Last night, after a suitably warm dinner of chili (for the people and a Nylabone for Wesley), the two men in my life passed out around 8pm and I was left with a quiet house and the remote control to myself. I promptly started searching for Christmas movies, and decided to finish the task of wrapping presents.
I was practically giddy when I discovered “Miracle on 34th Street” playing on AMC, and joyfully spread out my wrapping paraphernalia on the floor in front of the tv, listening to the sleepy breathing of my guys.
To me, there’s something ritualistic about wrapping while watching Christmas movies. At the very least, I’ll settle for some Christmas music playing in the background, but anything else just seems wrong somehow. I LOVE that the cable channels are inundated with Christmas movies starting December 1st (or earlier), and it doesn’t take much for me to become entranced with any of my favorites.
Without further ado, these are the holiday movies that I MUST watch each season (and one surprising choice that I CANNOT stand.)
10. “How The Grinch Stole Christmas” (1966)- YES. That is the original animated version. From Thurl Ravenscroft’s rich bass version of “You’re a mean one, Mister Grinch,” to the adorable Cindy Lou Who, to that song that we just don’t know the damn words to… I have to catch this one at least once per Christmas season.
9. “Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer” (or “Santa Claus is Coming to Town”)- The Rankin-Bass classics are endlessly entertaining. I’ll never forget how frightening the Abominable Snowman and the Winter Warlock were when I was a little Brooke. The ultimate story of a bunch of seeming misfits banding together and saving the day, said day being Christmas. Also, while I’m not wild about the plot, the music from “The Year Without a Santa Claus”, particularly the themes for Heat Miser and Snow Miser with their big band flair, never fails to get stuck in my head.
8. “A Christmas Carol” – (1984) Starring George C Scott, this was the first version of Charles Dickens’ story that I ever saw, and his portrayal of Ebenezer will be the one that I measure all others against.
7. “The Muppet Christmas Carol” – Michael Caine as Scrooge?! And basically anything with the Muppets in it is a guaranteed win in my book.
6. “Scrooge” (1970)- Starring Albert Finney as Scrooge, with music by Leslie Bricusse, one of my favorite versions of this tale. I love the huge musical numbers and the character interpretations.
5. “Miracle on 34th Street”– (1947) For starters, how stinking cute is little Natalie Wood? The older I get, the more I’m impressed with her performance. She’s precocious, and pulls off the “old soul” routine in real style, until Kris Kringle shows up and makes her start to question her attitude about make believe. Maureen O’Hara plays prim-and-proper perfectly, and Edmund Gwen’s performance (singing with the little dutch girl?! Kills me every time) fills me with the Christmas spirit and reminds me once again what it’s like to simply Believe.
4. “It’s a Wonderful Life” – This one usually tops the lists of the best holiday movies, but I can’t allow it to get that far on mine. As much as I looove Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore and the rest of the cast, Jimmy Stewart’s mounting self-pity throughout the movie tends to get on my nerves. When he finally flips his lid, I wouldn’t blame Mary for taking him on Dr Phil.
3. “The Family Stone” – I’m really going out on a limb with this one, but when I saw it in the theater (twice) it had me hooked from the opening credits. (If you’ve seen it, you know what I mean- The cast is presented on gorgeous vintage-looking Christmas cards, much as in some of the classic Christmas movies.) The gorgeous little town in Massachusetts, the amazing chemistry between the cast and the real warmth throughout the whole movie make this one of my new favorites. Seeing Sarah Jessica Parker as someone deeply insecure (and as far from Carrie Bradshaw as possible), Diane Keaton as the family matriarch with a painful secret, and Rachel McAdams’ bitchtastic college student… I love every minute.
2. “White Christmas” – I could watch this film over and over and over—you get the point. I often do, when AMC features it as a marathon on Christmas Eve. The first time I saw it, I was confused by the relevance of some of the musical numbers, but now I take every sequined moment in stride. The quartet of Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney (SWOOOOOON, that voice!!) and Vera Ellen are simply legendary, and I can’t possibly pick a favorite of the musical numbers. I must admit, seeing the barn doors sweep open to reveal a winter wonderland before they all join together to close the show with “White Christmas” never fails to make me cry.
1. “Christmas Vacation” – Of COURSE this is my number one Christmas movie. We break it out around Thanksgiving and watch it every chance we get until the Christmas season is over. It’s partially because we can quote it line for line, and partially because there’s so much of EVERY family in the Griswald family. From Redneck Cousins to Clueless Aunt Bethany, and everyone in between, it’s no wonder that Clark spikes the eggnog.
And because I know you’re dying to hear which Christmas movie I just can’t stand…
“A Christmas Story”– I’m sure that I’ll get a good amount of heat for this, but this is just one movie I’ve never been able to get behind. Ralphie’s trials and tribulations in his quest to get Santa to bring him the Red Ryder Bee-bee Gun simply don’t interest me. His parents are weird, his brother’s a brat, and his friend gets his tongue stuck to a flagpole, a scene that totally traumatized me as a little Brooke. Unlike the Griswalds, his family takes the “fun” OUT of dysfunction.
What Christmas movie offerings can’t you resist?