With Christmas a week away I thought it was a good time to reflect on some of my favorite TV/movie Christmas moments, and being the generous blogger I am, I decided to share those moments with you. The traditional elements required of any good Christmas story are love, family, friendship, a heartwarming lesson and a tree that looks like it was decorated by Martha Stewart. Several of my picks epitomize those solid Christmas traditions, but some of my choices are more, shall we say...offbeat. Here they are in alphabetical order.
Christmas On Television
A Charlie Brown Christmas: There's a reason this one is at the top of almost everyone's Christmas favorites list each year. It's because it's perfect. My favorite moment: What else? Linus on stage telling the story of the birth of Christ. Blanket or no blanket, I 'heart' Linus.
Blackadder's Christmas Carol: This bawdy holiday romp is a delicious spin on the classic story by Charles Dickens. Starring Rowan Atkinson, Tony Robinson, Miranda Richardson and Hugh Laurie, this 1988 Britcom special uses the characters from the Blackadder series and tells the tale of Ebenezer Blackadder...the nicest man in England. Yeah, that's right, the nicest. Until......My favorite moment: When Ebenezer discovers in the end that "bad guys have all the fun!"
Check out this clip (it's number one of five):
Rudolph The Red-Nosed Reindeer: This special was made at the height of the television claymation boom and I'll trade all your animatronic characters for one talking, claymation jack-in-the-box. My favorite moment: When Santa picks up the toys from the Island of Misfit Toys to find them homes on Christmas Eve. Most heartbreaking moment: Before Santa gets there when the toys think they're stranded for another year. Every time that little rag doll starts to cry, I blubber like a baby. So sue me.
Shrek The Halls: It's the newest on my list, it just came out last year, but it's quite sweet and includes all our favorites: Shrek, Fiona, Donkey and the gingerbread man. My favorite moment: the opening shot where it looks like it's winter and snowing on two hilltops, before pulling back to reveal it's really summer and the "snow" is really baby powder Shrek is sprinkling on his baby's butt.
The Nutcracker: This 1977 version was produced for television and stars Mikhail Baryshnikov and Gelsey Kirkland in their absolute prime. The staging is reworked for TV and to showcase the prowess of its stars. My favorite moment: I can't really pick one, the dancing is that wonderful.
The West Wing "In Excelsis Deo:" This was an episode from when "The West Wing" was still an excellent show and hadn't yet turned into Aaron Sorkin's personal stream of conscientiousness with actors. Set at Christmas, Toby Ziegler becomes obsessed with a homeless veteran who's found dead on park bench. The episode follows Toby's efforts to find the man's brother, who's also homeless and to arrange a full military funeral for the deceased vet. My favorite moment: the ending montage of the man's funeral, attended by Toby, Mrs. Landingham and the man's brother and the beautiful Christmas celebrations at the White House as "The Little Drummer Boy" is sung by a children's choir in the background. Lovely and powerful.
Christmas In The Movies
A Christmas Story: I might take some heat for this, but I think this movie's overrated. I thought it was cute when I saw it the first time, but on repeat viewing, for me it doesn't hold up. I do however have a favorite moment from the movie: When the family goes out to a Chinese restaurant for dinner. I identify with that scene because I remember as a kid how special and exotic it felt to go out to a Chinese restaurant for dinner.
All That Heaven Allows: Complete with sweeping melodramatic music, this 1955 movie starring Rock Hudson and Jane Wyman tells the timeless love story of a rich widow who falls in love with her much younger, hot and hunky, free-spirited, nature boy, gardener. When word of their love gets around in their small New England town, scandal erupts. The woman's friends snub her, her children disown her and as a result she breaks off the romance. My favorite moment: Now here's where Christmas comes in. After Jane dumps Rock in favor of her nearly adult children, the children turn around and dump Jane for their own interests and as an added insult, get her a television set for Christmas. TV sets in those days were known as "The last refuge for lonely women."
If you love the look and feel of AMC's retro "Mad Men," experience the real thing with this movie. It's so soapy you'll need a good rinse after you watch it.
Die Hard: An entertaining Christmas movie of a different kind starring Bruce Willis as a NY cop who comes to LA to patch up things with his bi-coastal wife at her company Christmas party. Euro-trash terrorists led by a deliciously evil Alan Rickman break up the party and take all the guests hostage. It's then up to Bruce to take on the baddies and bring them down, but that's kind of hard since they're all trapped in a huge high-rise. My favorite moment: Bruce and Rickman come face to face and Rickman pretends to be a hostage so Bruce won't know he's really the Euro-trash ring leader.
