Sunday, December 16, 2012

My Xmas movies recommendations

A CHRISTMAS STORY is my all-time favorite holiday movie. I’ve seen it probably fifty times, but I don’t think I’ve ever actually watched it from the beginning to end in one sitting. Like most people, I catch the annual 24-hour marathon on TNT or TBS or one of those networks with a “T” and see various segments at a time. Usually, by the end of 24-hours I’ve pretty much seen the whole film, albeit disjointed.

But there are other Christmas movies I recommend as well.

DIE HARD certainly. A company Christmas party goes bad but like Santa saving the day, Bruce Willis sweeps in and kills a lot of people.

LOVE ACTUALLY – Eight different stories interweave in this delightful romantic comedy. You’re bound to be charmed by at least three.  And you get Keira Knightley before her eating disorder.

BACHELOR MOTHER – Okay, this is an obscure one. 1939 starring Ginger Rogers and David Nivens. A screwball comedy set in a department store filled with misdirection and confusion. Warning: Ginger doesn’t dance.

BAD SANTA – Very dark comedy starring Billy Bob Thornton as a Santa who robs stores. People either really like it or they loathe it.  Sort of like with IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE.

SANTA CLAUS CONQUERS THE MARTIANS – All you need to know about this 1964 sugar plum is that 8-year-old Pia Zadora plays a Martian child.

ELF – worth it for Bob Newhart alone.

HOME ALONE – A John Hughes classic. The Macaulay Culkin “AAAAAAA!” movie that is still funny year after year.

STALAG 17 – Most people don’t think of this Billy Wilder classic set in a World War II German Prisoner of War camp as a holiday yarn, but it was set during a Christmas season. And it is a phenomenal movie.

SUSAN SLEPT HERE – This 1954 comedy starring Dick Powell and a very young Debbie Reynolds is one of my favorites because it takes place in my neighborhood and I think you can see my house from Dick Powell’s balcony. I don’t know if the movie’s any good. I’m always just looking out the windows.

There you go. I know it’s a short list, but if I see one more Scrooge reboot or fantasy with Jim Carrey in make-up I think I’ll vomit. Oh, and one final warning: There are a lot of bad Christmas movies and a lot of bad comedy movies but MIXED NUTS might be the very worst of both. It’s the “Aunt Edna’s Fruitcake” of holiday films.

What are your favorites... and least favorites? 

87 comments:

Josh Man said...

Can't believe you missed "Gremlins." Otherwise great list.

Teresa said...

I love "AChristmas Story" too. It's a tradition with us to watch it Christmas Eve while we're waiting for the kids to go to sleep to put out the presents.

The one "Sgrooge" reboot I actually like is "Scrooged" with Bill Murray. It doesn't hold up perfectly, but there are some great gags in it.

And I'd count "Bridget Jones's Diary" as a holiday film. Most of it takes place at Christmas. Fun, light movie.

jcs said...

I think after all these years DIE HARD is still pretty entertaining. Interestingly, the German distributor had the film dubbed so that Hans (Gruber) became Jack. The same happened to the other Germans in Hans's terrorism group. The film company's execs obviously did not want to hurt our tender German souls.

While the excellent WHEN HARRY MET SALLY is not a Christmas flick per se, it pretty much feels like one to me.

Wendy M. Grossman said...

Well, I actually like A Wonderful Life.

But my all-time favorite Christmas movie is LION IN WINTER - a fine cast including Katharine Hepburn, Peter O'Toole, Anthony Hopkins, all squabbling over personal resentments and who shall inherit England. Just like my family.

In second place, Alan Ayckbourn's play SEASON'S GREETINGS, which I have in an old BBC recording.

wg

Pat Reeder said...

I remember when "A Christmas Story" came out. I love Jean Shepherd, so I was there on day one. But I seem to recall it was sort of a box office dud. It took a long time for the world to discover it, but they sure have now. Also love "Die Hard;" and Bob Newhart and the Leon Redbone snowman make "Elf" tolerable for me, despite the presence of Will Ferrell, whom I've never been able to stand in anything other than "Anchorman." For "Love Actually," I'm with you that about three stories charm me. I think that would be a really good movie if it were 30 minutes shorter. I also love "Planes, Trains and Automobiles," "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and "Holiday Inn," even though it's only partly about Christmas. I seem to recall that there's a blackface number, but maybe that's just coal dust from sliding down the chimney.

