35+ Days of Christmas on WSAM

Some years back I spoke my peace about Christmas Creep, and since then it’s just gotten worse. The holiday season pretty much starts in October now, which means that television networks like Hallmark and Freeform have already been airing Christmas movies for awhile. However, as much as I adore this time of year and love watching such films, I’ve always had an issue with the way AMC, TCM, and other such channels do their programming. Other than starting way too early I believe they make three key mistakes.

First of all, their definition of a Christmas movie is decidedly…avant-garde. Frozen?? Harry Potter?? Toy Story?? No…just…no. Just because a film is animated and/or produced by Disney doesn’t make it a Christmas movie. Hallmark obviously produces their own holiday flicks, but for the channels that show old big screen classics there are plenty of legit choices that fit the criteria.

Secondly, when the month of December hits I want wall-to-wall Christmas movies. I understand counter-programming. I get it. Some folks aren’t particularly into Christmas and they want some entertainment too. But for a television station…particularly one that is primarily dedicated to movies…I feel like it’s an all-or-nothing proposition. Are you in or out?? Don’t air a great old Christmas movie then follow-it up with a tepid rom-com or a western. You’re creating a vibe…ambiance… a certain kind of mood. Even amongst the Christmas sub-genre there can be synergy. I am not familiar with all the ins & outs of television programming, but I think the powers-that-be can do better.

And finally, I realize that Christmas movies are a relatively finite category. There are only a handful of really good ones, and they mostly fall into one of three groups: wacky family hijinks, Santa Claus stories, & adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol. Having said that, I still believe that any TV channel dedicating itself to holiday programming can do better than showing the same few movies over & over & over again until even the most ardent fans become a little bit tired of them. In the recent past Freeform has aired Elf, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, & The Polar Express about two dozen times…each. That’s ridiculous.

Citizens of The Manoverse may recall that a few years ago I came up with a weekend movie marathon for Christmastime. So I began to ponder the idea of expanding that concept. What if I owned a TV channel akin to AMC, TCM, Hallmark, or Freeform?? How would I program an entire month+ of holiday classics?? The first thing I had to do was establish some rules:

  • My holiday programming begins the day before Thanksgiving and ends a couple of days after Christmas. It runs on weekdays from 4pm-Midnight(ish), with expanded weekend hours.
  • Movies would air unedited. I am not advocating rampant profanity or other adult content, but is that really an issue with most Christmas movies anyway?? It has always driven me nuts when Freeform edits references to Jack Daniels & Wild Turkey in Christmas Vacation. There are more objectionable scenes in random commercials for pete’s sake. I’m also not a fan of cutting the infamous “blackface” scene in Holiday Inn. Societal norms evolve…oftentimes for the better…but I don’t believe in censoring a movie made darn near a century ago just because our collective belief systems are a bit different nowadays. If you are so overly sensitive that a two minute scene in a movie offends you that is your problem.
  • And lastly…the big one. After compiling a list of movies & television specials for this exercise I gave myself a limit of five airings. No matter how awesome a film might be I think seeing it five times in the space of a month is quite enough. I grew up in an era when It’s A Wonderful Life was on literally every day…multiple times per day…the whole month of December. I have spent the past two decades enjoying TBS/TNT’s 24 hour A Christmas Story marathon Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. I have no issue with any of that…I am simply taking a different approach.

 

 

 

 

Wednesday        11/21

4pm            Free Birds

6pm            Dutch

8pm            Home for the Holidays

10pm                   Scent of a Woman

 

I am grateful for what I am and have. My thanksgiving is perpetual. – Henry David Thoreau

 

 

 

 

 

Thanksgiving Day       11/22

3:30pm      WKRP in Cincinnati S1E7 “Turkeys Away”

4pm            Holiday Inn

6pm            Grumpy Old Men

8pm            A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving     

8:30pm      Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

10:30pm    The Nightmare Before Christmas

 

We eased into our merry month of holiday goodness with some Thanksgiving gems. Free Birds is a 2013 animated tale about turkeys traveling back in time to prevent their brethren from ever becoming the holiday’s main course. Dutch is an early 90’s dramedy starring Ed O’Neill (Married with Children’s Al Bundy) as a guy who offers to pick his girlfriend’s son up at his private school in Georgia and drive him back to Chicago for Thanksgiving. Home for the Holidays is a mid-90’s ensemble dramedy about a family getting together for Thanksgiving, notably starring Robert Downey Jr., Holly Hunter, Claire Danes, Dylan McDermott, Charles Durning, & Ann Bancroft. Scent of A Woman paints outside the lines a little bit, but does take place at Thanksgiving. Ditto for Grumpy Old Men, which has scenes set at both Thanksgiving and Christmas. Planes, Trains, & Automobiles is a beloved Thanksgiving tradition in my house, as is Turkeys Away, probably one of the greatest sitcom episodes of all time. I’m never quite sure where The Nightmare Before Christmas fits in, but I suppose it’s worth a couple of viewings.

 

 

 

Friday        11/23

4pm            Planes, Trains, and Automobiles

6pm            Trading Places

8pm            Holiday Inn        

10pm                   Miracle on 34th St. (1947)

 

Christmas is not just a time for festivity and merry making. It is more than that. It is a time for the contemplation of eternal things. The Christmas spirit is a spirit of giving and forgiving. – J. C. Penney

 

 

 

 

Saturday    11/24

Noon          The Year Without a Santa Claus

1pm            Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

2pm            Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

3pm            The Lemon Drop Kid

5pm                   Miracle on 34th Street (1994)       

7pm            Scrooge (1951)

9pm            Christmas with the Kranks

 

Trading Places stars Dan Aykroyd as a wealthy businessman & Eddie Murphy as a fast talking con artist who are both manipulated by two rich old geezers into switching societal roles as part of a bet they view as a sociological experiment. It was Murphy’s follow-up to 48 Hrs. and preceded Beverly Hills Cop. Is it a Christmas movie?? Ehhh…close enough for me.  Holiday Inn has scenes set at Thanksgiving, Christmas, New Year’s, and every other major holiday on the calendar, and it introduced the world to White Christmas, which has gone on to become the best-selling Christmas song of all time. The Lemon Drop Kid is a criminally underappreciated Bob Hope offering from 1951 in which he stars as a loquacious hustler who crosses the wrong gangster and must come up with the $10k he screwed him out of by Christmas Eve. When his department store Santa con doesn’t work out The Kid launches a scheme to raise money for a fake retirement home. Hilarity ensues. It is pretty much impossible to find The Lemon Drop Kid on television or elsewhere, but I would absolutely change that because it is a fun movie that deserves some attention, plus it introduced the world to the classic carol Silver Bells. Blackadder’s Christmas Carol is a holiday episode of the British television show Blackadder, starring Rowan Atkinson. In this special episode Blackadder is the kindest & most generous man in England, but everyone takes advantage of him, his business isn’t doing well, and he’s miserable & lonely. On Christmas Eve a single spirit essentially shows him what life would be like if he were mean & uncaring like some of his ancestors, and he becomes convinced that everything would be awesome. It is a clever interpretation that turns Dickens’ A Christmas Carol upside down. Speaking of A Christmas Carol, the 1951 version starring Alistair Sim is generally regarded as the best by many, and so it’s a big part of our special month.

 

 

Sunday      11/25

Noon          The Star Wars Holiday Special

12:30pm    A Charlie Brown Christmas

1pm            All I Want for Christmas

3pm            Christmas Every Day

5pm            Four Christmases

7pm            Fred Claus

9pm            Frosty the Snowman

9:30pm      Scrooge (1951)

 

The Star Wars Holiday Special aired only once…on November 17, 1978, which was about a year after the first film but a couple of years before The Empire Strikes Back. It received such negative reviews that it has never been on TV again and is a rare find, but since Star Wars is a much bigger deal now than it was then I think it’s time to bring the Christmas special out of the moth balls. It can’t be any worse than the prequels & sequels, right?? Vince Vaughn is a guy that many people either love or hate, and I happen to like the guy. Not all of his movies are winners, but both Fred Claus and Four Christmases are worth an airing or two during the holiday season. All I Want for Christmas and Christmas Every Day are made-for-TV movies that originally aired on ABC Family (now Freeform) back in the early to mid-90’s. They’re cute & entertaining enough that I’ve retained a certain level of fondness for them over the years, and I believe others might enjoy them as well. Christmas with the Kranks is based on John Grisham’s 2001 novel Skipping Christmas and stars Tim Allen & Jamie Lee Curtis as a couple whose plan to ditch the annual holiday hullabaloo in favor of a tropical cruise doesn’t quite work out. It isn’t the greatest Christmas movie, and at first I kind of hated it…but it has begun to grown on me.

