Some of my friends find something incongruous about my love of Yule and my lack of interest in the nativity of Big Baby Jesus, but for me this is a time that transcends religion. It is a time for community, and family. And a time when i get to spoil the people i love in lots of little ways. But the best part is the time i get to spend with my mom.
Every year on Christmas Eve (or sometimes the night before, depending on ticket prices) I fly down to Palm Springs; my mom picks me up from the airport and she fills me in on the latest family drama while do my best to pay attention to stories about aunts, uncles, and cousins i haven't seen in a decade.
When we get back to my mom's place we crack open a bottle of wine and hang out talking and listening to christmas music until dinner time. Every year we have cracked crab, garlic bread, ceasar salad, and cold asparagus (dessert is always provided, but actually eating it after the mountains of crab bred and butter is usually a task i'm simply not up to). After dinner we stay up until midnight and open presents, a hold over from the days when i split Christmases between my mom's house and my dad's, and then we call it a night.
Christmas Day is all about watching holiday movies and drinking wine until we're stupid. My mom has a soft spot in her heart for schlockey, Lifetime Network, made-for-teevee movies where every third actor is a once-was who hasn't had a paying gig since The Facts of Life. My tastes tend to run a little... different.
Here are some of my favorites:
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians:
The story goes like this: Martians kidnap Santa (and, inexplicably, two obnoxious apple cheeked little kids who by all rights should have been shoved out an airlock way before reaching the Red Planet, no one would care) because Martian children have no one to bring them presents... seriously. You'd think they could just hire somebody... I feel it's only fair to warn you that it's really, really
This priceless little gem from the early nineties takes place at a suicide prevention hotline on Christmas Eve. It's got a (90's) all star cast, including Steve Martin, Rita Wilson, Anthony LaPaglia, Garry Shandling and Adam Sandler. Critics hated it, audiences hated it, and when i made my brother take me st see it in the theater, he hated it. Why should you watch it? Two words: Madeline Kahn.
The Nightmare Before Christmas:
I don't think that that there is anyone from my generation who hasn't seen and been deeply affected by Tim Burton's dark fairytale about Jack Skelington (King of the Pumpkin Patch) and his obsession with Christmas.
You've seen this movie. And if you haven't you are probably in your sixties. Get into it.
I'm gonna go out on a limb and say it. This is the best film adaptation of Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol ever next to which all others are a steaming pile of crap (you here that Muppets?! I'm looking at you.). The always genius Bill Murray plays Frank Cross, a modern day (well, 80's modern) Scrooge in the form of a heartless television executive. His gradually building nervous break down as he's tortured by the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future, along with a Danny Elfman score make the movie. Also it's fun example of how accepted ruthlessness and base ambition were in the eighties.
Okay. So if I had to pick a favorite movie based solely on the number of times i've seen it, it would have to be Go! Not only did my friend Amy and I see it thirteen times in the theater (honest) but i have owned 4 different copies of the DVD. It follows three interrelated groups of characters oe Christmas Eve as they (knowingly or not) navigate the aftermath of a drug deal gone wrong. It is fast paced and hillarious, with possibly the best soundtrack of any 90's movie.
A Christmas Story:
This movie doesn't really require any explanation on my part. If by some strange turn of events you've never seen it (perhaps you were launched into space in the early eighties, and are just now returned to earth?) just wait until next year; TBS plays it back-to-back for 24 hours every Christmas.
The Lion in Winter:
You think your family is effed up? I promise you look like the Cleavers compared to these people. Peter O'Toole and Katherine Hepburn star as the King and Queen of England, King Henry Plantagenet and Eleanore of Aquitaine, respectively. They along with their children and the king of France gather one Christmas to plot with and against one another for the future of the crown of England. PLEASE don't let the fact that this is a historical drama dissuade you from seeing it. The characters are rich and the dialogue is so fast and witty it will leave you with blisters. This one earned all three of its Oscars.