in recent years

   

   

totally top 5: christmas movies

I have been promising to write an updated list of my top five holiday movies since, oh, late 2011? When I posted my first version before I endeavored on my 31 Days of Festive-Ass Flicks project. And since, you know, Christmas is, like, the day after tomorrow and it’s now 2013, I thought: why not?! Or something.

5. Meet Me in St. Louispreviously

I am not into musicals. Not at all. I mean, I break out in song on a daily basis, but I just can’t accept it happening fictionally unless it’s caused by demonic intervention. That said, Meet Me in St. Louis still manages to be glorious. Judy Garland is flustered-charming and beautiful. Lucille Bremer is so wonderful and so underrated. She’s not the star — who could be with Judy Garland nearby — but she holds her own fabulously. The songs are so good. It looks and feels like a great big classic MGM production and even though the romance is typical and the plot sort of draggy — really just because it covers a decently large chunk of time — it’s just so fun.

Meet Me in St. Louis is also super notable because it birthed a classic — and my personal favorite — Christmas song in “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas,” which is basically way more than, like, any other Christmas movie can say.

4. A Christmas Storypreviously

A Christmas Story was on the list the last time I did a Christmas top five, though it’s dropped considerably in its ranking. It’s not that it’s not still great, it’s just that I’ve watched a lot more Christmas movies in the interim.

A Christmas Story feels like the epitome of holiday movie making and I believe firmly that it deserves its 24 hour airing on TBS every year. It’s a movie with a kind heart and beautiful holiday visuals and great laughs. It’s a period piece that still feels relevant. It’s got great characters — and great, great kid actors — and truly enduring one-liners. Almost everyone loves this one and for good reason. It’s 100% a feel-good holiday classic.

I do, however, stand by my irritation that no one knows how to deal with a kid’s tongue getting stuck to metal. No one needs no fire department nonsense to handle that ish.

3. The Preacher’s Wifepreviously

I really, really love The Preacher’s Wife. I hadn’t seen it before the Festive-Ass Flicks project of 2011 and it is another, like Meet Me in St. Louis, that I am so glad I watched. It’s really charming and hopeful and it’s got the cutest, most adorable child friendship, like, ever put to film. It’s the first movie that ever put me on the Denzel Washington boat and it’s because he is charming as hell and frankly, I’d have left my preacher husband for him in a heartbeat, angel or not.

Whitney Houston’s show-stopping performance of “Who Would Imagine a King” is a serious highlight as is the charming and flirtatious erotic angel ice skating sequence. I usually prefer secular Christmas stuff, so I never expected to even like this one, but I ended up totally loving it. Number three loving it.

2. Love Actuallypreviously

I saw — vaguely — on the internet that everyone was having some sort of meltdown about liking vs not liking Love Actually? I don’t know what the deal is and I’m too lazy/disinterested in other people’s opinions to do any googling about it, but, like, what? How do you not like Love Actually? I don’t mean that in a “Oh god, how dare you!” way, but like, it’s pretty inoffensive as movies ago.” Like, who is going to engage in a passionate takedown of Love Actually of all things?

Anyway, I do actually love Love Actually* because — as I find true of all the Christmas movies I really love — it makes me feel warm and happy and pleasantly at ease. I love each of the stories — Billy Mack and Joe’s friendship! Daniel’s bang-up job raising Sam! Sarah’s heart-breaking and powerful love for her brother! Mark who is in love with a woman and doesn’t think he’s entitled to her! Emma Thompson’s killer gentle crying to Joni Mitchell! Colin Frissell Does Milwaukee! Hugh Grant! — and as a whole the experience is super satisfying.

I am particularly fond of Rowan Atkinson’s turn as the sort of cupid-by-way-of-delay-and-distraction because there’s just enough of it to be endearing and it also strikes me as being particularly British. My favorite favorite bit though is Jamie’s nieces’ exuberant cheers and quick turn of “I hate Uncle Jamie!” We’ve had ten years of Love Actually now. Aren’t we lucky?

1½. Miracle on 34th Streetpreviously

Okay, so I’m cheating a little tiny itty bitty bit by including six movies in a Totally Top 5 list, but really, my top spot is being split between two favorites and for the sake of fairness and formatting, I thought I’d give them equal time. Like Meet Me in St. Louis and The Preacher’s Wife before it, I had never seen Miracle on 34th Street before It became a Festive-Ass Flick in 2011. I don’t know why, really, probably just obstinance about “old shit” since that’s a thing I can sometimes be stupid about.

