Off Topic – Essential Christmas Viewing

November 12, 2009

ist2_6705455-christmas-tree-xxlThis is utterly off topic but it’s my site and I don’t care if it does annoy any of my 10 readers.

Today I spent a great deal of time sorting through Christmas videos pulling together all the stuff for me and the kids to watch this Christmas. Now the problem is I usually leave it until early December and discover technical issues galore. So I’m getting done early this year. This led to me chatting to people asking them to guess my favourite Christmas movie. I said I should write a list of essential Christmas viewing, and someone said it’d be a good idea, so I am. It contains movies and TV. The TV is almost exclusively UK based. I grew up in the UK and the fact is UK TV still does an epic job with regards to Christmas stuff compared to the US’ pitiful excuse. When I moved to Canada I was horrified how un-Christmas-like TV was around the actual day. Oprah friggin’ Winfrey was on! So over the years I have amassed a collection of Christmas content that I dig out every year and give me the Christmas experience of when I was a kid that US TV utterly fails too.

My Christmas memories, particularly as I got older, were utterly miserable and involved me sitting alone in my bedroom contemplating suicide. It had nothing to do with not having anyone or anything like that. Just… It was like a part of me had died. I adore Christmas. Most kids do, but as I got older it seemed nobody else around me gave a damn anymore. Nobody made an effort. Given how much I love Christmas now it upsets me to think I had 15 years of crap Christmases. What a waste. Life offers us precious few good times, and I always liked Christmas to be special. I’d dress up for work, decorate my room etc… But that was it. Family didn’t bother. Friends didn’t bother. Christmas Day would be sitting around miserable, then in the evening going to a friends house and getting drunk on homemade wine, then stumbling home. Utter garbage. It was just miserable. I didn’t even care about the presents. (Of which there were none anyway.) I’d rather have a ton of decorations and festive cheer along with good festive themed TV to watch than any amount of presents. Even when it was absolute garbage, TV and film were at least there to provide an escape into the Christmas I wanted. Sadly some people don’t understand this and belittle my excitement about Christmas. Perhaps if they’d had the many garbage Christmases I’d had instead of spending them with families who actually gave a shit, they’d understand how important it is to me.

Now I have way more content than I can possibly list here, so this will just be my Essential Collection. Stuff I love to watch EVERY Christmas. (Some stuff I rotate in and out.) Some of it’s kids stuff, some isn’t. I have tried to include YouTube links. While stuff is on there now, it will be deleted at a later time probably. I have absolutely no intention of fixing this post when they do disappear, so if you’re reading this any time after mid November 2009, who knows what below will work and what won’t. It’s a magical mystery tour!

Which leads us onto the first thing. My favourite Christmas movie of all.

Elf_posterElf: “You sit on a throne of lies!”

Actually hated this movie when I first saw it. It didn’t do anything for me and I found it tedious. I am not a fan of Will Ferrell and for everything he’s done that I’ve liked, I can pick two things I hated. However, this movie has a huge heart and is just such a wonderful, enjoyable movie and it won me over the following year on DVD. I now adore it. Such a wonderful story. Sure it’s cliched, but who cares? It’s got the beautiful Zooey Deschanel in it. (Who also has an incredible singing voice. Her cover of “Baby It’s Cold Outside” with Leon Redbone over the closing titles is permanently on my iPod.) Some great comedy bits. James Caan… and a comedy idol of mine BOB FREAKIN’ NEWHART! (I had an old single of “The Driving Instructor” as a kid which I played about a million times.) Plus Ed Asner is Santa.  The cast is made of win from top to bottom. I also loved how it had a happy ending. Without going into spoiler territory, all I’ll say is when we last see Buddy after everyone is singing, I assumed that was it.

