Holiday Movies–A Love-Hate Relationship

Jane/Susannah/Sadie here, wishing you all a very happy, healthy, joyous, and prosperous New Year…

Hello, Wicked People! Has a whole month gone by since we’ve chatted? Well, I’m glad to be back.

Are you a holiday movie junkie? I admit it, I am. Although I have to tell you that there are some classics that I don’t exactly love, even though I know I’m “supposed to.” Nobody throw rocks, but I’m not crazy about White Christmas. Other than the title song, none of the music is particularly good (although the singing is). And some of the songs are downright weird (that scene where Danny Kaye is wearing the French Artiste clothes and doing that very odd dance). The fact that Bing Crosby was over 50 when he did the movie with the 26-year-old Rosemary Clooney always gives me pause. However, I do love Danny Kaye in anything he ever did, and he and Vera-Ellen didn’t have such a big age gap, so I consider this movie sort of a wash.

Another one I’m supposed to love but am kind of iffy on is It’s a Wonderful Life. I know, I know. Jimmy Stewart is adorkable, if a bit overly dramatic in spots, and Donna Reed is beautiful and faithful and loving, and the story makes you understand the Butterfly Effect–I’m not sure what came first, The Butterfly Effect or the movie. Yet there’s something I can’t quite put my finger on about It’s a Wonderful Life, something that makes me (usually) watch it when it’s on, but doesn’t give me the slightest pang of disappointment if I don’t see it, as I didn’t this year. Anybody have any thoughts?

And you may really want to throw rocks at me for this one, but Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer is another one I can take or leave. I watch it for nostalgic reasons, as I have fond memories of hot cocoa and real oil-popped, buttered popcorn and watching it every year with my sisters and my parents and later with my own son. But seeing it the last few years I’ve found some aspects of it a little bothersome–and I know it’s because I’m seeing it through a 2017 lens, not the 1964 lens in which it was born. There is bullying and there is nose-shaming–by both adult and child reindeer and even Santa! Only the young bucks can try out for the sleigh team, not the does. Also, there’s an unexplained problem inherent in those Reindeer Games. Santa already has a sleigh team full of magic reindeer. So how are those poor little bucks who are being coached ever going to have any hope of making the team? The futility of it all.

Lest this post be deemed too negative, here are some classic Christmas movies I do love, and I do mind if I miss them: A Christmas Story (and yet, again, this one has some aspects that are not exactly cool when viewed with a 2017 lens). How the Grinch Stole Christmas (the 1966 animated version). A Christmas Carol (the George C. Scott version–this adaptation has the most wonderfully pathetic Tiny Tim). Christmas Vacation because it makes me laugh every time. And here’s one that I consider a Christmas movie, even though only part of it is set at Christmas–You’ve Got Mail. Honestly, I cry every time Tom Hanks brings Meg Ryan those daisies when she’s sick and you just know that’s when she knows she loves him and he loves her, even though they aren’t ready to admit it yet. Happy Sigh.

What about you? Which Christmas movies do you love? Which ones don’t jingle your sleighbells? 

54 thoughts on “Holiday Movies–A Love-Hate Relationship

  1. Ever since I met Steve, unbelievably long ago, he’s watched It’s a Wonderful Life every year. It was never my favorite, but it became a traditional thing we did together. This year, though, he didn’t watch it. I said something about it and suggested he might find it on Turner Classics. He surprised me by saying no and that he’d watched it each year, since the first year it was on TV, and this year he was tired of it. I’m going to perk him up with an article I just read on how It’s a Wonderful Life keeps the oligarchy at bay.

  2. It’s a Wonderful Life is Christmas to me and the George C. Scott version of A Christmas Carol. My husband needs to see Christmas Vacation and I thought for sure the moose glasses were going to show up under my tree this year. They almost did, until hubs read they were acrylic.

    It’s a funny thing about It’s a Wonderful Life. Every year I watch and say, never again, too much backstory, how had I forgotten that. And every year I watch again completely forgetting the backstory. Christmas amnesia?

