Happy Holidays from Reckless Video
The holiday season is upon us, and it apparently has been since Oct 31½ st . Christmas lights are up, we’re preparing for snow, we’re rushing through the Thanksgiving dinner in hopes that we might reach the subsequent holiday a liiiittle bit faster, and all of the Rankin Bass holiday movies are awaiting their freedom from the stuffy confines of the attic. It’s time to celebrate some of the great moments in human history by huddling around the magnificent, radiant glow of the television.
I know it may sound like I’m judging this action, but I assure you that I will be doing the exact same thing. If you’re going to follow on this path of celebration, you may decide to just watch one of the many holiday classics on T.V., but I would recommend skipping over the royal pain of commercial interruptions and just renting something.
However, over the years there have been some really bad holiday movies. I mean like, REALLY bad, okay? Like, “tis the reason that there are so many suicides around this time of year” bad. Anyway, some really, really crap movies are out there, and it’s important to know what not to waste your time on. I’m here to tell you which movies deserve to be watched, ignored, or just plain defaced, at such a mentally fragile time of year. I apologize to those who celebrate Kwanzaa, Chanukah, Winter Solstice, Dong Zhi, Yalda, or other holidays. I was unable to find many movies in these departments, and I’m not a big fan of Adam Sandler’s Eight Crazy Nights adaptation.
Films for the Holiday Season
Home For the Holidays (PG-13)
Holly Hunter plays the victim of unfortunate circumstances in a movie that may change the way you look at Thanksgiving. Claudia Larson is a mother who, in short order, gets fired from her cool job and is informed by her 16-year-old daughter (Claire Danes) that she’s going to sleep with her boyfriend. In a move of pure masochism, she heads to Chicago to spend Thanksgiving with her family. Naturally, pandemonium ensues, and so does the hilarity. This is a great movie because it doesn’t pretend that people this quirky could coexist peacefully. Robert Downy Jr. plays the bizarre, yet supportive, gay brother, Cynthia Stevenson plays the sister who tries to transcend her crazy family in order to create her own picture-perfect brood, and a whole host of kooky characters (including Anne Bancroft and David Strathairn) join in to create an unforgettable Thanksgiving. Let the turkey fly.
Planes Trains and Automobiles (R but should be PG-13)
This movie has such relatable characters, you’ll feel like you’re freezing with them. This holiday classic is the story of a man’s desperate struggle to get home for Thanksgiving by plane, train and (you guessed it) automobile. Neil Page (Steve Martin) shares a love-hate companionship with traveling salesman Del Griffith (John Candy). “Where’s your hand?”
“Between two pillows.”
“Those aren’t pillows.”
This is the perfect combination of comedy and calamity, and though it is rated R, there are only a couple of scenes that would need skipping in order to make it family friendly.
Love Actually (R)
In “six degrees of separation” style, the movie manages to be a star-studded chick flick that even guys could like. It’s Christmastime in London, and people are falling in love all over the place... that’s about it for the plot. The movie follows the love stories of a prime minister (blinkingly played by Hugh Grant), a young boy, two adult movie stand-ins, and a washed-up rock musician (plus others) in a way that SOMEHOW manages to work. Each of the stories is great, but the one that lights up the entire movie is that of the rock star (Bill Nighy). His casual diatribes on the radio, talk show drug promotions, and a strip bet for the New Year highlight the tale of this hedonistic has-been. Filled with an all-star cast including Colin Firth, Liam Neeson, Laura Linney, and Keira Knightly, this is one movie that you will definitely enjoy. Warning: this movie is not for the little sugar plums, even though it is much tamer than it sounds.
Christmas Story (PG)
I have only known a handful of people who hadn’t seen this movie, and those people I chose to shun. The story of Ralph and his Red Rider BB gun will always warm the cogs of my heart (cockles are for the seashore), and hopefully this can be passed to the next generation. Whether it’s the “triple dog dare”, “You’ll shoot your eye out”, the Scott Farcus debacle, or that iconic leg lamp, this movie is possibly the second most culturally relevant and quotable Christmas movie of all time. All I can say is, this film has staying power—not FRA-GEE-LAY in the least.
Bill Murray pulls all the comedic stops on this one, so you better enjoy it. Sorry… got a liiitle scroogy there. The movie is essentially a modern-day rendition of “A Christmas Carol” played out for a TV network executive, except there’s Carol Kane as a sadistic ghost of x-mas past, Bobcat Goldwaite as a disgruntled employee, the network is actually PUTTING ON A Christmas Carol, and it’s waaaaaaaaaaaaaaaaay funnier. The scene that always gets me in this movie is the one where Murray gives his impersonation of Richard Burton to a group of homeless people which, trust me, warrants several re-windings.
Muppet Christmas Carol (PG)
I’m sorry about the two Dickens adaptations on one list, but this is the movie that made me love Gonzo and Rizzo, and I just couldn’t help it. Again, this is the Dickensian plot, BUT THIS TIME IT HAS MUPPETS! Gonzo and Rizzo play Charles Dickens and his little rat companion, Michael Caine plays Scrooge, and Kermit and Piggy play the heads of the Cratchet family. All of the period juxtapositions (Rizzo rifles through the snow at one point to find a pack of jellybeans) and comedic wit (it’s funny) are perfect, and if you want to introduce your kids to the story there’s no better way to start. Even if you’re not one for musicals you’ll… Aw c’mon man, it’s the Muppets!
Rankin Bass Collection (G)
At the pinnacle of Christmasosity teeters this set of videos! The legendary Rankin Bass collection has survived throughout the decades, wielding its shaky, clay-sculpted fists at the fierce contender of Time! Rudolph has burned down the competition with his nose’s radiation-soaked glow! Old Man Winter has eaten the remains of his enemies with his fearsome maw! And the Heat Miser has singed away the opposition with his flare for brutality... That being said these movies are really cute, and filled with kind lessons, and I think they’d be a good choice for the kids.
Miracle on 34th Street (G)
This movie is a good example of true faith, good salesmanship, and neurotic psychologists. A man by the name of Kris Kringle is hired as Santa for the Macy’s Thanksgiving parade and then, soon after, is hired by the store as a full-time in-store Santa. Only after they hire him do they realize an important bit: he thinks that he really IS Santa Claus. Though it certainly is dated (whatever happened to the pseudo-English accent of the 1940s?) and a little cheesy (oh nostalgia, how I miss thee), it’s fun, lighthearted and a classic to be enjoyed.
It’s A Wonderful Life (PG)
This is probably the best movie on the list. I can’t help but watch Jimmy Stewart and be awestruck at the fluid talent that man had, especially as George Bailey. George is a man who, after a lifetime of moral triumph, finds himself down on his luck. Fortunately, God, Joseph, and a fledgling angel named Clarence are well-aware of the man’s noble soul. So on the night that George decides to kill himself, they send Clarence down to earth to save him. George states at one point that he regrets his entire existence, and wishes that he never was born, and in one of the best dystopian sequences of all time, God grants that wish. The movie is fantastically put together, and incredibly uplifting. Please do not deny your kids a movie this good.
Happy Holidays and Happy Viewing,