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C'mon Hollywood: Where's Your Christmas Spirit?

Dec. 18, 2012by: Paul Shirey

I get giddy every Christmas. It’s my favorite holiday. The lights, the trees, the celebration, the thoughtfulness, and the tradition; everything about it makes me swoon with glee (minus the show). With Vince Guaraldi’s Charlie Brown Christmas looping on my iPod from late November to early January, I’m as happy as can be. And one of my greatest treats is breaking out the Christmas movies to run in rotation through my blu-ray player non-stop until the big day comes. I don’t watch them any other time of the year, but when I do, I watch them more times over than any other movies I own, which is odd when you think about it, but true nonetheless.

We all have our favorites, but with a small list of classics to choose from the pickings are very familiar. While digging out the stack of films from my collection this year and taking a good look at my selections, I saw that ELF was the last great Christmas movie I owned that fit my rotation of classics and it was made almost ten years ago. I tried like hell to think of a newer Christmas movie that was fitting enough to join the ranks, but could find none.It seemed that 2003 was the death rattle for good Christmas movies (minus a very small few), opening the door for a slew of half-hearted dimwit films that never took hold. Sure, cable networks may play them over and over again, but that doesn’t mean they’re actually good.

When I think of a good Christmas movie, it has to meet certain criteria. First, it has to revolve around the holiday, not simply take place during it. Second, it has to tap into the emotions of the holiday, both good and bad, from the themes of gift-giving, love, family, togetherness, and spirit. It doesn’t have to be religious, as most of them aren’t, but it’s fine if they are. Lastly, it needs to obviously feature genuine heart, centering around believing, faith, new beginnings, and second chances, religious or not.

Movies like A CHRISTMAS STORY, NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION, ELF, LOVE ACTUALLY, HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS, SCROOGED, IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE, HOME ALONE, A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS (although not a movie, still a classic), and, yes, even DIE HARD. These are some of the movies that have the “magic.” My most recent additions are THE FAMILY STONE and ARTHUR CHRISTMAS, the last of which is still on probation for a seat in the official rotation. However, for every one of them there’s a block of coal, like FOUR CHRISTMASES, CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS, DECK THE HALLS, JINGLE ALL THE WAY, FRED CLAUS, or SURVIVING CHRISTMAS. And, really, I’m fine with Hollywood churning out some Christmas turds as long as they find it in their hearts to make at least one good one to match it.

But, they haven’t. They’ve instead dumbed it down, hiring Vince Vaughn to muck it up twice, and let Tim Allen do it three times in a row, then tossed in the towel for good. So, what changed that there is no longer a desire to make a Christmas film that’s, y’know, actually good? Some may say the economy, but that’s just bullshit. The box office has gone up more than down in the last decade and is primed to have its best year ever for 2012. Others may think that a Christmas movie doesn’t have as big a window for ticket receipts as other films, which is slightly true, but not overwhelmingly so. Most movies stay in theaters for 7-8 weeks or less, depending on how they’re performing, so that argument is pretty stale.

I honestly don’t know what it is. I don’t know if it’s cynicism or money or lack of good material, but it’s really unfortunate that the stack of blu-rays I pull out each year are the same ol’ movies, year in and year out. They’re great movies, no doubt, but it would sure be nice to add a few to the stack every few years. Certainly, there are some movies we love that others don’t, and that’s fine. But, most people can agree on what’s a great film and what’s a guilty pleasure. Perhaps it’s time to dust off a few of the unproduced scripts out there or hire a strong screenwriter to craft a new tale, but either way we’re long past due on a Christmas movie worthy of more than background noise.

With that, I’d like to wish all the Schmoes out there Happy Holidays and Merry Christmas!

Extra Tidbit: Rise of the Guardians was actually a terrific holiday movie, although I wouldn't call it exclusively a Christmas one. It has the themes, certainly, but doesn't go "full Christmas." Either way, it's still a great holiday film that's suffering at the domestic box office for no good reason. Give it a shot with some friends, family, or kids. It may well be one for the rotation...
Source: JoBlo.com

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11:20PM on 12/18/2012
Completely ignored from last year: Aardman's Arthur Christmas. That movie should have been an instant classic instead of completely ignored. Rise of The Guardians was delightful too.
Completely ignored from last year: Aardman's Arthur Christmas. That movie should have been an instant classic instead of completely ignored. Rise of The Guardians was delightful too.
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6:53PM on 12/18/2012
I'm not from the USA so Christmas movies are always extremely sappy to me. Maybe that's what they also realize in Hollywood. Outside of America nobody is so overly sentimental about spending Christmas together or how Santa Claus is real. TV shows already make a point of showing how you must spent Christmas with your loved ones (that can range from your relatives to your study group).

I don't consider a movie like Die Hard as a Christmas movie though. That's one of those movies don't revolve
I'm not from the USA so Christmas movies are always extremely sappy to me. Maybe that's what they also realize in Hollywood. Outside of America nobody is so overly sentimental about spending Christmas together or how Santa Claus is real. TV shows already make a point of showing how you must spent Christmas with your loved ones (that can range from your relatives to your study group).