    • The moose glasses! You will have to get your husband a dickey sweater to go with them if you find some that are real glass 🙂

  3. I have to admit I’m not a fan of It’s A Wonderful Life. I grew up watching it every year because we only had one TV. Although I like White Christmas, I don’t have to see it every year. I can also pass on A Christmas Story (tired of it). I love Holiday Inn, Christmas in Connecticut, Love Actually, The Holiday, How the Grinch Stole Christmas (animated version), A Charlie Brown Christmas. My guilty pleasure—the Hallmark Channel Christmas Movie Extravaganza!

    • Oh–this post was almost about the Hallmark Channel(s) movies! They are hit or miss. The best one I saw this year was A Bramble House Christmas. Good acting, a well-constructed plot, and not too corny.

      • I saw that, Bramble House, it was good. The worst one I saw was about two single parents and this lost dog. The Good Shepherd or something like that. The dog was the worst actor I’ve ever seen! And I love dogs. Dismal.

    • How could I have forgotten Miracle on 34th Street? That really is a favorite, and a rarity in that the remake is almost as good as the original. My only issue with the story is that I’ve never been able to figure out why Santa was in a nursing home instead of at the North Pole…

  4. I love It’s a Wonderful Life, White Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street and Holiday Inn. And hubby and I absolutely love A Christmas Carol with George C. Scott. I also like many of the holiday chick-flicks – The Holiday, Love Actually, You’ve Got Mail, While You Were Sleeping and the ones that were made for TV and get shown on Netflix.

    Haven’t watched Rudolf the Red-nosed Reindeer in ages because there are no little kids or grandkids to watch it with. The way you describe it, Susannah/Sadie, it sounds a lot like Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation – I never thought of it that way before.

    I never did like Christmas Story or Christmas Vacation or many of the other late 20th century or 21st century Christmas “comedies” as to me most of them are too negative and mean spirited about the very things that are supposed to be good. I know they are supposed to be more realistic as not everyone has loving families or a merry holiday season. But I prefer movies (and books) that that have caring families and friends, not perfect and sometimes troublesome, but caring and who help the main character through whatever problem they’re facing.

  5. MIracle on 34th Street–the original, Prancer with Sam Elliot. Favorite–The Bishiop’s Wife–Cary Grant, Hallmark’s marathon Christmas movies are fun. (Susanna/Sadie! “adorkable” is a marvelous word!)

    • Carol Perry, me too! me too! for the Bishops’s Wife — Cary Grant, David Niven, and Loretta Young…and the totally delightful cab driver. Technical difficulties with watching it this year, so the cab driver’s name (in the film and of the actor) is missing from my memory. Happy Holidays, All

  6. Confession time — I’ve only seen bits of A Wonderful Life. I’ve tried to watch it but it doesn’t capture me. And the same goes for A Christmas Story. However, I adore White Christmas but we always fast forward through the weird Danny Kaye dance.

    • I would also fast forward through the “buttermilk and sandwiches” scene. I’m always a little skeeved out by the though of drinking a glass of buttermilk. 🙂

  7. I’ve always preferred Holiday Inn, where “White Christmas” was first sung, to the movie White Christmas, but it has some cringeworthy sections, too, including a Lincoln’s Birthday number done in blackface. I have never seen most of the “classics” mentioned and feel no overwhelming need to start now, but I do like The Holiday and will admit to a secret fondness for Die Hard as a Christmas movie.

  8. I don’t much care about Christmas movies in general. If I have to pick one, I’ll go for It’s a Wonderful Life, which is corny and sappy but still sincere. One thing I do admire about that movie is that it has a dark side (the world without Jimmy Stewart in it), which tempers the gooey parts. And who can say no to a happy ending?