 

 

Monday     11/26

4pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

6pm            Scrooge (1951)

8pm            Trapped in Paradise

10pm                   Santa Claus: The Movie

 

Christmas can be celebrated in the school room with pine trees, tinsel, & reindeers, but there must be no mention of the man whose birthday is being celebrated. One wonders how a teacher would answer if a student asked why it was called Christmas. – Ronald Reagan

 

 

Tuesday    11/27

4pm            Deck the Halls

6pm            The Santa Clause

8pm            The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause

10pm                   The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

 

Trapped in Paradise stars Nicolas Cage, Dana Carvey, & Jon Lovitz as three dimwitted brothers who rob a bank in a small Pennsylvania town on Christmas Eve then are unable to leave. They are befriended by the super friendly & naive citizens who don’t realize that they’re the bank robbers. Deck the Halls stars Danny DeVito as a guy determined to make the Christmas lights display at his house so dazzling that it can be seen from space, and Matthew Broderick as the tightly wound neighbor hellbent on stopping him. Neither are considered good movies by critics or the viewing public, but I don’t mind watching them once or twice this time of year. For some strange reason only 2/3 of Tim Allen’s Santa Clause trilogy…the original & the third one…currently get a lot of play on television. I seem to recall reading somewhere that feminazis & other social justice warriors have an issue with the second film, but I rather enjoy it. I mean…it’s a trilogy, right?? I readily admit that the first Santa Clause is far & away the best, but I also think it’s pretty obvious that The Mrs. Clause is much more entertaining than The Escape Clause. Not even Martin Short & Alan Arkin could save that one. Still though, all three need to be a part of our celebration.

 

 

Wednesday 11/28

4pm            Scrooge (1970)                                                 

6pm            Frosty the Snowman  

6:30pm      Disney’s A Christmas Carol

8:30pm      A Charlie Brown Christmas

9pm            Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

9:30pm      The Lemon Drop Kid

 

Once again, we come to the holiday season, a deeply religious time that each of us observes, in his own way, by going to the mall of his choice.  –  Dave Barry

 

 

 

Thursday 11/29

4pm            Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

5pm            The Star Wars Holiday Special    

6:30pm      The Lemon Drop Kid

8:30pm      A Christmas Carol (1938)

10:30pm    A Christmas Carol (1984)    

 

I wrote about my favorite adaptations of A Christmas Carol four years ago, so I won’t go into full rehash mode here, but a little clarification couldn’t hurt. The 1938 version is a sanitized, family friendly movie starring Reginald Owen as Ebenezer Scrooge. The 1984 version was a made-for-TV movie starring George C. Scott as Scrooge that didn’t start airing annually again until 2007 per an agreement with Scott’s estate. The 1970 version is a musical starring Albert Finney as Scrooge. Patrick Stewart starred as Scrooge in a made-for-TV movie originally aired on TNT in 1999. Disney’s screen capture animated version was released in 2009 and stars Jim Carrey as Scrooge as well as other roles.

 

 

Friday 11/30

4pm            Mixed Nuts

6pm            Lethal Weapon

8pm            Die Hard

10pm                   Bad Santa

 

Wow…talk about a weird Friday night!! Mixed Nuts has an all-star cast, including Steve Martin, Madeline Kahn, Garry Shandling, Juliette Lewis, Adam Sandler, Robert Klein, Rita Wilson, Rob Reiner, Parker Posey, Jon Stewart, & Liev Schreiber. That’s quite an eclectic lineup. It is an alleged comedy about a suicide hotline that has been evicted from its office space on Christmas Eve. There are a lot of subplots & hijinks, but I’ll spare you the details. Mixed Nuts has been mentioned as the worst Christmas film of all time, but I’ve seen worse and believe the impressive lineup of performers alone merits a viewing or two, even though all of that talent adds up to shockingly little  entertainment. Bad Santa is a bit too vulgar for my tastes, but it has a 78% rating on Rotten Tomatoes and is considered by some to be a modern classic. Few seem to engage in the same good-natured debate about whether or not Lethal Weapon is a Christmas movie in comparison to the annual arguments for & against the worthiness of Die Hard to be considered thusly, but for our purposes both are included as an action packed & mildly violent break from the typical sentimentality of the holiday season.

 

Saturday 12/1

Noon          Mickey’s Christmas Carol   

12:30pm    The Star Wars Holiday Special

2pm            Disney’s A Christmas Carol

4pm            It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

6pm            The Muppet Christmas Carol       

8pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

10pm                   Scrooge (1970) 

 

Christmas is not a time nor a season, but a state of mind. To cherish peace and goodwill, to be plenteous in mercy, is to have the real spirit of Christmas. – Calvin Coolidge

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday 12/2

Noon          The Muppet Christmas Carol

2pm            Jingle All the Way

4pm            Scrooge (1970)

5pm            The Lemon Drop Kid

7pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

9pm            The Ref    

 

I fondly remember watching Mickey’s Christmas Carol when I was a kid. It’s only a half hour long, and let’s face it…Ebenezer Scrooge is a role tailor made for Scrooge McDuck. It’s A Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie is a Muppet homage to It’s A Wonderful Life in which Kermit is on the verge of losing his theater and a guardian angel shows him what life for his friends would be like if he’d never been born. There are a lot of human performers, including Whoopi Goldberg, David Arquette, Joan Cusack, & William H. Macy. I assume that movie was made based on the success a decade earlier of The Muppet Christmas Carol, starring Michael Caine as Scrooge. I am generally not a fan of remakes, and nothing can touch the greatness of the original Miracle on 34th Street, but the 1994 version is decent enough. My love for The Ref goes all the way back to its initial foray onto home video in the 90’s. Denis Leary stars as a burglar forced to hold a bickering couple and their dysfunctional family hostage on Christmas Eve. You won’t see it on television all that much, but I always seize every opportunity to spread the word & encourage folks to seek it out during the holiday season.

 

 

 

Monday 12/3

4pm            Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

4:30pm      The Polar Express

6:30pm      Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

7:30pm      How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

8pm            Frosty the Snowman

8:30pm      Mickey’s Christmas Carol   

9pm            The Muppet Christmas Carol       

 

Peace on earth will come to stay, when we live Christmas every day.  – Helen Steiner Rice

 

 

 

Tuesday 12/4

4pm            Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

4:30pm      Rise of the Guardians

6:30pm      A Charlie Brown Christmas

7pm            The Santa Clause

9pm            Scrooged

 

Mr. Krueger’s Christmas is a half hour special produced by the Mormon Church that initially aired on NBC in 1980. Unfortunately you’ll have a difficult time running across it these days, but if it were up to me it’d become an annual tradition. Jimmy Stewart stars as an elderly janitor living in the bottom floor of the building that he takes care of, and he is a very lonely man desperate for human interaction. The story depicts Willie Krueger having Walter Mitty-esque dreams on Christmas Eve, including singing with the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and being part of the manger scene on the night of Christ’s birth. It is a well-written & very poignant story with a fantastic message. Rise of the Guardians is an animated tale about Santa Claus, The Easter Bunny, The Tooth Fairy, & The Sandman recruiting Jack Frost to help them wage battle against The Boogeyman. I saw it when it hit theaters a few years ago and my biggest takeaway was wondering why Alec Baldwin decided to give Santa a German accent. It hasn’t really made much of a holiday pop culture impact, but that could change.

 

Wednesday 12/5

4pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1994)

6pm            A Christmas Carol (1984)

8pm            The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause

10pm                   The Ref

 

Christmas is a season not only of rejoicing but of reflection. – Sir Winston Churchill

 

 

 

 

Thursday 12/6

4pm            White Christmas

6pm            The Lemon Drop Kid

8pm            The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

10pm                   Scrooged 

 

We are better throughout the year for having, in spirit, become a child again at Christmastime. – Laura Ingalls Wilder

 

 

 

 

Friday 12/7

4pm            Arthur Christmas

6pm            Trapped in Paradise

8pm            The Ref

10pm                   Silent Night, Deadly Night

 

I’m not a horror movie fan by any stretch, but 1984’s Silent Night, Deadly Night is cheesy fun for fans of the genre. It tells the story of a boy who witnesses his parents being murdered by The Jolly Old Elf, then grows up to become a psychotic Santa himself. There were four sequels produced. We’re not including them here, but you’re welcome to check them out if that’s the sort of thing that you’re into. Arthur Christmas is an animated tale about Santa’s inept son Arthur and his Christmas Eve mission to deliver one present that was inadvertently left behind at The North Pole. It has a really unique vision of what The North Pole & Santa’s toy enterprise might look like, and depicts the role of Santa Claus as a generational title passed down from father to son.