I don't consider a movie like Die Hard as a Christmas movie though. That's one of those movies don't revolve around the holiday, but take place during it. Guess that's why it was originally a summer movie :P
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7:42PM on 12/18/2012
It's interesting that you say that, because I find Love Actually, which is British made and takes place in the UK, exceptionally sappy and adheres to the tradition at the same level, if not more so, than here in the U.S.

Did someone get some coal in their stocking last year?
It's interesting that you say that, because I find Love Actually, which is British made and takes place in the UK, exceptionally sappy and adheres to the tradition at the same level, if not more so, than here in the U.S.

Did someone get some coal in their stocking last year?
6:46PM on 12/18/2012
I think Rise of the Guardians probably deserves to become a future Christmas classic. It was quite an enjoyable holiday film.
I think Rise of the Guardians probably deserves to become a future Christmas classic. It was quite an enjoyable holiday film.
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4:57PM on 12/18/2012

"...it has to meet certain criteria"

If you choose to add "Die Hard" to that list of heartwarming classics..surely you can include the 1st "Lethal Weapon".
If you choose to add "Die Hard" to that list of heartwarming classics..surely you can include the 1st "Lethal Weapon".
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5:27PM on 12/18/2012
Absolutely! Pretty much if Shane Black's name is attached then you've got yourself a Christmas movie i.e. The Long Kiss Goodnight, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.
Absolutely! Pretty much if Shane Black's name is attached then you've got yourself a Christmas movie i.e. The Long Kiss Goodnight, Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang.
4:44PM on 12/18/2012
Add Joyeux Noel to that rotation--it's a lovely film.

And It's a Wonderful Life is by far the best Christmas movie ever made, in my opinion. You can't get better than Jimmy Stewart at his best.
Add Joyeux Noel to that rotation--it's a lovely film.

And It's a Wonderful Life is by far the best Christmas movie ever made, in my opinion. You can't get better than Jimmy Stewart at his best.
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+4
12:46PM on 12/18/2012

Family Man

I actually love Family man (with Nic Cage). Sure, it's kind of a rip off of it's a wonderful life but it's a classic (for me)!!
I actually love Family man (with Nic Cage). Sure, it's kind of a rip off of it's a wonderful life but it's a classic (for me)!!
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12:56PM on 12/18/2012
@pretony, I agree. It's one of two Brett Ratner movies I actually enjoy (the other being Red Dragon). Great choice. Very much a modern-day It's a Wonderful Life, but it's a well-made pic. Plus, Don Cheadle, Tea Leoni, and Jeremy Piven! Wins all around. Bonus: Some great Nic Cage moments. An underrated pic in my opinion.

Good call!
@pretony, I agree. It's one of two Brett Ratner movies I actually enjoy (the other being Red Dragon). Great choice. Very much a modern-day It's a Wonderful Life, but it's a well-made pic. Plus, Don Cheadle, Tea Leoni, and Jeremy Piven! Wins all around. Bonus: Some great Nic Cage moments. An underrated pic in my opinion.

Good call!
1:28PM on 12/18/2012
Ahhh - I forgot about this one! I watched it years ago and was surprised at how much I liked it. I will be watching this again tomorrow night. Thanks!
Ahhh - I forgot about this one! I watched it years ago and was surprised at how much I liked it. I will be watching this again tomorrow night. Thanks!
11:25AM on 12/18/2012

The general Selection is crappier

But overall its not like we ever really got 3-4 good Christmas movies a year. It was always a classic every 3-5 years. Just Friends was another strong one from the last decade. Not far off from 2003 though. I loved Harold and Kumar's 3D Christmas, not a classic, but still decent crude Christmas fun.
But overall its not like we ever really got 3-4 good Christmas movies a year. It was always a classic every 3-5 years. Just Friends was another strong one from the last decade. Not far off from 2003 though. I loved Harold and Kumar's 3D Christmas, not a classic, but still decent crude Christmas fun.
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11:31AM on 12/18/2012
Absolutely, I love Just Friends. I couldn't list them all, even if it's a small list, but I agree on that one. It's actually one of Ryan Reynolds best films, surprisingly.
Absolutely, I love Just Friends. I couldn't list them all, even if it's a small list, but I agree on that one. It's actually one of Ryan Reynolds best films, surprisingly.
11:10AM on 12/18/2012
Your rotation is missing The Ref, imo.
Your rotation is missing The Ref, imo.
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10:51AM on 12/18/2012
I agree. Although I have to admit I love the first Santa Clause movie with tim allen, but I never saw the sequels. Muppets christmas carol is another personal favorite. Anyway, i'd be happy to get some more good christmas movies.
I agree. Although I have to admit I love the first Santa Clause movie with tim allen, but I never saw the sequels. Muppets christmas carol is another personal favorite. Anyway, i'd be happy to get some more good christmas movies.
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+5
10:36AM on 12/18/2012

Complete agreement

We've been waiting years for another great Christmas movie like Christmas Vacation or Elf, but instead we get crud like Fred Claus.
We've been waiting years for another great Christmas movie like Christmas Vacation or Elf, but instead we get crud like Fred Claus.
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