Monique and I have watched several Christmas specials and movies over the last couple of weeks, so I thought I'd mention some of my all-time favorites; a few others that you might not have seen, but should look for; and a couple that we've come across this year that might not be worth your viewing time.
Television Specials -- The Best
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965) -- Simply the best.
Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) -- Sure, Santa comes across as a mean bigot in this one, but Herbie the Elf's dental obsession saves the day.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966) -- The original animated version, natch. I suppose one day I might see the Jim Carrey version, but I remain dubious.
Frosty the Snowman (1969) -- The best part? Jimmy Durante saying, "And being as Frosty was made out of snow, he was the greatest belly-whopper of them all."
A Great One You Might Not Have Seen
Emmett Otter's Jug-Band Christmas (1977) -- Emmett Otter and his Ma try to give each other a Christmas to remember in this early Muppet effort from Jim Henson's studios. Great music and a truly sweet story.
Movies -- The Best
It's a Wonderful Life (1946) -- I've seen this movie dozens of times and it still always touches me. What an amazing commentary on the impact that we can all have on one another.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947) -- Maureen O'Hara ... Hubba! Hubba! Er, I mean, a heartful lesson on the true meaning of Christmas emerges from the heart of holiday commercialism.
White Christmas (1954) -- This one continues to grow on me. The sitcom-ish plot is dubious at times, but the amazing music and performances by Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye, Rosemary Clooney, and Vera Ellen overcome all.
A Christmas Story (1983) -- Ralphie wants a Red Rider BB gun. It's episodic structure is perfect for that annual "24 Hours of A Christmas Story" marathons on TBS, since you can pick it up at any place and enjoy.
A few pretty good Christmas movies that you may not have seen:
Holiday Inn (1942) -- The first movie to feature Bing Crosby singing "White Christmas." It's structure is basically an excuse for Bing Crosby to sing and Fred Astaire to dance. That's a pretty good idea.
Meet Me in St. Louis (1944) -- Kind of "A Christmas Story" for the World-War-II set, with several anecdotes from a family in St. Louis in 1904, the year the Gateway City hosted the World Fair. It hasn't quite held up as well as some other musicals of the era, but there are some real highlights, too -- especially Judy Garland singing "The Trolley Song (Clang! Clang! Clang! Goes the Trolley!)" and "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas."
Scrooged (1988) -- There are several good straightforward versions of "A Christmas Carol" out there. (I'm partial to the 1938 version with Reginald Owen as Scrooge and the 1984 version with George C. Scott as Scrooge.) But if you've never caught this 1988 take starring Bill Murray as a modern television executive, it's well worth the time. Great supporting performances abound (Karen Allen, John Forsythe, Bobcat Godthwait, Carol Kane, and Alfre Woodard, among others) and Murray turns in a great "Bill Murray playing Bill Murray" performance. Check it out.
Dubious at Best -- Fortify yourself with eggnog beforehand.
Celtic Thunder Christmas (2010) -- When I cued this one up on the DVR I thought it might be a cool collection of Celtic Winter songs or maybe some Celtic-music-styled versions of Christmas standards. Instead the first 20 minutes were all pretty straightforward and uninspired versions of Christmas standards, at which point I moved on. It wasn't horrible or anything ... just not all that interesting. At best, it's strictly background music as you trim your tree.
Comfort and Joy (2003) -- Nancy McKeon stars as a woman who suffers amnesia and can't remember the last ten years of her life; ten years during which she apparently stopped being a selfish corporate b**** and became a loving caring person with a husband and two kids. The unfortunate thing about this one is that it failed to capitalize on its good premise: "How did I get to be this middle-aged person that I am now when I'm not at all like who I thought I'd become?" Alas, the plotting becomes laughably bad after a while. It's a harmless two hours on the Crying Woman's Channel (aka Lifetime Movie Network) and everybody's likeable enough. But the plot becomes so sitcommy bad that it becomes a distraction. Kind of a cool idea to think about during this season, though.