For overlooked gems, I'd add "Christmas in Connecticut" with Barbara Stanwyck as the prototype for Martha Stewart

And let us never forget such Yuletide classics as "Fred Claus," "Silent Night, Deadly Night," "Four Christmases," "Ernest Saves Christmas," and "Santa Baby" (starring Jenny McCarthy as Santa's daughter who saves Christmas. There's actually a sequel I haven't seen, but I assume that in it, she lightens her dad's workload by convincing a lot of people to kill their children by not getting them vaccinated).

And of course, the greatest Christmas movie of all time: "JINGLE ALL DAH VAY!!"

Carol said...

My family (husband, son and I) watch the MST3K version of Santa Claus Conquors the Martians every Christmas Eve. Nothing says Christmas than robots mocking Pia Zadora.

I love all holiday movies, the cheesier the better, even though there's only 3 basic plots they tend to follow.

unkystan said...

I would add "The Shop Around The Corner", "The Ref" and "One Magic Christmas" (Harry Dean Stanton as an angel!)
Happy Holidays to Ken, his family and all you contributors!

404 said...

Although "Planes, Trains, and Automobiles" is a great movie, I don't think it would count, technically, because it's centered around Thanksgiving, not Christmas.

People laugh at me, but my favorite Christmas movie is the "Muppet Christmas Carol". I've always loved the Muppets, and it was their first effort after Jim Henson died, so it's sort of bittersweet. The fact that it was actually pretty good and has Michael Keaton (whom I love) as Scrooge to boot, makes it an annual tradition for me.

"Scrooged" is another good one.

I personally can't stand "A Christmas Story" but that's more because I see it so often I'm sick of it.

Matt said...

Trading Places. The Dan Ackroyd Santa scene makes it qualify.

typ said...

I guess it's not a real movie, but for me there is absolutely no Christmas without 'Donald Duck - Toy Tinkers' with Chip & Dale.

Markus said...

"We're no angels", with Bogart and Ustinov, is a Christmas staple year after year. Still funny and lovely.

(@jcs: The degermanization of those terrorists for the German audience is not supposed to spare the German souls, but has more to do with the ludicrous "fake-German" accents they're using in the originals which simply can't be transferred into German, and the impossibility of making sense of their phony East German background stories that, in typical Hollywood fashion, bear little to no resemblance to reality, which is something Germans would instantly notice.)

ScottyB said...

'Stalking Santa' might be an interesting pick for some folks.

Bryan Castañeda said...

METROPOLITAN is my favorite holiday movie.

LouOCNY said...

Ken, I would highly recommend the ACS DVD. The bonus audio is a running commentary/interview with Peter Billingsley and the late, great Bob Clark. Since Billingsley is now a Hollywood pro, he knows exactly what to ask Clark, while reminiscing about his experience acting in it. It is both very entertaining and informative, and one is actually able to enjoy the movie at the same time! I would also suggest watching it straight through w/o commercials at least once, as you can see how masterful a job Clark does in building Ralphie's frustration, until when the final payoff comes off, one really feels the joy of the thing.

Lars said...

Great list! I miss GREMLINS and BOB CLARKS other Cristmas Classic BLACK CHRISMAS

Andy Ihnatko said...

"Groundhog Day." On the basis that it's truer to the original spirit of "A Christmas Carol" than any movie that ever used that title.

Doug Thompson said...

Ken, Although it gets played on television almost to death during the Christmas holidays, "Miracle On 34th Street" is still a tear jerker for me (and I'm past 60).

Agree with you totally about "Elf". While Will Farrell may chew up the wallpaper and go miles beyond 'over-the top', Bob Newhart brings a wonderful sensibility and charm to it.

I think anything that Mr. Newhart is in raises the level of that movie, even if it's a stinker like "Legally Blonde 2" (sorry Reese Witherspoon and hope you win the Golden Globe for "Lincoln" Sally Field).

olucy said...

I was going to name The Shop Around the Corner, but someone beat me to it. Also The Bishop's Wife with Niven and Grant.

Don K. said...

My list is much more traditional. Miracle on 34th Street (the 1947 edition), Holiday Inn (yes, it has a blackface number, but remember it was an Irving Berlin movie made in 1942), Christmas in Connecticut (Stanwyck's), The Bishop's Wife (Grant, Young and Niven), Remember the Night (a 1940's movie with Fred McMurray as a D.A. and Stanwyck as the shoplifter he falls for), White Christmas (I'm a sucker for big old farm houses in New England, apparently), National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (my house rivals the one in the movie) and Elf(only because of Newhart, someone I would watch doing ANYTHING). And oh yeah, It's A Wonderful Life.


