Since we're in the Christmas season, I thought I'd toss up my list of best Christmas movies.
I know these types of lists stir immense passion and debate, but what better way to ring in the holidays than some arguments, right? If you vehemently disagree with my lists, you know where to send the hate mail.
Without further adieu, away we go with the top five, in no particular order.
First, is “Love Actually,” the 2003 British Romantic-Comedy that uses a stellar ensemble cast--Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Emma Thompson, Bill Nighy, Liam Neeson, Keira Knightley, Laura Linney, Alan Rickman, etc.--to tell multiple interconnected stories in the weeks leading up to Christmas.
Written and directed by Richard Curtis, who also wrote terrific films like “Four Weddings and a Funeral,” and “War Horse,” this movie is always shown liberally on T.V. around Christmas--and rightfully so.
It's sweet, funny, and charming, and watching so many accomplished actors is delightful.
Hugh Grant, for example, will never be mistaken for the world's finest thespian, but there's nobody better than him in “rom-com” roles--and he's right in his sweet spot in this movie as Great Britain's prime minister. He slips into the role with aplomb, and he's never more affable than when he dances to the Pointer Sisters' “Jump (for My Love)” after a triumphant speech. And whenever the movie threatens to become too saccharine, Bill Nighy punctures the preciousness with true hilarity as an aging, crude, boozy, and subversive rocker.
Oh, and the movie also has an encompassing soundtrack, with songs from Kelly Clarkson, The Beach Boys, Maroon 5, Joni Mitchell, and Mariah Carey's Christmas anthem “All I Want for Christmas is You.”
None of the numerous film versions of “A Christmas Carol” ever equal the written version of Charles Dickens, but it's such a wonderful work that I need to put at least one screen adaptation on this list--and that one is the 1951 version starring Alastair Sim. To me, it seems to do the best job of conveying such indelible characters as Scrooge and the three ghosts as it moves from haunting, to despair, to, finally, redemption.
Moving from a movie without much humor to a movie that's all comedy-- albeit very, very dark comedy--it's “Bad Santa.”
Yes, it's extremely profane, cynical, and mean-spirited, but it's also utterly hilarious. Billy Bob Thornton is basically the worst Santa Claus you could ever imagine; he drinks, he swears, his libido never stops, and he robs the department stores where he serves as jolly Old St. Nick. For all of you who love everything about Christmas, this movie will offend every fiber of your being. But, for those who don't mind seeing a few sacred cows mutilated, this film's irreverence is for you.
Also a comedy, but not nearly as dark as “Bad Santa,” is “National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation.” (Then again, I've been to funerals that were more positive than “Bad Santa,” so maybe the above qualifier isn't necessary.)
Page 2 of 2 - Anyway, it's by far the best of the entire National Lampoon's Vacation series, and Chevy Chase embodies the obsessive drive to make a perfect holiday that many people develop during this season. Despite having more things go wrong around him than Gene Krantz did during the odyssey of Apollo 13, Chase remains sanguine and intractably insists on having a “good old-fashioned family Christmas.”
It's one uproarious set-piece after another, complete with bickering relatives, power failures, an explosion, a kidnapping, a crazed squirrel, and a burned tree.
Finally, no list is complete without the iconic “Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”
No, it's not technically a movie, but the 1966 T.V. special has become an institution, and the term “Grinch” has become ingrained in our language. Given voice by Boris Karloff, who also narrated the show, the Grinch is an unforgettable character.
(One word of caution: the 2000 film version with Jim Carrey should be avoided like nuclear waste. It's ghastly, turgid, and insipid, and the eyes of the Cindy Lou Who character will give you more nightmares than anything you'll see on Halloween.)