It's just after 5:00 AM and I've been watching Winnie the Pooh with my two-year-old for the last half hour. You would think he just lost interest in the show due to his request* for the iPad a couple minutes ago, but make no mistake, if I were to change the channel right now, it would be upsetting.
*J.J. has a unique way of asking...almost pleading...for something and then making you feel like it was your idea all along.
J.J.: "Daddy! Daddy! iPad please. Please iPad. iPad."
Me: "Ok, buddy. You want the iPad?"
J.J.: "Ok, sure. Yeah, Daddy."
So while J.J. watches netball on Youtube (don't ask me why), I'm left thinking about what Christmas movies I have left to watch for the season. If you talk about movies as much as I do, you probably say two words that play an important role in your conversations: underrated and overrated.
People may say a movie is overrated because it had an enormous amount of unwarranted critical praise (Elf) or underrated due to obscurity (The Snowman). However, I'm more interested in the movies that are rated properly; movies that no one thinks are better or worse than they actually are; movies where no one is confused about their importance to the culture of cinema.
So with that, here is my list of the most properly rated Christmas movies ever.
10. Home Alone
It made Macaulay Culkin a) a household name b) a bazillionaire c) a coked-out child-star and d) Michael Jackson's bunk-mate. It's success is undeniable. It's pretty much a live-action cartoon with a John Hughes script. Home Alone may not be big or even clever but it’s a lot of fun and, in its own way, emphasises the importance of love and family just as much as It’s A Wonderful Life. As in Capra’s tale, being deprived of family and safety makes little tyke Culkin realise how much he needs them, and fending off burglars all alone gives him a unique appreciation of the Christmas spirit. Also, he gets to drop a hot iron on someone’s face, so that’s nice.
9. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
I've probably seen this movie more than any other holiday film with the exception of A Christmas Story (but only because TBS runs the hell out of it on Christmas Eve). I grew up with a VHS copy of this taped off of NBC complete with commercials for Fresh Prince. I loved it. But it was only when my friend Nick came over and watched it with me that I learned that the NBC version was heavily censored. Nick brought me the legit version a few weeks later and we watched all summer when we weren't playing baseball in the backyard. Christmas Vacation is widely considered the funniest holiday movie that doesn't involve paint-cans to the orbital sockets. If, even for a second, you think this movie is overrated, I'll point you to the fact that Turner Classic Movies started airing it in 2007. That should satisfy the high-brow crowd. And you know what? Two years later it made it's debut on CMT, which should satisfy viewers who have no idea what CMT usually airs...which is all of their viewers.
8. A Christmas Story
I mentioned to my wife the other day that our oldest son's Christmas wish of: "I want a Paper Jamz Pro Series Guitar Series One with a Riff Strip" is not too dissimilar to an "I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!" I don't have to worry about my kid losing an eye with it, but I still have to remain concerned that he'll grow up to be a semi-professional rock-star. A Christmas Story isn't overrated, despite whatever my beloved claims. It's genius is it's simplicity and honesty. They're the same traits that make it as funny today as it was in 1983.
7. It's a Wonderful Life
Since It's a Wonderful is largely considered the best Christmas movie of all time. It's also widely considered to have the best story and characters and is oft quoted. Therefore it is rated properly.
6. Miracle on the 34th Street
I recently introduced my wife to this movie. I'll say that again. I recently introduced my wife to this movie. I'm unlcear as to how a woman of her schmaltziness had never seen it, but let's just assume that for the first 17 years of her life she was held in a Japanese internment camp where all they allow the prisoners to watch is Teen Mom, Parenthood and Friday Night Lights (two out three ain't bad). Regardless, she enjoyed it. I even caught her chuckling through at a few scenes and only dozing once. At a certain point, she turned to me on the sofa and asked, "How many times have you seen this?" I did the math and I think the answer is 57. No one can really dispute that Miracle on 34th Street is a top-10 holiday film. It just is.
5. Jingle All the Way
Most people I know find this movie deplorable. And it is. And for that reason, it is rated correctly. Interesting side-note, this move served as the second date for my wife and I wayyyyy back when. Can you believe I actually took her to this nonsense? Tom Arnold and Arnold Schwarzenegger fought over some toy for 90 minutes. I musta really had it going on in other departments, because I don't know how I got a third date after this.
4. Die Hard
On the surface, most people don't consider Die Hard a Christmas movie. It was released in July for cryin' out loud. But you know what? So was Miracle on 34th Street, so that argument doesn't hold any weight here. For any guy out there, it's almost impossible to get through December without watching Die Hard. There are romantic holiday films, funny holiday films and kick-ass, save-the-hostages-while-barefoot holiday films. This is the latter and everyone knows where they stand on that. I can't think of too many holiday-action movies aside from this one...maybe Reindeer Games? But that movie had so many illogical twists that it practically folded over back onto itself to the point where I hated every character and wished John McClane would've mowed them all down. Side note: Die Hard was based on a novel which is a fact I can't wrap my head around. At all.
3. The Polar Express
This one is funny. When it was first released people had serious issues with the animation. It looked too creepy, too soulless and many thought it would even frighten kids (not unlike Nicolas Cage). I don't see how that's possible when you consider the fact that the animation was built on the same technology that the PGA had been using to deconstruct the golf swing for years. However, The Polar Express kind of pulled a 180 after it's DVD release. Maybe it just works better on a smaller screen? I don't know. Whatever the reason, it now rests firmly on the edge of the Cinematic Christmas Canon, and that's a good place for it.
2. A Muppet Christmas Carol
Look, if Sir Michael Caine says this was his favorite role of his career, who am I to argue? The man has had a part in every movie ever made.
1. Love Actually
Never seen it. I hear good things, I mean, let's look at the cast. Hugh Grant (coming off a good couple hits with About a Boy and Bridget Jones), Liam Neeson, Colin Firth, Laura Linney (loved her in Primal Fear), Emma Thompson (who, by contact, must appear in all British imports), Alan Rickman (see Die Hard), Keira Knightley (I'll watch any pretentious period piece as long as she's in it...she got me to watch Atonement), and even Bill Nighy. That's a stellar cast. But even great casts can't save a movie (Batman Forever, Valentine's Day and the more recent New Year's Eve, which has a movie poster that looks like a puzzle I don't want to solve). Regardless, I've heard Love Actually mentioned in enough other movies that I'm sure it's deserving of its rating. Enough women love it and enough men will never watch it.