Now that Thanksgiving is in the rearview mirror, Christmahannukwanzaka is upon us. And of course, stores all around us have been prepping for it since the day after Halloween. That means it’s officially the time of year where TV and theaters will inundate the public with Christmas-themed entertainment, insuring that we’ll all have the hap-hap-happiest Christmas since Bing Crosby tap-danced with Danny fuckin’ Kaye. If you’re like me, you’re more than happy to partake. Here’s the hit list of Christmas movies and TV specials I watch each December.
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966)
If you were going to tell a tale about a character whose soul is an apalling dump heap overflowing with the most disgraceful assortment of deplorable rubbish imaginable, mangled up in tangled up knots, you could not possibly find a better person to narrate that story than Boris Karloff. Halloween may have ended a month ago but you can still get your Karloff fix at Christmastime with everyone’s favorite pants-free Christmas villain.
A Christmas Carol (1951)
There are an awful lot of adaptations of Charles Dickens’ novel. Some are good, a few are bad, and a few are downright weird (I’m looking at you, 1979s An American Christmas Carol starring the Fonz). For my money that I’m holding on to like a British miser, none are better than the 1951 version starring Alistair Sim. Honorable mention goes to the 1984 version starring George C. Scott, which is the version I was weaned on.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
You know what’s better than a fat, jolly guy who brings gifts to the whole planet every year? A fat, jolly guy who brings gifts to TWO whole planets every year. Also, Jamie Farr in green makeup and a dude in a polar bear outfit.
A Christmas Story (1983)
It just wouldn’t be Christmas without TWENTY-FOUR FREAKING HOURS of Red Rider b.b. guns, Ralphie in a bunny costume, and a jackass Santa who kicks little kids down slides. The next time you watch it, be sure to keep an eye out for my favorite scene. When Ralphie locks himself in the bathroom to decode his special message, his brother is desperate to get inside. Ralphie finally relinquishes the bathroom, his brother sprints in presumably to take a dookie, and the film transitions to the next scene by showing a big boiling pot of thick, brown soup. It’s really subtle, really gross, and absolutely hilarious.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964)
There’s something magical about the Rankin-Bass claymation reindeer and his unruly band of misfit toys. There’s even an elf who wants to be a dentist. Also, other than horror films and drunk degenerate mall Santas, this is the most evil you will ever see Santa Claus behave.
Frosty the Snowman (1969)
Say what you will about quality. There’s no amount of bad quality that can undermine nostalgia. Frosty was annual viewing when I was growing up and it’s not any different now. I wouldn’t feel fully prepared for the holiday season if I didn’t watch Frosty.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Every family has that one movie that they watch every year for Christmas. Sometimes, it’s White Christmas. Sometimes, it’s the billion versions of A Christmas Carol. Still others will show something more off-the-wall like Scrooged or Gremlins to their spouse and children. In my home as a child, it was It’s a Wonderful Life. The irony is that I still struggle with Frank Capra’s hokey feel-good movies. But I’ll always forgive It’s a Wonderful Life, a movie that speaks to everything the holidays should be about- drinking yourself into a stupor, a willingness to jump off a bridge to get away from jolly people, rampant greed, and just enough love from family and friends to keep you going for another twelve months.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
The best part about the Griswold family Christmas is that it’s something of a new classic. Hell, it was a new release that I saw in theaters when I was still learning to love everything else on this list. There are elements of the film that hit home with most viewers. Personally, the first time I saw it, I was approximately Rusty’s age, I lived in the snowy upper-midwest, I had family from more “eclectic” (southern) parts of the country, I had older relatives were liable to wrap up jello as a gift, and our household took Christmas pretty seriously. In other words, I got it when it came to the Griswold Christmas. I still do. And I love it.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Sure, it’s full of cheesy moralism and slightly outdated religious values. But I dare you not to tear up when the smooth stylings of Vince Guaraldi evoke every perfect Christmas you’ve ever had.
Saturday Night Live’s Santi-Wrap Sketch (1976)
John Belushi was a comic genius because he didn’t need to actually say anything to elicit laughter. His work in the Santi-Wrap sketch is the perfect proof. Armed only with a drunk’s wobble and slur, and the barely intelligible words “ho ho ho”, he crafted one of the best SNL sketches ever. As much as I love it, I only watch it once a year, in December.
What’s on your Christmas hit list?