Back in 2012 I wrote a fun little blog about Holiday films everyone needed to see. Most people will point you to the classics like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, a fun story which reminds children that they’re all useless and will be shunned until they provide a service to their overlords, Santa Claus is Coming to Town, which seems like a pedophile’s wet dream today but was actually very sweet when it was first released (and is still a personal fave of mine since I’m not a pervert – well, not that kind of pervert), Frosty the Snowman, a fun story that reminds kids how much fun it can be to hop a freight train with a stranger, and, of course, A Christmas Story, the first holiday special to ever feature bad lingerie and guns. Certainly there are others, from It’s a Wonderful Life to Die Hard, there are plenty of movies for the older viewers who need chronic depression and death with their holiday.
But the list I created had nothing to do with any of them. Any third rate blog could cough them up. No, my list is for those among you who are connoisseurs of cinema. Those of you who are willing to experiment with your palate. For those who might prefer a moment off the beaten path.
You know who you are.
By now you’ve opened the gifts, had your Christmas breakfast and settled in for another year of holiday entertainment. At least until the NBA takes over your TV. This is truly a magical time. The toys haven’t been broken yet. Uncle Ned is still mostly sober. Aunt Edna, still aglow from the kisses from the kids, has yet to begin her annual screed about what a failure you are. Cousin Tony seems to have taken his meds today so that’s one less thing to worry about. As I said, it’s a magical time. But you and I know that if you have to watch A Christmas Story or Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer one more time it is quite possible that you will react badly. Not to worry, it is exactly moments like this that the World News Center was designed to address. Well, these and stripper based funerals. Below you will find an alphabetical list of 11 movies, because Top 10 lists are for amateurs, that will brighten up your day.
Babes in Toyland
All you need to know about this super-happy film, beyond the songs, toy soldiers and dancing puppets, is the super-happy story line. “On the eve of their wedding, evil miser Barnaby hires two henchmen to drown Tom and steal Mary’s sheep, cared for by Little Bo Peep, thus depriving Mary and the children she lives with of their livelihood, forcing her to marry Barnaby.” Kind of makes you misty, doesn’t it? Your kids will be in therapy for decades.
Christmas that Almost Wasn’t (The)
“It is the week before Christmas, and Santa Claus visits attorney Sam Whipple, asking for his help. It turns out that the evil businessman Phineas T. Prune holds the lease on the North Pole, and is about to kick Santa out for nonpayment of rent! As such, there will be no more Christmas!” It is never explained why Santa needed the cash and took a mortgage on the North Pole and Phineas T. Prune is so over the top evil, right down to his mustache, you’ll forget to worry about it. The film has every Christmas cliche, including the bad guy who falls in love with a toy, so it may be the only Christmas movie you’ll ever need to see.
Ernest Saves Christmas
Oh, this is a joyful mess. Santa goes to jail because this guy (a children’s show host) thinks his name is Santos, no racism there, and Ernest loses his job for giving a free ride to Santa and Santa seems to suffer from Alzheimer’s. Nothing like creeping dementia to make your holiday joyous. Plot points include this heart warming gem; “Ernest and Harmony (whose real name is later revealed by Santa to be Pamela Trenton) discover the magic power of Santa’s sack, and immediately Pamela starts to abuse it. She steals the sack, and attempts to run away yet again.” Santa’s magical sack is clearly different than mine.
Eight Crazy Nights
Yeah, it’s a Hanukkah movie, so what? A plate of latkes warm the tummy no matter your religion. And it’s Adam Sandler, that master of subtlety and gentle wit. Doesn’t this plot just scream ‘group hug’? “Davey Stone, an alcoholic with a criminal record, is sentenced to community service under the supervision of an elderly referee. Davey is then faced with trying to reform and abandon his bad habits.” The special part are the songs, all of which sound like they were written by an inmate with anger issues.
This movie has everything you could possibly want in a holiday movie. Dick Van Dyke had yet to join A.A. and he is clearly drunk in this film. Add in a soundtrack that was obviously mailed in after a month-long bender by John Williams, who would later redeem himself with that whole Star Wars thing, and you have oodles of family fun. But wait! There’s More! There’s a plot too; “Claude Fitzwilliam, leads the household staff to rob from various businesses by charging goods to various wealthy people and misdirecting the shipments, all to keep Miss Vicki’s standard of living.” Gosh, it’s like every role model you want for your kids in one film.
