Friday, December 27, 2013

Christmas Essentials: TV and movies

I'm a little late in posting this, but whatever. The Christmas spirit still lingers so I don't mind putting this together.
I wrote most of this the other week with the intent of posting it on Wednesday.

Of course there'll be some things that will be missing from this list, which is in no particular order by the way. But there will be a list of honorable mentions at the very end.
Well, I suppose I could put them in order from the most recent to the traditions that go the furthest back.

[as of 2010/2012]
"Ally McBeal"- Season 4- "'Tis the Season"

The first time I saw this episode was around November/December of 2010 on Reelz Channel. I broke down and bought the Season 4 box set last year, making this the second year I'm including this in my run of favorite Christmas shows/movies. Not just because Larry Paul will likely go down as my favorite character played by Robert Downey Jr., but it hits on all the issues relating to the season in the various storylines.
You have the trial du jour. An anchorman is suing his TV station for wrongful termination; he said on the air there was no Santa Claus. John Cage and Ling are representing him. The ups and downs of the season are discussed amongst the cast with Ally trying to be the most optimistic about it.
Regarding him in particular, Larry hates Christmas because it was a special time he spent with his son. And since separating from his girlfriend, he hasn't been able to spend Christmas with him. Ally tries to get him into the spirit of things and succeeds, but only to a point.
This was also the first time I heard Robert's singing voice. First covering Joni Mitchell's "River" and dueting with Ally on "White Christmas." So many of his talents shine here and I absolutely love that about the show.

[as of 2005]
any "That 70's Show" Christmas special

I lucked into this one when they were showing a marathon on Family Channel that year. Five different episodes, lots of laughter... you really can't ask for much more.

If I were to pick favorite moments, they'd include:
  • (from "The Best Christmas Ever") Jackie and the cheerleaders getting drunk on the punch spiked by Laurie and wind up flirting with Fez. It's also great when Jackie gets so enthusiastic over Kelso's gift and what he went through to get her those hot rollers.
  • (from "Hyde's Christmas Rager") Eric arrives home from the party drunk and throws up on Red's shoes. Then at the end of the show, Red gives the shoes to him for Christmas to clean up. ("ho ho ho... dumbass!")
  • (from "A Eric Forman Christmas") you can have your pick of the scenes, there are so many. But all the references to Charlie Brown Christmas and Kelso's dream sequence gave nostalgia a hilarious twist
  • (from "Donated Toys") the guys playing with all the toys that were in the donated toys bin and when Hyde tricks Eric into going down the chimney
[as of 2005]
Christmas Vacation

My choir teacher Ms. Cloak said this was her favorite Christmas movie and Cousin Eddie was her favorite character.
My fandom for this movie increases every year :-P every time, there's new hilarious jokes to be mined from the ore. The Christmas lights display has since become a trend, now seen on channels like TLC and HGTV in December, and whenever someone in the neighborhood has their house decked out, you call it a "Griswold house."
You get naivety as well as dirty old men (not that Chevy Chase was that old, but you get the picture), difficult eccentric relatives and good old-fashioned Christmas cheer.
As for Cousin Eddie, yes his heart was in the right place, but the dude was an idiot. I mean, his kids were thinking they weren't getting anything for Christmas and he spends more of the movie doting on his dog. Kinda hard to get past that for me. That is until the grand finale when he arrives with the best gift ever: Clark getting some self-respect back from his boss.

[as of the mid-late 90's]
A Christmas Story

You don't have to watch the entire marathon, just once is good enough. I don't consider it among my top 100 movies, but it's likable nonetheless. Not to mention quotable as hell with so many pieces to dissect and take with you.
Chinese Turkey. The Leg Lamp. Fra-geel-ay. The Triple Dog Dare. and of course:
I first saw this at my grandma's way back when. She had it on VHS and we watched it in the basement a couple times over a couple years, before we discovered the TBS marathon. The Chinese carolers stuck with me about as much as Flick sticking his tongue to the pole.
In case the next day doesn't allow for it, I try to get this out of the way on Christmas eve.