    • I actually have nothing against corny and sappy 🙂 I’ve always wanted to write a short story called “ZuZu’s Petals.” I have no idea what happens in it or who a single character is. But it’s such a good title…

  9. I love movies in general. We have a load of traditions about movies in our house. My number one rule is that Christmas may not begin, no decorating or carols, until we watch Miracle on 34th St. on Thanksgiving evening. I usually write out my Christmas cards while watching White Christmas. One year it played four times before my list was completed. On Christmas Eve we must watch, my very favorite, It’s A Wonderful Life and on Christmas morning, A Holiday Affair starring Robert Mitchum and Janet Leigh and The March of the Wooden Soldiers with Laurel and Hardy. Throughout the season I make a point to see The Bishop’s Wife (Cary Grant, David Niven, Loretta Young), Christmas Vacation, A Christmas Story, and A Christmas Carol aka Scrooge starring Alastair Sim. I guess you could say I enjoy Christmas themed movies! 🎄

    • What a great list of movies! One of my favorites line from Miracle on 34th Street is when a tipsy Mrs. Shellhammer says, “Of course Santa Clause can stay with us. I think it would be simply charming!” And I will have to find a copy of A Holiday Affair–I’ve never seen that one.

      • Oh I love that scene. And nearly every other scene. Well, a few make me cringe… Like, uh, Kris is considered insane because he’s not up on the names of American Politicians????? What does that tell us?

  10. I never considered Clooney’s age vs. Crosby’s. For one thing, I thought she was older than that (in her 30s), and I thought he was younger (in his 40s)…but the reality is we are almost brainwashed into seeing that in Hollywood movies. One of my favorite lines in The First Wives Club is when Goldie Hawn laments that in Hollywood there are only three roles: Babe, District Attorney, and Driving Miss Daisy. She also comments on how Sean Connery is older than God, but would play the hot babe’s lover. So true…But yeah, that Choreography scene is weird. I always buzz through that.
    My favorite Christmas movie is Love Actually. I can take or leave It’s a Wonderful Life (one of my hubby’s favorites), and have never seen Rudolph (not much on animation). Thanks for an entertaining post.

    • I debated about whether to mention Love Actually in the post. I’m a little ambivalent on that one too. The storyline with Alan Rickman and Emma Thompson bothers me because we never find out if they save their marriage, so it’s a little unsatisfying to me. But I love all the actors in that movie so much that the sheer volume of wonderful people tips the scales for me.

  11. I taught Miracle on 34th Street over here in Germany to advanced English learners, background, then film, and finally discussion session. They loved it. Our own favorites are the Dr Who Christmas specials, and, most especially, the Midsomer Murders Christmas episode with Tom Barnaby, his inlaws, and, of course, a corpse that gets him out of the house at just the right time. Shouldn’t there be a limit on mince pies?

    • Confession time: I have not watched any of the Midsomer Murders! But it is on my list to binge watch soon. I will look forward to seeing the Christmas special, no matter what time of year it is 🙂

  12. I’m not a huge “It’s a Wonderful Life” fan, either. I do like “White Christmas.” George C. Scott’s “A Christmas Carol” is my favorite. But the one I didn’t see this year and I am rather bummed about it is “Love, Actually.”

  13. I’m actually with you on most of those movies. I didn’t grow up watching them (even Rudolph), so I don’t have the nostalgic factor.

    I have only watched “The Grinch” (1966 version of course) this year. I am still planning to watch A Charlie Brown Christmas. The rest of my movies are packed up due to a leak in my condo. I guess this means I won’t see any version of A Christmas Carol this year, which is the first in at least 20 years for me. It’s usually either George C. Scott for Muppets for me. And I usually watch The Santa Clause as well.

      • The damage wasn’t too bad, but all my movies are packed up in my spare room behind the bookcases. The actual damage was just wet ceiling, fortunately.

  14. I’m with Sheila and don’t care much for Christmas movies in general. But I’m not a big movie fan period. And I’ve always had a problem with Rudolph because he is only accepted once Santa decided that he can be of use. I think I always related to him because I was bullied as a kid. If I watch any Christmas movies they will be Charlie Brown and the Grinch. Don’t care for the sappy ones.