 

Saturday 12/8

Noon          The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus

1pm            It’s a Very Merry Muppet Christmas Movie

3pm            White Christmas

5pm            Santa Claus: The Movie

7pm            The Bishop’s Wife

9pm            Jingle All the Way

 

Jingle All the Way is another not-so-great movie that has grown on me just a bit. It stars Arnold Schwarzenegger as a negligent Dad trying to track down the hottest Christmas gift of the year for his son, and Sinbad (whatever happened to him??) as the wacky mailman who keeps getting in the way. The Life and Adventures of Santa Claus is an 80’s Rankin-Bass production of a children’s book written by L. Frank Baum (author of The Wizard of Oz). It is essentially another Santa origin story. The Bishop’s Wife stars Cary Grant as guardian angel sent to provide some guidance to a clergyman & his flock, but things get weird when the angel is smitten with the minister’s wife. A remake called The Preacher’s Wife starring Denzel Washington & Whitney Houston was made in the mid-90’s, but no one knows why.

 

Sunday 12/9

Noon          Holiday Inn

2pm            White Christmas

4pm            Elf    

6pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

8pm            A Christmas Story

10pm                   Scrooged

 

Christmas is the season for kindling the fire of hospitality. – Washington Irving

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 12/10

4pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

6pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

8pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

10pm                   Home Alone

 

I don’t think Christmas is necessarily about things. It’s about being good to one another. – Carrie Fisher

 

 

 

 

Tuesday 12/11

4pm            Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

5pm            The Ref

7pm            Elf

9pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

 

 

My idea of Christmas, whether old-fashioned or modern, is very simple: loving others. – Bob Hope

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday 12/12

4pm            The Polar Express     

6pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

8pm            A Christmas Story

10pm                   Home Alone

 

The Supreme Court has ruled that they cannot have a nativity scene in Washington, D.C. This wasn’t for any religious reasons. They couldn’t find three wise men and a virgin. – Jay Leno

 

 

 

 

Thursday 12/13

4pm            Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

6pm            A Christmas Story

8pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

10pm                   Elf    

 

The main reason Santa is so jolly is because he knows where all the bad girls live. –  George Carlin

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Friday 12/14

4pm            The Family Stone

6pm            Trading Places

8pm            Die Hard   

10pm                   Lethal Weapon

 

Christmas waves a magic wand over the world, and behold, everything is softer and more beautiful. – Norman Vincent Peale

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Saturday 12/15

Noon          A Christmas Carol (1938)

2pm            Frosty the Snowman  

2:30pm      All I Want for Christmas

4:30pm      Christmas Every Day 

6:30pm      A Charlie Brown Christmas 

7pm            The Family Stone

9pm            Die Hard

 

I bought my brother some gift wrap for Christmas. I took it to the gift wrap department and told them to wrap it, but in a different print so he would know when to stop unwrapping.  –  Steven Wright

 

 

 

Sunday 12/16

Noon          A Christmas Carol (1999)

2pm            Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

3pm            A Christmas Carol (1938)

5pm            A Christmas Carol (1984)

7pm            Mickey’s Christmas Carol

7:30pm      Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol

8pm            Scrooge (1951)

10pm                   Scrooge (1970)

 

Ever wonder what people got Jesus for Christmas? It’s like, “Oh great, socks. You know I’m dying for your sins right? Yeah, but thanks for the socks! They’ll go great with my sandals. What am I, German?” – Jim Gaffigan

 

 

 

 

 

Monday 12/17

4pm            A Christmas Carol (1999)

6pm            Trapped in Paradise

8pm            Fred Claus

10pm                   Four Christmases

 

The very purpose of Christ’s coming into the world was that he might offer up his life as a sacrifice for the sins of men. He came to die. This is the heart of Christmas. – Rev. Billy Graham

 

Tuesday 12/18

4pm            Christmas Every Day 

6pm            A Christmas Carol (1999)

8pm            Frosty the Snowman

8:30pm      How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

9pm            Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

9:30pm      Scrooge (1951)

 

A lovely thing about Christmas is that it’s compulsory, like a thunderstorm, and we all go through it together. – Garrison Keillor

 

 

 

 

 

Wednesday 12/19

4pm            The Polar Express

6pm            Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

7pm            Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

8pm            A Christmas Carol (1999)

10pm                   The Family Stone

 

The only real blind person at Christmastime is he who has not Christmas in his heart. – Helen Keller

 

 

 

 

Thursday 12/20

4pm            White Christmas

6pm            The Polar Express

8pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation       

10pm                   The Ref

 

The Magi, as you know, were wise men…wonderfully wise men who brought gifts to the Babe in the manger. They invented the art of giving Christmas presents. – O. Henry

 

 

 

Friday 12/21

4pm            The Muppet Christmas Carol       

6pm            Trading Places

8pm            Scrooged

10pm                   Santa Claus: The Movie

 

Christmas is a day of meaning and traditions, a special day spent in the warm circle of family and friends. – Margaret Thatcher

 

 

 

 

Saturday 12/22

Noon          Fred Claus

2pm            Santa Claus: The Movie

4pm            All I Want for Christmas

6pm            Disney’s A Christmas Carol

8pm            Home Alone

10pm                   Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

 

Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveller, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home! – Charles Dickens

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Sunday 12/23

Noon          Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town

1pm            The Year Without a Santa Claus

2pm            Home Alone      

4pm            Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

6pm            The Santa Clause

8pm            The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. Clause

10pm                   The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause

 

T’was the night before Christmas, when all through the house, not a creature was stirring, not even a mouse. – Clement Clarke Moore

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Christmas Eve

Noon          Elf    

2pm            The Santa Clause

4pm                   Scrooged

5pm            National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

7pm            A Christmas Story

9pm            It’s a Wonderful Life

 

 

I heard the bells on Christmas Day

Their old familiar carols play

And wild & sweet the words repeat

Of peace on earth, good-will to men!

― Henry Wadsworth Longfellow

 

 

Christmas Day

11am                   How the Grinch Stole Christmas! 

11:30am    A Charlie Brown Christmas

Noon           Mr. Krueger’s Christmas

12:30pm    Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

2:30pm      A Christmas Carol (1938)

4:30pm      The Polar Express

6:30pm      White Christmas

8:30pm      Disney’s A Christmas Carol

 

One of the most glorious messes in the world is the mess created in the living room on Christmas Day. Don’t clean it up too quickly. – Andy Rooney

 

Wednesday 12/26

Noon          Home Alone

2pm            Home Alone 2: Lost in New York

4pm            A Christmas Carol (1984)

6pm            Elf

8pm            A Christmas Story

 

Perhaps it is because I don’t have children or work in retail and therefore don’t suffer some of the burnout & fatigue that others do as the holiday season draws to its conclusion, but I usually feel a general sense of melancholy when the clock strikes midnight on Christmas night. All the sudden all of the hoopla is over. Radio & TV stations resume regular programming. Some folks take down their decorations immediately. Well that’s not how we roll here ladies & gentlemen. We’re going to wean ourselves off of the holiday high we’ve been on for the past month and have one more day of Santa Claus, Ebenezer Scrooge, & general Christmas merriment.

 

Thursday, 12/27

Noon          Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July

1:30pm      Rudolph’s Shiny New Year

2:30pm      New Year’s Eve

4:30pm      When Harry Met Sally

6:30pm      Holiday Inn

8:30pm      Sleepless in Seattle

 

Christmas may be over but technically it’s still the holiday season. In the old days people used to celebrate The Twelve Days of Christmas (you may have heard a song about it). Those don’t even begin until what we know as Christmas Day and conclude on January 5. Don’t worry…I’m not going to take things that far. However, even in modern times most of us reserve a bit of the ol’ festive mojo for one more round of frivolity, and so we will conclude our holiday celebration with a day of entertainment revolving around New Year’s Eve/Day or atleast having scenes centered on it. I am certain that most are familiar with the offerings suggested here, but I will dive into 2011’s New Year’s Eve just a bit. It’s one of those rom-coms with a large ensemble cast and interweaving stories, all taking place on…well, I’m sure you can figure it out. It’s not a great film, as evidenced by an atrocious 7% Rotten Tomatoes score. Newsday called it “a perfect example of why the adjective Hollywood is so often used as a pejorative”. The New York Post said that it is “a soul-sucking monument to Hollywood greed and saccharine holiday culture”. Our old pal Ebert wondered “How is it possible to assemble more than two dozen stars in a movie and find nothing interesting for any of them to do?”. But it is that all-star cast (including Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Robert DeNiro, Josh Duhamel, Sarah Jessica Parker, Ashton Kutcher, Hilary Swank, Zac Efron, Katherine Heigl, Michelle Pfeiffer, & Jon Bon Jovi) that is the draw, and I feel alright throwing it in amongst a few other movies that are certified classics, kind of like how a single horn player who isn’t really that talented can just kind of blend in & disappear amongst a large orchestra.

