Tuesday, December 20, 2011

Top Ten Christmas Movies

In principle I'm almost always against sequels. And I have a very definitive theory on sequels vs. trilogies or sagas. For example, I'm perfectly fine saying that LOTR: Return of the King is the best of the Lord of the Rings movies because it is the 3rd of a trilogy. The Lord of the Rings books were written together as one story and then divided up into three movies to fit Hollywood. Same thing goes for Harry Potter. Seven books, eight movies (because the seventh book is just THAT good). But take the Matrix, for example. The first movie was phenomenal. It stood alone and answered every question it asked. It tied up all the loose ends and was nearly perfect in all aspects. Hollywood (my gut says Bruckheimer, but don't quote me on it) says "Wow, that made lots of money. Let's make more!" and the next two were embarrassments to the first, pretending that all that made sense in the first movie was just a facade and there was really much more to it that wasn't explained yet. Yeah, yeah. You're just banking off what you did to begin with. Same goes for Jurassic Park (the 1st of which is one of my all time favorite films), Austin Powers (crude, yes, but hilarious nonetheless), Mission Impossible and Pirates of the Caribbean. With almost every one of these "sequel" movies, I love the first one and nothing past it.

I can think of two exceptions: The Godfather (called a trilogy but really isn't, in my definition...still some of the best movies of all time) and Home Alone. They made 3 or 4 but the ones without Macauley Culkin don't count. Tonight Brandon and I watched our newest Christmas movie, "Home Alone 2". Newest as in the one we bought most recently. $5 at Target was just something I could not pass up, so I said goodbye to my VHS copy and splurged.

Will Home Alone 2 outrank its predecessor on my Top Ten Christmas Movies list? Let's see!

Honorable Mention: "Die Hard" directed by John McTiernan and starring Bruce Willis as John McClane. It's the best Christmas movie that isn't really a Christmas movie, though I know some men who will argue to no end that it is. Hence, honorable mention. Because I absolutely LOVE the first Die Hard. The 2nd, 3rd, 4th? Well... I don't ignore them, but they certainly are on a level of ridiculousness way beyond the 1988 movie.

Another HM to "Joyeux Noel", which is the best foreign Christmas film out there. If I'd seen it more than once it may be on my real list, so we'll see next year. It's a great film based on the true story of how two side of a war quit fighting on Christmas Eve. Beautiful, even for a French film.

And don't ask why "White Christmas" isn't on the list. I've only seen it once, in pieces, so I can't judge it objectively. Again, maybe next year.


10. "Home Alone" directed by Chris Columbus, starring Macauley Culkin. Clever concept, lots of beating up of bad guys, an adorable main character, beautiful music. What more can you ask for?

9. "Charlie Brown Christmas" directed by Bill Melendez and starring the adorable Peanuts characters. It's the only mainstream Christmas movie that openly discusses that Jesus is the reason for the holiday we call Christmas. Linus recites from the book of Luke when he tells Charlie Brown "That's what Christmas is all about". Totally goes against all commercialism of the season and gets down to the basics of why we started celebrating in the first place. 

8. "Home Alone 2", see above. I realized while watching this one tonight that this film began my love affair with NYC. We also realized that Harry should have died 6 times and Marv 11 times in the film from the beatings they receive. Not to mention broken bones, concussions, poisonings, internal bleeding, etc. It beats the original in my book because of how stinkin' hilarious it is. I don't laugh more at any scene of a movie than when Marv gets electrocuted and turns into a skeleton. Lindsay, you know what I'm talking about. How many times did we rewind the tape so we could watch that over and over again?

7. "Scrooged" directed by Richard Donner, starring Bill Murray. <--- Saying that should be a thumbs up already, and his take on a modern day Ebenezer Scrooge as a TV producer is hilarious. Plus there's a pretty nice pep talk speech at the end that makes me teary-eyed a little. 

6. "Miracle on 34th Street" directed by George Seaton, and I say starring Natalie Wood! What would the movie be without sweet Susan? It's the movie we all watch when we want to believe that Santa Claus IS real, the film of the holiday season that gives us chills when she gets what she wants for Christmas :) And don't try to be all new school and rent the 1990's version with that cute girl from Mrs. Doubtfire. NOT the same movie. Not as good mum, not as good. And don't watch the old version amped up in color either. That's cheating. Not cool.

5. "Elf" directed by Jon Favreau (who plays the doctor who tells Walter that Buddy IS in fact his son) and starring Will Ferrell. If you need one movie to make you feel like a kid again, to wipe away all your adult drama and trouble, "Elf" is it. It is the ultimate reminder to stay young, play, and not take life so seriously. It's like "Peter Pan" on crack for Christmastime. 

4. "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" directed by Jeremiah Chechik and starring Chevy Chase. (You serious, Clark?) The National Lampoon's club didn't used to only make college fraternity and booby movies y'all. Back when Pierce Hawthorne, excuse me, Chevy Chase, starred in them, they were hil-arious. One of the funniest and most quoted Christmas movies of all time, hands down.

3. "Muppet Christmas Carol" directed by Brian Henson and starring THE MUPPETS. And Michael Caine. I could easily move this up a spot, and sometimes am tempted to place it at number one, especially right after I watch it. The Jim Henson studio has brought so much imagination, creativity and humor into the world through the Muppets and the Sesame Street characters. I can't really imagine my life without them... sounds weird, right? Who would have taught me to count if there was no "Count"? Thanks to the Hensons we have an amazing Dickens adaptation complete with original songs and tons of fun. And Caine is the best Scrooge. Ever. No arguments. Case closed.

2. "A Christmas Story" directed by Bob Clark and starring Peter Billingsley (though Jean Shepherd was his voice). Is there any part of "A Christmas Story" that you do not laugh at? I watch the movie and as every new scene I crack up just anticipating what is to come. I have three ornaments relating to this film on my Christmas tree. Three! (Sheriff Ralphie, "I can't put my arms down" Randy, and the leg lamp!) It is such a Christmas institution that for years TBS and TNT have played it on loop back to back to back to back to... (you get it) for 24 hours straight. And what's even crazier than that is that we watch it all day long! What other movie can you watch all day and not get tired of it? It reminds us of what we were all like on Christmas as kids, and as far as the whole Santa aspect of Christmas goes, its good to be a kid.

1. "It's a Wonderful Life" directed by Frank Capra, starring the one and only James Stewart, love of my life had I lived in the 40's. It's so easily the best Christmas movie ever that I started my list here and placed my nine other favorites in the remaining spots. It reminds me of Silence of the Lambs in a way (hear me out). Did you know the character of Hannibal Lecter is only on screen for 16 minutes of the entire film? And yet they gave Anthony Hopkins the Oscar for Best Actor because of what his time on screen meant. "It's a Wonderful Life" is THE quintessential Christmas movie, even though only about 1/4 of the movie occurs around Christmastime. If you're not crying when George Bailey, through tears, pleads with God, "I want to live again!" and then cheering when he cries for joy that "my mouf's bleedin!", then something's wrong with you. If you've never seen it, watch it immediately and your life will be changed. And then go watch the Saturday Night Live "Lost Ending" sketch. It's almost as good as the real film :)

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