‘Twas the Night Before Christmas….

… 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:

Unforgettably craptastic.

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.

 

19 Responses to “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas….”

  1. Katie, Interrobangs Anonymous December 24, 2011 at 10:25 am #

    “I could peel you like a pear and God himself would call it justice!’ That’s my favorite line, anyway.

  2. penguinlady December 24, 2011 at 11:53 am #

    My favorite holiday movie is “Meet me in St. Louis”. How can anyone deny the glory that is Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas”? Also, the dance around the Christmas tree toward the end of the movie is just absolutely iconic in my mind. Second favorite is “Auntie Mame”, with Rosalind Russell eating the scenery in the absolute best way possible – and “We Need a Little Christmas Now”.

  3. Susan December 24, 2011 at 2:14 pm #

    My favorite, only sort-of-a-Christmas-movie is the Winona Ryder/Susan Sarandon version of “Little Women.” It’s just so lacking in irony, and sometimes — especially during the darkness of winter and the forced ngh of some holiday events — exactly what I need.

    And then there’s “Die Hard.”

  4. Diane December 24, 2011 at 3:55 pm #

    I’ve always liked this line from The Lion in Winter: “Henry’s bed is Henry’s province, he can people it with sheep for all I care… which on occasion he has done.”

  5. E December 24, 2011 at 4:28 pm #

    Butbutbut… you only listed 4 top 5 favorite movies!

    Mine (which is also not usually considered a Christmas movie) is Home Alone, which I still find really entertaining and fun 21 years after I first saw it in theaters. And A Lion in Winter is definitely in my top 5 movies of all time, not just Christmas movies.

  6. Twistie December 24, 2011 at 6:26 pm #

    And a glorious line it is, Katie… though not my mother’s favorite. That’s the great thing about The Lion in Winter, there are so many amazingly wonderful lines in it! Thanks for playing.

  7. Twistie December 24, 2011 at 6:28 pm #

    Heh, heh, I was wondering when someone would catch that, E. Or maybe I just can’t count.

  8. Thea December 24, 2011 at 7:10 pm #

    Muppet Christmas Carol and port at our house!

  9. Katie December 24, 2011 at 8:00 pm #

    My mother’s favorite has always been: “Squint as you approach… You may be blinded by my beauty.”

    My favorite: “The sky is pocked with stars. What eyes the wise men must have had to see a new one in so many.” I think I’m more sentimental than my mother.

  10. Twistie December 24, 2011 at 9:39 pm #

    Two more excellent lines, Katie! But neither is the one I’m looking for, so folks, keep guessing!

  11. Jen December 25, 2011 at 12:40 am #

    Of course he has a knife, he always has a knife, we all have knives! It’s 1183 and we’re barbarians!

    That’s my favorite quote from in anyway. Now I know what I am watching tomorrow.

  12. JoaniB December 25, 2011 at 3:09 am #

    I admit, my favourite two Christmas films are Santa Claus Conquers the Martians and the Mexican Santa Claus of 1959. Then again, I’m an MST3K fan, so I’m biased.
    My boyfriend, on the other hand, loves Bad Santa, National Lampoons’ Christmas Vacation, and Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer.

  13. dcsurfergirl December 25, 2011 at 3:36 am #

    Thanks for the much needed laughs!

    “A Christmas Story” is my favorite. It’s just funny.

    I still laugh about the time my brothers dragged me out of bed at 3 am on a Saturday morning (after a long, exhausting week at work) to watch the MST3K version of “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”!

  14. Lisa December 25, 2011 at 4:32 am #

    “The Embroidery alone could take years.”

    My favorite: “While you were sleeping.” Bill Pullman-sigh…

  15. Margo A December 25, 2011 at 2:09 pm #

    “I’d attach you to my nipples, but the children wouldn’t approve.”

  16. Twistie December 25, 2011 at 3:06 pm #

    DINGDINGDINGDINGDING! And we have a winner! The ever fabulous Margo A got the line… though I will correct the quote: I’d hang you from the nipples but it might shock the children.

    The bit that always made Mom laugh so hard was the concept that those children could be shocked by anything at all.

    Margo A, I bow to you.

    After all, The Lion in Winter is one of the great quotable films of all time, along with Ghostbusters, Monty Python and the Holy Grail, and Galaxy Quest.

  17. Shinobi December 28, 2011 at 1:09 pm #

    I am so late to this party but my 100% favorite Christmas movie is The Ref. It is a pretty dark comedy featuring Dennis Leary and Kevin Spacey. So much funny, triumphing over overbearing family members.

  18. dcsurfergirl December 29, 2011 at 2:19 pm #

    P.S: “The Nightmare Before Christmas” rocks!

  19. Kel January 3, 2012 at 12:56 pm #

    I’m a bit late to the party, but my favorite (non) Christmas film is “Desk Set.” A big chunk of the film — including most of the romancing between Bunny and Richard — takes place during the holiday season in her apartment and the office Christmas party. It’s another gem from Katharine Hepburn.