 

 

 

This concept could certainly be modified annually. Most of the movies & specials we’ve chose wouldn’t change all that much from year to year, but there would be nothing wrong with the occasional addition or subtraction. I’d put this lineup against any station out there and am confident that it would be considered by most to be superior to any alternatives. Having said that, I’d love to hear from The Manoverse. What has been included here that you don’t enjoy all that much?? Did I miss something that should be given some love?? As opposed to my viewpoint, do you like watching some holiday classics almost daily each December?? Which adaptation of A Christmas Carol do you prefer?? What is your stance on Die Hard as a Christmas movie?? Leave me some comments and let’s have some back & forth.

Top 25 Fictional Christmas Characters…..Part 1

christbookY’all know how much I love Christmas. To be honest I thought that I had said pretty much everything that could be said about it over the years, but then some new ideas began percolating (I’ve already got something big planned for 2017). I’m obviously a movie buff, and Christmas films were a prominent chunk of my 100 Favorite Movies series a few years ago. So I began pondering what exactly makes these movies great. Sure the holiday subject matter and related accoutrements are important, but a good movie, TV show, or book has to have awesome characters, right?? Christmastime is bursting with memorable characters on film, in literature, & various other media. Many are meant to entertain children, but not all. Several have found life in multiple platforms…songs, cartoons, novels, etc. Who are these characters?? Why do we love them?? What allows them to endure and remain such an integral part of our beloved Christmas season?? I don’t have all christtvthe answers, but as always I do have plenty of opinions. Sit back, dim the lights, put on some soft Christmas music, sip a warm beverage, & enjoy a trip down an evergreen & snowflake tinged memory lane. Feliz Navidad.

 

 

 

 

25     Charles Dickens

No, I do not mean the famous 19th century British author. Well…not really. In the 1992 classic The Muppet Christmas Carol long-beaked, squeaky-voiced Gonzo the dickensGreat portrays Dickens and narrates the action alongside his pal Rizzo the Rat (playing himself). It is a unique yet unexpectedly faithful telling of the well-known story, and “Dickens”’ narration is an amusing & effective technique.

 

 

24     Hans Gruber

We usually associate Christmas with warmth, goodness, and positive, life affirming values. However, every hero needs a villain to create obstacles so that those good gruberthings can be appreciated even more. Gruber is the German thief who dares to hold up an office Christmas party to steal hundreds of millions of dollars in bond certificates in 1988’s Die Hard. He and his group of terrorist thugs ultimately lose to someone we’ll discuss a bit later, but Gruber nevertheless has become one of the most unforgettable characters in the history of holiday cinema.

 

 

23     Scott Calvin

It would be easy to just hand Santa Claus the top spot in this countdown. However, Santa has been presented in so many platforms and his tale told in such a variety of scways that I think we have to look at each of them individually. In 1994’s The Santa Clause we meet Scott Calvin as a middle-aged marketing executive for a toy company who is also the divorced father of a young son that’d much rather spend Christmas with his mother & stepfather, a well-meaning windbag psychiatrist. It’s a very 90’s origin story. The current Santa Claus falls off Scott’s roof on Christmas Eve, Scott & his son Charlie end up at The North Pole, and Mr. Calvin becomes the new Santa Claus. There are two sequels, but both lack the magic of the original.

 

 

22     The Wet/Sticky Bandits

While Hans Gruber is a villain in the traditional sense, the two inept thieves in 1990’s Home Alone and 1992’s Home Alone 2: Lost in New York are comic bad guys wetbanditswhose foolishness and eventual comeuppance are played for laughs. I am somewhat surprised that they never got their own standalone film.

 

 

21     Burgermeister Meisterburger

What a great name!! For those who may be unaware, burgomaster is a 19th century term for “master of the town”, aka the mayor. In the 1970  meisterstop motion animated classic Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town he is the evil force that rules Sombertown (another great name) and has banned toys (and we think our politicians focus on the wrong things). Town is a…unique…Santa Claus origin story, but what makes it truly memorable is this awesome bad guy. I mean really…outlawing toys…how mean is that?!?!?!??

 

 

20     Yukon Cornelius

There are several memorable characters in the 1964 animated classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, but the brash & bombastic prospector whose mission is to corneliusstrike it rich by finding silver and/or gold cannot be ignored. The dude packs heat and has a handlebar mustache for God’s sake!! Very cool. You just know he’s sporting a bunch of tattoos underneath that LL Bean catalog he’s wearing. I’d love to see a Yukon Cornelius spinoff special.

 

 

19     Mrs. Claus

Santa’s wife is kind of interesting to ponder. She’s usually lurking in the background…but she’s almost always there. In the 2002 sequel The Santa Clause 2: The Mrs. mrsclausClause it is even suggested that her role is so vital that Scott Calvin can’t continue being The Jolly Old Elf unless he finds a bride. Mrs. Claus is typically portrayed as a white-haired grandmotherly type who bakes Christmas goodies, is a maternal figure toward the elves, and is a strong & devoted partner to her husband.

 

 

18     The Ghosts

There are four ghosts in Dickens’ A Christmas Carol: Christmas Past, Christmas Present, Christmases Yet to Come, & Jacob Marley. All play brief but vital roles in  marleydriving the action forward. Without these ghosts providing the framework there is no story…atleast not one that makes sense.

 

 

17     Kevin McCallister

He’s precocious. He’s kind of a brat. His family is the worst. But when the chips are down this kid is brave & resourceful while standing up to criminals kevintrying to rob his house (and in the second film trying to burglarize a charitable toy store). Yes the thieves are idiots and yes Kevin could have just called the cops (he ordered a pizza so the phones WERE working), but don’t overthink Home Alone or its sequel because illusions will be shattered. Just enjoy the fantasy of a nerdy little kid kickin’ ass & takin’ names.

 

 

16     Buddy the Elf / Hermie the Elf

buddySanta’s elves are a vital part of the secular Christmas mythos. They are usually portrayed as a non-descript group of little people hard at work making decidedly old-fashioned toys, but there are exceptions. Will Ferrell brings to life a comically childlike elf named Buddy, who as a baby ended up in Santa’s bag on Christmas Eve and was raised at The North Pole. Of course Buddy isn’t really an elf and eventually he makes the trek to New York City to find his biological father. Hilarity ensues. 2003’s Elf has quickly taken its rightful place on the roster of classic holiday entertainment that we enjoy annually and probably will for years to come. Another elf that achieved that iconic status decades ago is Hermie, a hermie1character from the legendary 1964 stop-motion animated TV special Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Hermie is the rare elf who doesn’t enjoy crafting toys. His true passion is dentistry. He ends up uniting with fellow misfits Rudolph & Yukon Cornelius on quite the adventure. I’ve always thought that Hermie vaguely resembles late night talk show host Conan O’Brien.

 

 

15     Linus Van Pelt

Linus is one of Charles Schultz’s most fascinating creations. He’s amongst the youngest of the Peanuts gang, his immaturity symbolized by the fact that he still totes linusvanpeltaround a security blanket and often sucks his thumb. He also believes in a magical creature known as The Great Pumpkin, something for which even his peers that totally buy the whole Santa Claus thing make fun of him. However, Linus is also sweet & sincere (as opposed to the cynicism of many of the other characters) and oftentimes acts as the thoughtful, virtuous voice of reason. For our purposes he makes the cut because of one simple yet profoundly elegant moment in A Charlie Brown Christmas when he reads the scriptural story of Jesus’ birth from the book of Luke. It is a scene that, even in the 1960’s, Schulz had to fight for, and thank God he did.

