The Ghosts of Christmas Past (or “Oh crap, another list…”)

There are so many different ways to get into the holiday spirit – and lots and lots of ways to get out of it; attempting to navigate any mall or market during the month of December makes me want to commit harakiri – but, with the possible exception of the annual release of the new Glee Christmas album, few are as effective as the holiday films that we grew up watching. Last week, I mentioned that “it wasn’t Christmas” until I got to see The Muppet Christmas Carol (and on the big screen? BRILLIANCE), and that goes for a few more movies as well. And so, with links to lots of videos that will hopefully delight you too, I bring to you the b-roll “It just isn’t Christmas until…” list.

Please note that you won’t find a lot of old stand-bys in this post, but there are several Muppets. I know that it’s a wonderful life because Santa performs miracles on 34th street, but these are my favorites. Feel free to submit yours in the comments.

IT JUST ISN’T CHRISTMAS UNTIL

…Gonzo (as Charles Dickens) calls Rizzo the Rat an idiot. (The Muppet Christmas Carol)

Yes, I know I lifted this right from my earlier post, but it’s true. This just might be my very favorite Christmas movie; I know every single word of it and am not even remotely ashamed of that fact. Muppet Christmas Carol does a superb job of blending the timeless Dickens classic with zany Muppet genius, and has moments of such humor (“Light the lamp, not the rat! LIGHT THE LAMP NOT THE RAT!”) and sweetness (“Bless Us All” is really quite a tear-jerker) that you can’t help but love it. See for yourself, won’t you?

Although (and, if you’re totally unaware of how A Christmas Carol ends, kinda spoiler alert): When I saw this film in the theater and Scrooge sang that he would “promise to share the wealth,” I laughed aloud, then prayed that there wasn’t a Fox News employee in attendance. Lord help us.

…Charlie Brown rescues the most pathetic little tree in the world. (A Charlie Brown Christmas)

Who said there were no classics on my list? Incidentally, for a children’s holiday program, this is one helluva sad little show; not only is Charlie Brown suffering from such a deep clinical depression that he sees a (unlicensed) therapist, but it’s then exacerbated by the local townschildren (and dog) mercilessly telling him how useless he is. Thank God for Linus and his blankie of wisdom. I know the show’s message is peace on earth and anti-materialism, and that’s awesome, but I’ll be honest, I watch for two reasons: To recreate the BEST. DANCE MOVES. EVER. (my favorites – the “head nod” and the “zombie”), and to throw my head back and croon “Hark the Herald Angels Sing” along with the Peanuts gang (skip ahead to 2:45 in the clip). Merry Christmas, Charlie Brown.

…Aunt Bethany leads the Griswold family in the Pledge of Allegiance. (National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation)

This is one of those God, this is so stupid that it’s hilarious movies that I have been quoting for roughly 20 years. (My favorite line: “You couldn’t hear a dump truck driving through a nitroglycerin plant!”) Also, who didn’t dream of having a house as tackily illuminated as the Griswolds? As a child, I begged my dad to put lights on the house (or, as a compromise, at least the two-story-tall pine tree in our front yard; totally reasonable!), and he responded by nonchalantly chucking a string of lights into the tree beside the house, which has forever become known in my family as “the Clump in the Lilac Bush.” It was not the Griswoldian light show I was hoping for.

…the Swedish Chef tries to cook Big Bird for Christmas dinner. (A Muppet Family Christmas)

This is much less dark than it sounds; it’s actually quite hilarious in the context of the show (in which the Swedish Chef sees Big Bird, thinks he’s a large turkey, and cries, “Gobble Gobble HUMONGO!”). Also, Big Bird, in his sweet and wonderful way, wins the Swedish Chef over and they sing a duet together, so, all good. But what makes A Muppet Family Christmas special is, truly, “family”; the entire Jim Henson gang – Muppets, Fraggles, Sesame Street – come together for Christmas sing-alongs and clever quips, followed by a cameo from the man himself at the end. Magic, friends. Magic.

…Billy Mack tops the charts with the worst Christmas single ever. (Love Actually)

I think Bill Nighy is the highlight of Love Actually (hence above), but a romantic comedy full of awesome and attractive British actors? Hugh Grant dancing and Colin Firth adorably fumbling through a Portuguese proposal? Yes, please. Though the Emma Thompson/Alan Rickman and Laura Linney stories break my heart into pieces, and on behalf of women everywhere, I do wish the  “chubby girl” that Hugh Grant falls in love with in spite of her “enormous thighs” didn’t look exactly like a swimsuit model (with not-at-all-enormous thighs); right, it’s such a leap that he would like her. Still, it’s a great movie, and I know Garry Marshall’s been trying to Americanize Love Actually with Valentine’s Day and New Year’s Eve, but the Brits just did this so much better. We’re embarrassing ourselves at this point. Just stop.

…Ralphie’s father receives a box that is “fra-gee-lay.” (A Christmas Story)

This movie is a little overplayed, sure (an annual 24-hour Christmas Eve marathon will do that), but it’s still a hilarious and classic film about Christmas through the eyes of a child (and the  “unbridled avarice” of Christmas morning). Everything about it just connects to childhood memories: The desperation for that present you absolutely had to have, the tearing apart of the wrapping paper then falling asleep under the tree, the poor dad who has to assemble or fix everything and swears a blue streak (my dad’s “tapestry of obscenities” is hanging in space over Lake Winnipesaukee, incidentally). It’s perfect holiday nostalgia, wrapped up with a beautiful bow.


And with that, I am officially bathed in the holiday freaking spirit, b-rollers. And just for good measure, let me throw in a couple TV moments as well: Who else treasures a visit from The Holiday Armadillo? I love Friends and own all ten seasons on DVD, and for my money (literally, apparently), this was one of its funniest episodes (and spawned what might be my favorite Friends joke ever, when Rachel walks in to see the Armadillo, Santa, Superman and Monica lighting a menorah in a dimly lit room and quips, “It looks like the Easter Bunny’s funeral in here.” Maybe you had to be there.)

And finally, I wrote about how much I love The West Wing, and their first season’s Christmas episode, “In Excelsis Deo,” is one of the reasons why – moving, beautifully-written and edited, sensational. I’ve embedded the final five minutes of the episode below, but I highly recommend that you watch the whole thing.

And that, friends, is it until the New Year. Happy Holidays from b-roll.

4 comments

    1. Two main reasons: 1) Much as I love me some Alan Rickman, I’m not much of a Bruce Willis fan. 2) Speaking of, I will not forgive Bruce Willis et al for hijacking my state’s (admittedly ridiculous) motto of “Live Free or Die” for his crappy fourth or sixth or whatever sequel. On behalf of New Hampshire-ites everywhere: Unacceptable, Bruce.

      1. Ok, I guess I’ll give you a pass on “Die Hard”, but I don’t know that I can give you one on “Die Hard II” which also took place at xmas.
        And a big thank you for leaving out “It’s a Wonderful Life”. The first thirty times I had to watch it I liked it, then I started rooting for Donna Reed to miss the window with the rock and for Clarence not to send George back. By now it’s worth seeing only to watch Stewart act, and I can do that by watching “The Man Who Shot Liberty Valence”.
        v

  1. Thank you for giving me four more minutes with some of my very favorite characters ever. I have seen this segment of West Wing so many times, but still have tears in my eyes. Your list is great. “And Tiny Tim, who DID NOT die” will always live on in our family. Great, funny writing, as usual.

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