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