I give a soft recommend to “Better Watch Out” – now available to stream for 99 cents on Amazon Prime – for anyone who hasn’t seen the trailer. The twist is great, and the rest of the film is unusual enough to be compelling. But those who have seen the trailer can skip it, as they already know the whole movie, just in condensed form.
I’m not as big of a Christmas movie guy as I am a Christmas TV guy, but I have settled on my answer – at least for now – when someone asks me my favorite Christmas movie: “Gremlins”(1984). Growing up, I was more familiar with the 45 rpm read-along record, which in many ways is actually scarier than the film thanks to the ominous narrator and the intense music from the Buena Vista library that can also be heard on “Star Wars” records like “Planet of the Hoojibs” (In another link, the voice actor for Billy also voiced Luke Skywalker).
Is “Die Hard” (1988) a Christmas movie? According to a new poll from Public Policy Polling, it is not. Sixty-two percent say it’s not a Christmas movie, 13 percent say it is, and the rest are undecided. The debate is more balanced (and heated) – perhaps with an edge toward those saying it is a Christmas movie – on sites that are likely to draw cinephiles, such as “Die Hard’s” IMBD page or the comment threads below this Entertainment Weekly article.
Ah, Christmas Day. For a “Star Wars” fan, that means listening to Chewbacca croon “Silent Night”and watching the “Star Wars Holiday Special” on YouTube, right? On second thought, Life Day (the GFFA’s Christmas equivalent) really should be observed on Nov. 17, the date the “Holiday Special” premiered 36 years ago, so I’ll skip the re-watch for now. Actually, I don’t think I’ve ever made it through the entire “Holiday Special,” and honestly, I’ll have to be scraping the dregs of the “Star Wars” back catalogue before I ever do.
Overview: This episode is the structural midpoint of the franchise; it’s sort of a backdoor pilot for “Angel” and it introduces the First Evil. It’s also a great Christmas episode, as an inexplicable higher power intervenes in Buffy’s and Angel’s little lives, allowing them to take stock, walk through the snowfall, and realize the beauty of being alive.
Overview: In the year 3000, Christmas is known as Xmas and Robot Santa Claus has been programmed with too strict of a “naughty or nice” judgment, so he judges everybody as naughty and guns them down. (Actually, it turns out that Zoidberg is judged to be nice.)
Overview: Rickie’s getting beat up at home, Angela wants to help him and a homeless guitar-playing girl, Brian’s lonely and Danielle doesn’t know what’s going on (she just lives there). For Claire Danes’ performance (I know she’s still a good actress, but nothing will ever top this), the beautifully melancholy Christmas music, all the great moments I list below and about a dozen others, it’s a classic about trying to do the right thing at Christmastime, or anytime.
Overview: This is a classic not only because it’s a Christmas episode, but also because it’s the very first episode of “The Simpsons.” Sometimes when you go back and watch the first episode of a long-running series, it’s jarring how slow and boring it is. This episode is paced slowly but it’s not boring. We meet many major characters for the first time (although the Simpsons themselves were familiar to “Tracey Ullman Show” viewers), notably Santa’s Little Helper in the final act. When Homer brings home a free dog for Christmas, having failed to win any money at the dog track to buy presents, everyone is thrilled, and that wonderfully illustrates the spirit of Christmas.
My question for this post is: What are your favorite Christmas stories (movies, books, comic books, TV episodes, etc.)? When you think of Christmas entertainment, what comes to mind? What do you re-watch or re-read at this time of year?