There's a really cheesy 1984 made for TV movie called The Night They Saved Christmas. It stars Jaclyn Smith, Paul Le Mat, Art Carney, Mason Adams, Paul Williams and June Lockhart. Carney and Lockhart are Mr. and Mrs. Claus, and Williams plays Santa's chief elf. Smith is at her fetching, but poorly acted best, and Le Mat has less emotion than a wooden soldier. The plot revolves around driling for oil near where Santa lives and how the dynamiting they're doing is endangering North Pole City. Smith and Le Mat's incredibly annoying kids help save the day, but I watch it on my VHS copy every year.

Emily Blake said...

Yes on Die Hard and Bad Santa.

Lethal Weapon is also a Christmas movie.

And new on the list, but absolutely brilliant - A Very Harold and Kumar 3D Christmas.

Brian said...

A few years ago I won a prize and it was a gas card. When I applied to accept it I included a picture of the leg lamp and said "Thanks for the major award". The reply said it made everyones day as they sent the email around the office.

And I always have to resist giving my kids the "two hand speech" when they ask for something big for Christmas. https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=E_bx6B3dBMM

Jim said...

Mixed Nuts might be a pile of dog doo, but the French Original "Le père Noël est une ordure," aka "Father Christmas is a load of shit" is absolutely brilliant, largely because it never feels the need to look for an uplifting ending, any sort of redemption, or even any good hidden inside this bunch of weirdos.

Or if you want a pantomimie of sorts, try the german comedy 7 Zwerge, 7 dwarfs, with seventies punk star Nina Hagen as the wicked queen, and her real life daughter as Snow White.

Ron Rettig said...

One of my favorites was a TV production I watched in 1951. Amahl and the Night Visitors, an opera in one act by Gian Carlo Menotti with an original English libretto by the composer. It was commissioned by NBC and first performed by the NBC Opera Theatre on December 24, 1951, in New York City at NBC studio 8H in Rockefeller Center, where it was broadcast live on television as the debut production of the Hallmark Hall of Fame. It was the first opera specifically composed for television in America

As a TV writer Ken should appreciated this comment on writing for the infant broadcast medium: “I am often asked how I went about writing an opera for television, and what are the specific problems that I had to face in planning a work for such a medium. I must confess that in writing "Amahl and the Night Visitors," I hardly thought of television at all. As a matter of fact, all my operas are originally conceived for an ideal stage which has no equivalent in reality, and I believe that such is the case with most dramatic authors.” —Gian-Carlo Menot

Janice said...

It seems nobody has mentioned one of my favorites, "Holiday Affair", a wonderful 1949 film starring Robert Mitchum (in a romantic comedy!) and Janet Leigh.

prior2before said...

Bad Santa..Yeah!

Bob Summers said...

Speaking of "Stalag 17", did you know the producers sued the makers of "Hogan's Heroes" for infringement and won? Most of think that other than being set in a POW camp, there really isn't any similarity. But if you watch the original B&W pilot, there are countless similarities. From the chess piece to the light bulb to the water tower, unreal!

Ken, can you shed some info on this from an industry perspective?

Rich said...

Wow! Great list...esp. "Bachelor Mother" and "Stalag 17."

I have one obvious and one ultra-obscure (i.e. not on DVD) The obvious is "Meet Me In St. Louis" w Judy Garland singing "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas." Wonderful.

The ultra-obscure is "The Devil And Miss Jones" with Charles Coburn as a Scrooge-like Department Store owner and Jean Arthur as a Cratchit-like employee. Coburn goes undercover to find out who is trying to unionize his place...and discovers how hard his people work, and how kind they are. (He also finds love in the arms of Spring Byington.)

Bob B. said...

I've never gotten the appeal of "A Christmas Story". I'd rather watch "Ernest Saves Christmas" and that's not saying much.

Boswell said...

The 1951 SCROOGE/A CHRISTMAS CAROL with Alastair Sim as Scrooge is about as good as it gets, imho. I'm relatively new to IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE & think it's pure cinematic magic.

Kirk said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Kirk said...

The Man who Came to Dinner
The Apartment
The Shop Around the Corner
Babes in Toyland (the Laurel and Hardy version)
Remember the Night
Miracle on 34th Street (the Edmund Gwenn version)
White Christmas
Christmas in Conneticut
The Bishop's Wife (the Cary Grant version)
A Christmas Carol (the Alistair Sim version)

As you can see, I'm really into old movies, but the one old Christmas movie I DON'T like (despite a great cast) is IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE. The moral is that one man can make a difference, but Jimmy Stewart is the ONLY man in Bedford Falls who can make a difference. Everyone else is pretty passive. And why does Donna Reed need glasses just because Stewart's not around?

