2012 Holiday Movie Lineup – Where’s the Holiday Movie?
If there’s one thing missing from the lineup of 2012 holiday movies, it’s just that, the holiday movie! Yes, this season we seem to have something for everyone from James Bond’s triumphant return in Skyfall, to Daniel Day-Lewis’ Academy worthy portrayal of Lincoln, to Ang Lee’s breathtaking Life of Pi, Peter Jackson’s The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey in super high def 48-frames-per-second and the reinvention of Monsters, Inc. in 3D. We even have a spectacular musical, Les Misérables, several comedies including Parental Guidance and This is 40.
However, what we are missing is the holiday movie that is about, well, the holidays. This beloved tradition goes back to almost the beginning of cinema. What would the holidays be without gathering the family to see James Stewart and Donna Reed in It’s a Wonderful Life, or Bing Crosby in Holiday Inn or White Christmas. Don’t forget about Miracle on 34th Street, Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, Babes in Toyland, Scrooge and scores of other movies that celebrate the spirit of the season. Or, how about the more recent films, Bad Santa, Four Christmases, Elf, How the Grinch Stole Christmas, The Santa Clause, Fred Claus, Arthur Christmas, Jingle All the Way, Home for the Holidays, Polar Express and even Eight Crazy Nights? Maybe Rise of The Guardians, which features a Cossack sounding Santa Claus voiced by Alec Baldwin, is as close as we come this year. This animated fantasy brings Jack Frost to the North Pole to help save the dreams of children, but it’s not really in the tradition of classic Hollywood Christmas movies.
What Makes a Christmas Classic?
So, what makes a great Christmas or holiday movie? Well, there are the oldies mentioned earlier. Movies filled with Irving Berlin tunes, fake snow, dancing and crooners, or movies that tug at the heartstrings to make even adults cry with emotion. It’s A Wonderful Life is a great example of a perfect holiday film. Released right after New Year's in 1947, It’s a Wonderful Life was not ahuge hit at the time, but like a comfy sweater, it grew on people and gave them a good, warm feeling. Resurrected from the celluloid scrap heap by TV, the movie eventually became as much a staple of the holiday season as a turkey dinner and presents. It doesn’t hurt that Frank Capra, often maligned for creating “Capra-corn” infused this movie with such heartfelt goodness and good triumphing over all, that almost everyone who watches it gets caught up in the magic of its simplicity.
Two other holiday favorites are A Christmas Story and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.
A Christmas Story
A Christmas Story has a pretty simple premise. Our young hero, “Ralphie,” wants a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. Despite repeated admonitions that he’ll shoot his eye out, Ralphie steadfastly sticks to his BB guns and makes his case to his parents, teacher and even Santa. The film is joyfully set in an America we can all fondly identify with– tongues stuck to flag poles, bullies on the way to school, fuzzy slippers, clinkers in the coal furnace, holiday parades and the neighbor’s dog destroying Christmas dinner. Even better yet, all of these images are seen through the bespectacled eyes of one eight-year-old boy who finds that his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring is just a way to sell Ovaltine. Peter Billingsley, who is now a movie director (Couples Retreat) and continues to act (Iron Man) is the perfect personification of what it’s like to be a kid in Indiana, or just about anywhere for that matter, at Christmastime.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
Family is a consistent theme in classic Holiday films and that means the “Clark Griswold” family too! When relatives descend on Clark’s home for the holidays, nothing is safe. Electrocuted cats, too-tall Christmas trees, smoldering toupees, sewer gas explosions and excessive decorating are the norm. Yet, at the center of it, National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation is an affirmation of selfless generosity and kinship. When Clark doesn’t get his Christmas bonus, derailing his dream of a backyard pool for his family, his cousin Eddie tries to make things right by kidnapping his boss. Chevy Chase’s portrayal of Clark as a confident, yet confused and bumbling family man who just wants to have a nice Christmas is spot on – he’s nothing but heart. And, Beverly D’Angelo as Clark’s radiantly beautiful and always understanding wife, is the mom every family would love to have. In spite of all the comedy and noise, both A Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation are truly as heartfelt as It’s a Wonderful Life in their affirmation of family and love.
Classic holiday movies are ageless. We can watch them again and again, reliving all the memories of our own holidays past, present and future. Whether you’re seeing a new movie in theatres, or curling up in the comfort of your home, movies are a great tradition and a wonderful way to spend time with your family.
Question: What is your all-time favorite holiday movie?
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