Staff Picks: Holiday DVDs
Our choices, in no particular order:
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - Almost everything in this movie — well, short of the kidnapping part — has happened to my family at one time or another during the holidays. Fun fact: There's a scene that pays homage to the Frank Capra classic "It's A Wonderful Life" (another one of my favorites); his grandson, Frank Capra III, was actually an assistant director on "Vacation".
A Christmas Story - This movie is what Christmas is all about: Kids getting the toys they want and family disasters. Our family loves this movie so much, we have a "major award" (aka leg lamp) on a table in our living room right now.
A Charlie Brown Christmas, The Little Drummer Boy, The Grinch Who Stole Christmas (the original animated feature NOT the Jim Carrey movie), Frosty the Snowman, and Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer - My husband and I are like a couple of kids. We MUST watch these. We'll watch them and decorate the tree and bake cookies.
The WPIX Yule Log - My favorite Christmas television program is New York's very own WPIX Yule Log. For those of you who are unfamiliar with it, the Yule log is a closeup of a crackling fireplace. Traditional Christmas music plays, looped over and over. It airs on Christmas Eve and/or Christmas morning. I'd like to say that the reason I hold this program in such high regard is a Norman Rockwell childhood memory of opening presents while the Yule Log plays on the nearby TV. But the real reason I love the Yule Log is because every year dozens of people awaken from eggnog-induced stupors all over the city and call 911 screaming that their TVs are on fire. And now, with nationwide syndication and its very own DVD, the Yule Log is available for everyone to enjoy.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation - If you haven't seen this movie, then you don't know what Christmas really is (at least for me). Not only is full of great humor, but it hits home to all of us at least in some small way (or is that just me?). From extreme sledding down giant hills, to dealing with your horribly annoying family, to having your boss kidnapped in the middle of the night and delivered to you at home with a bow tied around him (who hasn't wanted THAT?) ... this movie has entertainment for all.
Elf - I normally don't like Will Ferrell-type comedies, but Elf for some reason strikes a chord with me. Perhaps I like the fact that it's set in New York or maybe I'm enchanted by Zooey Deschanel's voice (her rendition of Baby, It's Cold Outside is excellent). Whatever the case may be, it's one of my favorite Holiday movies — this coming from someone who normally can't stand fuzzy holiday movies. And extra props to the writers who went old school New York and resurrected Gimbell's (which, as any New Yorker knows, was the store that occupied the space where Macy's now sits).
Home Alone - How can one forget the overly well-spoken 8-year old left to his own mischief while his family leaves for France? I still laugh as I watch (for the millionth time) how a little boy makes his house a hand-burning, foot-slicing, face-smashing obstacle course. A bit unrealistic, perhaps, but still manages to tie in the warmth and togetherness that unite us all at Christmas. A fantastic soundtrack adds some choral and timeless music favorites to sweeten the deal.
Christmas in Connecticut - Strangely enough, this became my favorite holiday movie the year I spent Christmas in Southwestern Utah. The deserts and 60-degree weather just didn't scream "winter wonderland" for me, but the snow-laden, farmhouse setting of this movie did. After about 20 minutes of the film, I completely forgot how annoying cacti with Christmas lights are.
Mary Poppins - Holiday movies are all about the classics and one of my favorites is Mary Poppins. I know it's not exactly a Christmas movie, but it invokes the same kind of nostalgia that all the best Christmas movies do (and ABC Family also just aired it as part of their Christmas programming, so I think it counts). I love it when Mary Poppins rides in on her umbrella, pulls all the crazy, big stuff out of her bag, and takes the children to go jump into a sidewalk painting, where Bert dances with the penguins and Mary wins the horse race just by sailing through on her carousal. That's a movie I'll never grow out of.
It's A Wonderful Life - My all-time favorite. It's a movie I've watched multiple times through the years. It deals with a bit darker themes than some Christmas movies (George does almost jump off a bridge, after all), but you still get that same little twinge inside when George realizes life is worth living and runs down the street yelling Merry Christmas to everyone and everything he sees. It just makes you feel good to be alive. And, I still believe that every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings!
Daniel de Grandpre
A Charlie Brown Christmas and Mr. Hankey, The Christmas Poo (tie) - These are tied for my favorite Christmas epic ever because they basically are the same story: a tale of redemption, with a kid just trying to be taken seriously and a Christmas object that people don't like at first ... but eventually fills their hearts with joy.
Die Hard - It's got everything you could want from a holiday classic: An L.A. location, a huge office tower, guns, violence, and drug-use. Oh, and it kinda, sorta takes place around the X-Mas season. (There IS a decorated tree in one of the opening party scenes, in case you're not sure). I watch this every year to get me in the holiday mood. Yippie Ki-Yay, Santa Claus.
The Year Without A Santa Claus - Rankin and Bass stop-motion holiday shows blow my mind with X-Mas cheer. Howver, most of their other efforts are WAY better, overall, than this one. So, why pick it? Once your eyes feast upon the song and dance numbers from Heat Miser and Cold Miser! Your world? Yeah, consider it rocked! Er... wow.... Apparently, I am a man of stark contrasts: I like my X-Mases with violence AND dancing puppets....
Well, no matter if you choose one of our, or you have your own favorite shows, we hope your holiday season is full of laughter and joy. And maybe, just maybe, a little John McClane.
Jeff Somogyi is a dealnews Senior Staffwriter. Like Heat Miser, He's Too Much!