Miracle on 34th Street is super iconic and really and truly lovely. It’s got a complex mother-daughter relationship that can be hard at times — I think Doris does Susan a deep disservice by discouraging her imaginative leanings — but that is so obviously full of love and the desire to do right by each other. It’s got a mischievous and charming Kris Kringle who never veers so far as to seem creepily omniscient, something that happens far too often in Christmas stories. It’s got great secondary characters in Mr. Macy, Mr. Gimbel, Judge Harper, Fred and particularly Alfred. It’s got an iconic New York Christmas setting and a gentle moral that’s about the power of possibility and belief in the remarkable. It is heartwarming as hell and a holiday classic for a reason. It’s worth the little bit of the cheat.

1. Elfpreviously

Elf has so much going for it as a movie that I honestly don’t know where to start. It’s got a killer soundtrack — Ella Fitzgerald! Lena Horne! Leon Redbone! — and another gorgeous New York backdrop and a cast so phenomenally assembled that it’s infuriating. It’s got great, funny one-liners that are sold with this pitch-perfect delivery over and over again — Will Ferrell’s delivery is sometimes so agonizingly good that I just get mad, such a great mix of naïveté and goofiness — and a great big heart filled with characters who are good or learn to be. Buddy butting up against a world he doesn’t understand — an often cruel one full of double-meaning and sarcasm he cannot parse — drives the story without ever resorting to meanness at his expense and in that friction, the world gets better instead of Buddy getting worse.

It is just truly great. It’s joyful and kind and it tells a story about Christmas spirit without ever devolving into a tirade about commercialism. Elf is a gift that just keeps on giving.

Honorable Mentions

*: You have no idea how satisfying it was to type that sentence. And then speak it aloud like fifteen times. Glory.

31 days of festive-ass flicks, day 31: a christmas story

OH LORD. OH DEAR. OH MY. WE HAVE MADE IT. WE HAVE MAAAAADE IT. DAY 31 OF THE 31 DAYS OF FESTIVE-ASS FLICKS [CALENDAR] WAS A CHRISTMAS STORY AND I LOVED IT BECAUSE DUH.

Okay, I won’t keep shouting so that we may both preserve our respective sanities, even though I super love capslock because CAPSLOCK FOREVER.

A Christmas Story is great, so great. And sweet and beautiful and warm and hilarious and kind and nostalgic and GREAT. I’ve talked about this one before here, but I mean. This is a classic. DUH.

Ralphie! Randy! Mom and the Old Man! HOW DOES A PIGGY EAT? Scut Farkus and getting your tongue stuck to a pole and Peter Billingsley’s adorable expressive face!

And that feeling of wishing you could pull the words that just fell out of your mouth back in PHYSICALLY.

And OH FUDGE and the leg lamp and its “soft glow of electric sex” and such a good mom and soap in the mouth and the best siblings that grab your glasses for you while you’re kicking someone’s ass and mom’s putting cold washcloths on your neck/face to calm you down when you’re crying AND AND AND just excellence all around.

My only issues with this are, like, dumb ones? Like, WHY DOES NO ONE KNOW HOW TO HANDLE A BODY PART STUCK TO ICY METAL? Get some warm water and call that shit a day. Or How the mom is, like, WHERE DID YOU LEARN THAT TERRIBLE WORD and Ralphie EXPLICITLY thinks, “Well I can’t say DAD…” and she doesn’t get there on her own?! Dood is a MASTER OF SWEARING. And you’re going to buy that your kid learned “fuck” from a FRIEND. ARE YOU HIGH, MELINDA DILLON?! Also, super racist Asian stereotypes at the end, UGH. What was wrong with movies in the 80s?!

Anyway, that last shot of Mom and Dad sitting by the tree and watching the snow. UGH. It kills me. I feel all choked up and it’s so beautiful and simple and. UGH. It’s just a lovely story about a family and their Christmas and being lucky enough to get that one thing you really want that you never thought you’d actually end up with. SO BEAUTIFUL, SO MAGICAL.

MERRY CHRISTMAS, HAPPY HANUKKAH, JOYOUS SOLSTICE, PEACEFUL SATURNALIA, RESPECTFUL KWANZAA, SEASON’S GREETINGS, HAPPY FUCKING NEW YEAR.

PROJECT OVER. THANKS FOR STICKING WITH ME, GUYS.

31 days of festive-ass flicks, day 30: christmas vacation

Day 30 (THIRTY. 3-0. THIIIIIIIIRTY! IT IS ALMOST OVER! OH ME! OH MY! OH 30!!) of the 31 Days of Festive-Ass Flicks [CALENDAR] was Christmas Vacation which is a classic and one of my favorites and delightful and funny and ridiculous and excellent and heartwarming and slapstick and real, legit, human.

I really love Christmas Vacation because the Griswolds remind me of my family. I already talked a little about it here, but it’s really that simple. These people argue and they yell and they screw up and they have family members they they’re embarrassed of and they do stupid things because they love each other. And it’s really warm and happy and hilarious and ridiculous and excellent.

