With Christmas around the corner I thought it would be fun to post Colleen and my favorite Christmas movies and TV shows. I know many of you kats and kittens drop by to find new (old) flicks to favor, but I think today’s post will be more about remembering all of our favorites that we’ve loved for years. So pour yourself a bourbon egg nog, log on to Netflix and get ready for…
Tiki Lounge Talk’s Top Twenty Christmas Shows!
20. Rudolph’s Shiny New Year, 1976: Not exactly a Christmas show, but close enough. Our old Friend Rudolf The Red-Nosed Reindeer finds himself trying to save the Baby New Year. Long story short, it’s more of that great old stop-animation stuff that we loved as kids. Computer generated imagery just doesn’t have the same old-fashioned, homey Christmas feel that these shows did. And the toys were real!
19. The Year Without A Santa Claus, 1974: Another stop-animation goody from the same guys who gave us Rudolph’s Shiny New Year and Santa Claus it coming to town, Jules Bass and Arthur Rankin, Jr. Santa (Mickey Rooney) catches a cold, and believes nobody cares if he comes to town anyway. This is the one with Heat Miser and Snow Miser. Classic, wonderful show, except for a whiny version of “Blue Christmas” from a little girl. Oh, and every time it dips below 40 here in South Florida, which isn’t often, we joke, “It’s gonna snow in South Town!” You’ll have to watch the show to get it.
18. Elf, 2003: Not an oldy but definitly a goody, this Christmas flick is about a man (Will Ferrel) who was orphaned and adopted by Santa’s elves and brought up at the North Pole. Sometime in his 30’s or 40’s he decides to find his real father, James Cann, in New York City. Hilarity ensues. Add in cute-as-a-button Zooey Deschanel and Bob Newhart, and this goofy comedy can’t miss. Plus it’s packed with the koolest Christmas music by Ella, Frank, Les Baxter, etc. etc.
16. White Christmas, 1954: Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye and Rosemary Clooney team up in this post-WWII musical. Bing & Danny play ex-GI’s who form a song & dance team (yeah, that happened a lot after WWII, right?) They go to play a B&B in Vermont, find it’s owned by their old commander who’s not doing so well financially, so they help him get the place hopping again while falling for a couple of dames in the outfit. Of course, Bing sings White Christmas.
15. Home Alone, 1990: It’s hard to call this one “new” as it is officially 20 years old now. Krazy, huh? The first really good Christmas movie to come along in years (1989’s Christmas Vacation gets an Honorable Mention), this movie re-defined what Christmas was all about, while sending us the same, time-honored message: There’s no place like home for the holidays, even if you bludgeon would-be burglars with gallons of paint and a clothes iron.
14. Silent Night, Deadly Night, 1984: “You’ve made it through Halloween, now try to survive Christmas” was the tagline for this early 80’s-style slasher film. Forget the plot, it’s SANTA murdering half-naked women. Put this one on after the kiddie’s hit the hay.
13. A Christmas Carol, 1951 with Alistair Sim: There are about 400 version of this movie, dating back to the 1890’s when Scrooge was drawn on a notepad and flipped through. This particular one is the one my family watched every year, and so it’s my favorite “live action” version. (Rich Little’s version was funny as hell, but is impossible to find.)
12. The Santa Clause, 1994: Another one that’s hard to call “new”, this very original movie was both funny and heartwarming. Tim Allen makes a great Santa, and the way he gets the job is a fantastic example of originality and creativity to make this flick lots of fun. The second one was pretty good too. Don’t really remember the third one. Might not have even seen it. Sequels, you know…
11. Frosty The Snowman, 1969: One of the few cartoons that made it big in the era of stop-animation, Frosty lives on as one of the favorites among favorites. With Jimmy Durante narrating and Jackie Vernon as the voice of Frosty, no one will ever forget (or forgive) that bad magician, Professor Hinkle. (Bizzy, bizzy bizzy!!!) and what he did to Frosty. Whew! Santa comes by to save the day!
10. The Muppet Christmas Carol, 1992: Coming years after the success of the Muppet Show, this welcomed Muppet movie starred Micheal Caine as Scrooge, in a damned good performance too, considering his co-stars were a frog, a pig, a bear, and a whatever. Puns galore. Muppets. Music. Rats. Who could ask for anything more?
9. Santa Claus is Coming To Town, 1970: Hard to believe this Rankin/Bass stop-animation favorite came out 40 years ago. I mean, it was new the first time I saw it! (I was two). Fred Astair, Mickey Rooney and Keenan Wynn lead the starring voices for this story of Santa’s life, from when he was an orphan to when he started bringing toys to children. When I was a kid, I looked at it as a biography…which it is. Don’t let anyone tell you any differently. Listen for the voice of the Burgermeister – his name is Paul Frees, and he’s done voices on almost every cartoon and stop-ani show EVER made.
8. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, 1964: As far as original, old stop-animation goes, this one is the tops. I mean, come on, it’s Rudolph! The Island of Misfit Toys, great music, an elf who wants to be a dentist, 1940’s cars and a Bumble. If you’ve never seen it, well, you’re a dork.
7. The Nightmare Before Christmas, 1993: Everyone knows that Tim Burton is bat-ass crazy. His dark, twisted mind gave us a glimpse of his warped version of Christmas with Edward Scissorhands, and he took the money from that to make his real movie, The Nightmare Before Christmas. It’s just this: You take Halloween, and you take Christmas, and you collide them at 180 miles per hour with some LSD and a fog machine. Then you film it in the most expensive, most time-consuming and hardest to shoot stop animation ever, invented just for this movie.
