If you’re like me, the first thing you pull out of the Christmas boxes once they are lugged in from the garage are the Christmas movies! (Also if you’re like me, you like to end each December night with a cup of Stephen’s hot chocolate. Also if you’re like me, sometimes you wonder if you have a uterus, because you sound like a girl.)
I love Christmas movies. I am a complete and total sucker for all Christmas movies. My impenitent opinion is that there is never enough time between Thanksgiving and Christmas to watch all the Christmas movies. And that is because my broad definition of “a Christmas movie” is “any movie taking place during Christmastime.”
A Charlie Brown Christmas? Obviously a Christmas movie. How the Grinch Stol Christmas? Clearly. Miracle on 34th Street? It’s a Wonderful Life? Duh. Scrooged? Christmas Vacation? Home Alone? Yes, yes, and yes. Serendipity? About a Boy? Sleepless in Seattle? (Did I just blow your mind?) Lethal Weapon? Die Hard? Better Off Dead? Well, my narrow - minded - Christmas - movie - defining friend…you tell me…
I am a big fan of the Rankin/Bass productions, largely for nostalgic reasons. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, Frosty the Snowman, Santa Claus Is Coming to Town, The Year Without a Santa Claus, etc., etc. Millions and millions of years ago – in the 1970s – you would have to actually wait until December to enjoy these holiday gems, rather than popping in the DVD any ol’ time you fancied. My mom, securing her place in heaven, would get out the TV guide and map out which nights they would be appearing on our average size television. And my gosh, the anticipation. All of us kids would crowd around the TV, and the moment you could see the animation or claymation come on the screen, Christmas magic exploded all over the room. My adrenaline would be running so hard, I couldn’t hear! It was like someone had intravenously given us kids Hyperness Syrup! It was usually about 45 seconds into the show before we could actually hear anything. And then, it was as if all of our senses were heightened. We’d never felt so alive! We had never heard wittier dialogue, seen more sophisticated animation, or heard more stunning music. Pure joy. Due to the Christmas bliss these shows brought me in my youth, I am able, as an adult, to overlook the plot holes, forced exposition, and lack of clarifications that drive these shows. But I refuse to allow all of that to dim the Christmas pandemonium that fills my home when these movies make their debut each December. (Except when Frosty explains to the kids that when the red in the thermometer rises it makes it warm outside. No, Frosty. Mercury does not control the elements. But I suppose when you live in a world where a little girl thinks she can take a refrigerated train with you to the North Pole and be home in time for supper, things are a little confusing.)
In addition to Rankin/Bass, our family takes great Christmas glee in all the standards, including A Charlie Brown Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, and Disney’s Mickey’s Christmas Carol. And we also have a few favorites that I consider quite underrated. Bloom County’s A Wish for Wings that Work (starring Opus and Bill the Cat), where Opus saves Santa from drowning, and Disney’s Small One, where a young Judean boy is told by his father to take their donkey into town and sell him because he is a runt and uses up their resources without providing any real work. After some close calls with some swindlers and a tanner, this young boy sells his donkey to…(surprise!) Joseph and Mary. Yes, I’m sure you immediately saw that one coming when you saw that the story featured a donkey. But let me tell you this. When you are watching this movie with your three-year old daughter, and she starts bawling because she is so moved by the kindness of a young boy and a man named Joseph, it’s pretty hard not to love it. And then when she asks to watch it again, since “just because it makes me cry doesn’t mean that I don’t like it,” you realize that she’s a pretty discerning kid.
As far as full-length motion pictures go, anything that takes place in New York or London or a big city where there are Christmas trees and lights all over town, choirs and bands randomly performing, and people wearing fashionable outerwear, I am immediately captivated. With Christmas as a backdrop, I feel like the season is as much a character in the movie as any of the actors. It’s a time of forgiveness. A time of rekindling. A time when people are a little kinder. Except John McClane. Because if you are trying to take over the Nakatomi Plaza, and you are messing with his family... Christmas eve or not, you are going down, my friend.