Although the answer seems a paradox, the debate over Santa’s best reindeer is easy: it’s Rudolph, by a nose.
Deciding the best Christmastime movie, that’s a whole other sleigh full of toys.
Any sane person would of course say the warm but comedic Scrooged from 1988 is the best. It stars Bill Murray as a rotten, entitled TV exec, a modern-day Scrooge who sees the light after experiences with three unforgettable spirits of Christmas Past, Christmas Present, and Christmas Future.
But then any person with Christmas truly in his heart would say that’s not even the best movie based on Dickens’ book, A Christmas Carol. That spots belongs to The Muppet Christmas Carolfrom 1992, the brilliant comedy musical starring Michael Caine as Scrooge, Kermit the Frog as Bob Cratchit, Miss Piggy as his wife, and you get the picture. (The Rats stole the show. I love a funny Muppet rat. In a top hat. And a scarf.)
But then a person with anything more than figgy pudding for brains would agree that even the 1984 made-for-TV drama A Christmas Carol starring a George C. Scott as Scrooge was the best — unless you go another route entirely and raise your hand for A Christmas Story from 1983, now a Christmas classic thanks to Ralphie and his quest for the Red Ryder, and thanks to the late Jean Shepherd, who wrote the story in his 1966 book, In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash.
And we haven’t even mentioned The Grinch or Charlie Brown yet. Gee whiz …
To each his own in Christmas movies. One man’s Top Gun: Maverick (good!) is another man’s Top Gun (the original: booo!). If we’re choosing reels for reals, I shouldn’t even be given a vote since I’m the only American living or dead who has never seen Christmas Vacation or Home Alone or Die Hard all the way through.
Maybe one of these lonely days …
But maybe on this we can agree. Our favorite movies, should we think about it, were lacking in production value, were grainy and hardly in sharp color, and had no script. They weren’t pretty, but they were authentic. My favorites were filmed in the 1960s, a less-than-celebrated decade marked by indoor wood paneling and shag rugs and shaggy hair and bright colors. The ’60s put the “T” in “Tacky.”
But boy, did it turn out some great Christmas movies. All filmed live.
Dad in the T-shirt with “the camera,” a projector with two-big bulbs. Looked like he was filming with a giant insect. In nearly every shot, the “actors and actresses” — us and our aunts and uncles and cousins and Christmas morning friends — are shielding our eyes from the double deadly bright Lumen Rays of Death emitted from this contraption our father was shooting us with. (The smarter children of that era decided early on to become eye doctors and specialize in the treatment of “Holiday Retina Burn” — and they’re retired today and have no clue how much money they have stashed, all because of those torturing Christmas bulbs.)
In those filmed-at-home movies, I see in my mind the old scene with a 4-year-old boy and the bike. My baby sister holding a doll, and big sis, Sissy, with combs and a pink dress. A chihuahua dragging wrapping paper across the wood floor.
That archaic filming machine captured us with magic sets and footballs and Hot Wheels and Barbies and E-Z-Bakes. Captured Christmases cold and Christmases warm and Christmases wet. Scenes around the table with grandmothers and grandfathers, year after year, older as we grew, but still grainy, shading our eyes, as if trying to squint into the future, with no idea as to how much these movies would mean to us when we finally got there.
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