jingleballsMen Behaving Badly – Jingle Balls: One thing I missed when I moved to Canada was Men Behaving Badly. NBC had started their own version of the show, but due to the network’s being cowards and having to not upset the FCC, a lot of what made the show hilarious had to be removed. (Not to mention that douche Rob Schneider was in it.) Apparently masturbation jokes won’t fly on network TV in the US. Shame given the utter wank a lot of them air… HA! Anyhoo, a few years ago I was flipping through the channels here and found this Christmas special airing. I’d never seen it before so I was delighted! I then got a proper copy of the show. Fantastic. Has one of the funniest scenes in history involving a blender. I still love the line “I got a jacky from Dorothet”. I love the story. I love the segues of the ideal, dream Christmas. (See YouTube clip below.) I always watch this at least twice each holiday season. I like to try and get a viewing in late Christmas Eve if I can as well. It helps if you know the characters on the show, but comedy is comedy. The network that aired the special here never aired the rest of the show. Adult humour abounds, and it’s well worth checking out.

nicknoelNick and Noel: I discovered this on a tape my mother-in-law bought for my son in 2002, possibly 2003. It was the only thing on it and my son played it to death. It was put on loop for him and he loved it. Even long after Christmas was finished. So much so the tape wore out. The first tape I’ve ever seen that happen too. I wanted a digital copy of it after this. First I tried capturing the tape and making my own, but the tape was too far gone at that point and the audio was horrendously out of a sync. After several years I FINALLY FOUND IT! Bundled with a couple of other Christmas cartoons. Nobody cared for them, but Nick and Noel was a Christmas favourite again. The story is very sweet, about a little girl who has lost her mommy, and a dog and cat go off to find her a new mommy. Trite, stupid, and quite possibly one of the sweetest, most enjoyable Christmas cartoons ever made. And thanks to the wonders of flagrant copyright abuse here’s part 1 for you, and the rest is on YouTube as well. (Four parts in total.) I just have to hear the opening bars of the theme and I start feeling Christmassy. Enjoy!

garftitleA Garfield Christmas Special: Once I hit about 16 my parents stopped giving a damn about Christmas as I mentioned above. My parents would never decorate before the 20th even when I was a kid. Once I hit 16 decorations pretty much stopped entirely unless I did them. There were no presents. A tedious meal. In short, Christmas was an utterly miserable experience. So the opening of this was perfect for me and even when I was down on Christmas I liked the opening few minutes. Garfield utterly cynical about Christmas etc… Of course I have kids now and have rediscovered a love for Christmas. Heck, maybe Garfield is one of the reasons I came to love Christmas again. It’s overly sentimental in spots, like a lot of Christmas stuff, but it’s good old fashioned Christmas entertainment and, like Nick and Noel above, it gets played a LOT here during the run up to Christmas, and that’s alright with me. And, once again, thanks to flagrant copyright violation, it’s on YouTube in it’s entirety. (Three parts.)

bad_santa_02Bad Santa: The first really adult fare on the list. There was Bad Santa, then there was Badder Santa which had more rude stuff in it. Then there was a directors cut which takes the movie back to how the director wanted it. Not seen that version but from what I’ve read it totally changes the tone of the film, and I’m quite happy with the tone of it as it is, so Badder Santa is the one in rotation. Billy Bob Thornton is a guy who every year with his partner is a mall Santa, and on Christmas Eve they rob the mall. Billy Bob is a drunken bum and absolutely hilarious. I won’t spoil any of the plot but it has everything. Dark humour, sex, Christmassy… Stuff. Mainly I like this movie as its Christmas themed, but without going a familiar route. Adult Christmas movies are very rare, and this one is fun viewing. Okay, so the tale of redemption is a Christmas cliche of the highest order, but hey, the movie would be a lot crappier and cynical if it didn’t have that. It’s also notable for the work of two now sadly departed comic geniuses. Bernie Mac and John Ritter.

