning, I read that Macaulay Culkins’ sister was killed in a tragic car wreck. Life just isn’t fair sometimes.
In spite of all of these great movies, my absolute favorite is A Christmas Story. Set in northern Indiana during 1940, its message is spot on. Jean Shepherd, the screenwriter has a gift for dialogue, and he includes all those details of our own childhood that we normally would forget. Ralphie and I shared similar circumstances and, I remember my own fear of Santa. Unfortunately, at about the same age, I shouted the most inappropriate comment at the worst time on a full playground, and my sweet dear mother had a reaction equal to Ralphie’s mom. Unlike Ralphie, I never got one of the gifts I wanted the most, in my case a toy fire truck. And while I never stuck my tongue to a poll, I did have my own Scut Farkus affair. I would venture that as many people can cite dialogue from this movie as they can from Airplane. "it'll put your eye out, kid!" Rest assured, I will watch it at least once during TNT’s marathon on Christmas Eve.