“A garrulous hustler running from the emotional fallout of the ultimate sibling rivalry, poor Fred keeps trying to find happiness through one failed scheme after another, pushing away the people who care about him most.” This movie is so grandly contrived that you can pick out what will happen next in every single scene. It even has Santa’s boss. You might be forgiven for thinking that Santa doesn’t have a boss, but Kevin Spacey exists to prove you wrong. Not for anything else that I can see, but there you are.
Great Rupert (The)
Forget the plot on this one I’ll tell you all you need to know. This film has a magic squirrel, Jimmy Durante doing barroom versions of Christmas carols and lots of plucky poor people. Oh, and it has a dude who talks to the magic squirrel and plays a concertina too. Did I mention that the magic squirrel steals money from their landlord so the family can eat and pay rent to the landlord the squirrel just stole from? No? I probably should have. Lots of feel good stuff here.
“On Christmas Eve, a doubting boy boards a magical train that’s headed to the North Pole and Santa Claus’s home.” Oh, that only scratches the surface. This movie has Tom Hanks in full on schizophrenic mode. All of the adult male characters are played by Hanks. So we get him as a condescending prick who doubles as a train conductor and as a drunken hobo. The kids in the film are subjected to horror after horror, all needlessly, until they succumb and believe in Santa again. The films modernized version of rotoscoping gives it a nightmare feel. It is a must see film in my home.
Santa Claus (1959)
What can I say about this masterpiece? Shot in Mexico and dubbed into English it takes the myth of Santa to logical, if unusual, conclusions. Santa knows if you’ve been bad or good because he has a telescope in his space station (what do you mean you never heard of Santa’s space station?) and he peeps into bedrooms. This classic features Santa versus Satan for control of the holiday. Satan, the bad guy in the red suit, tries to turn kids against the holiday by giving them stark nightmares where they are attacked, and possibly eaten, by their dolls. The plot line doesn’t do this work of art justice, “With the aid of Merlin, Santa Claus must defeat the evil machinations of the devil Pitch to ruin Xmas.” The whole Merlin thing is never explained and, by the end, you just won’t care.
Santa Claus Conquers The Martians
This incredible film used to be an annual staple on WGN until someone sobered up. There’s just not enough space to capture everything worth seeing but here’s a start; the Martians come to Earth to kidnap Santa so their kids, who are suffering from planetary depression, can learn to laugh and play like Earth kids. The Martians have technology that could lay our planet to waste but they keep forgetting to use it. So, they are immediately discovered by the U.S. Department of Defense and are forced to land and hide. On and on it goes. Add in the fact that Santa smokes and his wife is a controlling bitch and you have holiday magic. The opening theme song is so bad as to sound as if it were imported from a Jap/Pop satire. The fact that this was Pia Zadora’s big screen debut is only a minor bonus. And, no, she couldn’t act then either.
Year Without Santa Claus
“Mrs. Claus tells us about the time Santa had a bad cold and decided to take a vacation from Christmas. Two of his elves, Jingle Bells and Jangle Bells decided to go out (with Vixen) to find children to convince Santa that the Christmas spirit is still important to everybody else. But they have to get past Heat Miser and Snow Miser, first, before they land in Southtown, USA, where it never snows for Christmas. But the Miser Brothers can’t agree to let it snow in Southtown. But Mrs. Santa knows their mom–Mother Nature.” The songs by the Miser brothers alone make this a must see but the Santa themed jail break in Southtown make this must see TV on an epic scale. Also it is the first clearly feminist Christmas film. Mrs. Claus and Mama Nature don’t take no guff, no sirree bub I tell you what. A friend of mine claims this movie was written by a bitter lesbian, but I don’t think so. It has a weird sweetness that permeates throughout. Maybe a bitter lesbian who got a second date then.
So there you have it, 11 films to fill your holiday with heretofore unimagined joy. You can thank me later.