 

 

14     Frosty the Snowman

“Happy Birthday!!” With those words the creature with eyes made of coal, a button nose, & wearing a silk hat came to life. The tune on which the 1969 animated TV frostyspecial is based is not actually a Christmas carol, but rather a winter song like Jingle Bells, Winter Wonderland, & Let It Snow that has somehow become inextricably linked to the holiday. It just wouldn’t be Christmas without singing that catchy melody or watching Frosty & little Karen hop on a train to The North Pole.

 

 

13     Clarence Oddbody, AS2

I’m not really sure I believe in guardian angels, but it is kind of a neat concept. Clarence is a second class angel, a 293 year old clockmaker who has been in Heaven for clarenceover 200 of those years and still hasn’t earned his wings. I’m not sure what privileges first class angels have that aren’t available to guys like Clarence, and it isn’t made clear what exactly one must do to be awarded wings, but I suppose it’s sort of like receiving a Boy Scouts merit badge. Anyway, Clarence, a naïve, somewhat inept being, is given the task of saving suicidal George Bailey’s life in 1946’s It’s A Wonderful Life, one of our most treasured holiday classics. Clarence is almost a live action version of Linus Van Pelt…benevolent, unassuming, and undeniably affable. He’s a breath of fresh air amongst a group of characters that are a mix of arrogant (Mr. Potter), bitter (George Bailey), drunk (Uncle Billy), & just plain mean (Nick the bartender). And most importantly he gets the job done, saving Bailey’s life and finally ascending to the higher class of angels. Maybe he gets access to a jacuzzi and double frequent flyer miles now?? I don’t know.

 

 

 

This feels like an appropriate place take a break. Stay tuned for Part 2…coming soon!!

 

A Weekend Christmas Movie Marathon

It’s winter. It’s cold. There is snow on the ground. Sure you have stuff to do, but going outside and dealing with the real world justChristmas doesn’t sound all that appealing at the moment. Fortunately it is the holiday season…the happiest, jolliest, most heartwarming time of the year. Okay okay okay…I am probably wearing my rose colored glasses, but that is exactly what this is all about. We work hard all week to bring home the bacon and provide the necessities for ourselves and our families, so I think we deserve the best of what Christmastime has to offer instead of beating ourselves into oblivion, which means that instead of facing the hellish experience that is the local retail scene this time of year (trust me…online shopping is the way to go) you & I are going to have ourselves a good old-fashioned movie marathon. Nothing but commercial free Christmas movies & shows for an entire weekend. Heaven on Earth.

hottoddyNow in reality one would have to plan this activity well in advance with a rather large purchase of DVDs, a trip to Redbox, downloads from Netflix or Amazon Prime, or recording stuff on DVR/TiVo. For our purposes I will just imagine that this has already been taken care of and everything is readily available. The schedule is based on what I perceive as the average “real” life and there are a few rules. We will begin Friday evening after work by first getting comfie cozy & fixing some snacks. My definition of comfortable is a well-worn t-shirt that I’d never wear in public & an old pair of sweatpants. Sexy, huh?? Cozy means that Rocco & I are snuggled underneath a big ol’ comforter in front of the TV even though the heat in The Bachelor Palace is turned to an acceptable level. I sincerely wish I had a fireplace, but life isn’t perfect. The lights are out except for that which emanates from the television. What can I say?? I’m all about ambiance. The snack menu would ideally include hot chocolate (or eggnog) and other assorted junk food (chocolate chip cookies are my favorite). No adult goodiesbeverages for this humble Potentate of Profundity, although I am sure Dr. Seuss, Ralphie, Clark Griswold, & Hermie the Elf would all be hilarious in a whole new way if I was snockered on hooch. The marathon does end at an acceptable time each night because I am not 19 years old anymore and pulling an all-nighter no longer seems like all that much fun. I have learned to embrace the value of a good night’s sleep. And finally I will attend church on Sunday morning and get to bed at a decent hour that night, therefore Sunday isn’t as long of a day as Saturday. I still think we end up doing pretty well, with over 37 viewing hours and watching about two dozen movies & specials. I can’t think of a much better way to spend a weekend this time of year.

 

wreath

 

 

 

Friday

5:30pm      Miracle on 34th Street
We commence with this 1947 classic (in black & white!!) about a Macy’s Santa Claus who believes he is the real deal. The movie opens with the Macy’s 600full-miracle-on-34th-street-screenshotThanksgiving Day Parade, which of course has become the unofficial kickoff of the holiday season. For the love of God and all that is holy avoid the horrendous colorized version like MSNBC shuns truth & logic. There was a remake in 1994 and it’s…okay…but for our purposes we’ll stick with the original.

7:15pm      All I Want for Christmas
I guess this movie was in theaters in 1991, but I’m not sure anyone noticed. I first became aware of it several years later when it allchristmasbegan popping up on TV here & there. The story has nothing to do with the overplayed Mariah Carey song (nor the superb Vince Vance & the Valiants tune), but instead is a charming story about two kids trying to get their divorced parents back together on Christmas Eve.

8:45pm      Lethal Weapon
10:45pm    Die Hard
lethalweaponHey, Christmas movies don’t all have to be about Santa Claus, family hijinks, or anything heartwarming. I enthusiastically endorse Mel diehardGibson & Bruce Willis as two of the best Christmas gifts cinema has ever given the masses. And unlike most other insipid action flicks these films offer a good story, some humor, and yes…even uplifting family values. Plus gunfire, explosions, & car chases. I suppose we can’t leave those out completely.

1am        Mr. Krueger’s Christmas
I had to find a way to shoehorn this little gem in somehow. Jimmy Stewart may be well known for a certainmr-kruegers-christmas-1980b other Christmas film, but in 1980 he also starred as Willie Krueger, the type of lonely old man that society has a tendency to toss aside in their “golden years”. Willie works as a custodian in an apartment building and lives in the basement unit with his cat. He is somewhat of a Walter Mitty-esque character, imagining himself in various situations like conducting the Mormon Tabernacle Choir and kneeling at the manger of the baby Jesus on that first Christmas night. Willie obviously craves human interaction & companionship but doesn’t seem to have much of it. This is only a half hour program but it packs a punch in those 30 minutes. You won’t find it on TV but it is easy enough to track down online and well worth the effort.

1:30am      Elf
We end our Friday night on a jovial, fun, and dare I say jolly note with this 2003 offering starring Will Ferrell as an orphan who grows up at The North ElfPole believing he is one of Santa’s elves. He learns the truth and sets out for NY City (passing through the seven levels of the Candy Cane Forest, the sea of swirly twirly gum drops, & then the Lincoln Tunnel) to find his curmudgeonly father, who just happens to be on The Naughty List. Hilarity ensues. A great way to wrap up the evening.

 

 

Saturday

8am          Frosty the Snowman
8:30am    Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas
9am          Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
10am        A Charlie Brown Christmas
10:30am Mickey’s Christmas Carol
11am       Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town
rudolph3Okay so I lied…we didn’t get much sleep last night. No worries. Buck up little trooper…we’ve got movies to watch!! At any rate, when I cbchristmaswas a kid Saturday mornings meant cartoons. So we will spend this morning watching a half dozen of the most beloved animated Christmas specials of all time. All of these programs have been repeated annually for several decades. A few stretch back to the 1960’s…before I was even born. The Whos down in Whoville, Yukon Cornelius, The Island of Misfit Toys, Burgermeister Meisterburger, evil magician Professor Hinkle…what awesome characters. I am so glad I grew up in grinchsantacominthe era that I did, and even happier that I can still enjoy these delightful stories. There are new specials for kids to enjoy nowadays…Prep & Landing, Shrek the Halls, Merry Madagascar, etc…but I firmly believe that a hundred years from now few of those will still be around while the classics that I love so much will remain.

12pm      Home Alone
1:45pm   Home Alone 2: Lost in New York
The older I get the more questions I have about these films. If the phones are out why is little Kevin able to order pizza?? Why is there a wheelchair in homealonethe McCallister basement?? After going thru all she has for three days why is milk the first thing Mrs. McCallister worries about when she gets home?? You mean everyone on the whole block went out of town for Christmas?? How long was Kevin working those mannequins & the cardboard Michael Jordan (because he had no idea when the crooks were coming back that night)?? Why can’t anyone but Kevin see what a jerk Buzz is?? Why doesn’t Kevin call the police before the Wet Bandits rob Duncan’s Toy Chest, since he knows what time they will be there?? Who thought it was a good idea to give Rob Schneider a job?? Nevertheless I still find both movies quite charming and required viewing during the holiday season. I acknowledge that the sequel isn’t as good as the original, but it is still good enough for these movies to be thought of as a package deal and to be viewed back-to-back in the course of this special weekend.

