… and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, well, except for Jake the cat chasing a catnip mouse.
Me? I’m finishing up some last-minute baking and watching Christmas movies. There are a lot of great films based on a Christmas theme. You know, like It’s a Wonderful Life:
Treacly? Yes, yes it is. But then Capra’s genius lay not in his subtlety, but in his optimism.
And then there are the not-so-greats, like Santa Claus vs the Martians:
But some of my favorite Christmas films aren’t really recognized as being holiday-centric. And a couple of my other faves… well, the theme is undeniable but they don’t make for the most traditionally heartwarming viewing.
Want to know my top five fave Christmas movies? Read on after the cut… and remember that neither of the above films is on that list.
Bad Santa. It’s rude, it’s crude, it’s full of utterly despicable characters… and yet I adore it. Billy Bob Thornton is brilliant as the slow-witted conman whose annual big con is to play a department store Santa and rob the store on Christmas Eve. Tony Cox is the elf who plans it all and does his level best to keep Thornton sober enough to keep his job. The late, great Bernie Mac turns in a gloriously wicked performance as the crooked department store security man, the late lamented John Ritter is howlingly funny as the HR guy so full of white guilt he can’t even fire a drunken Santa and his abusive elf, and the very much still with us Lauren Graham is gut wrenchingly funny as the woman with a very kinky Santa fixation. This one is not for the kiddies and it won’t give you sugarplum dreams, but it’s the perfect antidote for too much seasonal saccharine.
A Christmas Carol. Specifically, the 1984 one with George C. Scott as Scrooge. As good as various other Scrooges have been over the years, Scott is the only one I feel makes him an entirely human character. This is also the one production I can think of where Tiny Tim really looks sick, rather than just using a crutch. This boy (Anthony Walters) looks like you could knock him down with a feather. Add in terrific supporting performances by: David Warner, Roger Rees, Angela Pleasance, Frank Finlay, Susannah York, and Edward Woodward (whose turn as the Ghost of Christmas Present is clearly the deranged bastard son of Michael Caine and Richard Harris) and suddenly Dicken’s tale of redemption becomes far more plausible and touching.
The Lion in Winter. See? I told you there would be something most people wouldn’t think of as a Christmas movie. And yet the whole story takes place over Christmas. Peter O’Toole and Katharine Hepburn lead an amazing cast in this tale of treachery, in-fighting, and family holidays. It also contains my mother’s favorite line from any film ever. The first person to guess what that might be wins a gold star and my unending admiration.
The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s not just for Halloween anymore. From the Kurt Weill-inspired music to the exquisite claymation to the wonderful vocal performances, this is hard to beat.
So those are some of my favorite films for this time of year. What about you? What do you love? What do you wish would never be shown again? And what is my mother’s favorite line ever in any film?
You tell me.