A giant, skinny skeleton, Jack Skellington, accidentally discovers Chrismastown after taking a long walk away from Halloweentown. He falls in love with the colors, the lights, the pies, the toys, so different from his gray and orange home. He decides to give Santa a night off, and take his place with some horrific toys and a sleigh built from a coffin (the skeleton reindeers are creepy). It’s an opera-style musical, but the music is boss. Especially The Boogieman’s Song, where he sings and dances á la Cab Calloway.
6. A Christmas Story, 1983: If there’s still anyone out there who hasn’t seen this flick, as it’s been broadcast 24 hours on Christmas Day for around the last 15 years, I think I’d faint in my egg nog. “You’ll shoot your eye out” is probably one of the most quoted (and imitated) lines in pop culture. That, referring to the Red Ryder BB gun (I got one!) and that crazy leg lamp (I got one’a those, too) make this movie one of the most popular Christmas movies of all time. “Messy Marvin” did a great job as the clueless kid who didn’t care about anything in the world except getting that BB gun. We’ve all been there – with me, it was getting a slot car track when I was a kid (then later in life it was about getting this blonde stripper I knew and bottle of Johnny Blue, but that’s another story). And of course, this is where you learn what Chinese Turkey is.
5. It’s a Wonderful Life, 1946: Jimmy Stewart almost didn’t make this movie. He had been overseas during the war, and thought it was too soon after he came back to make a movie. Lionel Barrymore talked him into it, and Stewart later said it was his favorite movie he ever made. Another “There’s no place like home for the holidays, no matter how screwed up things are” movie, it didn’t do so well at the box office first time around (even though it was nominated for five Oscars). It wasn’t until later TV and video releases that the film was realized as one of the top 100 films (American Film Institute) and given the honor of the #1 Inspirational Film of all time by the AFI. This was always one of my favorites from when I was a little kid. After all, don’t we all want to believe there’s an angle looking out for us? Or maybe an angel?
4. How The Grinch Stole Christmas (original cartoon), 1966: The “new” Grinch live-action movie with Jim Carey was slick, over-the-top, extreme, and therefore dullsville compared to the understated excellence of the original cartoon. With Boris Karloff narrating, this made-for-TV special by master cartoonist Chuck Jones took the book to an incredible level while keeping the look and feel of Dr. Seuss intact. The Grinch’s theme song is so absolutely perfect, the toys are so absolutely annoying, and Cindy-Loo Who is so absolutely cute that it all fits in perfectly with the absolutely abysmal Grinch. He even admits to being 53, which makes him a crotchety old man! He’s basically yelling at the Whos to get off his lawn. Perfection. (Note: Dr. House stole his look from the Grinch)
3. Miracle on 34th Street (Original Movie), 1947: Again, the “new” version of this movie is an over-the-top catastrophe. Stay far away from it lest your eyes melt in your head. But the original is pure magic. John Payne, Maureen O’Hara, Edmund Gwenn as Santa a little girl named Natalie Wood make this Christmas special a very special one indeed. An up-and-coming lawyer falls into a situation where he has to (wants to) prove in a court of law that not only does Santa Claus exist, but that he works at Macy’s. Natalie Wood is a little girl who’s taught not to believe in such silly things. Santa is determined to help everyone, even if it means he could be locked up for Christmas Eve. You’ll never guess how it ends! Well, ok, maybe you will. Still, it’s a fantastic movie.
2. Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol, 1962: Credited as the FIRST Christmas Cartoon to start the trend of running cartoons on network TV every Christmas, Magoo’s Christmas Carol may not be as popular today as it was nearly 50 years ago, but it’s still considered one of the top by pretty much anyone who watches Christmas shows. Jim Backus of course voices Magoo as Scrooge, and the story is of course filled with Magoo-esque jokes like, (Ghost of Christmas Present) “Scrooge, have you ever seen the likes of me?” (Magoo) “I’m not sure I see you now!” The Dickens’ tale is paraphrased down to about an hour (less commercial breaks) but keeps the original story mostly intact while giving it a sort of live-theater feel. The cartoon itself is pure early ’60s animation, kind of Bullwinkle-like in its art direction, and very clever. The music is great (ever had Razzleberry jelly?) and it’s loads of fun to watch. This is one my family and I would watch every year on TV, and on video tape (I still have the tape from 1980 when we taped it off HBO) later. It was my Mother’s favorite Christmas show ever, so it holds a special place in my heart.
And of course, the number one Christmas show at the Pirate’s Cove Tiki Bar and at homes around the world…
A Charlie Brown Christmas, 1965: Seriously, nothing taught me more about the true meaning of Christmas than this show. When I was a kid, there were no DVDs, no video tapes, no computers. So you got the TV guide, found the date when CBS was showing it, and stayed home that night to make sure you caught it or you’d be out of luck until next year. And it was worth the wait. That incredible musical score by jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi, the homey, home-made feel of the art and the edits, and the acting by actual kids…it was like watching Peanuts Christmas cards unfolding on the screen. “A great, big, shiny aluminum Christmas tree”. “Of all the Charlie Browns in the world, you’re the Charlie Browniest”. Snoopy dancing to Schroeder’s jazz piano. Absolute perfection.
Well kids, that’s our Christmas show wrap-up for 2010. Sure, there are dozens more, from Bob Hope Christmas specials to Saturday Night Live skits, but I had to limit it to the top 20. Hell, I started with 10! If you haven’t seen any of these flicks, I’m pretty sure they’re all available on DVD or for rental, and some may actually be on TV soon. So keep a lookout, have plenty of nog on tap, and Merry Christmas!
Here’s some video clips, on the house…
-Tiki Chris reporting from under the great, big shiny aluminum Christmas Tree at Tiki Lounge Talk, the Tiki & retro lovers blog for vintage-style fun.