5 Christmas Movies that Light Up My Tree
1. The classic - It's a Wonderful Life - I think that it is physically impossible to say anything about this 1946 tale of redemption and gratitude that hasn't already been said. Jimmy Stewart stars as George Bailey is a family man who decides that the best thing for his town, his family and his business is to commit suicide. Ready to jump off a bridge, George encounters an angel named Clarence (Henry Travers) who reminds him of how very much he is loved. It's sappy and schmaltzy. It's also overdone. This was considered the Christmas movie until Ralphie and his Red Rider deposed it. Everyone has seen It's a Wonderful Life and most people probably hate it by now. I love it. The touching story of redemption and remembering what's important and where you belong seems like home to me.
2. The kids movie - Prep and Landing - I'm gonna go ahead and admit that I loathe most kids' Christmas movies. Everything from Rudolph to the Grinch makes me Grinchy. And if you even suggest that Charlie Brown might have a place in my holiday home, I will cut you. And they don't seem to get much better. Every year, there's another slew of them and most of them are atrocious. So, I wasn't expecting much when I settled in on a cold night in 2009 to watch the newest Disney edition. Well, color me surprised. In this hyper-technical portrayal of the North Pole, the elf Wayne is training a new partner, the overenthusiastic Lanny. But as Wayne has become jaded with his position, Lanny reminds him of the joy of Christmas. This little flick (only a half hour) has the same vibe as Phineas and Ferb and the same wide-eyed joy as you had when you were eight.
3. The movie I'll never outgrow - The Polar Express - I read The Polar Express for the first time through this year and I was a little disapointed. Not in the lack of Aerosmith, that was gratifying. I was disapointed in the lack of adventure. This movie is just one giant adventure after another. When an unnamed boy is questioning Santa, he is whisked to the North Pole on a magic train with other children on the cusp of not believing. This movie has taken a lot of heat for being sort of a vanity project for Tom Hanks, who plays every character. While that is a little creepy, I think the animation is intoxicating and the story is sweet and exciting at the same time. The Polar Express might not be the best movie ever made, but it fills my heart with a special kind of magic.
4. The made for TV flick - Snow - I'm gonna go ahead and admit that I have a wittle bitty crush on Tom Cavenaugh, who plays Santa in this ABC Family special. One of Santa's reindeer (Buddy) has been nabbed from the great North and transported down to San Earnest, California, by big game hunter Buck Seager (Patrick Fabian). Moving into a boarding house with Sandy (Ashley Williams), the zookeeper where the fledgling sleigh puller is being held, seems like his best chance of getting him back in time for Christmas. The only complication, Santa, or Nick Snowden falls for Sandy and wants her for the Mrs. Snow is cute and funny in a cocoa and cookies sort of way. Skip the sequel, it's totally not worth it.
5. The best Christmas movie of all - Hogfather - If you're not familiar with Terry Pratchet's Discworld books, you need to fix that right now. This sort of series set in a fictional world skewers everything about the world in which we live by showing us just how ridiculous things like the Post Office (Going Postal) and journalism (The Truth) really are. Susan, the adopted daughter of Death and full time nanny, gets pulled by her father into the search for the missing Hogfather (like Santa, but creepier) on Hogswatch Eve (like Christmas Eve, only meatier). Susan must deal with Mouse Death (like Death only more diminuitive), an assassin and the Tooth Fairy. Frankly, I'm not sure how anyone who isn't already invested in this series can keep up, but if you wanna give it a try, I highly recommend it.
I'll leave you with this snippet of conversation from Hogfather, a little bit of why I love it so fiercely. Merry Christmas and happy couch potatoing.
Death: Humans need fantasy to *be* human. To be the place where the falling angel meets the rising ape.
Susan: With tooth fairies? Hogfathers?
Death: Yes. As practice, you have to start out learning to believe the little lies.
Susan: So we can believe the big ones?
Death: Yes. Justice, mercy, duty. That sort of thing.