By Ryan Hilligoss, December 2012
Just in time for the season. I have been rifling through my video collection and pulling out the usual suspects of movies I try to watch every year at this time. Below are my top 10 favorites, starting at the bottom, along with clips from each. Some are standards but hopefully some are ones you never saw or heard about and runs from pure slapstick to corn pone cliché to downright tear jerkers.
I’ll show you mine if you tell me yours. After you’re done reading and viewing(just click on the arrow in each youtube image for those technophobes out there), leave a comment on what your favorite Christmas movie is. Goodnight to all and to all a goodnight. Seriously, for anyone who reads this that I don’t get a chance to talk to, I hope you have a good, safe holiday with whoever it is you choose or have the opportunity to spend time with. And to remember those we love who are no longer here.
10) Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
Nothing says Christmas like an elf who has lost his way and wants to be a dentist, a giant Yeti chasing small boys and misfit toys around the frozen Tundra and a gold miner named Cornelius!!! Oh, the voice of Burl Ives, fellow EIU alumn….Silver and gold….silver and gold.
9) Saturday Night Live Christmas
From old school Eddie Murphy, back when he was funny, doing Mr. Robinsons Christmas in which he demonstrates how to sell black market Cabbage Patch Dolls by putting a head of lettuce on a bay doll body, to Dana Carvey doing a dead on Jimmy Stewart impersonation as he and Dennis Miller beat the crap out of Mr. Potter in “The Lost Ending” of It’s a Wonderful Life to original players Belushi, Akroyd, Chase, Curtain, Newman and Garrett Morrison singing Winter Wonderland. But who could ever forget the Terry Gross and Fresh Air send up in the Schweddyy Balls episode.
8) Home Alone
Yes it is a crazy stretch to think that an 8-year-old could be left at home by his parents while they fly to Paris, but crazier things have happened and at least they didn’t strap their dog to the roof of their car on during a family road trip. Yes, Macaulay Culkin slapping his face with aftershave and screaming like Munch’s Scream is funny, but the best part of the movie is the 15 minute segment of pure juvenilistic, slapstick humor when Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern’s characters try to get into a booby trapped house. “What happened to your head? Why’d you take your boots off?”
7) It’s A Wonderful Life
I can hear some of you hitting the gong like Chuck Barris telling me to get off the stage. I know , I know…..but there is a reason movies like this always make the best of whatever lists….it’s a classic for good reason. Fine acting from a good cast, well written and well-directed. Poor put upon George Bailey in Bedford Falls never got to live the life he wanted because he was too responsible. Besides that, who amongst us doesn’t think about how different the lives of those we have touched would be if we hadn’t been born. Go ahead, you can admit it.
6) The Family Stone
Viewer alert….for anyone who hasn’t seen this one, bring a box of tissue. I saw this in the theater when it was first released in 2005 and shed a few tears and probably would have wept myself dry if my wife wasn’t sitting next to me and I didn’t have to be a typical male who is allergic to showing emotion in public. Starring Diane Keaton, Claire Danes, Rachel McAdams, Craig Nelson and Luke Wilson, the story of the zany Stone Family and navigating life and the holidays after the death of mother Stone. One of the first scenes shows Diane Keaton’s character staring at the family Christmas tree in their living room and we later find out she is dying of breast cancer and this will be the last Christmas she will have with her family. The movie closes with the final scene of the family decorating the tree a year later with only a photo hanging on the wall to remind them of their losses. Who wouldn’t cry seeing Diane Keaton die? I would rank it higher if it weren’t for the fact that Sarah Jessica Parker gets a lot of screen time and a little of her goes a long way.
What is your favorite color? Don’t be a cottonheaded ninnymuggins. The credits states based on David Sedaris’ now classic Santa Land Diaries, wickedly funny by the way, but other than the fact some of the movie is spent inside a department store Christmas land, not sure about that. Starring Will Ferrell as Buddy the Elf with excellent supporting role for the deadpan master Bob Newhart. If you can’t laugh when the overgrown man-child Buddy uses a couch as a trampoline to put the star on top of a giant Christmas tree, check your pulse.
Based on a short story written by Jean Shepherd entitled In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash. Shot on a bare bones budget of $4 million and released by the studio with little publicity in November of 1983. Now a holiday classic and played on a continuous loop by TBS over Christmas. Who can forget little Randy stuffed into 20 layers of winter outerwear yelling, “I can’t put my arms down”, Ralphie being pushed down a giant department store slide by the heavy black boot of a wretched Santa Clause, or the bullying tactics of Scott Farkas, the kid with the yellow eyes, and his little toadie Grover Dill.
3) The Family Man
Despite the usual over the top overacting of Nicholas Cage, great writing and cast make this a modern classic that I watch every year. Basically, an updated rewrite of It’s A Wonderful Life but this time, the lead character is an uber wealthy Wall Street merger specialist who left the love of his life in the dust to chase billions. But he is a given a glimpse of what it could have been like if he had gotten married and had kids. This time around, the role of Clarence the guardian is played by Don Cheadle. Yes it is hokey and incredibly cheesy at times but, holidays are built for sentimental gluttons like myself. Plus it helped convince me that getting married and having kids might not be as terrible as I thought at the time….boy was I wrong:).
2) National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
“We would have called but Clark wanted it to be a surprise. You surprised Clark? If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet I couldn’t be any more surprised.”
“Can I refill your eggnog? Get you something to eat? Take you out in the middle of nowhere and leave you for dead? No, I’m just fine Clark.”
1) Love Actually
Released in November 2003, the film features a cast of what appears to be any actor still living at the time of production. Starring Hugh Grant, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson, Laura Linney and Alan Rickman and showing about 10 different stories that begin and end with the characters arriving or departing from an airport in search of love. Given the security measures put in place after 9/11, it is nostalgic to watch the final scene which is a montage of film with the Beach Boys’ God Only Knows in the background. The final act features film taken at airports all around the world with families greeting their loved ones who have arrived off an airplane, greeted with hugs, kisses and smiles all around. Oh, the memories of waiting at Lambert Field waiting for Uncle Ron to get off the plane last or saying goodbye to everyone in Phoenix on my way back home. In the end, we see that Love…Actually…is all around. With an excellent turn by Bill Nighy as Billy Mack, a depraved, lewd and washed out middle-aged rocker (appears to be loosely based on Mick Jagger). Well worth the viewing time. Plus it has an excellent soundtrack including the showstopper himself, Otis Redding, backed by the incredible Booker T and the MGs, with a powerful, touching version of White Christmas.
Ok, now I want to hear from you. Please leave comments in the section below. Mele kelikimaka is Hawaii’s way of saying merry christmas to you.