Wednesday, December 3, 2014

The Best Christmas Movies of All Time

I wanted to write about the US national debt crossing the $18 trillion thresh hold. This happened last Friday, and the media thought we would all be more interested in watching the morons climb over each other at local big box stores in between clips of rioting in Ferguson. So as a result, not a peep about this most recent milestone to US insolvency. I remember all the hand-wringing and pulling out of hair when the Bush Administration ran it up to $9 trillion. Those were the good ol' days.  Oh well, maybe for the next post.

For now, it's time to put up a list of the greatest Christmas movies of all time. When we had a "normal" house in Napa Valley, we used to host an annual Christmas movie viewing weekend. People would come and go over the the two day period and we would serve up many rare vintages of wine, specialty red and green cocktails, and the tasty treats to go with them (jambalaya, lamb stew, exotic cheeses, seafood dishes, etc.) while we watched about 20 or so movies. After we went fulltime in our RV and sold almost all of our stuff, some of the few things we kept were all those movies, and we watch them once every year. So if you're looking for some Christmas cheer this year, check out some of these gems.

The Classics (rated G)

The Grinch that Stole Christmas
Offering one of the best sing-along opportunities and the cutest animal – Max, the Grinch’s little dog who is forced to have antlers tied to his ears and pull the sleigh.  Plus, I’m a sucker for Boris Karloff narrations.

Classic Quote:  “He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn't before! Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas... perhaps... means a little bit more!”

White Christmas
Let’s dissect the parts:  Oscar-winning costumes by Edith Head.  Bing Crosby with the marquee name and the pipes.  Danny Kaye with the, well, everything.  Rosemary Clooney as the singing starlet.  And then there is Vera Ellen to wrap things up with a bow on top.  Watch this movie one time through, watching only her.  She’s super-hot in G-rated movie.  The plot is corny, but it brings back memories of a simpler, more pleasant America
Classic Quote:  “When what's left of you gets around to what's left to be gotten, what's left to be gotten won't be worth getting, whatever it is you've got left.”

Miracle on 34th Street
Is there a Santa or is the man that works in Macy’s every year just a great actor?  Find out as we go to court to solve this mystery once and for all.  It’s not just Kris Kringle who’s on trial; it’s everything he stands for - kindness, joy, love, and all the other intangibles. Plus, a precocious little Natalie Wood.
Classic Quote:
Kris Kringle – “You know what imagination is?”
Susan Walker – “Oh, sure.  That’s when you see things, but they’re not really there.”
Kris Kringle – “Well, that can be caused by other things too.”

The New Wave (rated PG)

A Christmas Story
We loved this movie before it was cool to love it!  Grown up reflects on his childhood growing up in post-WWII Indiana.  See boy and friends do stupid kid things.  See parents pass on their neurosis to their children so that subsequent generations may benefit. 
Classic Quote:  “The line waiting to see Santa Claus stretched all the way back to Terre Haute.  And I was at the end of it.”

A cute story about a baby who accidentally crawled into Santa’s bag on Christmas Eve and was whisked away to the North Pole...There he was raised by Elves and thought of himself as an Elf.  But soon his size became a problem so his Elf “parents” decided it was time he returned to his world...That’s when the problems began and the lessons in the movie are learned.  Ferrell did a good job without going completely over the top as he usually does in his other movies.  What’s normally overlooked by reviewers of this movie is the outstanding comic turn by Bob Newhart.  If you can suspend belief for a while and just roll with it, you’ll enjoy this one.
Classic Quote:  “It's just like Santa's workshop!  Except it smells like mushrooms... and everyone looks like they wanna hurt me...”

Fred Claus
Not too well thought of by the critics, but what the hell do they know!  This movie has it all…the best soundtrack of any Christmas-themed movie ever made (sorry White Christmas), a cast that includes three Oscar winners and five that have received Oscar nominations, Ludacris cast as a DJ elf, and a story that will at various moments make you laugh, cry, disgusted, and feel warm inside.
Classic Quote:   “You’re all fired…in the morning you’ll all be on a bus back to Elfistan!”

The Dark Side (rated PG-13 and R)

No one has ever retold the classic story of Ebenezer Scrooge as well as Bill Murray and Bob Goldthwait.  This movie is laced with campy humor and edginess while preserving that age-old message of “appreciate life and what you have.” 
Classic Quote:  Too many for one page, but I’ll go with…. “I never liked a girl well enough to give her 12 sharp knives.”

A Midnight Clear
Probably the best war movie with the best script and cast that you have never heard of or seen.  That it’s set during Christmas in the middle of the Argonne Forest on the eve of the Battle of the Bulge makes it even more poignant.
Classic Quote:  “I'm not exactly sure what country we're in. Could be Belgium, Luxembourg, France, or even Germany. I don't know what day it is. I have no watch, so I don't know what time it is. I'm not even sure of my name. The next thing you know, they'll be making me a general.”

Bad Santa
I saved this movie for last since it’s so bad it’s good, especially for anyone who has a warped, sophomoric sense of humor or just likes a bit of perversity in their Christmas movies (yes, yes, and yes).  Billy Bob Thornton plays a Santa Claus in a big department store who, with his partner, a dwarf, or a small person, as is the politically correct term to use these days, are only there as Santa and Elf to rob the store as their ultimate goal.  The fact that he has a change of heart when he becomes involved with one of the kids shows that there is good in most people after all.  As the quote below from Billy Bob demonstrates, his language, ill-humor and other “behaviors” are not for the faint of heart… so consider yourself forewarned. We've decided we can only be really good friends with people who "get" this movie.
Classic Quote:  “I've been to prison once.  I've been married - twice.  I was once drafted by Lyndon Johnson and had to live in shit-ass Mexico for 2 1/2 years for no reason.  I've had my eye socket punched in, a kidney taken out and I got a bone-chip in my ankle that's never gonna heal.  I've seen some pretty shitty situations in my life, but nothing has ever sucked more ass than this!”

I know this list leaves out a lot of good movies. We have more than 20 to choose from, but keeping the list somewhat short was the goal. Comments whining about how "It's a Wonderful Life", "The Santa Claus", or "Home Alone" weren't on the list will be met with ridicule. They are good, but not top 10.

Instead of "happy holidays", you all get a "Merry Christmas!"

A Christmasy herd of 100+ elk in the valley below our Idaho property (phone photo from a friend up there keeping an eye on things for us)
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  1. How could you mention "Miracle on 34th Street" and not mention Maureen O'Hara? hubba, hubba!Of course she comes across very differently in black-and-white than Technicolor.

  2. I know. Maureen O'Hara was a super hot analytical type. Just like Susan! But Natalie Wood was such a little cutie pie in that movie. They both make you forget who the men were who starred in that movie.

  3. Hmmm a DVD of Elf would be an excellent Christmas present ;)

  4. You missed the movie about the Christmas Truce during the Great War: "Joyeux Noel (Merry Christmas)." It is a different sort of Christmas movie. It isn't for the kiddies. It is quite radical and thought-provoking.

    1. That is a decent movie, but "A Midnight Clear" absolutely blows it away. We saw "Joyeux Noel" once when it was forst released, but can't wait to see "A Midnight Clear" again every year. Midnight has better acting, a better screenplay, better cinematography, and a better soundtrack. The movie will haunt your dreams all year long. It gets better every time we watch it. Go rent it. If you don't like it, we'll pay for your rental. Personally, I also just like movies about US soldiers in WWII better than I like movies about French soldiers in the trenches of WWI. As an added bonus, what may be the best version of the song "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear" ever recorded plays during the closing credits.

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