Hello, reader. We’ve probably never met, but I’d love to welcome you into my stream of consciousness essay. Pull up a chair and hang onto your egg nog, friend. You’re in for a mildly hilarious series of slightly poignant and quippy observations about the yearly, tree-adorning holiday we all know as Christmas.
Christmas reminds me of getting up early, ripping some boxes to shreds, and repeat disappointment when my parents make yet another attempt to, “get me into more girly toys and activities.” No, Mom, I STILL don’t like Barbies. They weird me out with their thin little necks and their weird smiles. You know that unnerving feeling when someone is smiling with their mouth and not with their eyes? That’s what Barbie did to me.
One thing that never disappointed me, however, is holiday cinema. Now, friend, let me clarify: I’m not talking about those claymation movies or Tim Allen pushing santa off his roof to assume his godlike role as global arbiter of present-conveyance. I’m talking about the movies that happen to take place during Christmas time, but didn’t let Christmas steal the spotlight. In my opinion, Christmas can sometimes make a show or movie feel a little awkward and disingenuous when it becomes the main focus. It’s weird when a group of characters suddenly care about peace on earth, goodwill towards mankind, and “The Holiday Spirit” when they just spent 12 episodes not mentioning any of these things a single time. You don’t need to dress the set with tinsel, wreaths, and lights or feature sleigh bells in the background music/theme song to let us know it’s Christmas.
Stop putting Christmas on blast, JEEZY KABLEEZY.
Now, I don’t want you to get the wrong idea, friend. I’m no Scrooge. I LOVE Christmas. But in order to get me in the spirit, you don’t need to bombard me with an explosive parade of Christmas paraphernalia. Let’s take the movie Gremlins, for example. A goofy, yet endearing father who sells gadgets is looking for a special gift for his son in Chinatown. He brings home a creature that A. becomes an adorable companion for his son and B. also accidentally molts many other, more deadly adversaries for his son and the whole community. With the help of the son’s girlfriend, the son and his little buddy, Gizmo save the day by committing large scale fire damage to a movie theatre and one garden fountain electrocution. But it’s cool, guys, because guess what: THE DAY THEY SAVED WAS CHRISTMAS DAY.
See, this is a prime example of Christmas taking a back seat but still helping steer the story and create dramatic stakes in the plot without screaming for attention like a pre-teen who wasn’t crowned homecoming royalty. We understand the gravity of the situation as it is and by the time the deed is done and the gun-toting Stripe is obliterated, we are given the same feelings in a different package: cherish what you love and what loves you back. It’s okay to allow non-traditional Christmas topics to be the focus. If anything, it makes for a more sincere experience and allows the viewer to connect more closely to the featured characters.
Maybe Gremlins wasn’t your thing. Maybe you were more into the grittier side of the holidays, yeah? Maybe you like seeing normally funny actors dressed up as freakish, raw fish-eating, nose-chomping mad men who live in the sewer? Yes, Batman Returns was a Christmas movie and yes, I do think that Frank Reynolds of It’s Always Sunny in Philadelphia is who the Penguin REALLY used to be. I mean look at the evidence:
Anyways, in Batman Returns, Batman is faced not with one, but THREE adversaries: The Penguin, Cat Woman, and Christopher Walken. In a nutshell, Penguin, Walken, and Catwoman all seek to destroy Batman, but Catwoman falls in love, of course. (Who can resist a man who can’t turn his head, amirite, gals?) In this film, Christmas plays an even quieter role as we are greeted with a huge Christmas tree scene in the beginning of the movie and the physical set piece of Christmas is present. Aside from mentioning hard dates, Christmas or the importance thereof isn’t expressly talked about or mentioned often. It’s your token 90’s Batman movie with all the bells and whistles, not typically remembered for the time of year in which it takes place. Batman Returns shows us that the darkness that resides within Gotham is so evil, it doesn’t care what time of year it is. Batman isn’t asked to protect the city because it’s Christmas; it’s part of his character. He’s simply answering the call and doing it because he’s BATMAN.
Also, can we talk about the dark scene where Penguin dies and six pallbearer penguins emerge to escort his lifeless body into the sewer depths below? Sheesh. Talk about making a grand exit.
Speaking of grand exits, if you find yourself in need of a little MORE Christmas in an unconventional seasonal movie, Home Alone will get you in the spirit. Our boy Kevin (Macaulay Culkin) is a troublesome kid in a big family. He is surrounded by conflict and struggles for attention amongst the crowded home, full of relatives for the holidays. When the family leaves for the airport for the next part of their holiday journey, they mistakenly leave Kevin behind in the large house to fend for himself. Christmas plays an interesting role in this film. It’s almost like the holiday provides a foil to accurately show the true nature of the characters surrounding Kevin. The neglectful parents who leave him behind, the devious bandits who are robbing the locals blind, and even the surprisingly well-natured and heroic snow shoveler that Kevin’s brother tells scary stories about. Christmas is a spotlight of truth in Kevin’s life, revealing facts both about his family and himself. He rises to the occasion when his home is threatened and defeats the bandits with the help of a mousetrap-like series of snares and rigs. Christmas wasn’t his main motivator for protecting his home, but it helped cause an extra sense of urgency and stylized his trap techniques with the more brutal side of the holidays.
HOLIDAY PRO-TIP: While singing your favorite carols, try hitting this falsetto note. It might be difficult if you don’t own any tarantulas, though.
Yep, Christmas movies are some of my favorite movies. These three films work well for year-round entertainment, but really feel special during the month of December. I hope you check out these unconventional holiday classics and share them with your family for years to come. If you’re in need more suggestions, check out a few more of my favorites: Die Hard, Bad Santa, Iron Man 3, Edward Scissorhands, and of course, the Harry Potter films. Now if you’ll excuse me, I’ll be taking my leave. I have some gift shopping to accomplish in Chinatown before it gets too late. Arrivederci. Au Revoir. Adeu. Auf wiedersehen. Gesundheit. Oh, and Merry Christmas, Happy Holidays, and call your mom. She’s worried about you.