Kirk said...

@Rich--THE DEVIL AND MISS JONES took place in summer. Charles Coburn gets lost on Cony Island, remember?

RCP said...

I still enjoy "Scrooge/A Christmas Carol" w/ Alastair Sim (playing tonight on TCM by the way).

The perfect antidote to the more treacly Christmas films would be "Black Christmas" ('74 version) in which an escaped maniac terrorizes a sorority house. Andrea Martin is in the cast, but believe me, she's not going for laughs in this one.

Joseph Scarbrough said...

I agree with a lot of your recommendations Ken.

One thing I don't understand is why Elf gets so much hate, when it's practically the ONLY Will Ferrell movie that's actually worth watching, because for once, he DOESN'T play a one-dimensional, unlikable sketchshow-esque character in a lowbrow "comedy" movie. It's arguable Ferrell's best movie, yet most people say it's his worst... I don't see it. It comes off as an instant holiday classic, it's got a great cast (though ironically, half the cast is Jewish), the story is engaging, Ferrell's performance as Buddy the Elf endears us with his childlike innocence and sympathetic demeanor with him being a fish out of water. I just don't get the hate.

I would also recommend On the 2nd Day of Christmas. I'm not really one for Lifetime movies, but this is actually a good one, the overall story has a nice blend of humor and heart, and it also reminds us what a versatile actor Mark Ruffalo is.

-bee said...

Another vote for "Shop Around the Corner" - not just for one of the best Xmas movies but one of the best movies period.

My least favorite - sorry Ken but words cannot even describe how much I hate Home Alone.

BigTed said...

I'm not a huge romantic comedy fan, but "While You Were Sleeping" is a really nice film set during the holidays. Sandra Bullock is so appealing that even all the ridiculous misunderstandings the plot revolves around aren't that annoying.

Lisa said...

Another vote for THE REF.

Roger said...

The musical version of "Scrooge" with Albert Finney. A guilty pleasure which I saw as a little boy at Radio City Music Hall.

Oliver Schmitt said...

A Friday question:

Larry David is one of the most successful TV-writers of the last 20 years, but his movie Sour Grapes was hated by critics and a box office failure.
Larry Gelbart was successful in both movies and television.

What is the main difference between writing for television and writing for the big screen, besides the paycheck;)

jbryant said...

I love HOLIDAY INN, but somehow have never managed to see WHITE CHRISTMAS. I'm planning to remedy that this year, thanks to Netflix Instant.

My fave is IT'S A WONDERFUL LIFE, which I must have seen a dozen times now (including once on the big screen a few years ago at the Arclight). I tend to think that those who hate it are simply misinterpreting it. Some folks seem to think it's saccharine, feel-good tripe, but you have to ignore a lot of the movie to come up with that opinion, it seems to me.

As to Kirk's point about Jimmy Stewart being the only character who can make a difference, I'd just say it's a fable, and it's his character's story, so he's the focus. As a writer, I can't even imagine how difficult it would be to tell a coherent story in which multiple characters get to "make a difference."

Megan vW said...

A Smokey Mountain Christmas is one of my favorites. It's got Dolly Parton, orphans, and a weird adaptation of Snow White.

Also, I just watched Arthur Christmas and it's got to become a classic. It's one of the best Christmas movies I've seen.

Anonymous said...

“Best movie of the year!” – Jeffrey Lyons, syndicated film critic

Ane said...

Nice list. I also like:

Miracle on 34th street. (I prefer the 94 version,probably because I grew up with it, but both are good).
Annie, the 99 version where it is really christmas and not 4th of July.
The Santa Clause (only the first one though)
Noel (with Robin Williams and Susan Sarandon, among others).
The Holiday

Christmas movies I won't watch a second time:

The Grinch
Fred Clause (Kathy Bates is the only good thing in it, but she is also in Annie, so I get by).
Mr. Saint Nick
National Lampoons Christmas Holiday

Anonymous said...

My husband and I watch the musical version of "Scrooge" with Albert Finney every year. In fact, my husband bought the blueray of it for me! Thank you very much!

Barb Wernert

Robyn Weisman said...

Love "Bachelor Mother!"

D. McEwan said...

32 years ago I lived next door to the son of the man who directed Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. (He had amuch cooler movie connection to my way of thinking, his aunt was one of Dracula's brides in the Lugosi Dracula.)

