Monday, December 22, 2014

My Top Ten Holiday Themed Whatevers

Okay, to be completely honest right now, I really want to write a long and comprehensive article about why I feel A Muppet Christmas Carol is the best possible holiday movie - themes of redemption, the redeeming power of love, the value of looking outside oneself and seeing others fully, and of course muppets - but I'm a little tired and more than a little braindead today. Hopefully I'll have that really good article up for you tomorrow. But in the meantime, here's a short list of my favorite holiday specials/holiday themed videos and stories and jokes.

Because it's Christmas, and I'm feeling generous. Also lazy. But let's focus on the generous.

1. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (cartoon)

Personally I don't have much time for the live-action Grinch movie that came out a few years ago and feels like an insulting travesty, but I always have and always will love this quick little cartoon about a grumpy green guy learning to love his fellow man. Like The Lorax, I think it's the height of Dr. Seuss' writing, and like The Lorax I think that the story is too short and simple to make a good full length movie. But the animated short is only about thirty minutes long and it works perfectly.

I mean, who doesn't feel all wobbly inside when the Grinch hears all the Whos down in Whoville singing and being joyful even without their presents? And who doesn't cheer just a tiny bit to see the Grinch serving up the roast beast? I may be grimly unsentimental most of the year through, but show me a snippet of the Grinch's heart growing three sizes and I will blubber with the best of them.

2. The SNL Christmas Special

Okay. I am the first to admit that my love for and loyalty to Saturday Night Live is mostly unwarranted. It's doing better now than it has in years, but the show is pretty strongly hit or miss and sometimes all you can do while watching is facepalm. But, that having been said, this compilation of the show's best Christmas sketches over the years, ranging from the timeless "Schweddy Balls" to the more recent but still hilarious "Do It In My Twin Bed", is great. Just great.

Also, it features the premier of Adam Sandler's Hannukah song on Weekend Update, which is a moment in history we shall not soon forget. And not just because my sister and I ended up reciting all the words to that song to each other on the phone the other day.

3. Love Actually

I talked more in detail about this movie last year, but suffice to say that for all this movie is a puddle of hyper-gooey schmaltz, I really really love it. I want that little boy to be able to tell that little girl that he loves her and I want Colin Firth and the nice Portugese lady to end up together and I want Alan Rickman to stop being a bad husband and I really want the Prime Minister to end up with the funny housekeeper girl, and I generally want all of these things to happen to swelling music and a parade of gleeful moments and cameos by everyone in the British film industry. So sue me.

But seriously, I don't think this movie is perfect, but I do think that it's really fun. It's blissfully romantic in the kind of earnest and unselfconscious way that very few movies are now. It's not a major cash grab, because it wasn't actually supposed to be a hit in America (you can tell by how much they poop on Americans in the film), and it's all the more charming for how deeply and intentionally British it is.

Plus, who doesn't love watching a movie like this and giggling while Mr. Bean shows up or squealing when someone rushes to the airport to tell someone else they love them or rolling your eyes when something cliched and dumb happens but refusing to stop watching because you have to know how it turns out? No one, that's who.

4. Home Alone

Oh come on. Who doesn't like celebrating the holidays with a psychotic little kid who can booby trap his entire house in the time it takes most people to get to the fridge for another glass of milk? More than that, though, there's something so touching about the plight of Kevin in this movie and his mother's desperation to get back to him, to not leave her child alone, that actually makes me feel my feelings. And isn't that what Christmas is all about?

5. 30 Rock - "Ludachristmas"

It's the episode where we first met Liz Lemon's whole family and discovered that there really is no such thing as a happy family over the holidays, but somehow the gang pulled it together and we got to see how even a dysfunctional family can still love each other and that Kenneth really knows the true meaning of Christmas.

6. The Nutcracker

Yes, I like ballet. And yes, I really like this particular overdone and criminally cheesy ballet. My family used to go see the Boston Ballet perform The Nutcracker every year (because culture snobs), and the music still gets me in the Christmas mood no matter when I hear it.

Sure, it's a weird story about a toy that turns into a prince and some evil mice, but the whole thing is utterly charming and fun and exactly the right speed for a small child who would give her left arm to be taken to the land of sweets. Just saying.

7. Veronica Mars - "An Echolls Family Christmas"

This episode has everything, but most importantly it has the deep and meaningful class tensions that made Veronica Mars a great show. When Logan organizes a holiday poker game, Weevil decides to get himself invited and make some easy cash, but the uneasy truce between 09ers and the underclass gets a bit strained when the poker money disappears. Veronica's brought in to solve the mystery before everyone comes to blows, and all of it goes down during the Echolls family Christmas party, a party that ends with a very literal bang.

8. Supernatural - "A Very Supernatural Christmas"

We get to find out what Christmas was like for the boys growing up as Dean demands that he and Sam have a nice regular Christmas during what could be his last year on earth. But reality intervenes and the boys end up hunting the Anti-Clause, or some pagans gods, or something that's eating people for Christmas and doesn't seem to be very polite, no matter how many Christmas cookies it offers you. 

Also we get some really quality flashbacks that make us wonder how Dean is as sane as he is, and we finally found out the origin of Dean's amulet. All in all, a good episode and arguably one of the show's best.

9. Calvin and Hobbes - All the comics about Christmas and snowmen

Okay, this one's kind of a cheat because there isn't exactly a compilation of the snowmen and holiday comics, at least not one that I know about, but Calvin's endless snow-sculpting creativity and his angst over whether or not he'd been good enough for Santa to appreciate his efforts gets me every time. I wasn't personally a Santa believer as a child (feel free to make of that what you will), but I do love reading all of Calvin's turmoil on the topic, and I really love how his parents invariably handle it all.

Maybe that's the test of whether or not you're a grownup? Do you relate more to Calvin or to his parents? Because his parents are great. Food for thought...

10. And finally, SNL - "Sump'n Claus"


  1. Haha! I watch the Supernatural Christmas Special as an antidote to the sickly saccharine nature of the Christmas hype. Nothing solves my frustration with a commercialised jolly-fest like watching two (admittedly hot) guys stabbing Evil Santa to death with his own tree. And then talking about their feelings. Because, y'know, Supernatural.

    In addition I think 'Muppets Christmas Carol' IS one of the best seasonal films out there. I find it charming and genuine and heartfelt and I know all the words. And it makes me cry. Every year. Buckets.

    1. It's got such a wonderful mixture of irreverence and angst. Ugh. So perfect. And I absolutely love the whole thing where no one swears, even when they really want to, and stabbing with a Christmas tree... So good.

      I always try to hold it in, and then I lose it when Scrooge starts dancing around on Christmas day. Just absolutely fall apart.

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