Monday, December 22, 2014

Your Christmas Watch List

If you're looking for some good Christmas movies, avoid the lists. Personally, I love The Christmas Story, but I honestly can't tell you why. The 1983 sleeper classic is cute, offers up nostalgia that most generations can relate to, and has a a couple laugh-out-loud moments that would still be funny if TNT didn't spend the last twenty years shoving it in everyone's face. But at the end of the day, this simple story that Ted Turner turned into an industry all its own, is about a whiney brat begging everyone he sees for a gun. 

So if you're home for the holidays this year and find yourself trying to stomach creepy stop motion elves and wondering if Charlie Brown is actually Kirk Cameron in disguise, check out these forgotten Christmas movies, or movies you might have forgotten are actually Christmas movies.

Trading Places

I'm starting with Philadelphia because, well, Philadelphia. You all know that this 1983 hit takes place at home. If you want to remember what Philadelphia looked like back when it was a mess, just Google it. Its opening montage pairs bougie Rittenhouse Square with gritty pictures of flaming oil drums and a porn theater sidling right up to City Hall. It's also freaking hilarious. 


Forgot Gremlins was a Christmas movie, eh? Yep. The 1984 hit was supposed to be a comedy, but it was a little too dark for some viewers. Because it sent so many kids screaming from the theaters, my eight year old self included, it prompted the Motion Picture Association of America to install a PG-13 rating. Remember that scene when Phoebe Kates described finding her Santa-suited father dead in the chimney? That was supposed to be funny. By the way, at 51, she's still as hot as she ever was.


Christmas in Connecticut

I don't know if this movie is an established classic or not, I only discovered it a couple years ago. But being an architecture nerd, any aficionado of the built environment can easily become obsessed with the movie's mansion. It's also surprisingly modern, and funny, for a movie that came out in 1948. 

Christmas Vacation

The Griswold's third National Lampoon's installment might be as overplayed as The Christmas Story, but that doesn't make it any less watchable. The smutty magazine's take on family never ceases to entertain (except maybe in Las Vegas), and their Christmas adventure is perhaps its most depraved, "Don't forget the rubber sheets and the gerbils." And look closely, Julie Louis-Dreyfus plays the quintessential 80s yuppy next-door. "I don't know, Margo!"

"250 strands of lights, 100 individual bulbs per strand, for a grand total of 25,000 imported Italian twinkle lights."

I saw Scrooged at the historic Virginia Theater in my hometown shortly before it was torn down. I don't know about you, but I find Charles Dicken's A Christmas Carol to be his worst piece of literature. Maybe in 1843 people expected less. But his 1-2-3 approach to telling this story made it tedious, boring, and mind numbingly predictable. Scrooged, on the other hand, one of hundreds of retellings of A Christmas Carol, is still fresh. I don't know if it's the nostalgia of first watching this movie in a grand old cinema palace, or the fact that it's the funniest version of Dicken's inexplicable classic, but twenty four years later it still entertains me. From Mary Lou Retton as Tiny Tim to the Solid Gold Dancers ("Well I'm sure Charles Dickens would have wanted to see her nipples"), it's both a riot and adorable.

Merry Christmas!

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