3:45pm   Holiday Inn
5:30pm   White Christmas
HInnI have to give a shoutout to my brother The Owl for introducing me to these delightful movies many years ago. They just don’t make ‘em like this White-Christmas-1954-christmas-movies-3176714-960-536anymore and that’s a crying shame. Bing Crosby was a multitalented guy that could sing, dance, & act. He does all three in these movies with a little help from Fred Astaire, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, & others. Holiday Inn was made in 1942 and isn’t only a Christmas film but celebrates all of our American holidays. There is an infamous scene set during Lincoln’s Birthday (President’s Day used to be two separate holidays…Lincoln’s Birthday & Washington’s Birthday…until the mid-1980’s) in which Crosby and his lovely lady friend sing in black face. Even I…someone who views people that are perpetually offended & politically correct as silly and annoying…understand how that scene can be considered offensive. However, I disagree wholeheartedly with the modern propensity for television censorship. The movie was made during a different era and represents part of our history that shouldn’t be edited to protect peoples’ sensitive feelings. But I digress. Holiday Inn introduced the beloved song White Christmas, the popularity of which led to the second movie a dozen years later. These are both wonderful films, tributes to a bygone age when true talent & skill were recognized and appreciated.

7:30pm    Scrooged
I must confess that I didn’t see this film…made in 1988…until a few years ago. It just didn’t seem like my cup o’ tea and I’ve never found Bill Murray scroogedto be all that entertaining. Unlike some Saturday Night Live alumni who have carved out semi-successful & enjoyable movie careers I have always felt that Murray’s shtick was best when confined to brief comedy sketches and that when stretched out over an entire movie the act grows tiresome. However, though I can’t honestly say that Scrooged would be near the top of my list of favorite Christmas flicks, I do think it deserves a spot in our movie marathon. Murray receives a lot of support from a huge and rather eclectic cast…Bobcat Goldthwait, John Forsythe, John Houseman, Carol Kane, Robert Mitchum, Buddy Hackett, Jamie Farr, Lee Majors, Robert Goulet, Miles Davis, Buster Poindexter (just to name a few). Olympic gold medalist Mary Lou Retton is in this movie…as Tiny Tim!! Wrap your head around that!! The final scene, featuring the 60’s hit song Put a Little Love in Your Heart, is classic. There are dozens of adaptations of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, but this is probably the goofiest and most unique. It is so out-of-the box that it actually works…much to my surprise.

9:15pm   National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Do any kind of substantial random survey these days asking folks about their favorite Christmas movie and I’ll bet you this third installment in the christmas-vacation-moose-mug-shot-glass-5adventures of the wacky Griswold clan (following 1983’s Vacation and 1985’s European Vacation) would get a good many votes. It gets a lot of play on TV each December, which I hope doesn’t lead to any kind of backlash. Chevy Chase’s post-SNL career pretty much boils down to Fletch and the Vacation series, with this being the best of the latter.

11pm      Viewer’s Choice – A Christmas Carol
It is at this point that I give the power to you…citizens of The Manoverse. There is no shortage of movie carolversions of Dickens’ tale. Some are old black & white films. Some are more recent. Some are animated. Some set the tale in modern times while others are more faithful to the source material. I have my preferences, which I plan on writing about soon. But for the purposes of this project I will leave it up to each individual to pick their favorite. No matter which one you choose it is a great way to end a long but enjoyable day. And maybe when you lay your head down and slip into a sweet & restful slumber you’ll be visited by spirits who will assist in transforming your life for the better.

 

 

Sunday

1pm        A Christmas Story
I trust that church was as awesome as it should be not only during this festive season but each & every week throughout the year. Now we are home acsand have changed back into our lazy clothes. We’re going to skip Sunday dinner today and do some more veggin’ out with festive beverages and snacks. I am well aware that TBS does a 24 hour marathon of this 1983 classic every Christmas Eve & Christmas Day. Most folks probably get their fill of it then. I am not most folks.

2:45pm  Trapped in Paradise
This would seem to be an odd inclusion in our little parade of epic Christmas goodness. You’ve probably never trappedheard of it and even I admit it’s not a very good movie. I have my own reasons for considering it special, but I honestly believe that if y’all give it a whirl you’ll like it too. It has shades of It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Carol, & maybe a little Andy Griffith Show. Originally released in 1994, the story involves three not-so-bright brothers (Nicholas Cage, Dana Carvey, & Jon Lovitz) who rob a bank in a sleepy little Pennsylvania hamlet on Christmas Eve and then, for various reasons, are unable to get out of town. Trapped in Paradise has a brutal 10% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes along with some rather harsh reviews, but I don’t care. I like it and that’s what counts.

4:45pm   The Ref
Not only did the 1994 holiday season bring us Trapped in Paradise, but just a few months earlier we got this gem starring Denis Leary as a thief forced refto hold a bickering couple (and their wacky family) hostage on Christmas Eve. I don’t know why a Christmas film was released in March. It is very strange and maybe one reason why it is a vastly underappreciated movie even two decades later. Unlike many holiday classics it is rarely on TV in December, which is unfortunate. Trust me…if you haven’t seen The Ref you must correct that void in your life right now. Leary is hilarious and Kevin Spacey…in a comedic precursor to his Oscar winning role as a husband & father drowning in domestic misery in 1999’s American Beauty…takes the experience to a sublime higher strata. In contrast to Trapped in Paradise this film received a lot of good reviews and has a 70% fresh rating on Rotten Tomatoes. I concur.

6:30pm   The Santa Clause
I’m a sucker for Santa Claus origin stories, and though this movie doesn’t go back to St. Nick’s beginning it does postulate that Santa is a role that is clauseplayed by a never-ending parade of ordinary guys who just happen to be in the right (or wrong) place at the right (or wrong) time…a fascinating concept. At the time of the film’s release Tim Allen was amongst the biggest television stars in the world due to his show Home Improvement. I like this movie much better than I ever liked that TV show. Two sequels were made in 2002 & 2006 (they probably waited a little too long) and both are alright I suppose. Feel free to watch the entire trilogy when time permits. However, for the purposes of this project I am including only the original. It is fun and has that magical glow that makes Christmas films special.

8:15pm   The Polar Express
I don’t know what else I can say about this movie that I haven’t previously said on multiple occasions. It is enchanting. Not long ago I was speaking with a former co-worker who has two small children and she told me that their family “doesn’t do Santa Claus” because she & her husband want their children to focus on the true meaning of Christmas. I admire the intent but disagree with the method and The Polar Express illustrates exactly why. I understand that there are many devout Christians who hate the idea that Santa, on some level, seems to have replaced Jesus as the center of the polarexpressholiday. However, let’s paint outside the lines just a bit. Those that do allow Santa Claus to be part of the Christmas celebration oftentimes concede to their kids that the guy at the mall or atop the fire truck in the parade isn’t the “real” Santa, that he works for the real Santa Claus who is busy up at The North Pole preparing for the big day. So, why can’t we…using similar logic…say that Santa is a friend of Jesus who is helping to spread His message and shining His light in the world?? The Polar Express has wonderful themes like friendship, faith, generosity, loyalty, innocence, & hope…ideals that Jesus would certainly approve of. In Matthew 14:19 Jesus says ““let the little children come to Me, and do not hinder them, for the kingdom of Heaven belongs to such as these.” In Matthew 18:3 Jesus says that “unless you become as little children, you will by no means enter the kingdom of Heaven.” Santa Claus is a symbol of childhood that helps people of all ages regain a measure of purity & wonder, if only for a brief moment each December. I see nothing wrong with that. Your mileage may vary.


