Why of all people am I writing about Christmas movies? I’m Jewish. I don’t even celebrate Christmas.
But there’s much about Christmas that I enjoy. I like the way people decorate their homes for the season. Some of the songs are catchy and call for peace and love. Attending The Dickens Christmas Fair is one of the happiest days of my year (I used to work there). And speaking of Dickens, I love A Christmas Carol. I’m sure you’ve seen a movie version, but really, read the book. It’s short.
Of course there are things about Christmas I don’t like. My blood boils at Fox News’ so-called War on Christmas, with it’s insinuating message that if you don’t celebrate this one holiday, you’re not really American. And for as long as I can remember, I’ve hated the way this religious holiday has turned into an orgy of consumerism.
Okay, let’s get back to movies.
I want to start with my A+ List of all-time classics. Four of them could reasonably be called Christmas movies:
The obvious choice is It’s A Wonderful Life, the best Christmas movie of them all. Yes, it’s sentimental, but Christmas is a sentimental holiday. And there’s a serious strain of darkness underneath the good cheer. Here’s another way to think of it: Wonderful Life is a reverse version of Christmas Carol. Scrooge had to go through a nightmare Christmas to learn to care about others. George Bailey, who unlike Scrooge cares deeply for others, has to go through a nightmare Christmas to discover that he’s appreciated.
Is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Many argue it’s not; it’s merely an action movie that takes place just before Christmas – a company holiday party to be exact. But think about it. John McClane, stuck on the roof, takes an usual path to get into the building, where he will separate the naughty and nice. Sounds like Christmas to me.
And what about Brazil? The story takes place over the Christmas season, but nothing is really made of it. It’s a toss-up. (Its also a great movie.)
Groundhog Day, of course, is about a whole other holiday. But it’s a winter holiday, and it’s making almost everyone in town jolly. And the story is another version of Christmas Carol.
So what about Christmas movies that don’t quite make my A+ grade? The best by far, of course, is A Christmas Story. Yes, it’s sweet and nostalgic, but with a comic tone that lets it all go down easily.
And what about versions of Christmas Carol? Most people love the 1951 version starring Alastair Sim. But I found that one kind of pedestrian. My favorite is the 1984 television version starring George C. Scott. His Scrooge isn’t just mean; he thinks he’s funny, using sarcasm as an excuse to not care. You can find that version on Youtube.
Merry Whatever You Celebrate.