ANYTHING GOES: A PLEASANT DISTRACTION
I actually intended this installment to be a pensive look back at what has truly been one of the crappiest years of my life. At the last minute, however, I decided to put those thoughts into my first column of the New Year, tempering a glimpse of the past with an optimistic gaze into the future.
What this means, Dear Reader, is that I’m taking the tried-and-true road of my Holiday Movie List. That’s right, kids – I’m totally phoning it in. Merry Christmas!
Yes, I know it’s not a Christmas movie. There’s just something about the atmosphere of the season that makes this movie come to life even more than it usually does. Never mind that this is one of my all time favorite movies – watch it on a dark, chilly night and you’ll feel it even deeper than you ever have before.
9. “A MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL” / “A VERY MERRY MUPPET CHRISTMAS MOVIE” / “MUPPET FAMILY CHRISTMAS”
The Muppets are big in the Jerwa house, and the Christmas offerings are no exception. There’s really no more explanation needed. I only pray that NBC’s new Muppets special will earn its place on the list.
Wide-eyed and full of comic wonder, this movie is a recent gem that will only shine brighter with time. Will Ferrell is hilarious, Zooey Deschanel is sultry-but-sweet and director Jon Favreau wins me over again. Oh, and did you know that Favreau went on to make a little film called “Iron Man”? It’s true.
7. ANYTHING BY RANKIN / BASS
Rankin / Bass movies are undeniably classics, but I really like the fact that they’re really pretty freakin’ weird. We’ve grown accustomed to them over the years, but there are truly oddball things in the R/B universe. If you don’t have the DVD collection, keep your eye on the ABC Family channel; they run gigantic marathons of crazy Rankin / Bass Christmas goodness.
6. “HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS”
You’re a mean one, Mr. Grinch…and it’s just not Christmas until I hear Thurl Ravenscroft’s booming musical delivery and Boris Karloff’s immortal narration.
5. “NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION”
Clark Griswold represents the holiday frustration we’ve all felt at one point or another. Chevy Chase may be one of the biggest knobs in Hollywood, but he did stack up some serious comedy points with this one. Beverly D’Angelo’s contribution shouldn’t go unnoticed, however; as the voice of reason in this movie, she helps Clark seem even more detached from his sanity.
One of Bill Murray’s finest moments, period. I watch this movie at least ten times before Christmas has come and gone, and I could handle ten more beyond that. As a modern-day Ebeneezer Scrooge, Murray is ruthlessly …uh, ruthless…and hilariously filled with terror. And who knew Bobcat Goldthwait could be funny?
3. “A CHARLIE BROWN CHRISTMAS”
Yeah, I love Charlie Brown. You got a problem with that? Vince Guaraldi’s subdued Christmas jazz is half the show; the other half is quiet, peaceful sincerity.
2. “A CHRISTMAS STORY”
There’s a reason this movie runs 24 hours a day on TNT: like Clark Griswold, little Ralphie lives in the “real” world of childhood obsession and unrelenting glee. The result is absolutely transcendent, and Darren McGavin owns every scene he’s in.
AND THE NUMBER ONE CHRISTMAS MOVIE IN THE JERWA HOUSEHOLD IS…
Some people like Alistair Sim, others enjoy Henry Winkler. For my money, though, there’s only ONE Ebeneezer Scrooge, and his name is Albert Finney. I think I saw this 1970 musical version for the first time in 1987 or thereabouts, and I fell head-over-heels in love with it. Sure, it has songs and dance numbers, but it also has cold, dark places inhabited by truly chilling spirits, one of whom is played by Sir Alec Guinness. Plus, they don’t shy away from the foreboding images: after a screaming descent into his own open grave, Scrooge goes to Hell and sees the massive chain he forged in life. This is no simple turnaround for the classic curmudgeon – he goes all the way before he repents, and it’s absolutely not Christmas for me until I’ve followed him down.