christmasposter1Christmas in Wonderland: This movie has NO RIGHT WHATSOEVER to be on this list! It’s stupid, bad etc… However, it has two things that make me love it. First of all it was shot at West Edmonton Mall where I live. Okay, so I don’t live in the mall, but I live a few miles away and have spent a great deal of time there. My wife and I laughed uproariously at the first outside shot of WEM as it’s had a CG makeover to look magical. Whereas if you know the place it just looks ridiculous. The reasons it’s here, and the second and best thing about it is PATRICK SWAYZE IS IN IT! Swayze plays the Dad of the piece, and while watching the movie last year I said to my wife “You know, I’d quite happily watch a 90 minute film of Swayze Christmas shopping.” There’s a plot of stolen money. Blah blah blah… And the always lovely Tim Curry plays an idiotic Scottish RCMP officer. (The mind boggles!) The movie is bloody stupid, but if you know WEM at all it’s quite fun, and The Swayze shopping is fun to watch. It’s typical idiotic Christmas fare, very kid friendly and has a nice ending. The now sadly departed Swayze saves it from being utter garbage. Turn your brain off and it’s good clean fun, even if Leonard and Sheldon (I am amused that the bad guys share the names of the Big Bang Theory characters) are the least likable comedic criminal pairing ever.

51PNWG5S85L._SL500_AA280_Christmassy Ted: I was never a big fan of Father Ted. Oh sure, it’s funny, but I would never rave over it. Unlike other UK comedy stuff which I do rave over, like Spaced, Black Books, Snuff Box, Father Ted was just sort of there. The Christmas special however is a favourite of mine. It starts out with a nice Ballykissangel parody that will be utterly baffling to anyone who has never seen that show. The scene with the Catholic priests lost in “Ireland’s biggest lingerie section” is a comedy classic. Then it devolves into typical Father Ted silliness with Mrs Doyle falling down lots, and the what was a seemingly mandatory Mission Impossible reference for all shows made around this time. Not very Christmassy all things considered, but still fun. An edited version appears on TV here sometimes. Canadian TV runs more commercials than the UK, so edits had to be made to fit the show into the time slot. CBC edited the opening Ballykissangel part, which makes the later appearance of apparitions of Stephen Tompkinson and Dervla Kirwan laughing even more surreal and baffling. Once again, the whole thing appears to be on YouTube.

40539-large2 point 4 Children – Relax-ay-vous: Bitching about UK comedy seems to be a national sport in some quarters. Especially one website I used to hang out on that I realised was full of pretentious dickheads who frown upon people finding certain shows funny. Well 2 point 4 was a great show and anyone who disagrees can sod off. This Christmas special may be the high point of the show. Starts out with a great montage to Nat King Cole’s “I’m The Happiest Christmas Tree”. Then becomes one of the first mainstream shows to have a story about the Internet. It’s not entirely horrible from a technological standpoint. Then the show ends with a musical number which is also bloody funny. They did at least one other special involving a cruise ship, but it was nowhere near as good. Gary Olsen, who plays the father, sadly passed away shortly after they made a Millenium special, and the show died. He was such a loss to the comedy world. This is usually the first thing I watch at Christmas, right after I’ve put the decorations up. Probably due to the Christmas tree sequence. Once again, here it is on YouTube. At least worth it for the opening sequence after the credits. All the shows Christmas specials seem to be on YouTube as well, so that’s something I must check out!

kmkyKnowing Me, Knowing Yule: Aha… Alan Partridge with his Christmas chat show. Coogan at his finest. Just… Classic. An absolutely fine Christmas comedy tradition. Set in the style of a post Christmas party show it’s typical Partridge fare where it starts out all nice and then everything starts to go horribly wrong, including ultimately punching out the new chief commissioning editor of BBC television. Here’s a clip from the end. (I have no idea why the person who upped that then decided to do the whole thing in slow motion… Bizarre!)

christmas_vacationNational Lampoons Christmas Vacation: I saw this movie on the big screen! To show the intelligence of the big movie studios, this movie received it’s theatrical debut in the UK in the middle of July. It lasted one week. And I was one of the three people who saw it. Only added this to my Christmas rotation in the last couple of years. Damn funny film. Gets bogged down in sentimentality in spots but represents the horrors of a family Christmas quite nicely, and has some great comedic set pieces. The arrival of Randy Quaid ruins it a bit, as he does in everything, and he was always the weak link in the Vacation films, but even he can’t derail the festive feel of this film. Also includes what I think is probably Chevy Chase’s finest ever moment, linked below.

a-christmas-storyA Christmas Story: For the longest time I dismissed this film. The little clips I saw looked idiotic and I went out of my way to avoid it. I WAS A FOOL! This is a great family movie. Captures some of the excitement and expectation you experienced as a kid. (Before your friends and family ultimately ruined Christmas by not giving a shit.) Plus it’s damn funny. Amusing trivia: The kid who played Ralphie is the head elf in Elf! I don’t know why I dismissed it for so long. Probably because A) it was airing on TV, B) it had commercials in it, and C) it wasn’t shown in widescreen. I am an absolute snob when it comes to film and it has honestly been years since I watched a movie on TV as television has no respect for movies and they are routinely butchered. Glad I finally saw the light with this movie and picked it up.