It's A Wonderful Life: I'm of two minds on this movie. The first time I saw "It's A Wonderful Life" I went into it cold, not knowing anything about the story. I watched as George Bailey was thwarted at every turn and felt terribly sorry for him. The thing is, even at the end when he was happy I still felt sorry for him. What a raw deal! The guy ends up with love, family and friends but he never gets to go to Fiji! These days I can't really watch it. I've seen it too many times and if I watch it all the way through, it actually depresses me. I do however have a favorite moment: When Mary as a little girl whispers in young George's bad ear, the one he can't hear with, that she loves him. That's the best I can do.
Fellow Contributing Editor Suzanne Reisman disagrees with me. Her favorite moment:
When people bring their money to George's house and save the bank. It wasn't until I saw the movie a few years ago that I realized what a powerful message it has about the importance of community development and community investment. I've loved it ever since.
Love Actually: I've grown to love this movie. After one weekend two years ago frantically searching for a copy of it, I found it on pay-per-view and burned my own DVD copy. One of my many reasons for liking "Love Actually" is because it puts the feelings of love and friendship associated with Christmas in a modern context in a funny and accessible way. My favorite moment: The big number at the end, "All I Want For Christmas Is You," sung by little 11 year old Olivia Olson. That kid's got some pipes.
Miracle On 34th Street: The 1947 version starring Maureen O'Hara, Natalie Wood and Edmund Gwenn as Santa Claus. All other versions are pretenders to the crown and might as well keep themselves in the movie vaults where they belong. You've got R.H. Macy sending shoppers to Gimbels in the name of Christmas spirit and you've got the real Santa Claus taking on all comers. What more do you need in a Christmas movie? My favorite moment: Of course when the postal workers bring all those letters to Santa into the courtroom and dump them in front of the judge. Case dismissed.
Blogger Miss Geeky and I disagree on this one. Her favorite "Miracle On 34th Street" is the 1997 version with Elizabeth Perkins and Dylan McDermott, but since she admits she's "never seen the original 1947 version, so I can't compare the two," I'll give her a pass for not knowing that's the better one. But Miss Geeky, get thee to a video store.
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians: If you haven't seen this little known Christmas gem, consider yourself as having had a deprived childhood. The plot---and yes, there really is a plot---is Martians come to earth to kidnap the real Santa Claus so their children can have Christmas. In the process the also kidnap two earth children and take them and Santa to Mars. Billy and Betty are then befriended by Gir-mar and Bo-mar---yeah, you heard me---these two very serious Martian children who have never been able to celebrate Christmas or even laugh for that matter. It's up to our two little Earth children with some help from Santa to bring Christmas to Mars and the Martians. My favorite moment: the theme song over the opening credits, "Hooray for Sant-y Claus!" They spell it S-a-n-t-a, but they pronounce it "Sant-y." Go figure.
Even better than the movie though take a look at this clip of the "Mystery Science Theatre 3000" version and you'll get twice the laughs.
Scrooge: This 1970 movie is a musical version of "A Christmas Carol," starring Albert Finney. The songs are great, Finney is wonderful and the air of menace and mystery is maintained throughout while Scrooge learns his very valuable lessons. My favorite moment: During the vision of the ghost of Christmas future when the entire town sings, "Thank You Very Much" while one intrepid townie dances on top of Scrooge's coffin. The "Thank You" is from the townsfolk to Scrooge for dying: "that's the nicest thing that anyone's ever done for me."
Silent Night, Deadly Night: Never seen it. Never plan to. Just love, love, love the cheesy title.
Those are my moments, but I'm not the only one in the blogosphere writing about Christmas movies.
Corynne at That Black Girl Site wants to know "Where Are The Good African American Holiday Films?" In her post she provides a couple of answers, but she's right when she says that Hollywood is sadly lacking when it comes to good Christmas movies with people of color.
Though over at The 217, Jeff Brandt has written about a current, "Generic Christmas Movie Actually Worth Watching:"
Nothing Like the Holidays—directed by Alfredo De Villa and starring a vibrant cast including Freddy Rodríguez, John Leguizamo, Alfred Molina, Elizabeth Peña, Debra Messing and Vanessa Ferlito—accomplishes the difficult task of producing compelling cinema despite tackling the familiar old form of the Christmas movie.
The film substitutes the typical white suburbia depicted in most Christmas movies with a Puerto Rican family in Chicago’s own Humboldt Park neighborhood.
Sounds like something I need to put on my "To Watch" list.
What TV/movie moments would you add to mine and why?
Dee Dee at Living with Hope explains why Christmas movies are so special to her.
Tamera at Writes of Passage writes about why she likes George Bailey.
Maureen at The Novel Girls considers Christmas movies her Holiday Drug Of Choice.
Megan Smith is the BlogHer Contributing Editor covering Television and Online Video and she loves discovering new Christmas TV/Movie moments. Megan's other blogs are Megan's Minute, quirky commentary around the clock, and Video Runway.
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