He was a boy no older than Pia when the movie was made. He said that when he visited the set, the set designer was showing him the spaceship set, and the kid - What? 8 years old? 9? - had to point out that the "cool-looking" slots above the airlock doors would have resulted in all the ship's air being sucked out into space, thus killing the kids, Santa Claus and Little Pia. (Pia plays a Martian child. An argument could be made that she always played Martians.) The designer was, to put it mildly, irritated, but you can't chew out the director's little boy, especially when the kid is right.

LouOCNY said...

Speaking of Dickens, one version of ACC that I truly enjoy every year, is the Patrick Stewart TV version of a few years back. Stewart - unlike many - treats Scrooge as a fairly real person, and the production shows how truly squalid a lot of London was in the Victorian days.

What makes Stewart's performance so good is that, unlike the many hammy Scrooges who wake up Christmas morning, and immediately start acting almost batshit crazy with joy, Stewart realizes that here is a man who hasn't laughed or experienced joy for 25 years, and he literally has to remember how to laugh and experience joy. So he literally has to choke up that first laugh, and his halting in trying to be courteous and generous to people. It is worth a look if you have not seen it.

Sharon A. said...

And don't forget the nice Christmas scenes in AUNTIE MAME w/Rosalind Russell - and the later inferior version w/Lucille Ball which featured "We Need A Little Christmas" from the lauded B-way version, MAME. Can I say version one more time?

Msatt Patton said...

Ken -- you ought to watch SUSAN SLEPT HERE sometime (although I agree, the view out the window is very nice). You can't really buy that Dick Powell is supposed to be 35 and his being married to Debbie Reynolds' Susan, who's supposed to be 17, is more than a bit creepy (to the credit of all involved, they realize this fact), but the dialogue is snappy, the cast is game and able (what a cast--besides Powell and Reynolds, you get Anne Francis, Glenda Farrell, Alvy Moore, Les Tremayne, and the criminally-underused Teresa Harris (as poised and charming an actress as the movies ever knew, but being black she never got the breaks she should have). And Frank Tashlin, who directed, had wild fun with the whole thing.

Some years back, a few friends from work and myself went to see Patrick Stewart do a live reading of A Christmas Carol. He was utterly amazing.

Brian Phillips said...

I will put in a vote for "Christmas in July", which, of course, takes place in July, but it is one of the many gems Preston Sturges was turning out in his peak years 1940-1944.

Brian Phillips said...

OH! "Comfort and Joy" by Bill Forsyth is a delight; ends at Christmas.

LinGin said...

George C. Scott and Ebenezer Scrooge: perfect marriage of actor and role. My second favorite Scrooge.

My favorite? Mr. Magoo. And with that sublime Styne/Merrill score it is my all time favorite Christmas anything (movie, TV, etc.) And making me feel really old as I remember the first time it aired I'd that it celebrates its 50th anniversary this year.

Pete Grossman said...

Indeed! Love Actually! Talk about weaving stories, connecting characters and paying them off! Some of the stories are touching while others are just plain nuts. Somehow they manage to work. Kudos to Richard Curtis who wrote and directed. The balls on this guy.

cadavra said...

TOY TINKERS is indeed the best Christmas cartoon short ever made. The best animated Christmas feature ever made, IMHO, came out just last year: Aardman's ARTHUR CHRISTMAS. Despite stellar reviews, it went toes up. Buy the DVD--you will not regret it.

My favorite non-typical Christmas movie is CASH ON DEMAND (1961), starring Peter Cushing and Andre Morell. It's a very classy and subtle re-working of A CHRISTMAS CAROL--as a bank heist picture! And no, it's not a comedy. At all. You can find it on the excellent Hammer Suspense box set Sony put out a few years ago.

BTW, tomorrow I begin directing a short comedy I've also written and produced. Pray for me. A lot.

DBenson said...

My favorite Christmas Disney is "One Hour in Wonderland", a 1950 TV special included as an extra with "Alice in Wonderland" (animated version). It was designed as a one-shot deal, but you can see a lot of the eventual weekly series taking shape, right down to Uncle Walt (and a gag with his two daughters, looking unimpressed).

It gets off to a too-leisurely start with Edgar Bergen driving Charlie McCarthy and Mortimer Snerd to a studio party; then we get Bergen, Uncle Walt, the Firehouse Five and some kid actors introducing animated clips via the Magic Mirror, agreeably overplayed by Hans Conried. You also get a rare legal chunk of "Song of the South," with live-action Uncle Remus singing "Zip-a-dee-doo-dah" to animated critters. The special was filmed in B&W, but for video they very smoothly inserted the color versions of the animation.

The Coca-Cola commercials are built-in, and it ends with an announcer exhorting us to go out to a movie TONIGHT! (It aired on Dec, 25 in the afternoon)

Unknown said...

