Holiday Movie Madness
Tis the season. Oscar watch: (BLACK SWAN, THE FIGHTER), Family dominated box office(HARRY, TANGLED) and CHARLIE BROWN’S CHRISTMAS airs on CBS for its 79th time or some other ungodly number. And I couldn’t be happier. I love this time of year. The time when it’s ok to overload on carbs, the time for giving and receiving, family, Football playoff race taking shape (Niners are 4-8 and still in the hunt!), time for delusions of grandeur. Ok that was more for the last part…
Just a side note, that infamous post game rant was following a loss to my beloved 49ers, ah the days when we could pick off Peyton Manning four times, *sigh*. Anyhoo, what was I talking about, ah yes, Holiday Movie Season. I haven’t really seen any award worthy flicks yet this season, with the exception of Danny Boyle’s 127 HOURS, they best give Franco a nod. We’ll talk more on those next week, after I’ve seen BLACK SWAN and THE FIGHTER. This week I want to talk about my favorite Holiday Movies. These are movies that I watch every Christmas at some point between the day after Thanksgiving to Christmas eve.
First up, a holiday movie that is probably not anybody’s Christmas list but mine, THE FAMILY MAN starring Nic Cage. It’s of course a retread of Capra’s classic IT”S A WONDERFUL LIFE, but in this one, instead of man seeing how people’s life would be different without him, he gets to see how HIS life would be different if he had chosen love over money. Moral of the story, love is better. Isn’t it though? Money is awesome, don’t get me wrong, if you can have both, count yourself among the lucky ones. But sometimes choices presented in life make us have to choose between the two. Here Don Cheadle plays an angel who guides Cage to an alternate life he could’ve had with the woman, Tea Leoni, he left for a job. To me, this is a very underrated movie. It feels like Christmas, it looks like Christmas, it has Cheadle, it has Tea Leoni naked singing in the shower, and of course a few Nic Cage wiggin moments.
Perfect segue (ha!, just learned how to spell a word I’ve been using my whole life) to the next flick, that being Capra’s Timeless classic It’s A Wonderful Life. Has there ever been anyone, in the history of film, that is more likeable than Jimmy Stewart. I dare you to find someone. TRIPLE DOG DARE YOU. You can’t, can you. Or find someone as adorable as Donna Reed. What did Frank Capra do, he married these two.
The story, in case anyone needed to know, is about George Baily (Stewart) a man at the end of his rope. On Christmas Eve, he has decided to take his own life. Along comes Angel Clarence who proceeds to show George how the people in his life are better off with him than without him. This has been redone and parodied many times, my favorite being Beavis and Butthead’s It’s A Miserable Life.
Needless to say, everything works out in the end. And how funny was that to see in it French(HOME ALONE 1) and then in Spanish(HOME ALONE 2). And lookee what we have here, another perfect segue.
The adventures of Kevin Mcallister or the Bane of Harry and Marv, or as the world knows them the HOME ALONE movies. I don’t count 3 and 4, for obvious reasons. When I was 11 years old and the first one came out, the trailer made me want to get in line right then and there. Come on, a kid outsmarting two grown men and doing it with painful flair?! How could you not want to see this? It comes from the brilliant mind of the late great John Hughes, directed by Chris “Harry Potter 1 and 2” Columbus and scored by music god John Williams(Funny thing, this score’s main theme sounds a lot like Potter, also by Williams) Apart from the score, the soundtracks to these movies are some of the best Christmas songs ever assembled. Plus, cute as a button Mac Culkin had the likeability of Jimmy Stewart with a little devilish charm added to the mix. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern had such a wonderful chemistry that I hope one day, they do a Grumpy Old Men style picture. And of course, nobody can scream like a girl better than Stern.
So how much did the Griswold family trip to Wally World remind you of family trips to one of the Disney Resorts or Six Flag theme parks? Ok, if that didn’t resonate, how about when they hosted Christmas dinner in CHRISTMAS VACATION…Wait for it…There it is.
Probably Chevy’s finest moment is CHRISTMAS VACATION and up until last year with COMMUNITY, pretty much his last hour as a viable star. The 3rd and penultimate VACATION movie, I think it is by far the best. I do love the first one and EUORPEAN is fun but this is a classic. Not just a holiday classic, but comedic classic as well. Just look at the cast: Pacino’s real life main squeeze Beverly “Not afraid to be nude” D’Angelo is back as Mrs. Griswold, the revolving Gris children door brought us a young yet to go dark indie queen Juliette Lewis and Johnny “BIG BANG THEORY” Galecki(My fave Rusty, all due respect to Mr. Michael Hall), Randy “I’m not criminal crazy yet” Quaid and Brian Doyle “Brother to Bill” Murrary all wrapped in a bow. Plus, Next to Linus’ in CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS(more on that later), the best Christmas speech ever:
Brian isn’t the only one of the Murray clan to star in Christmas classic. His less famous brother, Bill was starred in SCROOGED back in the early 90’s. This will start my 3 part segment on the best film versions of Charles Dickens Immortal novel, A CHRISTMAS CAROL. Everyone knows the premise right, 3 ghosts, teach a rich miser the error of his ways. Why do rich people hate Christmas so much? The scene with Carol Kane’s Ghost of Christmas Present is painfully funny, literally. Kane proceeds to beat some sense into our miserable old wretch, Scrooge uh I mean Frank Cross. And I can’t forget the winning smile that is Karen “Marion Ravenwood” Allen or the Alfre Woodard’s Bob Cratchit role or legendary actor John Forsythe’s version of Jacob Marley (A rotting corpse with golf balls coming out of bullet holes in his head, can you say, Way Cool?).
