I decided since our little blog started near Christmas, that I’d better figure out something to write about for the holidays…and fast. Otherwise I would feel guilty, be branded a bad boy, and so on the snowball rolls. After much pondering and debating and sweating, I came to the decision to discuss one of America’s favorite pastimes: sitting on our collective asses and watching television.
We, as a group, have probably watched enough pointless movies to last several lifetimes. But never fear dear readers, I have filtered thru the must see holiday movies, judged from my perspective of no set criteria, logic or even reason, and compiled some lists for your Holiday entertainment.
First, let’s get the classic tear-jerkers out of the way. These movies, although good for their genre, are the Christmas equivalent of that damn Sarah McLachlin ASPCA commercial that shows sad dogs in cages. Anyway, if you are looking for a good teary-eyed Christmas movie, here they are in no particular order: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, It’s a Wonderful Life and Polar Express. Classic waterworks.
The next grouping I’m listing because, although they are Christmas-time movies, they suck. I mean, they’re borderline unwatchable. Straddling atop the short honorable-mention suck-ees is Batman Returns. Take away Michelle Pfeiffer in her cat suit, and the movie is just bad. And poor Danny DeVito: he took a classic type-cast role as a short fella’ to play a penguin? Really? How the hell he was taken seriously after that I’ll never understand.
Speaking of Michael Keaton, next on the list is Jack Frost. Now, be careful if ordering this one for the kids as there are two Jack Frost movies out there, both made about the same time. One stars Michael Keaton who plays a tragically deceased father that reanimates as a snowman to take care of his grieving son. Weird. The other movie tells the story of a serial killer, who also dies and who also comes back as a snowman. Same plot, much different results. The latter Jack Frost’s most famous scene is where Jack rapes and kills a woman, using his carrot nose as, well; you just have to see it. Or not. I would recommend not.
Lastly is Reindeer Games. The good news is Charlize Theron bares it all in a swimming pool scene with a scruffy-headed Gary Sinise. Bad news is that Ben Affleck lives at the end, again. Fast forward to the pool scene, watch, rewind and then throw the movie away. There, I just saved you almost two hours. If you’re looking for a nude celebrity Christmas-time double feature, check out Eyes Wide Shut featuring the then married power couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. Again, watch with a heavy finger on the fast forward button.
On to the fun stuff, the good movies of Christmas. These are ones that make me think of the Holidays. This list I DID rank from favorite to more favorite to most bestest favoritest Christmas movie of all time. Presenting, for the first time ever, my twelve movies of Christmas:
Honorable Mention: Ernest Saves Christmas
Yea, yea, not the best movie. Not the best actor. But he’s a hometown Lexington boy that was sincere (I actually met him once at a bar in Lexington) and made a lot of kids smile. Jim Varney will always get a nod on my Christmas list.
What could be more Christmas-like than a cautionary tale about accepting anything from those sneaky stereotypical movie Asians? Gremlins interwove into every 80’s kid’s vocabulary catchphrases like, “Bright light.”
Best Scene: has to be the Gremlin in the microwave.
Deputy Brent: “Let me drive”.
Sheriff Frank: “No, you’re drunk”.
Deputy Brent: “You always get to drive”.
Sheriff Frank: “That’s ‘cause I’m the sheriff, asshole!”
11. A Christmas Carol
Most Americans have seen this movie enough times they could recite it. But it still makes my list. When I was a kid I would search and search until I found A Christmas Carol on television. It just wasn’t Christmas until I took in the whole splendor of the thing.
Best Scene: I have to go with the ghost of Christmas Future. Every version I have ever seen scares the hell out of me.
My favorite quote teeters back and forth between, “God bless us all, everyone,” and “Bah-humbug.” My decision is usually heavily influenced by whether or not I’m situated in a mall parking lot when trying to decide.
10. Die Hard / Die Hard II
Yippie-kay-aye mother…. Die Hard came gift wrapped right off the screen action packed and awesome. Although not the classic Christmas movie, it had some awesome Christmas backdrops that included holiday rap music played by the limo driver, an 80’s holiday party complete with partial nudity and cocaine, and John McClane’s genius red bow over the Beretta during his final stand. Die Hard II, was equally awesome: Santa references, bad jokes and one of the highest body counts of any movie ever made. Who wouldn’t want to watch this Christmas spirit masterpiece sequel?