Clark and Ellen are good parents that love their kids and their family. I love when Audrey is begging her mom to not make her sleep with Rusty and Ellen’s like, “I have to sleep with your father!” and it’s so good and such a real mom thing but funnier because movies have to be funnier than real life. Which is a thing that John Hughes does really, really well. Duh.

I love the Ordeal of the Lights and what it means to Clark to make them work. I LOVE THEM. I love the lights.

I also love the shitty yuppie 80s neighbors and they yuppie 80s LIFE.

LOOK AT THOSE TRACK SUITS! LOOK AT THOSE SHELVES!

Basically, at this point in this project (THIRTY! THIRTY! ONE MORE TO GO!) I have run out of things to say. Christmas Vacation makes me feel EXTREMELY FESTIVE. I was super done with Christmas this year basically the moment is was over, but when I put this on a couple days late I felt warm and fuzzy and festive and joyful again even though it was like three in the morning and I was all alone. It’s a good one and if you don’t love it, I probably don’t have room for you in my life. SORRY.

Also, I love the credits sequence.

Poor Santa.

31 days of festive-ass flicks, day 29: the nightmare before christmas

Day 29 (29!) of the 31 Days of Festive-ass Flicks [CALENDAR] was The Nightmare Before Christmas which I have seen a lot and thought I loved, but kiiiiiiiind of didn’t/don’t?

Basically, the character designs in this are gorgeous. And inventive and lovely and interesting and awesome. And the music is great because, duh, Danny Elfman scores are always great, if not always brand new or exciting. And the animation is really good and fun to watch. I especially love the way that the Christmas town is rendered.

And all the sweet little Christmas details, like the thistle tree that busts into flames in Sally’s hands.

And I love both the Halloweentown and Christmastown kids are done, especially the Christmas GPOY to end all GPOYS of yours truly.

But, like, ugh. Jack is SO WHINY. OH I AM SO SAD I WANT TO HAVE CHRISTMAS FOR MYSELF IN ADDITION TO MY HALLOWEEN LIFE AND EVERYTHING IS TERRIBLE WAAAAAAAAAH WAAAAAAAAAAAAAH. And Oogie Boogie is a really weak-ass villain, frankly, and he feels super tacked-on to the story as a whole. And all of the weird ownership/creation of Sally stuff feels weird. And even though she’s a pretty decent character and kind of saves shit and is almost awesome, she’s so soft-spoken and traditionally pretty and boring. She just pines for Jack and poisons her creator/owner over and over again for most of the movie. And that’s a massive bummer.

But I still like to watch it for the great songs and the pretty sights and Santa’s excellent exit from Oogie Boogie’s lair at the end.

31 days of festive-ass flicks, day 28: the polar express

Day 28 of the 31 Days of Festive-Ass Flicks [CALENDAR] was The Polar Express.

I had heard SO MANY terrible things about this movie because I guess the animation is pretty bad? But I was more bugged by how the story was hideous? And how it just went on F – O – R – E – V – E – V – E – V – E – R. I don’t even understand how children have EVER sat through this. And then WHAT A TERRIBLE ENDING.

I was so unhappy watching this and waiting for it to be over that I actually abused twitter about it.

That’s not even, like, HALF of my notes. So… GREATEST HITS:

– Love that Josh Groban song. Love “Believe”. Love some Santa nonsense.
– CG is always best used on things that do not exist in the real world currently. Like, dinosaurs and transformers.
– They should have just called this the Tom Hanks Experience: A One Man Show.
– I ain’t gettin’ on no magic train with shouting-ass Tom Hanks dood.
– SMOOTH MOVE, EX-LAX (I do not even know what this was about.)
– Why is this kid the Santa-christ? How has no one given him the “those are Santa’s helpers” speech? WHY DOES HE EXPECT A SANTA IN A WINDOW DISPLAY TO BE REAL?!
– What is even… What. WUT. (I have no idea.)
– TERRIFYING TOYS FROM HELL
– Sinister as fuck skipping record business.
– This Santa show is TOO MUCH. Santa needs to slow his roll.
– WAIT. SLEIGH BELLS?!
– Santa doesn’t start his trip ’til after midnight? HOW DOES THAT MAKE SENSE? That’s some bullshit.
– IF YOU HAVE TO GO ALL THE WAY TO THE NORTH POLE AND HAVE SANTA GIVE YOU A GIFT FROM HIS VERY OWN HAND IN ORDER TO BELIEVE IN HIM, YOU DO NOT DESERVE TO BELIEVE IN SANTA.

So yeah, suffice it to say that I did not enjoy this one. But I still love that Josh Groban song.