The Most Wonderful Time of the Year for Netflix
As we roll into the Christmas Season, we are confronted with the dichotomy of being the fat, lazy, imperialist nation of consuming hordes that we are with the presence of unprecedented generosity of spirit that the holiday tends to bring out in the best of us. We are slapped in the jaw with the fact that we love our families even if we ignore them for most of the year. We look around and figure out ways to show appreciation to those we love and mercy for those we don't.
And we watch movies about how other people deal with this state.
I love Christmas and I love movies about Christmas. Here's my list of the movies about this time of year that I truly love.
5) Bad Santa
This film embraces the cynicism of the holiday without reservation. Billy Bob Thornton is an unapologetic drunken criminal who, with the help of a black midget, dresses as Santa Claus in order to steal all the meaningless consumer goods trolled out for the locust-like shoppers.
At the heart of this dismal, hysterically dark film is the relationship between Thornton and the fat, pathetic, snot-nosed and possibly autistic kid he unwillingly takes under his soiled, boozey wing. Also notable are genuinely funny performances by the late Bernie Mac and John Ritter.
My personal favorite spin on the Dickens classic, Bill Murray is the morally stunted Scrooge who happens to run a FOX-like network and is visited by all the ghosts one expects but with twists that play to Murray's pre-Wes Anderson talents.
Who can resist a snarky Christmas movie that includes Carol Kane, Buster Poindexter and Buddy Hackett?
3) National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
In my opinion, the best of the Vacation movies and the one that speaks most clearly my own personal Christmas experiences. Cousin Eddie is like half of my family and the relentless desire of Chevy Chase's Clark to make sure that everyone in his family have a great goddamn Christmas no matter what the personal and collective sacrifice reminds me of my mother when I was a kid.
My family watches this every Christmas—it's a holiday staple—and nothing is more warming come Christmas Eve than hearing my dad cackle with laughter at classic holiday lines like:
Ellen: What are you looking at?
Clark: Oh, the silent majesty of a winter's morn... the clean, cool chill of the holiday air... an asshole in his bathrobe, emptying a chemical toilet into my sewer...
[Eddie, in the driveway, is draining the RV's toilet]
Eddie: Shitter was full.
Eddie: You surprised to see us, Clark?
Clark: Oh, Eddie... If I woke up tomorrow with my head sewn to the carpet, I wouldn't be more surprised than I am now.
and the best Christmas rant in history
Clark: Hey! If any of you are looking for any last-minute gift ideas for me, I have one. I'd like Frank Shirley, my boss, right here tonight. I want him brought from his happy holiday slumber over there on Melody Lane with all the other rich people and I want him brought right here, with a big ribbon on his head, and I want to look him straight in the eye and I want to tell him what a cheap, lying, no-good, rotten, four-flushing, low-life, snake-licking, dirt-eating, inbred, overstuffed, ignorant, blood-sucking, dog-kissing, brainless, dickless, hopeless, heartless, fat-ass, bug-eyed, stiff-legged, spotty-lipped, worm-headed sack of monkey shit he is! Hallelujah! Holy shit! Where's the Tylenol?
2) The Ref
By far, one of my favorites on this list. Denis Leary is a burglar who ends up stuck with the most dysfunctional family on Planet Crazy—Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey take bickering to an artistic height and Leary's grim, angry, impatient asshole teaches them the meaning of Christmas rather than the family teaching it to him.
NOTE: I understand the knee-jerk desire to eradicate Spacey from the face of the planet but, for chrissakes, this is still one hysterical film and I an a grown-up, which means I can divorce the man from the character.
Once again, an incredible cast (JK Simmons, Christine Baranski, Raymond J. Barry, Glynis Johns and Bill Raymond as a lactose intolerant Santa) all headed by three of the funniest, angriest performances you're likely to see in movies not about Christmas.
Gus: You know what, lady? I'd like to tie you to the back of a fucking truck.
Rose: You don't have the balls.
[Gus leaps up from his chair toward Rose and is intercepted by Lloyd]
Lloyd: Don't do it! It's not worth it.
Gus: I fucking hate her, Lloyd!
Lloyd: I know, I know.
Gus: What is the matter with you? I thought Mothers were sweet and nice a-a-and patient. I know loan sharks who are more forgiving than you. Your husband ain't dead, lady. He's hiding.
Gus: Caroline and Loyd, will get the coffee and deserts then we'll be opening presents.
Connie Chasseur: We can't open presents til midnight.
Gus: Why not?
Connie Chasseur: Because it's not Christmas until midnight!
Gus: We'll be changing the rules, a little bit. We are opening the presents now. Not later, now. Why? We're adults, and we can open our presents, WHENEVER WE WANT!
and, of course
Lloyd: You know, you and my wife have a lot in common. You both think you have some right to life working out the way you want it to, and when it doesn't, you get to act the way you want. The only trouble with that is someone has to be responsible. I'd love to run around and take classes and play with my inner-self! I'd love the freedom to be some pissed-off criminal with no responsibilities, except I don't have the time! But you don't see me with a gun. And you don't see me sleeping with someone else. You think my life turned out the way I wanted because I live in this house? You think every morning I wake up, look in the mirror and say "Gee I'm glad I'm me and not some 19-year-old billionaire rockstar with the body of an athlete and a 24-hour erection!" No I don't! So just excuse the shit out of me!
1) It's a Wonderful Life
C'mon. Most people only remember the part where George Bailey remembers his life without him and how much his presence made a difference. They forget that this is the fever dream of a man about to commit suicide because his life has slowly but certainly spun down the toilet and in one greedy moment, the town Republican takes advantage of George's dim-witted uncle and, like a McConnell or a Ryan, tries to shut down the one bank that isn't a shitty, profit-driven monstrosity.
This is a beautiful movie filled with rage and despair and evil as well as romance, good will and a message each person alive should heed. Merry Christmas, Bedford Falls!
Yes, yes. I'm leaving out all the Rankin and Bass TV shows and the Charlie Brown Special and even A Christmas Story—sue me. I like it dark, fraught with peril and genuine sadness to balance out the saccharine nature of the commercial end of the holidays and the moralistic bent coming from the religious types. If it makes you feel better, I left out the Die Hard movies, too.