Best Scene: when the elevator doors open to reveal a gift wrapped terrorist to a shocked group of hostages, Hans Gruber’s reading of the note was snide and snippy, an awesome portrayal of a contrary terrorist. I hated him, but still kinda liked him. Great scene!
McClane: “Is the building on fire?”
Sgt. Powell: “No, but it’s going to need a paint job and a shit load of screen doors”.
- Trading Places
Eddie Murphy and Dan Aykroyd at their post-SNL best! Black vs white, rich vs poor, common-man vs businessman; classic Christmas stuff. Eddie Murphy even had a tie-in to Trading Places in his movie Coming to America. It’s a classic switching places morality tale which is lighthearted and entertaining from beginning to end.
Best Scene: It’s a tossup between Dan Aykroyd dressed as a downtrodden Santa eating fish and growling on the bus, or the prostitute, played by beautiful young Jaime Lee Curtis, disrobing. Yea, ok, it’s no contest: hats off to Jaime Lee. Definitely her best work until her jaw dropping strip-tease in True Lies.
Billy Ray Valentine: “When I was a kid if we wanted bubbles we had to fart in the tub”.
8. Lethal Weapon
Once again, not a classic Christmas movie, but oh what nontraditional Christmas fun it is! The film comes out of the gate with a fake drug deal and shoot out inside a Christmas tree stand and ends with a car smashing thru a cop’s house and into a Christmas tree. Drugs, gun-play, contemplated suicide, and crazy ass Gary Busey; how wouldn’t this make anyone’s Christmas list?
Best Scene: Riggs shooting his Beretta at a helicopter! I mean, I know it’s only sound effects, but he fires that thing like a machine gun. Pa-rump-pa-pum-pum.
Roger Murtaugh: “I’m too old for this shit!”
- Bad Santa
This is Billy Bob Thorton at his darkest best. Definitely the greatest anti-hero Christmas story of all time. John Ritter, Bernie Mack, Lauren Graham, Tony Cox and Billy Bob round out this darkest of dark comedies. You’ll laugh, then immediately feel bad about laughing, then laugh some more.
Best Scene: Billy Bob sitting on the beach in semi-retirement, eating a corndog watching some girls playing volleyball. He’s a sick, sick man…and that’s exactly how I imagine my retirement.
Sue: “Fuck me Santa, Fuck me Santa”.
- Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale
I just watched Rare Exports for the first time this Christmas season. It’s probably the only one on the list you may not have seen. Here’s the scoop: Finland, winter, a little boy finds books that tell about the true Santa Claus. And he’s a bad dude…real bad. The majority of the movie is in sub-titles, but that should not be a detractor. It’s part spoof, part light horror and all Christmas, in a weird way. This movie will do for Santa what IT did for clowns. Spoiler Alert: like all Christmas movies, it has a happy ending, albeit weird.
Best Scene: When the captured and bound Santa is staring at the little boy. Freaking creepy.
Favorite Quote: “The real Santa was totally different. The Coca-Cola Santa is just a hoax”.
- The Ref
Loud-mouthed Dennis Leary shines in yet another wonderful dark comedy Christmas tale. It is fast paced, well-acted, and hilarious. Leary plays a jewel thief on the run that holes up with a wealthy couple he kidnaps, who just happen to be the most argumentative husband and wife team on the planet. Great twists and turns and although it is a bit dark from time to time, it leaves a belief of inherent goodwill firmly intact.
Best Scene: When they’re all sitting in the living room with candles on their head. The absurdity of the scene defies all explanation. Hilarious!
Favorite Quote: Lloyd: “You know what I’m going to get you next year mom? A big wooden cross, so that every time you feel unappreciated for your sacrifices, you can climb on up and nail yourself to it”.
Bill Murray for Christmas? Hell yea I’m in! Taking a comedic slant on A Christmas Carol, Scrooged succeeds in taking some jesting liberties while maintaining the original moral-of-the-story. Murray plays a network executive hell bent on scaring people into watching their live broadcast of Scrooge, complete with mice with antlers and Mary Lou Retton as the back flipping Tiny Tim. Murray is just mean, but as the movie progresses you start to learn his story and slowly feel sorry for him.