Next up is by far my favorite iteration of Dickens’ classic, A MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL. Michael Caine as Scrooge, Kermit and Miss Piggy as Bob and Emily Crachit, The Great Gonzo as the Narrator/Charles Dickens and of course those critical old Muppets in the balcony, Statler and Waldorf as Jacob and Robert Marley. All your Muppet faves are here, even if some get too little screen time(Fozzie as Scrooge’s first employer comes to mind) but still has all the Muppet mayhem you could want. Plus it’s great to see Caine in something as off the wall as the Muppets can be and look like he’s having fun every minute of it.
Part 3 of the exploration of Dickens novel brings us to my first experience of the redemption of Ebeneezer Scrooge, MICKEY’S CHRISTMAS CAROL. This 30 minute cartoon introduce me to the oft told Christmas tale, Disney style. Thanks to my mom, I am Disney freak. Say what you want about the Corporation that is the Walt Disney Company, but no one can deny they know how to tell a story. This one has Mickey and Minnie as the Crachits, Donald as Scrooge’s nephew Fred, Jiminy Cricket as the ghost of Christmas past, Goofy as Jacob Marley and appropriately enough as Ebeneezer Scrooge, seeing as he is based on him, DUCKTALES hero Scrooge McDuck.
Of Course that isn’t the only special I enjoy every Christmas. Alongside the movies, I also make sure I see RUDOLPH(Old school claymation version)
Then there is the GRINCH (Boris Karloff, not Jim Carrey), by the way, how brilliant was that voice casting? A man famous for playing monsters, playing a monster who steals Christmas. Awesome casting I say. Love that song too. And to round out my specials list, CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS(Don’t think I need to say much about this one) and A MUPPET FAMILY CHRISTMAS. Unfortunately due to those pesky music rights that have screwed me getting some of my fave shows on dvd(WONDER YEARS, DAMMIT), they have also made it impossible to release this gem. However, you can you tube the entire hour special in I think 4 or 5 parts. It’s worth it. This is the MUPPET FAMILY IN IT’S ENTIRETY and by that I mean, not just are the MUPPET SHOW Muppets are here but the gang from SESAME STREET and FRAGGLE ROCK. The only Hensen family missing are the Goblins from LABIRYNTH and THE DARK CRYSTAL cast. Even the Man and his dog Sproket from FRAGGLE ROCK are here. Just check this out:
What if Peter Pan grew up? Well, he can’t according to all the haters out there. And I’m talking the HOOK haters. The fact that there is even 1 HOOK hater, makes me sad, but to each their own(as wrong as their own may be). I know HOOK isn’t technically a Christmas movie, although it does take place during Christmas, but it was released on Christmas day 1991. And that day, began a tradition I look forward to every December the 25th. We wake up, open presents, eat brunch, go to church(if we didn’t got to midnight mass) and then, we go to the movies. My friend Andrew and I have been quoting HOOK for the last 6 days and it never gets old. Robin Williams is just a big kid, so that’s who I would picture Pan growing up to be. Dustin Hoffman is at his comedic best when he’s hamming it up(gotta love that double cigar thing, I WANT ONE!) Bob Hoskins as Smee, was there anyone else you could see doing this? Steven Spielberg(I really love this dude) directing. And the only time I have ever thought of Julia Roberts as hot:
And now the final three(by the way, none of these, above or below, are in any particular order. I just go where my brain takes me) NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS, ERNEST SAVES CHRISTMAS, and the grand daddy of them all A CHRISTMAS STORY.
Jack Skellington is a hero for a generation. When this movie was first released, it got mixed reviews and wasn’t exactly burning up the box office, at first at least. Now here we are, 17 years later and thanks to my generation, it is considered a classic. And every year somewhere between Halloween and Christmas, I make my way to Disneyland where Jack and friends take over The Haunted Mansion.
Count Jim Varney in the group of comic genies’ gone too early(Phil Hartman, Chris Farely, John Belushi, etc.) Varney played the lovable, dim witted Ernest P. Worrell for over 20 years in various commercials, TV shows, and at least early on, a successful film series. I loved his TV show and saw everyone of his Theatrically released movies on the first weekend. The crown jewel in all of this is ERNEST SAVES CHRISTMAS. If there ever was a character that needed a Christmas story, it’s Ernest P. Worrell. Santa Claus needs to find his replacement, and who better to help him find that replacement than Christmas loving Ernest. That voice, that laugh, that look, and Vern’s there too or at least his arm is. I remember seeing this in theater with my 8 year old cousin David, and man he laughed harder than a stoner watching, well, anything. It was a great experience. Thanks Dave, you added just that much more to my wonderful memory of this talented performer.
That freakin Leg Lamp, that red headed bully, that snow suit that allows no movement, DECK THE HALLS WITH BOWS OF HAAARREEE!!! A CHRISTMAS STORY, where we learned that we might shoot our eye out. We learned not to leave the door open with turkey smell wafting across the yard to where a pack of hungry dogs hang. There is a reason that TBS runs this thing from 24 hours starting on Christmas eve morning. FAAA RARAA RAAR RAAAA!
So let ABC Family have it’s 25 days of Christmas. This is Captain Dan’s 25 days of Christmas. And if there aren’t 25 on here, watch some of em twice. And now it’s time to spice up that eggnog, kick back on the couch…
And watch me some Holiday Cheer!
Happy Holidays, with much love.