I’ve never made any secret of my movie geek status. It’s been as obvious as Rudolph’s red nose for as many years as I have known about movies themselves, I think. I debate movies, I discuss them. I memorize them by repeated viewings, to the point that I quote them verbatim as I watch them, down to sound effects in some cases. Star Wars is a notable example of the latter there…
To many movie fanatics, holiday movies are a genre that gets very little respect. “They are all the same,” the geekdom cries. “Someone does not get what Christmas is all about, then, magically, they somehow get it on Christmas Eve, and all is happy in the world.”
Is this true? Maybe. It doesn’t bother me, though, the way it probably should.
I love Christmas movies. The CLASSIC ones, I should say. You can keep all the Hallmark Channel crap, the Lifetime sob stories, all that mess. It offends me that some even consider those movies…
(Pardon me while I assume my father’s voice for a second…)
I remember when It’s A Wonderful Life was a public domain movie. For those of you who are not familiar with the phrase, there was a stretch of time when the broadcast rights to It’s A Wonderful Life were open property. Any channel on the airwaves could show the movie, simply by purchasing a broadcast right. My dad and I would start a tally on how many times it would show up, starting on Thanksgiving Night and ending on Christmas Day. One year, it hit 49 times. Do the math there… It was on at least once a night for thirty days, and more than once a night several times. You could watch it on one channel, then spin the dial and catch it again. It was paradise!
I know some people find this movie to be sad and refuse to watch it. Those people obviously do not grasp the whole point of the movie, and there is no point in trying to convince them otherwise. You are better off walking out to your driveway, kneeling down, and banging your face into the asphalt until you knock yourself silly.
My list of holiday favorites includes White Christmas, with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye. A very close friend of mine seems to dislike this movie, which boggles my mind. She also claims that The Bishop’s Wife is not a Christmas movie (… where is my driveway again?). I love The Bishop’s Wife. Cary Grant, for one of the few times in his career, plays a very innocent character, not just a suave charmer, and Loretta Young was never as beautiful as she was in this film. I also have a particular fondness for Alistair Sim’s wonderful performance as Scrooge in the 1951 version of A Christmas Carol. I love Stanwyck in Christmas in Connecticut and, hands down, the best screen Santa ever, Edmund Gwynn in the best version of Miracle on 34th Street.
Don’t get me wrong now… there have been some more recent holiday movies. Will Farrell in Elf? Very good movie. I could watch Bill Murray in Scrooged every day for the Christmas season and still laugh every time. Do not even get me started on National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. That movie… just… damn… I mean, Chevy Chase’s final tirade against his miserly boss is reason enough to laugh yourself silly over the stresses and pains that accompany the holiday season. And Randy Quaid greeting the neighbors as he dumps his RV’s septic system into the sewer… lawdamercy…
For me, though… honestly… there is only one holiday movie. I watch it religiously every Christmas season, usually about three times before Christmas, then, on Christmas Eve, at least once. And, thankfully, the good people at Turner Broadcasting have seen fit now to make it an annual event. They show A Christmas Story for 24 straight hours. Angels, we have heard on high…
I may be one of 50 people that saw this movie in the theatre when it first premiered back in 1983. I had never read anything by Jean Shepherd, so I was completely blind to his humor. But I sat there in that movie house and found myself entranced by the story. It was so real, so entirely true to how a kid feels at Christmastime, when his parents don’t seem to hear his hints for a special gift, when nobody understands his world, when that whole world seems to be conspiring against him on a singular quest for some perfect item that would make his childhood complete.
I would go into greater detail about the story, but, truthfully, you would probably not be reading this if you didn’t know the story. And you would probably have to have been in a Turkish prison not to have seen it at least once. Very few people don’t know at least a few prime quotes from it. Walk up to anyone on the street and say, “I want an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot range model air rifle” and see what happens. They will either look at you like you are clinically insane, or they will say, “You’ll shoot your eye out!”
If they say the latter, they are as addicted as you are…
I own this movie, in VHS and DVD (the special edition release, of course…). I own a leg lamp, both the nightlight model and the desktop. My goal in life is to have matching floor models to go on either side of my sofa, so the “soft glow of electric sex” can gleam through my windows as the world drives by my house. I cannot go into a Chinese restaurant without giggling at the thought of the waiters singing “Deck the Halls.” Every bully I see on the street becomes Scut Farkas, yellow eyes and all. I am now a master of the triple-dog dare. I am a frequent user of “THE word, the queen mother of dirty words, the F-dash-dash-dash word.” I WILL NOT dress like a deranged Easter bunny. I always drink my Ovaltine, even though my decoder ring doesn’t work much anymore. And, yes, by God, I DO own an official Red Ryder, carbine action, two-hundred shot air rifle, with the compass in the stock and that thing that tells time. And no, I have never shot my eye out with it. I did manage to blow a headlight out of my own car trying to quick-shoot from the hip, but we don’t need to discuss that.
Holiday movies? Sure, they may be corny as Kellogg’s cereal flakes. Sure, most of them have musical numbers thrown in for no reason. And sure, it does seem rather odd that Bing Crosby shows up in a lot of them. It doesn’t matter to me in the slightest. Danny Kaye and Bing Crosby singing their hearts out in that ski lodge in Vermont, trying to help the general they served under in World War Two? I’ll watch it. Cary Grant as an angel sent to help a priest through a crisis of faith? Bring it on. Bill Murray? Will Farrell? Chevy Chase? Sign me up.
But, every once in a while, Hollywood manages to strike a special chord and gives a movie geek like me a gift, one that I treasure and would be miserable without. For me, that gift is A Christmas Story, and I thank the director, the late Bob Clark, and the late Jean Shepherd, for making a new classic for my holiday viewing.
Now, if you will excuse me, I am expecting a package from a foreign country. Maybe you’ve heard of it. Fra-gee-lay?