Monday, December 12, 2005

O Holy Crap

I'm at a Christmas party and no one I know is there.

For the shy (INFJ in my case, if you're into all that Meyers-Briggs stuff), this is a pretty solid definition of hell.

I attended a couple of earlier festivities with The Boyfriend, and the poor bastard was as usual stuck talking to me all night, but he's not at this shindig.

This is an alumni thingie for my college. Those functions tend to hit me where I live because everyone there was valedictorian and is clever and poised. This particular alumni thingie is in Los Angeles, so not only was everyone there valedictorian, but also homecoming queen or king. The ones that weren't now run record labels.

In such situations I can't even take refuge by tucking into the free pinot because I don't want to be That Girl, you know, the one who after midnight turned into Tara Reid and fell into the pool.

So I'm stone-cold sober, socially paralyzed, and wishing I was home watching Christmas movies.

Speaking of! The real reason for this post, some of my seasonal movie faves. In no particular order:

IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE - Darker and funnier than you remember.

HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS - WARNING! VERY IMPORTANT!! I mean the ANIMATED version, with charming Chuck Jones art and plummy voice work by Boris Karloff. Not the Jim Carrey redundancy, for the love of Fah who for-aze.

WHEN HARRY MET SALLY - Not strictly speaking a Christmas movie, but many of the story's key moments happen at the holidays. The season of groveling, revelatory Mallomars.

MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL - I'm serious. Michael Caine gives excellent deadpan as Scrooge in the face of adorableness (Fozziwig!) and catchy songs, but the movie gets scary and sad right when it's supposed to. All that and mini Miss Piggies. Get over yourself and rent it.

THE THIN MAN - Another not-quite-Christmas movie, but who cares when you have William Powell shooting ornaments off the tree with a BB gun while Myrna Loy watches, amused, in a new fur coat? In a movie that glimmers with champagne dialogue, this wordless moment is a standout.

THE GODFATHER - Okay, okay, I'll stop cheating, but the Godfather saga is framed around moments rich with ritual and family significance: weddings, baptisms, the holidays. I love Al Pacino's tense and terrifying vigil at the creepy, Christmas-quiet hospital.

A CHRISTMAS STORY - Some time ago I came across a rant against this movie, which I just don't get. So it's faux nostalgic. Nostalgia is false almost by definition. A CHRISTMAS STORY is funny, sweet, just arch enough, and yes, authentic, capturing the tribulations and joy of being a kid at yuletide. Plus Peter Billingsley now is poker buddies with Vince Vaughn, so there's that.

What about you? Any other holiday flicks you find yourself watching year after year?


Shawna said...

Mine tend to the obscure, but hey, that's why they are my faves...

Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas (1977)-- this Henson production is still one I love. Just try to listen to Ma Otter sing 'When Mountain Touches the Valley' and not tear up.

One Magic Christmas (1985) -- another one for the heartstring tugging. Mary Steenburgen plays a grinchy mom who with the help of her kids and Harry Dean Stanton as a guardian angel learns to love Christmas again. Love it, love it.

The Christmas that Almost Wasn't (1966) -- this one is hard to find. We discovered this one as kids when they would play it on that new cable outfit HBO. Dubbed from Italian with a couple of Americans involved, it is trippy and tunefully wonderful.

Mystery Science Theater presentation of "Santa Claus" (not the Dudley Moore atrocity by the same name) (Santa Claus, 1959, MST, circa 1995) -- this Mexican film is horrible, but who can possibly resist the showdown between the devil and Santa Claus? Santa's use of child workers in his workshop is a little unsettling, as are the maniacally laughing wind up reindeer which pull his sleigh. The MST episode is best known for it's "Politically Correct Christmas Song" which is now a holiday favorite in my household.

Tim Burton's Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) -- this can be enjoyed starting at Halloween right on until Christmas.

White Christmas (1954) -- Holiday classic starring Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. My sister and I love it for the Rosemary Clooney/Vera-Ellen duet of 'Sisters'

A Christmas Carol (1984) -- made for TV with George C. Scott...I know Alistair Sim is the best Scrooge, but I can't help but love George C. Scott who doesn't really try for a British accent, but still is wonderfully Scroogy.

Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983) -- Because who doesn't love Mickey Mouse as Bob Crachitt?

Blackadder's Christmas Carol (1988) -- If you don't know Blackadder, then you don't know that this is the Christmas Carol tale turned on its head. And it is wonderful.

Honorable mentions to "John Denver's Christmas with the Muppets" and "Christmas Eve on Sesame Street" which I have fond memories of, but I can't say I watch them really any more...though I did buy the Sesame Street one on DVD last year...

Sorry this got long. I'll cross post on my blog. I didn't realize how much I heart Christmas movies/tv specials...

Kira said...

Fun choices! While I've seen plenty of Blackadder, I've never seen the Christmas Carol show, to my shame.

I adore the visual style of The Nightmare Before Christmas (I have a bendy Jack Skellington right here on my desk), but find the story and songs a little wan.

John Denver Muppet Christmas! Yes! The album's a longtime family favorite. Lots of songs to put a lump in your throat.

I must chase down the MST3K pic you mentioned...

Bill Cunningham said...

I was just at my 20th college reunion. To think they actually allowed those people I went to school with to procreate is beyond me. There ought to be a law, and I'm not so sure there isn't already.

Holiday films:

The Bells of St. Mary's, Little Lord Fauntleroy or if I'm in a particular mood, I'll counterprogram with The Hills Have Eyes, Black Christmas, Clockwork Orange and the like. Christmas day is reserved for serials...

Patrick J. Rodio said...

Christmas Vacation! Chevy Chase, man! Ok, not as good as the original vacation, and since they're home, is it a vacation? But it's better than Euro Vaca & Vegas Vaca by far. And who doesn't love the squirrel/panic/chaos scene and the cat getting zapped. The ridiculous amount of lights on the house. The superfast sled ride, as well as Uncle Eddie dumping his sewage "emptying the shitter" I believe he says.

Muppets rock just about any time. I like Planes Trains & Autos, but that's for Thanksgiving.

Wonderful Life is still nice to watch.

Oh, certainly Christmas Story, that's a true classic. Although it's on TV I'll always watch Chuck Brown's X-Mas, poor bastard. Speaking of Race For Your Life Charlie Brown rocks, too.

We need a great X-Mas movie though for the current generation. The Santa Claus movies just don't cut it.

Shahua said...

I love the movies people have listed. I haven’t thought about Emmet Otter in years. My list isn't movies per se. But some of my favorites are:
The Tick (animated series)- The Tick's reactions to the whole situation of confronting Santa is classic.

Amazing Stories - Spielberg's anthology series had an ep that had Santa arrested for breaking and entering. First venue I can remember where Santa had to confront the modern age.

Recently, I bought the Buffy box set; it had a xmas episode among Season three's offering. I didn’t think much of it until Angel and Buffy went out in the snow. I actually got choked up a little. I'm (sniffle)... actually getting a little (snx)...(sob)... getting a little teary eyed thinking about it... I got to go (sniffle)