[as of the late 90's]
Olive the Other Reindeer

What an endearing cartoon special written by Matt Groeing of "Simpsons" fame. The premise is that Blizten was injured and a dog, Olive (voiced by Drew Barrymore, always charming) believes Santa said on the radio that he needed "olive the other reindeer" instead of "all of the other reindeer."
Together with a penguin named Martini, she makes the trip to the North Pole. On their tail is a mean mailman who wants to stop Christmas. Somewhat of a predictable musical, but who cares, really... Christmas movies are predictable in general.

as for the rest....
[as far back as I can remember]

any version of "A Christmas Carol"

This year "Ghosts of Girlfriends Past" was my check in this column.

My very first version was Mickey's Christmas Carol, really well done for a Disney-fied version. It mixes everything from nostalgia to tragedy to the possibility of Hell for Scrooge... seriously, Disney illustrated a fiery coffin at the bottom of Scrooge's future grave. Kinda spooky when you think about it, but when you're a kid that stuff bounces off you a bit more. 

Between that and the Muppets version (which I consider my personal favorite), there are some moments that I find very disheartening. You know the story, of course, but impressing that Tiny Tim might die is heart-wrenching. If that wasn't bad enough, the Muppets version has a song for Christmas Past when Belle breaks up with Scrooge.
I'm with co-narrator Rizzo on this one- it gets me emotional.

I'd brought that up previously with my Christmas soundtrack entry, but December tends to bring a lot of waterworks. Usually because a movie scene is super sad or a part of a Christmas song is too beautifully done to comprehend.

Rudolph the Red-nosed Reindeer

I can't wrap my mind around the idea that not everyone likes Rankin/Bass cartoons. Especially when it comes to this one. It's not Christmas for me until I see some Rudolph. Great songs, great story, memorable characters and probably one of the nicest resolutions in any Christmas special.
Nostalgic point: the version I grew up on, that we videotaped way back in 1987 (along with half a dozen other specials), had "Fame and Fortune" in place of "We're a couple of misfits"... and every year when I watch it on CBS, I hang on for the off chance they change their minds and bring it back.
For all other occasions, there's always YouTube ;) thankfully

Wanna know how huge this special was in my childhood? I went crazy when they opened up the very first "Glee" Christmas special with "The Island of Misfit Toys"... absolute fangasm!

Charlie Brown

It's so cool how this year Tom Hanks and Will Ferrell acknowledged how much they love this special. Even to the point where Tom Hanks said it wouldn't be Christmas season until he saw it.
It was on the recorded VHS with Rudolph. Wow, some years I didn't even get to it because my mom wouldn't let us watch the tape from start to finish. It ran over two hours, I think, with everything.

With it and Rudolph, I love the music, but I go crazier for the details. The look of the Charlie Brown Christmas tree. The scene where Snoopy does all the animal impressions :-P when Lucy's trying to get Schroder to play "Jingle Bells" and also when Lucy tries to pinpoint what Charlie Brown was afraid of.
It's also the only reference to the true meaning of Christmas I've seen in any Christmas movie/special, not counting the literal adaptations of the Bible. Linus's speech was grounded in such importance yet I didn't fully grasp it until I got older.

Honorable Mentions

  • Garfield Christmas (used to air every year, but they stopped. I believe the last Christmas present my grandma got me before she passed was a series of Garfield holidays specials, new on DVD... now it's back in the mix for every year)
  • Christmas Every Day (a cheesy made-for-TV movie akin to Groundhog's day and one of the few Christmas things I feel nostalgia for anymore)
  • It's a Wonderful Life
  • A Year Without a Santa Claus (Snow Miser rules!)
  • Emmett Otter's Jugband Christmas (another part of the VHS... mega nostalgia there with those songs. one year I had to google and print out the lyrics) 

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