MV5BMTM1MjA2NTE4Ml5BMl5BanBnXkFtZTYwMzUyMDc5._V1._SX234_SY400_Scrooged: Amusingly both Chevy Chase and Bill Murray are on my list, despite both, from what I’ve read and heard, being assholes in every day life. Whatever, they’re bloody funny assholes! If you’ve somehow never heard of or seen this film, you’re missing out on possibly the best updating of Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol” ever made. My favourite part involves the lovely Carol Kane as the Ghost of Christmas Present, and a toaster. It is, of course, the usual Christmas Carol story, but given a nice twist, and Murray is always comedy gold. Or at least was back then. Also Bobcat Goldthwait turns in a great performance. However it is the aforementioned lovely, beautiful Carol Kane who I love in this as the sadistic ghost. God she’s awesome! I usually watch this nearer Christmas Eve for obvious reasons.

So there you go. Some essential Christmas viewing for you. There is a TON of other stuff I routinely watch. Lots of stuff isn’t commercially available and comes from bootlegs. Old UK Christmas stuff etc… Plus there’s stuff that I like that ONLY I like really due to sentimental reasons etc… Then there’s stuff like Die Hard which is set at Christmas but isn’t really Christmassy as such.

evil-santaAnd finally, there’s this. My wife described it best when she said I like to shock people. I posted that link before on a message board, and despite warning it was disturbing, people actually got angry with me for posting it and yelled at me, despite the fact that was ALL I did. I mean it’s not like I made it! I love how most people believe they can’t be offended, are easy going etc… And all it takes is one video for them to get abusive and angry. I was expecting the shock. I wasn’t expecting the anger. “I’m angry because I clicked a link you warned me was disturbing.” So click on that link at your peril, and don’t yell at me. Share the love and spread it elsewhere so you can have people shocked and disturbed and yell at you.

This is regular Christmas viewing for me at least a few times. There is so much going on. Is it a comment on the commercialisation of Christmas? The abusive relationship of mythical Christmas creatures? Hell, is it even pro breast feeding? I just don’t know. But I find it darkly fascinating and I hope one day to discover what it’s trying to say, like some sort of cryptogram, assuming it IS making a statement and not just trying to shock.

But then I always was a fan of stuff that makes me go “What the HELL?!”

Merry Christmas.


4 Responses to “Off Topic – Essential Christmas Viewing”

  1. Jenny Wadley Says:

    Awesome post- thanks for a great, inspirational list! Four of your favs are mine as well (the US stuff, since they never show anything else here). I don’t even know the stuff from the UK. Being a bit of an anglophile, I should be all over this! I will make sure to watch all of these this year so I can get myself a better list. (Abd hopefully replace some of the absolute shit my kids ask for again and again.)

  2. Lisa Says:

    I don’t remember ever watching that Alan Partridge thing. And I’m sure there’s a couple regulars not on the list, but I can’t think what.

  3. Steve Says:

    Jenny: Thanks. There’s lots of other stuff I could put on the list, but I tried to keep it down to the ones I absolutely MUST see. There’s stuff the kids watch that I don’t mind, but won’t go out of my way to watch. (Shrek the Halls).

    Lisa: Well you’ll see them this year probably:)

  4. Graham Says:

    Fantastic post! A trip down memory lane in many respects.
    Its inspired me to find some of those films / TV shows… Men Behaving Badly being a ‘must’
    National Lampoons Christmas Vacation has to go at number one of my list.
    Thanks for such a wonderful post, essential reading for a great Christmas.

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