I was one of 7 people to see A Christmas Story in the theater when it came out. I was one of 4 people who saw Volunteers in a theater when it was first released. You'd think that would at least earn me some free drinks at the Golden Globes or something.

Cap'n Bob said...

If we include war movies, don't miss BATTLEGROUND, with James Whitmore, Van Johnson, Ricardo Montalban, and the guy who later played the father on Dennis the Menace. It takes place at the Battle of the Bulge during Christmastime.

VP81955 said...

For me, it's "The Shop Around The Corner." Sort of ironic that one of the greatest triumphs of James Stewart, the quintessential American actor, came in a film where he played a Hungarian (and has marvelous chemistry with Margaret Sullavan), but Ernst Lubitsch could make anyone seem continental. Moreover, this is arguably Frank Morgan's greatest role -- not his most iconic, thanks to a certain L. Frank Baum adaptation, but anyone who wonders why Morgan is considered one of the all-time top character actors needs to watch his performance here. He's sublime.

D. McEwan said...

"LinGin said...
George C. Scott and Ebenezer Scrooge: perfect marriage of actor and role."


WHAT?

I've seen the Scott Christmas Carol (Being a big Dickens freak, I've seen almost all of them) and I found Scott appallingly wrong. Apparently no one told him that Scrooge was English! Here we had this Scrooge who had somehow lived all his life in London without acquiring even a TRACE of an English accent.

Patrick Stewart and Alistair Sim are by far the best Scrooges I've ever seen.

"Non-traditional Christmas movies"? Ok. In that category, mine is Psycho. It's set in December, and as Janet Leigh drives out of Phoenix, we see the civic Christmas decorations all over, and then it's never mentioned again. How funny it would have been if Norman Bates had had a little Christmas tree in his "parlour" behind the office for his late supper with Janet.

Cadavra, Thanks for the tip on Cash on Demand. I will have to seek it out. I love Peter Cushing in anything, and he and Morell of course worked together so often that he was almost like the third member of the team after Sir Christopher Lee. (I have a video of the TV serial where Morell plays Professor Quatermass. Excellent actor, never as acclaimed as Cushing and Lee.) Break a leg on your shoot.

VP81955 said...

Oh, one more movie, also from 1940: "Remember The Night." A nice Preston Sturges script, good direction from the underrated Mitchell Leisen, and wonderfully textured performances from Fred MacMurray and Barbara Stanwyck. This was the first of four films they co-starred in, all in different genres -- this gentle romantic comedy, the film noir classic "Double Indemnity," the lackluster western "The Moonlighter" and the solid Douglas Sirk drama "There's Always Tomorrow." After being overlooked for years, "Remember The Night" is rapidly becoming a Christmas perennial, and deservedly so.

SkippyMom said...

Speaking of remakes of "Scrooge" - I actually love the Bill Murray movie "Scrooged". I still laugh when he wants to staple the antlers on the mice heads. giggle

Oh yes - jcs said it first - DIE HARD. Pretty bada** for a Christmas movie, but we still get a kick out it. Dated and all.

Good list. Now I am going to be looking off that balcony for a glimpse of your house.

SkippyMom said...

Oh, may I add "A Christmas Carol" with George C. Scott. THAT is my favorite version.

And I didn't want to be the lone dissenter, and now that I see that I won't be after reading the comments - I have to agree. I do not see the appeal of "A Christmas Story" and although I was born shortly after that era, I love everything set in that period. Except THAT movie. Sorry.

christodoulos said...

Holiday, 1938, Cary Grant, Katherine Hepburn.
The Shop Around the Corner, 1940.
Holiday Affair, 1949, Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh - beautiful low-key holiday romance. Mitchum plays the opposite of his role in The Night of the Hunter.
Father Of The Bride, 1951.
It Could Happen To You, 1994 - although these two are technically not Christmas movies, they fit because they are about good things happening to good people with lots of warm and fuzzy feelings.
The Apartment, 1960.
Moonstruck, 1987. Ah, Loretta Castorini.
Scrooged, 1988.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, 1989. Could be a better movie, but I identify with the everyman character of Chevy Chase.
The Ref, 1994. Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis as the dysfunctional married couple who drive their kidnapper mad.
While You Were Sleeping, 1995. The plot is the same old tired stupid misundestanding, but Sandra Bullock is so loveable I could watch her feed her cat for an hour, and she and Bill Pullman were great together.
Home Alone, 1990.
Plus Welcome to the Jungle, Haywire and Taken. Because you have to balance the warm and fuzzy feelings with a bit of an ass-kicking action before enjoying more of it!

