At this time of year, one can barely turn on the television without seeing a new or classic Christmas program. Dozens of feature-length showings are scheduled through Dec. 25 as well as innumerable holiday episodes from sitcoms and drama series. While some avoid the holiday entertainment blitz, others look upon the shows as old friends who only visit once a year. We asked staff and readers of the Carroll County Times to tell us about some of their favorites.
Times Staff Favorites
Pat Stoetzer "A Christmas Story" holds a special place in my heart, likely because it's shown for a full 24 hours every Christmas Eve. But kids, don't miss a chance to catch "The Year Without a Santa Claus." Heat Miser, Snow Miser and two elves named Jingle and Jangle. What's not to love? Oh, but try not to cry when the stop-motion animators give us the song "Blue Christmas" and a little girl shedding a giant blue tear.
Kelcie Pegher I absolutely adore the movie "Love Actually" because it celebrates what we should celebrate with the holidays: love for other people. It's also probably the only movie in Liam Neeson's repertoire where he doesn't kill somebody, and all of the intertwining love stories are perfect. Opening lines: "If you look for it, I've got a sneaky feeling you'll find that love actually is all around."
Kathryn Leiter My favorite holiday movie would have to be "White Christmas." It is a beautiful movie and it has become a tradition to watch it every Christmas Eve with my mom after our holiday dinner.
Priscilla Loebenberg I love "A Christmas Story" -- the leg lamp, the sadistic Santa, a boy with his tongue stuck to a pole and the pink bunny suit. Most of all, I love that even after being warned so many, many times "you'll shoot your eye out," when Ralphie finally got his heart's desire for a Red Ryder BB gun he (nearly) shot his eye out. All of it reminds me of growing up with my horde of brothers. Also, I took my son to see "Frozen" last week. Although it's not really a holiday movie (most of it takes place in a magical summer snowstorm), it was perfectly charming. And it has a talking snowman named Olaf and a goofy reindeer named Sven. Move over, Frosty and Rudolph.
Wayne Carter "Scrooged" is a comedic re-telling of Charles Dickens' "A Christmas Carol," but set in a modern era. (OK, fine, when giving a VCR as a Christmas gift is a huge deal, it kind of dates the movie, but whatever.) Bill Murray is fantastic as a selfish television executive obsessed with ratings in charge of producing the network's live version of a Christmas Carol, who is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, to show him the error of his ways. Hilarity ensues. Early in the movie, Bill Murray shows his own highly terrifying and violent promo for the network's upcoming live version of a Christmas Carol. After Bobcat Goldthwait stands up to him and says it might be too frightening, Murray says he'll take it under consideration because, "We don't want to scare the Dickens out of people. The 'Dickens' out of people. Nobody gets me."
Non-traditional Holiday Movies Although the more traditional holiday movies are well-loved, many enjoy stretching the definition of "holiday" to include quirky or satirical takes on the season. Some movies are of a completely unrelated genre but just make the list because they take place during the month of December.
Jacob deNobel My favorite Christmas movie is definitely "Gremlins." It may be because I grew up here, in Carroll County, but a film about a small town's fear of modernity -- represented in the film by the pop-culture loving, technologically mischievous, outsider Gremlins, really resonates with me. The way the movie takes down sacred cows -- Jimmy Stewart, Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs and Santa himself all make appearances -- while still highlighting a warm and earnest humanistic view, makes "Gremlins" a must-watch, not to mention the fact that the scene where Phoebe Cates' Kate describes why she hates Christmas is a perfect piece of black comedy. "Gremlins" is all about the blend of producer Steven Spielberg's warmth with director Joe Dante's anarchic sense of humor. Put that together and you've got a perfect Christmas movie, emotionally resonant without ever becoming too sappy.
Julia Eckhardt "Meet me in St. Louis" is one of Judy Garland's most endearing films. There is, in fact, a hole in my heart in which the ghost of Judy Garland is welcome to live. I adore her. It's hard to choose just one scene, but my favorite, and certainly the most well-known, is the scene for "The Trolley Song." People who have never even seen the film know the song.
Wayne Carter "Ghostbusters 2" has the overriding feel-good message of the oft-panned sequel that we should treat people better (otherwise a 16th-century Moldavian tyrant will take over a world covered in pink slime), and isn't that really what the holidays are all about? One scene that sums up that overriding theme best is when the Ghostbusters visit with the mayor, explaining how all the hate and bad vibes in the city are turning into the pink slime that is powering Vigo. The Mayor's response? "What am I supposed to do, go on television and tell 3 million people they have to be 'nice' to each other? Being miserable and treating other people like dirt is every New Yorker's god-given right." Every Christmas Eve, I pull "Die Hard" out and put it into the rotation with more classical movies like "Christmas Vacation," "A Christmas Story," etc. while wrapping gifts. It's only a Christmas movie in the sense that everything happens during a Christmas party at Nakatomi Plaza and that Bruce Willis puts a Santa hat on that one bad guy he kills and then sends down the elevator with a note that says "Now I have a machine gun." Sometimes, you just need a little more stuff blowing up in your Christmas movies.
Max Magee I've always liked "Black Christmas" because it's an underrated horror classic. It is a very important early work of the slasher genre, yet it is often overlooked, despite pre-dating (and almost definitely influencing) John Carpenter's "Halloween." Mostly, I enjoy it because it is legitimately unsettling and scary, and I will never stop loving the fact that Bob Clark made both this film and "A Christmas Story."
Readers Respond Readers discussed their favorite holiday movies on the Carroll County Times' Facebook page Wednesday:
"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" because every family has some part of this movie that happens to them sometime during the holiday season. -- Dale Gibson
Mine too! Best holiday movie ever! -- Diane Koontz
"Miracle on 34th Street" -- I have been watching that movie since I was a little girl, when it was only in black and white! To be honest I don't like the on in color. I never miss this Movie when it on at holiday time!!! Love Love Love! -- Vicky Rivera
Same here, and the scene where the little Dutch war orphan converses with Santa (Sinter Klaas) in Dutch and her guardian explains her circumstances; then Santa responds in Dutch, is THE BEST PART! -- Hetty Cassutto Haden
This may sound stupid to some but I think mine might just be the movie "Elf." I thoroughly enjoy the censored version of "Christmas Vacation" but it's never on TV. I don't remember needing to be concerned too much in watching "Elf" with my kids. -- Ron Schott
"White Christmas," I love the story line about the service men and women coming together to help each other and the love story behind it as well -- Stephanie Hunt
"Home Alone" 1 and 2. I have always loved when Kevin tricks the bad guys. I have passed this movie on to my kids and they have grown to love this movie as well. They always want to watch it when it's on. -- Holly Masters
"The Grinch" -- Gary Winfrey
"The Muppet's Christmas Carol," I loved it growing up and now watch it with my own children. -- Beth A Sherwood
"Elf" because it's hilarious and "The Santa Claus" movies. "Charlie Brown Christmas" and "Rudolph" too! -- Valerie Purpora
"Elf"... You laugh from start to finish, and thrown in there are a few good life lessons!! We laugh thru Christmas with "Elf"! -- Robert Maring
Nothing says Christmas like "Lethal Weapon" -- James Walsh
"A Christmas Story" has always been a favorite in my family since I was little -- Kim Robinson
"It's a Wonderful Life," it is a classic and my favorite!! -- Jennifer Watts Uttermohlen
"It's a Wonderful Life" love it -- Bonnie Pitcher Williams
"A Christmas Story" All time favorite! -- Bernice Martin Rill
"Nester the Long Eared Christmas Donkey" -- Jessica Nicole