Truth be told...I really don't get all that excited about this time of year. I have felt that way for quite some time now. Without going into too much detail, I can describe how I feel about the whole deal, using just one word---Cynical. That said, I would never begrudge anyone else who celebrates, in any way they see fit. I'm just not one of those folks who gets all willy nilly about the whole thing.
With that in mind, and as the holidays approach at lightning speed, I would like to highlight three of my favorite films that use this time of year as their backdrop. The reason that this trio is tops is because of the "cynicism" that I feel now, runs through each of them at some point. If you're expecting feel good "classics" like Miracle On 34th Street from 1947, A Christmas Carol from 1938, or It's a Wonderful Life from 1946, forget it.
Christmas Vacation-This is my favorite from The National Lampoon series of Vacation films. As hapless family man Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) and his family prepare for the ultimate holiday family reunion, as usual, nothing goes as planned. Everything that can go wrong does. With a laugh filled script from writer John Hughes, just prior to his success with the more family friendly X-mas tale Home Alone, this film has more of "adult" edge. Chase is great here--especially when he is doing physical comedy.
Gremlins-A dark and fun holiday tale courtesy of Executive Producer Steven Spielberg, director Joe Dante, and writer Chris Columbus. Billy Peltzer (Zach Galligan) finds the ultimate pet under his tree. What starts out as something so cute and cuddly, ultimately multiplies and turns the town of Kingston Falls upside down, leaving death and destruction in their wake. Also noted for causing the Motion Picture Association Of America to begin considering adding the rating of PG-13 to their system.
A Christmas Story-This film has to be my all-time favorite in this sub genre. In 1940's Indiana, all 9 year old Ralphie Parker (Peter Billingsley) wants from Santa is a an official Red Ryder carbine-action 200-shot range model BB rifle with a compass in the stock. And he sets out to convince Mom (Melinda Dillon) and Dad (Darren McGavin) that he'll be able to use it wisely. The film is based on the novel In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash by Jean Shepherd and as directed by Bob Clark, takes you back to the period--but with a distinct edge that's a real howl. There are so many memorable scenes in the movie that it's hard to pick my favorite.
All of you out there who feel the same way I do about this time of year, will understand why I like these three choices so much...
All of the films mentioned in this post are available on DVD