Good choice on the Bachelor Mother, Ken. I liked the movie but I think that David Niven was a bit cold and didn't have a lot of chemistry with Ginger Rogers.

Barry Traylor said...

There are quite a few favorites I have with a Holiday/Christmas theme. The 1951 version of A Christmas Carol (which is pretty much the definitive one for me), The Bishop's Wife with David Niven, Cary Grant and Monty Wooley (I can almost forgive it having Lorreta Young in it)and The Holiday with Cameron Diaz and Kate Winslet.

Johnny Walker said...

The country town where my Mum lives shows "It's A Wonderful Life" every Christmas at the local cinema. We all went to see it last year, and damn, if you couldn't help but leave with a great big grin on your face. Great movie.

Also, Die Hard is great. And a Muppet's Christmas Carol is jolly enjoyable when you're regretting the amount of turkey you've eaten.

Sung said...

One film that has become a favorite around here is Upright Citizen's Brigade's version of It's a Wonderful Life:

http://www.uprightcitizens.org/19/index.html

It's titled "Escape from It's a Wonderful Life," and if you haven't seen it, boy, are you in for a treat.

- Sung

Johnny Walker said...

Sung, you weren't joking! Just enjoying it now. How have I never seen this?

LinGin said...

@D. McEwan: The day I have long dreaded has arrived. Being on the receiving end of your strong and knowledgeable opinions. Still I will stand strong with my declaration that Scott's portrayal is the finest live (as opposed to animated) portrayal. Yes, no British accent (and far preferable to a lame attempt at one) but his portrayal is just gut-wrenching. It's a very quiet one until the very end when he breaks down. And the arrogance of his "every man should be boiled in pudding and buried with a stake of holly in his heart" is chilling.

And while I'm putting myself out there, there is no more frightening apparition of the Spectre of Christmas Future than the Magoo one.

chuckcd said...

My Holiday tradition is to watch "A Christmas Story."

I triple dog dare you to watch it.

Alan C said...

We watch Muppet Christmas Carol every year. 404--Michael Keaton would make an ... interesting ... Scrooge, but it's Michael Caine. And he gives a great (and completely straight) performance.
My other favorites are A Christmas Story and Elf. For several years when our kids were growing up we actually watched Ernest Saves Christmas every year. Although it's an Ernest movie, it's on my good list.

Unknown said...

Mixed Nuts is beyond horrible. Just shocking that it did not get shutdown and was actually released as an alleged film.

Anonymous said...

White Christmas (Sisters, Sisters, there were never such devoted sisters)
Scrooged (It's a toaster! Wham!)
A Christmas Carol (1934 version with June Lockhart & her parents)
It's a Wonderful Life
Charlie Brown Christmas (I know its tv, but it just isn't Christmas withoutit)


Pam aka sisterzip

Aldo Ray said...

We're no Abel's with Humphrey Bogart is one I have been meaning to revisit...

D. McEwan said...

"LinGin said...
@D. McEwan: The day I have long dreaded has arrived. Being on the receiving end of your strong and knowledgeable opinions. Still I will stand strong with my declaration that Scott's portrayal is the finest live (as opposed to animated) portrayal."


Well you get to prefer whichever version you like. These are, after all, opinions, not facts, but for me, every time Scott opened his mouth, he took me right out of it. I could not get past the miscasting. I vastly prefer Sir Patrick Stewart in the role.

wollem said...

I'll add another vote for Sir Patrick Stewart's Scrooge.

Cap'n Bob said...

Another movie that happens at Christmas but has nothing to do with it is THE LADY IN THE LAKE, with Robert Montgomery. That's the one with objective camera that many people found objectionable.

Janice said...

I like A Christmas Carol in just about any version - Sir Patrick Stewart, George C. Scott, Alastair Sim, Reginald Owen, Bill Murray in Scrooged. I like Christmas in Connecticut too. You mentioned Susan Slept Here and though aspects of it make my adult self uncomfortable, I still like the movie. I really like all the Doctor Who Christmas specials with David Tennant, particularly The Next Doctor.

D. McEwan said...

"Janice said...
I really like all the Doctor Who Christmas specials with David Tennant, particularly The Next Doctor."


They are fun, though the Steven Moffett-Matt Smith Doctor Who Christmas specials seem more Christmassy than the David Tennant/Russel T. Davies ones. Tennant's seemed just to take place on Christmas, but aren't actually very Christmassy, whereas the ones with Matt Smith are really Christmas stories -- and we get a brand new one on Chrstmas Night, our Christmas present from BBC America! Finally, a reason to look forward to Christmas!

