December 20, 2009

Fave Five: Christmas Movies

Oooh, it's almost here. I'm so excited. Actually, not really. I haven't gotten giddy over Christmas in a long time. My sister was always the one in the family that wrapped herself in the Christmas spirit like it was a down comforter on a chilly night. Me, I'm content with a cup of hot chocolate, a book, and the utter and complete absence of incessant caroling.

Then there are the movies. December is the month when the TV networks churn out those holiday classics that have been collecting dust in the archives for the other eleven months of the year. I gotta tell ya, most of them I will not miss if I never see them again. My eyes have been bludgeoned more times than I can count by It's A Wonderful Life and Miracle on 42nd Street. But at least there is a nostalgic factor with those movies. What really grinds on me is the schlock that has been made over the last several years that is not classic, not nostalgic, and simply not good.

I do have a few favorites, however, when it comes to the Christmas season. So, let's compare notes and see how these five flicks rank on your personal list.

#5: Bad Santa - Before Billy Bob Thornton went off the rails, he managed to chalk up quite a few good movies to his credit. One of my personal favorites has him playing a foul-mouthed, alcoholic burglar who gets hired as a mall Santa every year, then robs the mall blind on Christmas Eve with the help of his cohort, a little person playing Santa's elf with an insatiably greedy girlfriend. For whatever flaws this movie might have, the cast is brilliant with performances I can watch over and over. Billy Bob, Lauren Graham, Bernie Mac, John Ritter, and whoever plays the fat kid who befriends Billy Bob during his darkest hour.

#4: Die Hard - The plot of this movie occurs during the Christmas season, so it counts. They don't all have to be dripping with saccharine sentiment--Bad Santa sure wasn't. Maybe I just needed an excuse to put a Bruce Willis movie on one of my lists, but it is my list, after all. Bruce Willis is a New York cop in L.A. with his wife when she's held hostage in a high rise tower with a bunch of other socialites at the corporate Christmas party, at the whim of a maniacal and utterly cool villain played by Alan Rickman. The sequel had snow, and might be considered a better candidate in the Christmas category, but I really didn't care for that movie at all besides the highly watchable gun fight in the airport.

#3: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - Simply put, this is the best movie National Lampoon has ever had its name attached to. And it might be Chevy Chase's best movie too. If there is a movie that better captures the sheer dread and calamity that comes with attending a family Christmas dinner, amplifying it to absurd and hilarious proportions, I would like to see it. Nowadays, a movie with a title preceded by the words "National Lampoon's" provokes about as much excitement as a political debate between Sarah Palin and a cactus. At least they've got this movie to place on their mantle.

#2: A Christmas Carol - I haven't seen the new Disney CGI extravaganza starring Jim Carey, but I have a suspicion it's more sizzle than steak. For all of Hollywood's attempts, and even that of the Muppets, I haven't seen an adaptation of Charles Dickens' A Christmas Carol that's better than the 1950s incarnation starring Alastair Sim. I'm likely biased because I saw this movie every Christmas as a child and loved it every time, unlike many of the other monochrome movies that air during the holidays. I'm indoctrinated probably by this movie and I'll make no apologies for ranking it so highly.

#1: Scrooged - The idea that a "hip," comedic update to the Dickens classic, stewed in 80s goodness, as my absolute favorite Christmas movie is, well ... ludicrous. But here we are. What does it is some fantastic performances by Bill Murray, Carol Kane, Bobcat Goldthwait (sp.), and the rest of the cast. The movie has its shortfalls, like the dry and unsympathetic portrayal of Marley's family. But the supporting cast is redeemed by ??? and the scenes within the homeless shelter. And the scene between Bill Murray and Carol Kane involving Trivial Pursuit and a toaster gets a hearty laugh out of me to this day.

Now that I think of it, Bill Murray rarely puts out a bad movie--at least movies I don't like. The guy's got a pretty good batting average compared to some of the other SNL alumni and comedic actors. I'll have to do a Bill Murray Fave Five sometime in 2010. Make a note of that.

In the meantime, MERRY CHRISTMAS!

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