Thursday, December 01, 2011

The Best Christmas Movies: why can't a guy be crazy AND be Santa Claus?

It's finally the first of December, and you know what that means! It's officially ok to get excited about Christmas!

Thanksgiving has come and gone, it's nearing the end of the year...and it is no longer uncool to listen to Christmas music or deck the halls. You might be wondering why a Jew like me loves Christmas so much, but all I can say is 1) we always had a Christmas tree and celebrated Christmas and 2) mind your own damn business.

Seriously though, I love Christmas and to honor the spirit of the season, I've decided to start a new series of posts dedicated to my favorite Christmas movies.  I figure they all air on tv at some point during this time of year, so it's not entirely outside the realm of the blog. Not like I care anyway. You people will read what I write and like it, dammit.

That's the spirit!

Up first, the perfect gateway movie. Miracle on 34th Street. And I don't mean the lame remake version from 1994, I mean the old school black and white* 1947 original. This movie stars one of my favorite actresses, Maureen O'Hara (the Mom from the original Parent Trap) and asks the question: if someone claims that they are Santa Claus are they delightfully crazy or just really crazy? Just kidding--the movie is actually about why it's important to have belief and imagination and how dreams can come true. Also, why the United States Postal Service is awesome.

I call this a gateway movie, because it starts out on Thanksgiving.  Maureen O'Hara is a working Mom who is in charge of the Macy's Thanksgiving Day parade--and has to find a new Santa in a hurry. The guy she finds seems like the perfect Santa--until he begins to tell everyone that he really IS Santa. From there we are firmly in Christmas mode, but it's nice to start off with Thanksgiving. If you aren't totally in the Christmas spirit yet, this might be a good way to get there.

Yes, I'm sure you're a very nice crazy man who thinks he is Santa Claus. Now get away from me before I call the cops and have you committed. Oops, too late!

The movie is also delightful for all the period references, such as how many of the characters casually smoke while getting ready for (and lying in ) bed. It's also interesting how one of the central themes of the movie is rediscovering the "true meaning" and magic of Christmas. Apparently people in the 1940s were fond of going on and on about how commercial Christmas had become and how nobody really remembered what it was really about, not like in the good old days. Which begs the question: has Christmas really changed that much even now? Seems to me that it was ALWAYS commercial if even 60 years ago people had the same gripes. I mean, when were the good old days? Probably the 1800s...before there was any kind of commercialism. Because there was no industry. And you were lucky to get a single piece of candy for Christmas so quit your whining and go back to bed because that cow isn't going to milk itself come morning!

To sum up, Miracle on 34th Street is the perfect movie to get you in the holiday mood. Adorable kids, adorable old people, romance, a happy and somewhat mysterious ending (was he really Santa Claus???), and a sense that things might work out ok after all. Even for us working stiffs. So grab some hot chocolate, wrap yourself in a blanket, and prepare to have your heart warmed!

 I love you Santa Claus. Now give me a house or I refuse to believe in you.

 * I wouldn't normally recommend that you seek out a colorized version of an old movie, but in this case I think it's worth it. It's a Christmas movie after all, and you want to see the green of the Christmas tree and the red of Santa's suit. Also, Maureen O'Hara is a red-head and you should never miss a ginger viewing opportunity.


Clovis said...

To your point, Miracle on 34th Street is a classic example of how much we've always had some kind of weird nostalgia for a Christmas that may not have ever even existed. The song "White Christmas" even points it out - he's dreaming of the kind of Christmas he *used* to know, after all, and not the Christmas that's come to be year after year. And that was written in 1940.

Maggie Cats said...

It's all Norman Rockwell's fault.

Cheryl said...

Being in the Bible Belt and so used to hearing complaints about how the secularization of Christmas is what's ruining it, it's always funny to me when the same nostalgia comes from the secular side of Christmas. It's especially funny when you remember that the whole reason the dang holiday even exists has nothing to do with the actual birth date of Jesus. It's literally always been a scam. Kind of takes the pressure off, if you think about it. It's like, celebrate however you feel like celebrating, there's never been a right answer to begin with.

Cheryl said...
This comment has been removed by the author.