Welcome to the Saturday December 20th DVR list. Saturday represents the “Christmas push”. An idea that Christmas fanatics like me, resent at least slightly. Indulge me if you may. I approach the holidays as a ‘season’ if you will. It’s one large period of time for me that starts with Halloween and doesn’t end until after New Years. For the me the journey is more important than the destination. A minority held approach I’ll grant you. Most people treat it like a countdown to the 25th. You can see this in the way these networks promote their Holiday programming. “Countdown to Christmas”, “25 Days of Christmas”, etc. Although I’ve been watching Christmas movies on my own time since about the 20th of October, I acknowledge that the 20th of December (or the last Saturday before Christmas) signifies the big push. This is where the networks start to break out the big guns. While there is a significant number of classics, there are still some made for TV gems in the mix. There’s a lot to get through, so I’ll attempt to keep these a little shorter.
Scrooged. Spoiler alert. I can and will (not now) make the case that Scrooged is the best Christmas movie of all time. That is not a typo. That’s a story for another day, so make sure to check back to NJATVS often for the Top 25 Christmas movies debate to be posted very soon. Scrooged is a modern (back in 1988) take on the Dicken’s classic A Christmas Carol. Instead of a bitter financer, the Scrooge character manifests itself as Frank Cross President of IBC, a television network. While his network attempts to put on a 40 million dollar live production version of A Christmas Carol, his former boss sets him on a path to experience Christmases past, present and future. At it’s conclusion, the changed Frank Cross delivers the single greatest line in the history of Holiday programming. And every moment in between make for a great adaptation to a classic. The cast alone is worth your time if you’ve never seen this one. Bill Murray as Frank Cross, Karen Allen (Indiana Jones), John Forsythe (the original Charlie of Charlie’s Angels and Dynasty), John Glover (Lionel Luthor from Smallville), Bobcat Goldthwait (Police Academy), Carol Kane (a staple of 1980s comedies too frequent to mention), Alfre Woodard, Jamie Farr, Robert Goulet, Buddy Hackett, John Houseman, Lee Majors, Mary Lou Retton, a ‘young’ Regina King, Anne Ramsey, Wendie Malick, Michael J. Pollard, and Brian Doyle-Murray just to name the big ones I can remember. Even if you’ve seen it multiple times, its worth another go around. I probably watch this movie 20-30 times a year.
A Very Merry Mix Up. Alicia Witt stars opposite Mark Wiebe in the made for TV happy accident romantic holiday movie. For the Christmas enthusiast this is worth a look. Another in a long line of cute but predictable ‘someone finds love at Christmas’ type of movie. Alice is all set to spend Christmas with her boyfriend’s family, the Mitchums. Will, the boyfriend, is a motivated seller professionally who comes from a well to do family. The kind of family that does exactly the same thing every year for the Holidays which is as little as possible. A very cold family whose members don’t even seem to enjoy each other’s company. Alice finds herself with the Mitchums and her enthusiastic affection for the Holidays couldn’t be happier for being with the Mitchums. And that’s because she’s enjoying the company of the wrong Mitchums.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966). This is the original Christmas special that I’m pretty sure every American has seen and enjoyed. Not to be confused with the Jim Carrey/Ron Howard live action feature film that while good, is not the original. Record this one and continue the family tradition of sharing it with the kids in your family.
Arthur Christmas. In this British made, animated movie we get to see more of the Claus’ than just St. Nick. In this story, Arthur is a Christmas enthusiast just happy to help. Arthur’s brother Steve, is the motivated type. Out to ascend the ranks and take over as Santa one day. Grandsanta is the elder retired former Santa. Arthur discovers that one child in particular is about to be forgotten at Christmas. With the help of Grandsanta hoping to relive the glory days, Arthur heads out to deliver a toy to this one child. It’s a lovely story and absolutely worth your time. Whether you run out and buy this movie or plan to watch it repeatedly, is up to the individual.
Snow Bride. This is another cute but predictable romantic Holiday made for TV movie. In this one, Greta (a TMZ style reporter) infiltrates a wealthy family (essentially a made up version of the Kennedys) as a woman interested in Brian Tannehill. Is she there to get and report on the dirt for her sleazy gossip rag? Or does she turn her back on her assignment in favor of love?
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Like Scrooged, a no doubt ‘no fast forward’ movie. No matter how many times you’ve seen Christmas Vacation, it never gets old. Every scene just as quotable as the one before it. The story of Clark W. Griswold Jr’s attempt to have an old-fashioned family Christmas with extended family on both sides. For my money, easily the best National Lampoon’s movie to date.
Christmas Under Wraps. Tell me if you’ve heard this one before. Candace Cameron of Full House fame is a stiff who is married to her job. She travels to a place where she is surrounded by the Christmas spirit and ultimately falls in love with a man she wouldn’t normally have given the time of day to. Yep, we’ve seen this in Moonlight and Mistletoe and Let it Snow before Christmas Under Wraps. In this version she is a young doctor aiming for a prestigious residency. She is forced instead to take on a residency in a small town in Alaska. Then eventually she must choose between the lifelong goal (residency in Boston) or the small town practice and man she’s now in love with in Podunk Alaska? As a secondary detail, is this small town of Garland Alaska the base of Santa’s operation? Or just a quaint small town where everyone acts just a little cryptic?
Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas. After watching the original animated Christmas Special from 1966, you can then move over to Ron Howard’s live action adaptation starring Jim Carrey as the Grinch, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon, Clint Howard and the child actor turned front woman for the band “The Pretty Reckless” Taylor Momsen as Cindy Lou Who.
The Christmas Ornament. The Christmas Ornament is two things happening before we even get to the plot. This movie stars Kellie Martin who most of you in my age bracket or older will remember as Rebecca “Becca” Thatcher from the show Life Goes On about a family and their son Corky who has Down Syndrome attempting to lead a normal life. And Cameron Matheson who has parlayed his soap opera career + Dancing With The Stars into a successful run in the Holiday movie circuit. In this movie Kathy is a widow who lost her husband at Christmas (sound familiar?) and she is trying desperately to not observe Christmas due to the emotional pain or remembering. Tim runs a local tree business and relative Christmas gift shop. Less on the cute side but still predictable. If you told me you had to keep your viewing of Christmas movies under a certain number, I’d say this one might not make the cut. That said, there’s nothing wrong with it. It is solid for what it is. A little too serious and depressing for much of the movie, but worth watching at least once if you have the time.