Tag Archives: Christmas movies

Nightmare before Christmas

The stress of the impending Christmas holiday has caught up with me. Maybe you can relate. Perhaps by the end of the day today, you will have reached your travel destination or your visiting relatives have arrived on your doorstep.

You haven’t sat down for weeks, having cleaned up the wrapping supplies in time to set the dining table, and then pulled them back out after a last-minute addition of a relative to the festivities. You have survived the melee that is the grocery story parking lot with one wit and come screeching into your driveway on two wheels.

Television dramas and sitcoms like to show Christmas movies surfacing in dreams during the holiday season. You’ve seen It’s a Wonderful Life featured in characters’ dream sequences, as Brothers & Sisters did a few weeks ago.

One of the favorite movies in our house is National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. Last night, it became my own personal dream sequence. If you know the movie, think through it with me, and I am betting you could conjure your own dream sequence featuring the characters of your holiday.

One member of the family, exceedingly idealistic about holidays, has unrealistically high expectations for this Christmas, willing to go to great lengths for a Normal Rockwell experience. The next door neighbors, who don’t celebrate Christmas, shake their heads at the spectacle.

A backwoods cousin arrives, bursting with contentment and enthusiasm while getting on everyone’s nerves with his annoying habits and clumsy foibles.

Arriving with the in-laws is a cacophony of conflict, with each trying to out-shout the other, everyone talking at the same time.

Meanwhile, tensions at the office escalate when the traditional holiday bonus doesn’t come and the protagonist tries to put up a cheerful front with the family. He suffers pangs of nostalgia about his own childhood Christmases and struggles to keep the spirit amidst the chaos.

Christmas Eve arrives, along with the doddering aunt and uncle, who have one mental marble between them. She doesn’t know her own name and says the Pledge of Allegiance when asked to say grace. He sets the Christmas tree on fire with his cigar. Don’t you just hate when that happens?

In one of the final scenes, the idealist exclaims, “Merry Christmas, Holy Sh**, where’sthe Tylenol?”

Sweet dreams!


Filed under Family and Friends, Holidays, Movies, Television and Radio

Santa’s stereotypical surprise

Before we move beyond the subject of Christmas movies, there was one tucked away on our shelf that I had forgotten about. This may be a good thing, though watching it could also be illustrative of how things have changed in the last 60-plus years.

When our son was little, someone gave us a video cassette of three Christmas cartoons that were originally made in 1947. One was called “Santa’s Surprise.” It’s a sweet story about children from around the world pulling together to do something nice for Santa when he returns to the North Pole after a busy Christmas Eve.

When we first watched it with our son more than 20 years ago, our initial thought was, what a nice message about grateful children giving back to the good soul who had given so much to them.

Then we noticed the well-intentioned, socially-acceptetable-in-1947-but-not-in-modern-times gaffe.

Stowed away in Santa’s sleigh were children representing the continents of the world—each in his or her ethnic stereotype, complete with contrived, exaggerated dialects and background music. Just guess which child laundered Santa’s clothes? And which one shined Santa’s boots?

Needless to say, in 1990, we tucked this video away in the far corner of the cabinet, preferring to play what we as parents considered more enlightened portrayals of the world’s citizens. Yeah, like Mr. Bean?

Anyway, for instructive and historical purposes, have a look at “Santa’s Surprise” for yourself. If you don’t have eight minutes, fast forward to the 2:42 mark.

Then maybe you can help your children thank the esteemed Mr. Clause in his or her own way.

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Filed under Holidays, Movies, Television and Radio

Film festivus

Guess what? We just got a new VCR. I’m very excited.

Yes, you read it correctly. VCR, as in video cassette recorder; perhaps you’ve heard of it.

I don’t watch many video cassette tapes, but my husband does. He buys cases of used classics and sits down very deliberately to watch them. So when our machine melted down recently, we put in a rush order.

About 99 percent of our Christmas movies are on VHS and I do like to watch those. Apparently all the good holiday specials were shown right after Thanksgiving. I missed every last of them when they aired on regular TV.

As Grinchy as I am this time of year, I rely on my Christmas favorites to lift my spirits and get me in the mood.

I like to kick things off with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and then watch it again two weeks later, when things start to get tense around here; it helps me keep my sense of humor.

I listen to White Christmas while I’m putting the icicles on the tree and, if no one’s looking, I dance a few steps along with Vera-Ellen. I always wanted to dance like she did.

Last Saturday, The Washington Post ran a list of its readers’ top-ranked holiday-themed movies and TV specials. How the Grinch Stole Christmas came in first, while a movie I’ve never heard of—Emmett Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, came in 20th.

All the popular classics are there, the ones you’d expect, but it was a bit disappointing for me to see many of our family’s holiday musts absent from the list.

When our son gets into town, he’ll be wanting to crank up the VCR for such video treats as Casper’s First Christmas, Jingle All the Way (see it for no other reason than a hilarious performance by the late Phil Hartman) and Merry Christmas, Mr. Bean. Take my advice and pull any one of these out of the bargain bin the next time you’re out. That is, if you still have a VCR.

Of course, A Charlie Brown Christmas is my favorite serious holiday movie. Between Vince Guaraldi’s piano soundtrack and Linus’ recitation of the Christmas story, it’s all I need. What movie or television special must you see every year?


Filed under Family and Friends, Holidays, Movies, Television and Radio, Uncategorized