Best Scene: One of my all-time favorite Murray scenes is the back and forth between his character, Frank Cross, and a set builder preparing for the live show. It involves Murray’s love interest, a mouse, a set of antlers and a staple gun.
Favorite Quote: Cross: “The bitch hit me with a toaster”.
- National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
The SNL gang is seemingly dominating my Christmas movie roster. Yet another alum filling out my “nice” list is Chevy Chase. Revising his role as Clark W. Griswald, the all-too-familiar father figure with a heart of gold bumps and crashes thru the holiday season with the express goal of giving his family a Merry Christmas, even if it lands him in the hospital, or the nut house. The cast is rounded out with a pre-Seinfeld Julia Louis-Dreyfus playing the next door snooty yuppie, and a pre-Everyone Loves Raymond Doris Roberts, who plays a grandmother in this 1989 film, long before playing Raymond’s mother in 1996. Talk about range!
Best Scene and Favorite Quote:
Randy Quaid’s redneck character is emptying out a waste tank from his beat up RV into the storm sewer.
Ellen: “What are you looking at”?
Clark: “Oh, the silent majesty of a winter’s morn…the clean cool chill of the holiday air… an asshole in his bathrobe emptying a chemical toilet into my sewer”.
Eddie: “Shitter was full”.
Clark: “Ah yea. You checked our shitters,honey”?
- Home Alone
I doubt there isn’t an honest parent out there that hasn’t at least entertained the idea of leaving their bratty, sugared up Christmas-time delusional child at home for the holidays. But this one tells the story from a child’s scared and mischievously-creative point of view. Here’s a local tie-in I bet you didn’t know. The movie “Kevin” watches over and over, titled Angels With Filthy Souls, is actually fake. The made-up movie was created to fit Home Alone’s plot. Now, here’s the Lexington tie-in: the actor that plays Johnny, the quintessential villain complete with a raspy voice and Tommy-gun, is none other than Ralph Foody. Ralph also played the police dispatcher in Blues Brothers and countless other big-movie and television parts. Ralph passed away in Lexington in 1999. His wife, Jan Foody, was president of the Kentucky Ballet Theatre until she joined her husband, Ralph, in April of this year. So, my Christmas tour recommendation is to watch Home Alone, and then go watch Kentucky Ballet Theatre’s amazing performance of the holiday classic, The Nutcracker. Plus, if you have dinner preceding the performance, you now have a wonderful anecdotal story about Lexington and Home Alone that will surely amaze your fellow guests.
Best Scene: The scene were Kevin talks with the formerly scary old-man neighbor then runs home to do battle with the Wet Bandits, complete with “Carol of the Bells” thundering in the background. That scene always gives me goosebumps.
Kevin’s famous, “AAAAUUUUGGGGHHHHHHH!!!!”
- A Christmas Story
I brought the VHS version of this movie to my folks when I was younger and insisted we watch it. It became a Christmas tradition for us to sit down and view the parallels between the Christmas Story and our own Christmas memories. If you haven’t seen it, go watch it TONIGHT. Not too sappy, not too sad, it is a reminder of what it was like to be a kid with Christmas fast approaching. For Christmas Story super-fans, guess what: you can tour the house where the movie was shot! It’s just a quick drive to Cleveland. When I went, we stayed at a hotel downtown, next door to where the opening scene was shot, viewed the house in the morning, had a drink at a cool old pub across the road from the Christmas Story house, and then headed to the Rock and Roll Hall of Fame. It made a great Christmas adventure.
Best Scene and Favorite Quote: Sorry gang, I’m stumped. I mean, the whole movie is my favorite scene, and every line is quotable. The Christmas day scene with the “Pink nightmare”, the description of the Daisy Air rifle and mom’s “you’ll shoot your eye out,” double dog dares at the frozen telephone pole and “daddy’s gonna kill Ralphie, all the way to “I can’t put my arms down,” and “Fra-gi-lay” and dinner at the Chinese restaurant: “Fa ra-ra-ra,” the whole movie is awesome! Choosing a favorite quote of best scene from the best is like trying to decide which present to open first on Christmas.
So there’s my twelve days of movie-Christmas. Some you will agree, other you will disagree. Some will inspire, others will guarantee hate mail in my inbox. But I think all capture, in its own way, this strange, odd, stressful and truly magical time of the year that is Christmas. “And all was right with the world.”
Merry Christmas everyone!