  15. Every year I wonder why I love White Christmas, and then I realize that despite the odd May-December romance and unwatchable Martha Graham/Danny Kaye Choreography number, it’s the music, the costumes by Edith Head, Mary Wicks, and the fresh story that bring me back.

      • I love the Sisters song and those blue dresses. The Sisters song the ringtone I picked for my sister on my phone.

  16. I love It’s a Wonderful Life and watched it straight through this year. (Often I watch bits and pieces while doing cards, or baking, or wrapping presents.) I love this movie and its larger message. Yes, there several aspects that set off alarm bells in 2017, but I see it as a time capsule of American values right after the war, which were generous and optimistic and included casual racism, caricatures of immigrants and the horrid fate of being “an old maid.” Both the good and the inarguably very bad.

    I also love White Christmas, which is even weirder viewed in 2017. I love Tom and Lorenzo’s annual posting of their take on it. https://tomandlorenzo.com/2017/12/t-los-white-christmas/

    I saw the George C. Scott A Christmas Carol this year. I’d forgotten how funny it is.

    My granddaughter was unimpressed by both the Muppet’s Christmas Carol and Elf. I think she’s too young for them, plus she was being forced to watch them by nostalgic adults exhausted by Christmas preparations, whereas she was running on raw Christmas energy.

  17. for us, it’s The Thin Man at Christmas, followed by After The Thin Man for New Years. And most years we watch the entire series. And of course, Holiday Inn and White Christmas!!!!

  18. I am not a big Christmas movie watcher, but for those of you who enjoy Jimmy Stewart movies I encourage you to read the new book Hank & Jim: The Fifty-Year Friendship of Henry Fonda and James Stewart by Scott Eyman. It is well worth reading. I learned so much about both men.

  19. Holiday Inn (fast forwarding past the cringe-making scenes — you know the ones)
    Christmas Carol – with Alistair Sim (George C Scott version is pretty good too, but definitely 2nd)
    It’s a Wonderful Life –except when Mary falls into a pathetic life of failure, becoming an old-maid librarian!!!!! full of inhibitions and bad posture and glasses! (I thought Clarence was going to tell George she’d married Mr. Potter.)
    Love Actually – especially the OUTTAKES. If you have the DVD, watch them! It was criminal to remove the only Gay couple in the whole movie.
    Miracle on 34th Street. The real one. Not those horrible remakes.
    The Holly and the Ivy. You can see it here: https://pastordawn.com/2013/12/25/the-holly-and-the-ivy/ Don’t ask. Just watch it. It’s lovely.

  20. I have never liked It’s a Wonderful Life. I get the intent behind showing people that they matter but … I just can’t get over how George, a man who is not depressed but rather in desperate straits, is on the verge of suicide without one thought as to how his wife and children would take on the responsibilities he’s casting to them with his death. Sure, he’s got life insurance but that’d just go to Potter and would leave them penniless and homeless.

    THIS is a Christmas movie? THIS is the example of the importance of a single human soul, George Bailey? The guy who can’t think two more steps down the road to see his wife taking on the burden he decided was too big to carry himself?

    Sorry, I can’t get into that at any time of the year. Too bleak.

  21. Actually, I tend to gravitate toward the Shirley Temple movies around the holidays; especially her early films like Captain January and Curly Top. Heidi is a must for me around the holidays which I own on both VHS and DVD, My favorite version of A Christmas Carol stars Alastair Sim made in 1951. Two of my least favorites during the holiday season, White Christmas and a very similar movie, also starring Bing Crosby is Holiday Inn, which also featured the song White Christmas. I prefer older movies during the holiday season, like Christmas in Connecticut with Barbra Stanwyck and A Miracle on 34th Street with Maureen O’Hara and a very young Natalie Wood. Also amongst my least favorites are the Hallmark Channel’s romantic Christmas series. Give me a break. If you’ve seen one you’ve seen them all…for an excruciating two months. Where’s Columbo? A happy New Year to everyone and a hope for more mystery in your future.

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