My Guide To Essential Holiday Viewing

We’re heading into the holiday home stretch so it’s time to fire up your devices and get in the spirit of the season by watching all the stuff I watch!  Before we proceed, you might think there are glaring omissions to this list but you’d be wrong.

No Grinch? – No.  The cartoon Grinch is dated and the live-action Grinch is creepy.

What about A Christmas Story? – It’s overplayed and we’ve all seen it a few times too many.

Why is this titled ‘holiday viewing’ if they’re all Christmas related? – Because that’s the holiday I celebrate.  I can already hear the cries of Christmas bias from my Jewish friends.  Both of them.

Anyway, let’s do this.

A Garfield Christmas: Unfortunately, some son-of-a-bitch bastard took this DVD out of print for several years but it is finally available again as a Walmart exclusive.  Garfield, Odie and Jon leave the quiet suburbs for an even quieter Christmas at the Arbuckle farm.  Hilarity ensues.  Shame it’s never shown on TV anymore.

National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: This is the best Christmas movie, hands down.  We all have relatives we’d rather not see, we all have ungrateful bosses, and we all have our minds on that little hottie down at the department store when clearly we should be focused on other things.  You won’t find a funnier Christmas movie than this, and I absolutely love how the advent calendar keeps the passage of time in perspective.

A Charlie Brown Christmas: The most revered Christmas special of all time still puts up huge ratings numbers for a reason: it’s great.  Sure, Snoopy’s antics are cute but there’s also the message about the blatant commercialism we all buy into year after year.  Bear in mind, this special was made 50 years ago before we were spending thousands on tablets and games consoles, so the message continues to resonate for that reason.  It’s not quite enough to slow down our holiday spending, though.

Die Hard: I’m a guy.  Next.

The Polar Express: Here’s how much of a freak I am – despite this movie being available on DVD at the time, I paid big bucks to see it in IMAX 3D in Atlantic City all the way back in 2005.  If you’ve never been to Atlantic City during Christmastime, it’s a cold and sad place.  Wall-to-wall lonely bastards plunking their retirement money into penny slots hoping to win the grand payday, or at least get a comp for the buffet.  I wasn’t sad though, because I had Tom Hanks and a handful of no-good kids to put a smile on my face in three dimensions.  This has to be a full-on holiday classic by now, and you should own it already.  At minimum, watch it on Netflix with the fam.

Bad Santa: Since 2004, this deliciously twisted Christmas tale has been an annual indulgence of mine.  If I have to explain how darkly hysterical this film is, you clearly haven’t seen it.  It’s also on Netflix right now so just watch it already.  After all, you might want to learn who sat on that mall Santa’s lap before your kid (A horny bartender who likes anal.  Oh, spoiler?).

Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: Back in my day, we didn’t have Pixar.  We had stop-motion, and it was glorious!  Everyone’s favorite fictional reindeer teams up with an orally-fixated elf in an attempt to run away from his problems.  Along the way, they come across a mentally ill prospector and an island of singing garbage.  Years pass and Rudolph finally develops the stones to go home, only to find out a monster captured his parents while they were out looking for his wayward ass.  Is it any wonder this thing got on the air at all?  It’s so dark and convoluted but the songs are catchy so I guess we all just let it slide.

Lethal Weapon: While the third Lethal Weapon is my favorite (blasphemy, I know), the first one takes place at Christmas and being such an incredible franchise, it deserves to be included here.  Besides, nothing says “holiday season” like kidnapped family and coked-up dead hookers.

Home Alone: Before smartphones, internet and leashes for kids, Kevin McCallister was left to fend for himself thanks to his terrible parents and even worse extended family.  A sanitized-for-your-protection Joe Pesci and bumbling Daniel Stern try to break into his house to steal all the choice stuff Kevin hasn’t ruined in the last few days.  Lots of slapstick and a syrupy ending are just what you need to warm your holiday cockles.

Trading Places: This movie has it all – greed, loss, desperation, revenge, Jamie Lee Curtis’ bare breasts, and inter-species intercourse.  Also serves as a firm reminder that Philadelphia is nothing but trouble.

A Muppet Christmas Carol: For my money, this rendition of the Charles Dickens story is the absolute best version ever committed to film.  Plus, it’s narrated by a weirdo and a rat.  Jim Carrey and George C. Scott have nothing on Michael Caine as Ebenezer Scrooge.  The songs are heartwarming, the jokes are great, and hey – it’s the Muppets.

A Muppet Family Christmas: Yeah, The Muppets get two on this list and do you know why?  Because The Muppets and Christmas are the chocolate and peanut butter of entertainment, that’s why.  The Muppet gang surprises Fozzie’s mom at her farm for a holiday celebration that includes appearances by the Fraggles and the Sesame Street tenants – hence Muppet Family Christmas.  I guess there was something quaint about ditching the bustling city for a quiet farm-based Christmas back in the extravagant 80’s.  This is another DVD which has been out of print for years but thankfully, some wise soul uploaded the broadcast version to YouTube so go get a faceful.

Mickey’s Christmas Carol: Obviously, I refuse to detach from any of the holiday programming from my childhood.  I used to listen to this one on cassette (link provided for those under 21) and while the audio wasn’t taken directly from the animated special, the performance is similar enough where I can appreciate the fully-visualized version.  Goofy as a ghost seemed like the right thing to do in this one.  It figures he’d buy the farm before the others did.  Get it – buy the farm?  Because they’re animals?  Anyway…

Love Actually: The tagline for this was “the ultimate romantic comedy” and it absolutely lived up to it.  Movies that try balancing stories about multiple couples who are all connected are usually confusing and unsatisfying, but this movie nails it.  Hugh Grant cracks me up in everything he’s in (yes, I’m serious) and it’s great to see Liam Neeson play a heartfelt fatherly character before he became the archetype for mature ass-kickers.  Overall, it’s a romantic comedy for adults that is hung around the theme of Christmas and all its joys and pains.  Enjoy after you’ve put the kids to bed.

Well, that’s it.  Feel free to comment below about how I left your favorite off this list.  Just remember that I don’t care what you think because this is MY list.  Happy Holidays!

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