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T3: Christmas Classics

Happy Holidays everyone! Were having a Cat Fancy Christmas here at the blog and in honor of this very special occasion, I thought I’d do a jolly top ten on some of my favorite holiday classics. Now we’ve all embraced our own holiday movies over the years and these just happen to be some of my favorites, so let’s unwrap these bad boys.

10. Gremlins (1984)
: It’s Christmas time in Kingston Falls when Billy Peltzer’s father brings home an unusual pet for his son. Purchased from a mysterious Chinese man, this friendly little creature is called a mogwai which Billy names “Gizmo”. There’s just two things Billy should have paid closer attention to; 1) Never get it wet and 2) Never feed it after midnight, of course things don’t quite go as according to plan. Gizmo gets wet spawning five new mogwai and after these mischievous new mogwai get their hands on some grub at the ungodly hour, they transform into something that’s not so cute. Definitely one of the darker christmas classics but a Christmas classic nonetheless. It’s got humor, horror and plenty of holiday cheer. Director Joe Dante basically made a live action cartoon and this Spielberg produced classic has been a staple of the holiday season ever since. Just flip over to AMC around Christmas time and your bound to get a taste of these feisty little scrooges.

Magical Moment: When Billy’s mom fends off the house from mischievous gremlins. We see everything from Billy’s mom wrestling a Gremlin filled Christmas tree, to her popping one in the microwave. Probably more messy than magical but definitely memorable.

9. Bad Santa (2003)
Easily the most vulgar film on this list. Bad Santa is dirty, offensive and gross but what makes it so redeeming is that it still has a heart. Following the misadventures of two thieves Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) and Marcus (Tony Cox), who work as a mall santa and his trusty elf in order to rob malls, Bad Santa is a laugh riot and one of my favorite holiday themed films of this decade. Of course what seals the deal here is the relationship between Willie and a young boy named Thurman and all of their hilarious exchanges such as;

Kid: Santa!
Willie: Yeah.
Kid: You’re bringing my present early?
Willie: No
Kid: But I never told you what I wanted.
Willie: I said I didn’t bring it, dipshit.

There’s just something about the innocence of the kid and his relationship with this surly fake santa, that makes this film quite compelling. The dialogue is hilarious and the characters are classic, if you haven’t seen this then you should check it out. It’s the perfect way to spice up you holiday!

Magical Moment: Willie delivering Thurman’s Christmas present even with the cops on his tail. That was pretty messed up but it was heartfelt.

8. Elf (2003)
Elf hasn’t been around for that long but it seems like everywhere I go it’s already been embraced by many as a staple of the season. The story is simple, sweet and the perfect vehicle for it’s masterful leading man Will Ferrell. You just got to love Buddy the elf and his enthusiasm for the holidays. Everybody loves “fish out of water” stories and Elf turns that concept into something completely off-the-wall and lovable. Fun for the whole family, child or adult, Elf is a delightful holiday romp that’s always worth a watch during the Christmas season.

Magical Moment: Hard to say as I enjoy all of Buddy’s encounters in New York. Though I am quite partial to the portion of the movie Buddy spends inside the toy department of Gimbels.

7. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
It’s no cinematic triumph but one thing is for sure is that they sure nailed down the perfect comedic tone for the holidays. There’s tons of moments I think that in our own twisted ways can relate to. I mean I don’t know about everyone else but I’ve definitely had moments where Clark reminds me of my own dad. The perfect personification of the upbeat American dad and is enthusiasm really makes this movie a blast. Not to mention this a perfect venue for Chevy Chase to display his skills in physical comedy which he’s definitely got down. There’s also some great dysfunctional relatives here too, Cousin Eddie comes to mind as he was brilliantly played by Randy Quaid.

Magical Moment: Remember when Clark hangs from the gutter and that window breaks and stuff like that? I love that everything that could go wrong in this movie goes wrong and it makes for some pretty funny stuff.

6. Home Alone (1990)
John Hughes was basically your “go to guy” screenwriter of the 80s and 90s and with Home Alone he yet again hit another one out of the park. Starring the fresh talent Macaulay Culkin as the pesky yet crafty Kevin McCallister, Home Alone is an incredibly imaginative film with a strong cast, loads of off-the-wall gags and many touching moments (I mean it made George Costanza cry). Kevin facing off against two bumbling crooks Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) is stooge-esque comedy at it’s best. Another key component of why this film works so well, is it’s fantastic holiday score by who else but John Williams. Definitely one of those movies I used to watch over and over again as a kid and even today I hold it dear to my heart.

Magical Moment: When Kevin’s creepy old neighbor comes to his rescue and turns out to be nice guy… That always gets me.

