|from Planes, Trains and Automobiles
Christmas in July 2016: S.W. of Ho! Ho! Holiday Viewing
1) What Christmas episode/special/or movie always puts you in the holiday spirit?
As a Christmas movie junkie, there are so many I watch year over year, but one of my favorite holiday traditions is my day-before-Thanksgiving cooking and baking movie marathon, where I’m all by myself in the kitchen, preparing for the big family meal, entertained by my very favorite holiday films. For me, that marks the real beginning of the Christmas season, which is (unsurprisingly) my favorite time of year. I always begin with Planes, Train and Automobiles (the best Thanksgiving-themed movie ever), segue into Christmas Vacation, where I know every line by heart and can’t help (annoyingly) saying them out loud (which is only fine when you’re watching alone in your kitchen), spend some time with Ralphie in A Christmas Story, then make a stop at Elf and/or The Holiday. It makes 8-10 hours of hard work in the kitchen fun. (It helps that I also love to cook.) The evening always ends with the whole family sitting down — with a well-earned glass of wine for me — to watch Love, Actually; a movie I’ve seen probably 100 times, and yet never fails to make me laugh AND cry.
That day, which many might find long and arduous, is one I look forward to all year.
2) What Christmas program or scene brings you to tears?
Though I don’t remember adoring it on my initial viewing, over the years Elf has become one of our holiday must-watch films. No matter how many times I see it, the scene where the crowd outside Central Park makes Santa’s sleigh fly the old fashioned way, always brings a tear to my eye.
That’s one, time-tested example, but, truthfully, it’s probably hard to find a Christmas movie that DOESN'T make me well up, as I’m the ultimate movie sap. Even when I know it’s coming, I can’t help but get sniffly when Colin Firth’s Jamie proposes to his housekeeper, Aurelia, in broken Portuguese after a dramatic march through the town in Love, Actually. When the children of St Bernadette’s sing “One Night, One Moment” in Coventry Cathedaral for Nativity!’s finale. When George Bailey finds Zuzu’s petals in his pocket in It’s a Wonderful Life. Or when the orchestra plays Little Brown jug on Christmas morning, after Glenn Miller’s plane goes missing in The Glenn Miller Story (even if it didn’t happen that way in real life). At Christmas, my heart strings are ripe for plucking.
3) What's your favorite quote of dialogue, song lyric, or sentiment from a Christmas program?
Remember when you were a kid, and it seemed like Christmas day would never arrive? That stands in such stark contrast to the hectic, mad dash pace most adults feel throughout the holidays. Even with the oft-stressful realities of the season, I always try to recapture that thrill of excitement and anticipation, if only for 30 minutes at a time, when watching those classic, animated Christmas specials that helped pass the endless hours till the big day in my youth with my own little ones: Frosty the Snowman, Christmas with the Chipmunks, A Charlie Brown Christmas, Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer, A Garfield Christmas … All are special and wonderful and have the ability to transport me instantly back to being 8-years-old and lying on the basement floor composing my sixth “revised” letter to Santa while sneaking “just one more” Christmas cookie from the kitchen.
But the best of all is probably Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas, the perfect parable to remind us busy old grumps to take the time to stop and smell the Christmas tree. To quit trying so hard to make everything perfect, or check all the items off our own Santa to-do lists and just appreciate the holiday for what it is …
"Maybe Christmas doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more.”
… I’m not sure anything could sum up what it’s really all about better than that.
There’s a bit of a Grinch in all of us, but if we stop moving so fast we’ll see that there is really is a touch of magic in the air during that special time of year. Christmas is a time when it just seems like everyone is a little bit nicer, a little more friendly and the world feels a bit brighter and more hopeful. I always try and hold on to that during the inevitable hustle and bustle.
4) Is there a Christmas program that unintentionally frightens you--or turns you off?
There are certainly those that are bad, and I’m not a fan of the Christmas-themed horror films, other than the many takes on Dicken’s Christmas Carol which, in its day, was considered a scary ghost story much more so than a holiday treat. (I especially enjoy Bill Murray’s modern take in Scrooged.)
But in terms of turn offs, I’d have to say that one example that immediately comes to mind is Bad Santa, which we saw last holiday season for the first time. I’m all for irreverent, snarky humor — it’s usually my favorite kind, actually — and I don’t need my holiday fare to be saccharine or squeaky clean, but I saw little to like in this rude, crude, unfunny (at least to me) “comedy.” I know a lot of people like it, since there’s a sequel coming out this year, but it’s definitely not my cup of eggnog.
5) Name one character from Christmas entertainment with whom you closely identify? and explain why.
Hmm, this is a tough one. I considered, Laura Linney’s “Sarah" from Love, Actually. A devoted sister who gives up a romantic chance with her long-time crush to care for her mentally ill brother, because real-life, with all its imperfections and difficulties, heartbreak and sacrifice, is still more fulfilling than a fantasy. Or maybe Steve Martin’s hapless traveler "Neal Page," who has every calamity possible befall him in Planes, Trains and Automobiles, when all he wants is to get home to his family for the holidays. Yet even though he loses his temper more than once, his underlying humanity and kindness for others remain, even when both are truly tested by the world’s worst traveling companion in John Candy's "Del Griffith."
But in the end I guess it’s probably that eternal optimist Charlie Brown. No matter how many times his friends tease him in A Charlie Brown Christmas, or tell him his ideas are silly, he maintains his love of the season and faith in the goodness of others, which eventually brings even those who mocked him around to celebrate together in earnest. At least, I aspire to be that patient and positive, especially at the holidays.