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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.

totally top 10: friends thanksgivings

10. Season 2, “The One with the List” – The least appealing part of Friends for me, both upon initial airing and in the years of subsequent reruns, is the back and forth Ross and Rachel nonsense. It’s not that the romances on the show aren’t interesting — I love Monica and Chandler’s fumbling courtship because I’m not dead inside — it’s just that the friendships are so much more compelling. Ross and Rachel date, they don’t date, either way I don’t really care. Even if that wasn’t the emphasis of this ep, it’d still fall to the bottom of the list for not really being about Thanksgiving at all. If it weren’t for Monica’s mockolate scenes with Michael McKean the ep would hardly be worth watching at all.

9. Season 9, “The One with Rachel’s Other Sister” – You know how sitcoms love to introduce really irritating characters and then rally the comedic forces of their casts around pointing out just how annoying that character is? I hate that. Christina Applegate is great at what she was brought into do, but it just feels unbearable and uninspired. Great tender moments of friendship, a lot of great Chandler emotions, and the entire China plot make it very watchable despite its flaws.

8. Season 1, “The One Where Underdog Gets Away” – The one that started it all! The most impressive thing about this episode is that it was the ninth episode of Friends ever and the characters already feel fleshed and whole. Love Joey’s STD posters, Chandler’s Thanksgiving issues, and Phoebe’s general willowiness.

7. Season 3, “The One with the Football” – Monica and Ross’s sibling rivalry is an early delight and, as always, weird Geller traditions are a highlight. Phoebe’s enthusiasm is maybe my favorite part of the entire episode and Joey and Chandler’s competitiveness verges on just the right kind of meanness without being unbearable. A solid and very Thanksgiving-y entry.

6. Season 8, “The One with the Rumor” – Problematic gender, trans*, and fat hate issues aside, this one’s got a nice turn from Brad Pitt and some decently funny moments. Ross’s tender remembrance of the tryst he had with his high school librarian is particularly charming and well-played.

5. Season 6, “The One Where Ross Got High” – Mr. and Mrs. Geller make an appearance in one of the strongest and most laugh out loud of the bunch. Notable not just for Rachel’s beef and pea trifle, but also Monica and Ross selling each other’s secrets out to their parents in a shouting match followed by Christina Pickles’s pitch-perfect delivery of the ultimate mom monologue. Glorious.

4. Season 7, “The One Where Chandler Doesn’t Like Dogs” – Tons of great laugh out loud moments in this one including Matt LeBlanc’s hilariously delivered “Don’t do it!” (which also has a great blooper) and Ross’s dislike of ice cream. Jennifer Aniston’s dry delivery and perfect timing are also a delight. She’s often overlooked when people talk about the cast, but she’s killer and this is a particularly great example of her.

3. Season 10, “The One with the Late Thanksgiving” – A hilarious and heartwarming turn from the final season of the show, notable for Chandler and Monica receiving news that they’ve been chosen as adoptive parents. This is one of those trope-y sitcom episodes where everything kind of goes disastrous but it’s got a lot of great laughs including the dumb but delightful talking heads bit and the baby beauty pageant. The news of the adoption is particularly sweet, the kind of news you want surrounded by the people you love most.

2. Season 5, “The One with All the Thanksgivings”Friends flashback episodes are well-loved for a reason and this one is no exception. Joey getting the turkey stuck on his head is funny enough, but escalated when Phoebe tries to disguise him from Monica with parsley. Pre-nose job Rachel is a favorite every time she shows up and Chandler and Ross’s thematic outfits are glorious. Another great turn from Christina Pickles and Elliott Gould rounds out a great ep.

1. Season 4, “The One with Chandler in a Box” – This ep is hands-down my favorite because it’s not only the one that makes me laugh the hardest and most consistently, but also because its driving force is really friendship. Chandler and Joey’s relationship is always a great source of comedy for the show and it doesn’t disappoint here. Matthew Perry’s not even visible for most of the episode and he’s still killer. Michael Vartan is particularly babely and charming and his awkward kiss on the balcony with Courtney Cox is flawlessly hilarious.

What’s your top ten? What are your other Thanksgiving faves? Are you rewatching The West Wing where President Bartlet calls the Butterball Turkey Line today too? Or are you just eating a whole bunch and staring at the dog show? Whatever you do, enjoy it and know that I am thankful for you!