Tuesday, December 15, 2009

M's 12 Days of Christmas

I have been blessed with a very large loving family who also happens to love movies just as much as I do. As a result, Christmas is a giant affair, beginning right after Thanksgiving (occasionally before it), and is marked by the ritual viewing of our favorite Christmas movies. (I'd love to put A Christmas Story on this list, as I do watch it every season, usually many times considering the all night cable marathons. It's hysterical and nearly perfect, but it's been a bit played out via said marathons.)

1. A Christmas Carol, aka Scrooge (1951)
Although I'm partial to Michael Caine and the Muppets, no one can ever replace Alastair Sim in the role of Scrooge. This version is my favorite, the haunting score and excellent performances giving this take the edge, pulling out both the humor in Dickens' classic and its dark side, the bit of terror evoking the menace of winter on the longest day. It makes our annual Christmas Eve viewing in the dark lit only by the fire even more special.

2. Love Actually (2003)

With it's British charm, interwoven stories, and stellar cast (Colin Firth, Hugh Grant, Keira Knightley, and Liam Neeson to name a few) Love Actually is perhaps the only Christmas movie made after 1999 that isn't overly sappy and disgusting. It's not just a decent movie, but a great one that's able to capture the meaning of love in a meaningful way with comedic sparkle and fun. Although its initial appeal seems to capture mostly women, it instantly captures the fancy of every skeptical guy that watches it.  A winner all around.

3. Meet Me In St. Louis (1947)

You might think that as a St. Louis Native, I'm biased in favor of this film, and you're absolutely right. Despite what you might hear about shootings and meth rates, I'm attached to my home town and nothing says Christmas more than Judy, the World's Fair, and beautiful old St. Louis shots. It's a classic for a reason, full of heartbreaking Christmas sentiment and love, striking cinematography, and some of Garland's greatest hits. I get a bit tearful just thinking about it.

4. The Bishop's Wife (1947)

There have been a variety of angel love triangle movies released over the years (yuck, just think about the horrible City of Angels, or better, don't). But The Bishop's Wife is one of the first, and greatest. With his congregation losing money and his wife unhappy, Bishop Brougham (David Niven) seeks divine Christmas intervention. God, being lovely and awesome sends the handsome, suave Dudley (Cary Grant) to save the day. The film is warm and inviting, with a similar vibe to It's A Wonderful Life without the overbearing melodramatics. The added romantic twist between the Bishop's wife Julia and Dudley the angel makes things even more interesting.

5. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
I have to admit: as a child, I absolutely hated this movie, and would complain every time I was forced to watch it during the holidays. I'm not sure when it happened, but all of sudden, I got it. There are few movies able to capture real magic and this is one of them.

6. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Wilde. Dash also touched on this rendition of Dickens' famous tale. In true Muppet fashion each scene is clever and hilarious, but in addition Michael Caine's Scrooge takes the film up a notch, maintaining its heart. With great, memorable musical numbers, it bumps this Henson production up into the classics.

7. Home Alone (1990)

Impressive childhood antics, hilarity, moving score, rockin' Xmas soundtrack, and tearful family reunions? It still holds up, and may even be getting better with age.

8. Batman Returns (1992)
This is neither my favorite Batman film, or my favorite Tim Burton film, but when combined with Christmas, everything comes together in a delightful way, especially with evil toymaker Christopher Walken causing trouble during Christmas in Gotham.

9. Will Vinton's Claymation Christmas (1987)

This Christmas variety special hosted by the cultured Rex and effeminate overweight Herb (yes, they are both dinosaurs) showcases classic Christmas tunes in funny, creative, and impressive ways. The Carol of the Bells performed by the Notre Dame Cathedral bells and hosted by Quasimodo still gets my entire family laughing in tears on the floor.

10. Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe (2005)
The ultimate land of ice and snow, Narnia has always had a place in my Christmas book/movie heart. The brief appearance of Santa Claus and Turkish Delight, makes this a legit choice, as does the excellent film-making in Disney's version.

11. The Nativity Story (2006)
 Director Catherine Hardwicke's take on this famous story is one of the best in the multitude out there. She doesn't take a religious stance, but let's the camera merely witness events, portraying Mary the mother of Jesus as a strong, impressive young woman, a view not always focused on. But it's the cinematography that makes the film stand apart, each shot beautifully composed and lush. The figures lose their biblical distance and gain depth not found in your typical Cecil B. DeMille epic.

12. Santa Claus, The Movie (1985)
This film will one day be used by historians and archeologists to understand the 1980's. It's full of everything you'd want to recall, including shots of downtown New York, the old McDonald's logo, and Dudley Moore. It follows the birth of Santa Claus who eventually works hard to create the perfect system for toy creation only to be double crossed by his favorite elf (Dudley Moore) as he teams up with a devious toy manufacturing giant (John Lithgow). Admittedly, the description sounds less than appealing, but the film is beautifully shot (most notable at the North Pole in the beginning) and captures the true magic of Santa in a believable, effecting way. Once the story deviates from the North Pole and into the modern world, the nostalgia and clever take on the Santa Claus gig keeps the film interesting despite the cheese factor.


  1. I like your list, but I would replace Batman Returns with Die hard. Best Christmas non-Christmas movie in my book.

  2. Yeah, I agree, but Wilde Dash stole that one already. You should check out her list.


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