Christmas On TV (and DVD)

Two years ago, I wrote about Christmas on the radio. So I think you can figure out where I’m moving from there.

I do love Christmas, even in years like this one, when I’m so busy that I feel like I don’t have time to take it all in as fully as I should. But even when I’m busy, one integral part of the Christmas season, along with Christmas carols and decorations, is Christmas movies and TV specials. I’ve seen several over the years, and here are ten of them—not necessarily my favorites, but the ones that are freshest in my mind or that are in some way noteworthy.

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
The first time I saw this movie, I was six and watching it with my mom on the little black-and-white TV we had upstairs. I got to stay up until nine, which was a huge deal. And I have barely missed it on TV every year since then. Those little Claymation reindeer, the Island of Misfit Toys, Herbie the Elf (who I’ve decided is a drag queen—he’s the only male elf with hair), and the abominable snow monster are as much of a Christmas story as anything else at this point.

Santa Claus is Coming to Town
The other Claymation Christmas special, and definitely the lesser of the two. This one’s about how Santa became Santa, and I watched it for the first time this year. It’s…kind of dull. Even Santa himself is boring, and while the music in Rudolph is memorable enough for me to have it on my iPod (shut up), the music in this one is…not.

A Charlie Brown Christmas
You can’t not smile watching those little Peanuts kids dance. (Actually, just thinking about it now, I got that song Schroeder plays on the piano stuck in my head.) There are sequels, and while It’s Christmastime again, Charlie Brown! is funny, it didn’t have the staying power of this one. The scene where Linus responds to Charlie Brown’s indignant, “Doesn’t anyone know what Christmas is about?!” is so memorable because, although this first came out in the 1960s, Christmas certainly hasn’t gotten any less commercialized since then.

It’s a Wonderful Life
Not just one of my favorite Christmas movies, but one of my favorite movies, period. At this point, it’s almost a Christmas cliché, which is a shame. Maybe I’m just a sap, but I find it genuinely moving, much more so than any modern film. It’s pretty much guaranteed to boost my mood.

The Muppets’ Christmas Carol
There are a million versions of A Christmas Carol, but I admit it—this one is my favorite. What can I say? I love the Muppets. This version has Kermit as Bob Cratchit and Miss Piggy as his wife (their kids, interestingly enough, are two frogs and two pigs), Michael Caine as Scrooge, Fozzie (my favorite) as “Fozziewig,” Gonzo as Charle s Dickens (well, sort of…a narrator who says he’s Charles Dickens, anyway), and Statler and Waldorf as the ghosts of “the Marleys.”

Home Alone
I was probably in second grade the first time I saw this, and they used to show it on NBC every Thanksgiving until they started doing Thanksgiving episodes of Friends. I remember thinking that once I got to stay home alone, I’d do everything Macauley Culkin did. It’s funny watching it now, because you question the plausibility of so many things you didn’t think twice about as a kid. And this movie also came out before cell phones, and if you think about it, there’d probably be no movie if it took place today—one of the plot devices was that the phone lines were down. But aside from all that, I still really enjoy this movie—and sadly enough, I don’t think second graders today watch it anymore.

I had not even heard of this movie until I noticed it in Wal-Mart last December 23rd and bought it on impulse. And it’s…not bad. Certainly not an Oscar winner, but not a waste of time, either. Susan Sarandon, Penelope Cruz, Paul Walker, and Alan Arkin play people with all kinds of problems—dying mother, failing relationship, dead wife— and while some parts are very sad, it’s more hopeful than depressing. Some parts are a bit cheesy, but I think this movie kind of fills a void—it’s not a schmaltzy Hallmark Hall of Fame movie, but it’s not an overly cynical Bad Santa or Surviving Christmas, either. It’s worth a watch.

I don’t love this movie, but I enjoyed it for what it is. I think it’s kind of becoming a modern Christmas classic—come to think of it, maybe the second graders who aren’t watching Home Alone are watching this instead. I’d heard so much about it before I saw it that there weren’t a lot of surprises. I remember my sister imitating the whale, Mr. Norwell, who pops up at the beginning as Buddy is leaving to say, “Bye, Buddy. Hope you find your dad!” and even though that’s only about thirty seconds out of the movie, it’s what I think of first if someone mentions Elf.

Frosty the Snowman
I’m not a huge fan of this one. Not sure why. I don’t think I could ever quite warm up (no pun intended) to Frosty. It doesn’t have all that much to do with Christmas until the end, either. The sequel, Frosty Returns, is funnier, but has even less to do with Christmas.

Love Actually
The first time I saw this movie, I thought, “Eh, that was all right.” But I think maybe I just wasn’t paying enough attention, because the second time I loved it. Actually. There are certainly flaws—some parts are implausible, some storylines are more interesting than others, and Hugh Grant as Prime Minister? Really? But overall, it’s a really enjoyable movie. I think the plot about the kid is my favorite, followed closely by the one about the guy who’s in love with his best friend’s wife. Billy Mack cracks me up, as does “Colin, God of Sex” on his quest to win over American girls. It’s really just a movie about love—and, of course, Christmas.

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