Bradley said...

I agree with you on most counts, but I feel that I must stick up for "Mixed Nuts." I don't know what it is about that movie I love, but I watch it on a loop every December. I realize it's not for everyone, but the universal hatred for that film feels like a candy cane to the heart. I like to believe I have very good taste in films, yet every year I'm reminded that I have a soft spot for one that most people regard as crap. Normally something like this would make me question my judgement, but when it comes to Steve Martin and company, I'm too busy laughing to care. Merry Christmas!

Matt Patton said...

D. McEwen:

Interesting story about how PSYCHO became a "Christmas" movie; Hitchcock sent a second unit to Phoenix to shoot the footage for the opening sequence and get background plates of various streets around town. Since it was late November when the unit made the trip, the streets were decorated for Christmas (you can see it in the scene where Janet Leigh is spotted driving out of town by her boss). Afraid that people would be distracted by said Christmas decorations, Hitchcock threw in a title at the beginning indicating that it was December. BTW, the footage for the opening sequence didn't work -- It was filmed from a helicopter, and the camera shook too much, so the unit went back in January and used an airplane instead, and this time the aerial footage was smooth enough to be used. (That opening pan across Phoenix is still one of the most effective shots of that sort ever done.)

D. McEwan said...

Thanks, Matt. I read Stephen Rebello's book Alfred Hitchcock and the Making of Psycho also. In fact, there are two different editions of it sitting on a shelf in my bedroom, so I knew all that, but many of our fellow commenters won't have known it, and it is interesting.

(Incidentally, Matt, why did you defriend and block me on FB? I'd ask you there privately, but I'm blocked, and can only ask you here. I am not aware of any conflict betwixt us, but you and every comment you ever posted to my pages have vanished and I can't locate you there any longer.)

VP81955 said...

Holiday Affair, 1949, Robert Mitchum, Janet Leigh - beautiful low-key holiday romance. Mitchum plays the opposite of his role in The Night of the Hunter.

"Holiday Affair" is scheduled to air on TCM at 8 p.m. ET/5 p.m. PT on Thursday, and it's indeed a charming film -- a reminder that while Mitchum was never really deemed a comedic actor, he could more than hold his own in the genre.

James said...

I know it's everyone's favorite, but personally, I can't STAND ‘A Christmas Story’. I don't know why everybody likes it, as it offers almost NO references to my own life, childhood, or Christmas memories in general. This being said however, it springs up as a perennial favorite, and can't be discounted. I have been recording a ton of holiday movies on my DISH Hopper DVR, and love that it can store up to 2,000 hours of movies/TV. I work late at DISH usually, so the DVR's PrimeTime Anytime feature comes in especially handy. It records the entire primetime lineup from all four major networks, which is where I've been getting a lot of our holiday favorites. I also record ABC Family's 25 Days of Christmas, for our Rudolph, Grinch, Elf and Frosty fixes!

D. McEwan said...

"VP81955 said...
while Mitchum was never really deemed a comedic actor, he could more than hold his own in the genre."


Mitchum (Whom I just finished watching in His Kind of Woman an hour ago) could hold his own in any genre. He's also welcome to hold mine. (Fun Family Fact: My Uncle, who had a career in the LASO, took Mitchum's mug shots when he was busted for pot.)

Chelsea said...

Nice list. I actually haven’t seen most of these, including A Christmas Story. It seems like everyone loves that movie, though. A few friends I work with at DISH say it’s a classic, and my family likes it as well, so I think I’ll try it out this year. I can rent it from DISH’s Blockbuster@Home service, which has a great selection of over 100,000 DVDs to choose from, so I can always find what I’m looking for. I’m looking forward to seeing it. If it’s as good as everyone says I’m sure I’ll enjoy it.

Jonah D said...

Any Bob Hope fans out there?

One of my perennial favorites is LEMONDROP KID (1951). Bob Hope plays a small-time hustler who double crosses the mob. In order to repay his debt, BH creates a fake charity and hires a bunch of ex-con friends to act as "bell ringers". The police become suspicious and BH must prove the charity is legit while the mob tries to muscle in on his con. It's BH at his best, filled with his dry-wit. I give it two thumbs up!

Matt Patton said...

D. McEwen:

Sorry about the mess on Facebook; it seems that somebody at the charming site purloined my credit-card number when I made the mistake of buying some credits to play one of their games, and so I wound up shutting my original Facebook account down and starting over. I'm still there, making an idiot of myself, although less frequently, and trying to add back as many of my old Facebook friends as possible. Sorry about all of that.