Tuesday, December 23, 2008

THE CHRISTMAS POST

It's time to throw down and discuss briefly my top five Christmas movies. I'll try to actually make these cohere to where I like them. In other words, if, for example, A Christmas Story were to show up on the list, and if I liked it more than The Santa Clause, then Ralphie would be discussed as #3 above Tim Allen at #4. But since neither of these are on my top five, this example is completely pointless.
You get what I'm saying. If you've been reading this site at all in the last year, you know that we don't always stick to the rules. But, since it's Christmas, and in celebration of the annual celebration of God coming to Earth to set things straight, I'll proceed in order of my preferences, without deviation. The tops are the tops, with no apologies.
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NUMBER FIVE: DIE HARD


Why in the world is this on here? This is outrageous!

Calm yourself, loyal reader. You obviously haven't been paying attention while watching this gem. If you notice, it takes place during....a Christmas party. John McClane shows up in Los Angeles to win back his estranged wife, only to run into Alan Rickman in a German accent. The villans are totally stock, with the exception of Alan Rickman, who I like pretty much all the time. He'll make another appearance, so I won't go into too much detail here, except to say that Hans Gruber is more than just another thief. He's a thief with style.

Bruce Willis had a decent run in the 1980s, and I enjoy every installment of this particular series. But the first one is in its own category, I think, much like Rocky IV: you can talk about Ivan Drago with respect to the other Rocky flicks, but it's like talking about Willie Mays as just another baseball player. Bruce Willis, I love your smart mouth.Yippie-ki-yay, mofo. And a Happy New Year.

NUMBER FOUR: ELF

I didn't like this one nearly as much before dating Sarah, but after a year of her proclaiming its greatness, it has to make the list. Not only is this always a winner, but it's one of Will Farrell's finest. Of course, that's to say that it's Will Farrell playing a slightly loveable elf named Buddy who's really a human raised among elves, but throw in Zooey Daschanel, and you're good to go.
But what's really to like about this film is the narrative quality: it reads like a children's book, and isn't that what we really like in Christmas movies? A little conflict, not much ambiguity, and a clearly defined ending? Aside from rescuing elves from the realm of the 12-sided die and the creepy guys who show up for book signings in full Middle-Earth garb, it's a pretty good movie to snuggle up with a bowl of popcorn.
NUMBER THREE: IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE

Jimmy Stewart is truly one of the last great actors of the 20th century, hands down. I still get chills when I see him climb on the desk in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington. And say what you will about pap, this film deserves to be watched annually, if only because it is a really thick triumph of joy over despair, that riches are to be found not in where one's bank account is, but in where one's heart is. Where you treasure is, and all that stuff.


My favorite scene is, of course, the one at the end of the movie when George comes racing into the house to embrace his wife and children, with friends surrounding him, playing that song that no one knows the words to. It's an emblematic moment of the rich pageant of life, where all of the loved ones from all corners of life are gathered together, and the world is perfect for a minute or three. My engagement party felt this way; the wedding will be more so--when all the pockets of my friends can be in one place, if only for a few hours.


NUMBER TWO: LOVE ACTUALLY

I feel a small twinge in my gut putting this second, because truly, this is one of my favorite movies of all-time, and bears no season. The interwoven plot lines is fantastic, and the best job I've seen at drawing together broken story threads since Magnolia. That, and they managed to find a way to bring Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman and Colin Firth all together in one film. You've got stunt porn actors, neurotic ad execs, a hapless prime minister, a failed novelist, cheating spouses and brothers, and an incredible performance by Bill Nighy as Billy Mack. I love this performance better than his turn as a zombie in Sean of the Dead.

This film nails the story behind the postcard of Christmas, that families are messy and that people are grosy, stingy, and selfish all the way down. People, Augustine says, love badly, and this love is what we call 'sin': the right pursuits in all the wrong ways. It is hardly done in a more comical and perfect way than in this one. I watch this in the middle of June.

NUMBER ONE: NATIONAL LAMPOON'S CHRISTMAS VACATION

THIS MOVIE above all other movies is the one that puts me in the Christmas spirit. I don't really care that much for the other National Lampoon flicks: Family Vacation is kind of worn, and European Vacation is just stupid. Don't get me going on Vegas Vacation. But this one hits all the right spots. You have Chevy Chase in the prime of his funny, Randy Quaid in all his dickie-wearing glory, burning cats, septic tanks, passive aggression, and snooty neighbors.

It. Is. Fantastic. Like Love Actually, I watch this one irrespective of season, but don't feel like I have to hide out for fear of someone thinking I'm watching a chick flick. If you're looking to win points with me, this is always a great suggestion with a mug of hot chocolate. There are a few movies that are always funny, no matter how many times I see them--Jackass, Grosse Point Blank, Bill Cosby Himself, Sean of the Dead, Tombstone--and this one. Chevy Chase is of the old school of comic timing, where it's about 15% what is being said, and about 99% how he's delivering the line.

Staple my head to the carpet, Martha. It's Christmas time.

See you in the New Year.

5 comments:

the hamster said...

i'm loving the DIE HARD toss in here, even though you found a way to boast and praise ROCKY IV in a completely uncalled for fashion. for your sake, i hope they make a new dr. seuss christmas special with ivan drago as the grinch. or little sally whats-her-butt. whichever you prefer.

also, the mention of TOMBSTONE's comedic quality, juxtaposed alongside JACKASS and SHAUN OF THE DEAD, was classic.

zooey deschenel makes every holiday film brighter.

"SHITTER'S FULL!"

Tiffani R said...

MylesWerntz! I love your list. Here are a few comments in response:
1) Die Hard series. Somehow it never gets old and it placated me when Moonlighting ended with some sassy Bruce Willis that I can watch whenever I want.
2) Love Actually. You know I love this movie. I also watch it irrespective of season. One of my favorite parts? When the stand-in actors meet run into their friend at the airport they show him their wedding rings and say, "Finally get to shag!" - because they waited for marriage - isn't that great! Also Hugh saying to Margaret Thatcher "Of course you do, you saucy minx!"
3) Elf. Sarah says it like Alf. Michiganders are weird, but that movie is awesome.
4) I also love the following (in no order):
a) White Christmas - this movie is full of delightful song and comedic greats. (and since the best way to spread christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear...)
b) Family Man - a family favorite - its a little like its a wonderful life, but in reverse. The kids are adorable, Tia Leoni is stunning and Nic Cage is pretty good, too. Its a great flick, with a touching message.
c) Miracle on 34th Street (the old one with Natalie Wood). I love this movie, it makes me tear up, and its so fun to think that there may be "magic" in real life.

And I'm surprised you didn't include an HP in here somewhere, since they have Christmas scenes.... j/k.

Scott said...

I love every movie on that list, and I can't even quibble about the order.

Sean said...

I was taken aback by your mention of Tombstone alongside of JACKASS, SHAUN of the DEAD, and...oh, wait.

Well. Nevermind then, but I'm sorry to say you lose the prize, because you didn't even MENTION Conan the Barbarian anywhere on there. At the beginning, when his mum and dead get their heads sliced off, there is snow on the ground. I don't know what shouts out Christmas more than that.

Anonymous said...

This party was over long ago, but I still have to comment.

One of the lines that always kills me: "Got a metal plate in my head. Whenever we use the microwave I pee my pants and forget who I am for an hour."

Even writing that now I am wracked with ab-toning laughter.
-DW