5. A Christmas Carol (1951)
There’s got be about a bazillion versions of this classic tale by Charles Dickens and there’s definitely a good share of both bad and good ones. I’ve seen plenty adaptations but I have to say my favorite is easily the 1951 British version starring Alastair Sim. Many great man have taken on the role of Ebenezer Scrooge; George C. Scott, Michael Caine and even Patrick Stewart, but if you ask me Alastair Sim made the role what it is today. His goofy appearance and ghoulish voice set the perfect mold for the crusty old miser, but his hilarious and heartwarming performance is what really leaves you in awe. The script is well crafted but want can you expect when the man who penned the script also co-wrote The Wizard of Oz? That’s a sentimental masterpiece in the bank and this penned to perfection, showcase of strong acting and moving moments is in mind the definitive version of this iconic tale.

Magical Moment: The ending is a definite tear jerker.

4. Die Hard (1988)
“Ho ho ho now I have a machine gun.” That’s what I’m talking about! It made a star out of Bruce Willis, brought the action genre to new heights and is probably the greatest movie to ever combine explosions with christmas. Die Hard is an adrenaline rush of unforgettable one liners, through the roof action, and most importantly holiday cheer. The characters are fun and clever and the direction and script are tight and punchy. John McClane is a classic character and I’ll always welcome him into my own at this time of the season.

Magical Moment: Remember when he walked on the glass? That was awesome…

3. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
A movie centered around the belief that a department store Santa is indeed the real Santa Claus is a pretty fun premise to start with. Though that does mean that the quality of your movie basically lies within the strength of your Santa’s performance, but here there are no worries. Edmund Gwenn (Who dons the iconic red cap) gives what’s probably the greatest performance by any actor to ever play Santa. He was so good that he even won a “Best Supporting Actor” Oscar at that years ceremony. A guy playing Santa winning an Oscar, how cool is that? Though it’s not that surprising as he’s marvelous in the role. You can’t count out the loving supporting cast either, Maureen O’Hara, John Payne and Natalie Wood don charming characters that leave for a warm viewing experience. All in all Miracle on 34th Street is fun for the whole family and hopefully it’s age won’t weigh it down from being passed on to future generations.

Magical Moment: When Santa speaks dutch to the foreign girl who desperately wanted to see Santa.

2. It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Definitely up there with some of my favorite movies of all time It’s a Wonderful Life is probably one of the most emotional and powerful films I’ve ever seen. The legendary Jimmy Stewart gives what’s probably his most iconic performance of his entire career. The characters are all lovable and memorable in their own ways, even the douchebag Mr. Potter (Played by the very talented Lionel Barrymore) is a hoot. George Bailey’s relationship with Mary (Donna Reed) is romance at it’s finest and who doesn’t love other oddball characters like poor old Uncle Billy (Thomas Mitchell) or the wise yet silly guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers). This is probably my favorite movie on this list, but I didn’t give it the top spot for one reason. As much as I love it, it’s not really about Christmas (aside from the finale) rather it focuses more on the decisions we make in life. I mean the sacrifices George makes for the people around him and all his selfless gestures truly brings a tear to your eye. Nothing short of an American classic and a must see.

Magical Moment: When the whole town comes to aide George in his financial woes and George’s brother says “To my brother George, the richest man in town.” Yeah, you just try and fight back those tears of joy.

1. A Christmas Story (1983)
Can you think of any other movie that so perfectly embodies what it means to be a kid around Christmas? Bob Clark’s 1983 classic is the perfect representation of not only the magic and wonder of the holidays, but also the disfunction that can sometimes follow. The Parker family are really a bunch of screwballs that I think everyone can relate to in one way or another. Melinda Dillon is great as Ralphie’s concerned mother, while Darren McGavin easily gives the best performance of his entire career as Ralphie’s “Old Man” and even the kids are pretty good. Peter Billingsley gives a surprisingly professional performance considering his age and all the over kids have their moments. Though what really ties this all together is Jean Shepherd’s narration. The whole basis for the movie was based on the true life experiences of Jean Shepherd (who wrote the film along with Bob Clark) and his radio friendly voice perfectly suits the midwest 40s setting. If you haven’t seen this you’re probably insane as TBS runs a 24 marathon every year (I Watched it twice today) and it just wouldn’t be Christmas without A Christmas Story

Magical Moments: I really can’t decide, I mean there’s when Flick gets his tongue stuck to the flagpole, going out for “Chinese Turkey”, all of Ralphie’s fantasies… You know you have something special when there are that many memorable moments.

Honorable Mention
Jingle All the Way (1996): It’s dumb but it’s just so zany that it’s hard not to enjoy.
Scrooged (1988): A sarcastic Bill Murray + Christmas ghosts = Awesome
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992): A surprisingly entertaining take on the story.

Merry Christmas to all and to all a good night!

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