10pm      It’s A Wonderful Life
There is only one perfect way to wrap up this awesome weekend movie marathon…with the best Christmas film ever made (B&W!! Stay away from the colorized version!!). I have talked about IAWL here before so there’s not much left to say. It is such an oddity in so many ways. The idea originated as a short story by Philip Van Doren Stern, a Pennsylvania man who had authored several books about The Civil War. In 1943 Stern self-published The Greatest Gift and gave it to a couple hundred friends as a Christmas present. Who knew that it would evolve into a tradition that millions still enjoy each Christmas?? One of those who received the story was a Hollywood producer and the rest is history. IAWL was released in December 1946 but was IAWL_2marketed as a romantic comedy…not a Christmas film. It had good but not great reviews and though it was profitable it certainly wasn’t a blockbuster. It wasn’t until a few decades later when local TV stations began showing IAWL countless times…often very late at night…during the holiday season that it became a beloved classic. On the surface a story about a guy contemplating suicide on Christmas Eve seems like the unlikeliest of uplifting family movies, but there is something about it that just seems to speak to the masses. Maybe there is a part of all of us…at one time or another…that feels dissatisfied, unfulfilled, & overwhelmed. Maybe there is a part of many of us that has contemplated escape in some form, whether it be thru something as drastic as suicide or a less messy approach like divorce, relocation, or simply quitting our job. Maybe there is a part of most of us that has seen the dreams of our youth fall by the wayside to be replaced by a life that doesn’t seem to measure up to those big plans we once had. And hopefully the majority of us receive the message, whether it be thru a kindhearted guardian angel or some other outlet, that as long as we have a friend or two, a roof over our head & food to eat, and take advantage of the opportunity that God provides each day to do good and make a difference then life is mostly pretty darn great.

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Okay, so…that’s it. Have fun. Relax. It’s Christmas…delight in it!! And please let me know in the comments what changes you would make for you own custom Christmas Movie Marathon. How would you change the timing?? What films would you choose differently than me?? What kind of snacks would you munch on?? As Charles Dickens once said, “Happy, happy Christmas, that can win us back to the delusions of our childish days; that can recall to the old man the pleasures of his youth; that can transport the sailor and the traveler, thousands of miles away, back to his own fire-side and his quiet home.” I wish you peace & joy during this wonderful season and in all the days of your life.

Top 25 Christmas Carols…Part 1

I love Christmas. Love it. I enjoy the movies, the food, the lights, the aromas, and the general overall buzz around the holiday season. Now I grant you, commercialization has become an issue, and I sometimes feel that many of us get so caught up in the hustle and bustle that it all becomes one big pressure cooker instead of the sublime delight it always should be. And in an increasingly amoral society where Christianity has become an unlikely villain the true reason for the season is not only oftentimes lost, but sometimes overtly censored. However, be that as it may, I cannot control how others’ live their lives and I won’t let them spoil my joy.


A vital component to ones’ pleasure during this time of the year is the music. Christmas carols are just splendid. Some are soft, sentimental, and full of spiritual reverence. Others are amusing and frivolous. Our modern catalog of carols run the full width and breadth of an extensive range of genres and styles, but they all have one thing in common…they are beloved by the masses. And because of their popularity and flexibility most Christmas tunes have been covered by a plethora of artists over the course of the decades. So any particular song you like has probably been performed by everyone from country superstars to crooners to rockers to full orchestras. What I am presenting here is a two part special …my Top 25 Christmas carols.


When making this list I took several factors into consideration. Some songs are just so ubiquitous that one either loves them or hates them…period. Sometimes one particular version of a song is extremely memorable and has made it a holiday staple. I’m not discriminatory when it comes to subject matter. In other words, you will see some religious songs and some fun songs. There are particular artists that I tend to gravitate toward, and certain genres I like better than others. I like jazzy, bluesy versions of songs. I like big band or orchestral arrangements. I like crooners like Sinatra, Dean Martin, Harry Connick Jr., and Michael Buble. I like people who can actually sing…so it’s unlikely that any kind of post-modern rap, alternative, or bubblegum pop will frost my cupcake. I am also very fond of simple, stripped down instrumental interpretations…lyrics can be important, but not always necessary. Most of these songs have been around for many many many years, and I’m a huge advocate of “if it ain’t broke don’t fix it”. I suppose I’m either old fashioned or a traditionalist, depending on the spin one chooses to utilize. At any rate, this is my list…one can either agree or disagree. Enjoy.

 

 

 


25 The Chipmunk Song

The Chipmunks were created in the late 1950’s and have enjoyed an on again-off again, intermittently successful career over five decades. As a child of the 1980’s I fondly recall the Saturday morning Chipmunks cartoon. But their first success is still their best…an almost too simple tune about being anxious (as most kids are) for Christmas to arrive and wanting toy planes and a hula hoop.

 

 

24 God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen

This is one of the oldest carols, having been written in the fifteenth century. Unabashedly and overtly delivering the message of the birth of Jesus and the gift of salvation to the world, it’s a tune supple enough to be energetically sung by a choir or congregation, or solemnly played by any manner of instrument.

 

 

23 It’s Beginning to Look Alot Like Christmas

Maybe this should more accurately be categorized as a pre-Christmas song, one intended to set the mood and prepare us for the onslaught. Most 21st century parents would give anything if all their kids wanted were hopalong boots or dolls that can talk as opposed to the mega-expensive video games, computers, and various other electronic toys today’s children demand, and a lesson in economics can be gleaned when pondering a “five-and-ten” in comparison with their modern counterparts, dollar stores. I dig almost anything that hearkens back to a less complicated time, even if, in reality, those times weren’t much less complicated. Perry Como and Johnny Mathis did the two best covers of the song.

 

 

22 I’ll Be Home for Christmas / Home for The Holidays / Please Come Home for Christmas

I made this a tie for one reason. These three songs have a common thread…home. However and wherever one defines “home”, it’s where we want to be for Christmas. I’ll Be Home for Christmas was written and recorded during World War II and was extremely significant to soldiers and their families. Bing Crosby was the original artist, but I’m not married to that particular version per se…countless artists have done perfectly wonderful covers. Perry Como said it best in Home for The Holidays when he sang “no matter how far away you roam, if you want to be happy in a million ways, for the holidays you can’t beat home sweet home”. Please Come Home for Christmas has a couple things going for it in my universe. It was originally a blues carol, and its best covers have been done by two of my favorite bands, The Eagles and Bon Jovi. The Eagles version is especially popular and usually in heavy rotation on your local radio station. These are melancholy songs, but that’s okay…Christmas is often a bittersweet season.

 

 

21 Let It Snow! Let It Snow! Let It Snow! / Meli Kalikimaka

Another tie, another reason. Both of these songs have attachments to movies. Let It Snow is played at the end of my favorite action flick, Die Hard, which I consider a Christmas movie even if no one else does. Meli Kalikimaka (Hawaiian for Merry Christmas) is prominent in Chevy Chase’s classic Christmas Vacation. Bing Crosby does the definitive version of Mele Kalikimaka, while Let It Snow is done best by original artist Vaughn Monroe but a viable alternative is the Dean Martin cover. Let It Snow is technically a winter song and makes no references to Christmas at all, but it has become so closely associated with the holiday season that it qualifies as a Christmas carol.

 

 

20 O Come All Ye Faithful/ Adeste Fideles

This isn’t a tie. It’s the same song in two different languages. Adeste Fideles was originally written…maybe…in the 13th century. No one knows for sure. It was translated into English as the more familiar O Come All Ye Faithful in the 19th century. The words of the song exhort us to celebrate the birth of Christ, to adore and behold The King. However, I have to say that the best versions of this song are audacious, grand, thunderous ensemble pieces by orchestras like The Boston Pops or the Mannheim Steamroller.

 

 

19 Hark! The Herald Angels Sing

In the opening I spoke of some songs being ubiquitous during the Christmas season. This is a perfect example. With lyrics written in the 1700’s by Charles Wesley (brother of John, the founder of Methodism) and paired with music composed by Felix Mendelssohn a hundred years later, this is just one of those songs that IS Christmas. It speaks of everything Christmas should encompass: glory to The King (Jesus Christ, not Elvis), peace, mercy, joy, triumph, and righteousness. Like other songs it speaks about the birth of Christ and what that means to the world, and since that is the whole point of Christmas it’s fine with me if the message is rehashed in as many songs as possible. Off the top of my head I cannot think of one singular cover that stands out…they’re all great since it’s a pretty difficult song to mess up. It lends itself well to orchestral or instrumental versions, but choral versions with the words are probably my favorite.

 

 

18 Santa Claus Is Coming to Town / Here Comes Santa Claus

As we grow into adulthood our thoughts about Christmas begin to evolve. Those of us whose faith is extremely important understand and revere the fact that the birth of Christ is the centerpiece of the holiday. Adults who don’t consider themselves to be particularly spiritual appreciate things like home, family, and sentimental memories. But for kids Christmas is all about The Big Guy, the Jolly Old Elf, the fat man in the red suit…Santa Claus. So it makes sense that there would be a plethora of Christmas carols dedicated to Kris Kringle. The two most pervasive of these have been covered by an endless array of artists with mixed results, but they are so wonderful because they are so descriptive. They paint such a vivid picture of the mythology of Santa that anyone who doesn’t know the story can have it re-created in their mind just from these songs. Here Comes Santa Claus was written in 1946 by cowboy Gene Autry, who also sang the definitive version. About Santa, the singer sings  “he doesn’t care if you’re rich or poor, he loves you just the same…Santa knows that we’re God’s children, that makes everything right…fill your hearts with Christmas cheer cause Santa Claus comes tonight”. What a great message. Santa Claus Is Coming to Town was written in 1934 and is a sort of cautionary tale for children. It warns them that Santa knows when they are sleeping and awake, knows when they’ve been bad or good, and will be making a list and checking it twice so he can divide it into two categories: naughty and nice. Call it gentle discipline or call it mind games…but it works and has scared millions of kids into being good little boys and girls. Bruce Springsteen might have the best known cover of the tune, but I think that’s simply because it’s so odd to hear such a gruff and tough rocker singing a children’s Christmas carol.

 

 

17 Away in a Manger

One of the seminal moments of the Christmas season for me is sitting in church during midnight service with nothing but the soft glow of candles in the window to light the sanctuary as the congregation softly sings. This moment usually encompasses three songs, one of which is Away in a Manger. Published in the late 1800’s, it has been credited by some to famed 16th century theologian Martin Luther, but there seems to be a lot of disagreement on the facts. At any rate, it’s a beautiful song that takes us back to the night of Jesus’ birth, the night He was born in a stable because there was no room at the inn. The best covers of the song seem to be by country artists, possibly because the majority of them still seem to have some virtue remaining and are therefore capable of singing songs of faith with some sense of authenticity.

 

 

16 Joy to the World

Joy to the World is another song that have been adopted as a Christmas carol but wasn’t originally written as one. As a matter of fact, it’s actually about Christ’s Second Coming, not His first. Nevertheless, it is such an ingrained part of the holiday season that we won’t quibble over details. It’s a tune best performed in as loud and energetic a fashion as can possibly be mustered…afterall, the book of Psalms directs us to make a joyful noise unto the Lord. So I tend to like boisterous choral or booming orchestral versions of the song. As a matter of fact, when it comes to Joy to the World I am not sure any singer or band could be subtle and hushed, although I am sure some have tried.

 

 

15 Carol of the Bells

I’ve seen the words, and they are quite lovely and appropriate. However, the best way to enjoy this one hands down is a strictly instrumental version. Carol of the Bells is a Ukrainian carol written early in the 20th century. I’m not sure where it ranks in general popularity since even if you do know the words (and most don’t) it’s not really something you sing as you trek thru the neighborhood on your annual church singalong…the pace is rather quick and not caroling friendly. But I like the tune a lot. It’s kind of a Christmas theme song, one of those tunes that you hear in commercials, in bumper music during talk radio shows, at the mall on the loudspeakers, etc. It’s everywhere, yet not so overdone that it grows tiresome. Plus I think I may have learned to play it in high school as part of the concert band’s holiday show.

 

 

14 Angels We Have Heard On High

You know this one…the one where the singer bellows out at the top of their lungs “Glo-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-o-o-o-o-O-ri-a in Ex-cel-sis De-o!”. When sung by a great choir it’s absolutely beautiful, but even in just a commonplace group of worshipers or carolers it is usually sung with such fervent spirit that it doesn’t matter if not everyone can actually carry a tune. The aforementioned refrain is Latin for “glory to God in the highest”, which pretty much sums up what Christmas is, or atleast should be, about. I love orchestral versions of the song as well. The music lends itself well to things like French horns, cornets, and trombones. It doesn’t seem to get as much love as a lot of other carols, but I’ll take Angels over Grandma Got Run Over By a Reindeer or I Saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus any day.

 

 

13 Holly Jolly Christmas

A friend of mind in college once told me I looked like Burl Ives. I’ve always had an…ample…midsection, and at the time I was sporting a goatee.

Anyway, Burl Ives, as some may or may or may not recall, was a folk singer/actor/entertainer from the 1940’s through the 1970’s. But he is most likely best known to most, especially anyone under the age of 35, as the voice of Sam the Snowman, narrator of the perennial Christmas classic Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. Even as an adult I cannot wait each Christmas season for that TV special. And even though Burl’s performance of the song Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer isn’t at the top of the list (more on that song later), he did contribute two other tunes…Silver & Gold and Holly Jolly Christmas. Holly Jolly Christmas could probably best be described as…catchy. It’s just got that kind of beat. And while some carols are melancholy, many show reverence to Christ, and others are plainly meant for kids, Holly Jolly Christmas is uplifting, positive, and fun without being the least bit childish. It talks about things like “the best time of the year”, “mistletoe”, “cup of cheer”, and “friends you know”. This is the kind of song that should put you instantly in a good mood no matter what’s going on in your life.

 

 

12 The Twelve Days of Christmas

First of all…yes…it’s not by accident that The Twelve Days of Christmas just so happened to end up at number 12. I’m poetic like that. Sue me. Secondly, a little refresher for those who might not know what in the world the 12 days of Christmas actually means. After all, we live in a world where we start celebrating” Christmas almost before Halloween is over and these days almost certainly before Thanksgiving has even arrived. Of course by “celebrating” I mean retail stores and anyone else who has figured out a way to make a buck off of the birth of Jesus Christ. Anyway, originally the 12 days of Christmas were December 25-January 5, followed by Epiphany on January 6 (this is the day that the Magi, aka The Three Wise Men, arrived to visit the baby Jesus…not on Christmas as so many Christmas plays portray). Encompassed within this timeframe is Boxing Day on December 26. Contrary to what some may think, Boxing Day is not the day Canadians and Englishmen come bearing gifts to Muhammed Ali, Mike Tyson, and Floyd Mayweather Jr.  January 5 was known as Twelfth Night and was the conclusion to the holiday season. The entire 12 days was a long festival of gift giving & merriment. So basically in the Middle Ages folks in England did what we do today, only they did it in 12 days instead of 2 months and they did it later. December 25 was the actual beginning of the season for them, whereas in modern times most of us are exhausted and ready for the whole ordeal to be over by the time the actual holiday arrives. What we call New Year’s Eve/Day was when they were really into the swing of things. By January 6 we’ve already moved on with our lives and those crazy cats were just winding down. Personally I’d LOVE to see our country revert back to this old fashioned way of doing things, but that and $2 will almost buy me a cup of coffee.

As far as the song, there is a modern folktale that says it was written in code to teach Catholics about their faith at a time when Catholicism was illegal. Supposedly the True Love is God, the Partridge in a Pear Tree is Jesus Christ, the Two Turtle Doves are the Old & New Testaments, the Three French Hens are The Trinity, the four colly birds are the Four Gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, John),  the Five Golden Rings are the Pentateuch or first five books of the Old Testament, the Six Geese-a-laying are the six days of Creation, the Seven Swans-a-swimming are the 7 gifts of the Holy Spirit (wisdom, understanding, counsel, courage, knowledge, piety, and fear of the Lord), the Eight Maids-a-milking are the Beatitudes (see Matthew 5:3-12), the Nine Ladies Dancing are the Fruits of the Spirit (see Galatians 5:19-23), the Ten Lords-a-leaping are The Ten Commandments, the Eleven Pipers Piping are the 11 faithful Apostles, and the Twelve Drummers Drumming are The Apostles’ Creed. Whether or not this story is accurate is unknown and quite honestly to me is irrelevant. Especially in an era when anything pro-God is treated dismissively the story is treated with a complete lack of respect. Even if the song wasn’t originally written for this suggested purpose I think it’s a great way to interpret it.

 

 

11 Silver Bells

How come the only time we hear bells is around Christmas?? Bells are quite charming and should be heard more often. However, the other 11 months’ loss is the Christmas season’s gain. Silver Bells was written in 1950, and unlike a lot of other Christmas carols that emphasize rustic, old-fashioned, pastoral settings this tune recognizes the hustle and bustle that overcomes a city during the holiday season. What’s funny is that a half century later even that description sounds quaint and charming. This song holds a special place in the hearts of millions of us who grew up watching the annual Bob Hope Christmas Special, which ran on NBC for over 40 years. Three traditions were a huge part of the Hope Christmas show: the introduction of the All America College Football Team, Hope closing the show with his theme song Thanks for the Memory, and a duet featuring Hope and a much younger, very attractive starlet singing Silver Bells. I didn’t realize until I was actually writing this how much of an indelible mark those specials made on me. The last one aired over 15 years ago and Bob Hope himself has been gone for about 6 years. Thanks for the memories indeed Bob.