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Mama V’s 10 Christmas Movies for 2020

(So far, in chronological viewing order)

1. Mickey’s Christmas Carol: We kicked off the holiday season with this half-hour classic. The girls love Mickey and Minnie Mouse and will squeal with delight when they see Mickey Mouse and his friends on the screen. In this production, all of the Mickey Mouse Club is recast as characters from Charles Dicken’s A Christmas Carol. The star of the show is the unlikeable miser, Ebenezer Scrooge, played by Scrooge McDuck (of course). On Christmas Eve, Scrooge is visited by the ghost of Marley, dragging his chains as punishment for his lifetime of greed, followed by the ghost of Christmas past, present, and future. In the end, he repents from his greedy ways, embraces the Christmas spirit, and gives generously to the people in his life.

2. The Muppet Christmas Carol: Sometimes, I like to watch different versions of the same story. As a writer, I find it interesting to see how different versions can put their stamp on the same storyline, besides the obviously different cast. A Christmas Carol by Dickens has been done and redone countless times. In this version, Gonzo (playing Charles Dickens) and Rizzo the Rat serve as narrators, one major distinction. Ebenezer Scrooge was portrayed by Michael Caine (who I will forever associate as Alfred from the Batman movies of the 1990s). The storyline remains mostly the same but includes other distinctions that are true to the Muppet franchise, such as expanding Marley’s role to two characters, the heckling Statler and Waldorf muppets. In the end, Scrooge again repents from greed, embraces Christmas, and gives generously.

(A quick aside, are there any spin-off versions of A Christmas Carol that does not end with Scrooge repenting? Hmmm...)

3. A Christmas Story: This was the first classic Christmas movie I genuinely watched as an adult. Andy and I watched it the first time during the first Christmas we were dating. Ralphie desperately wants Santa to bring him an air rifle for Christmas. This movie is loaded with iconic scenes frequently parodied on The Simpsons and other shows, including a young boy’s tongue stuck on a frozen pole, an overstuffed Randy flailing in the snow, the leg lamp, and so on. “Fuuuuddgge!” Ralphie blurts out. “But I didn’t say fudge” clarifies adult Ralphie through voice-over while helping his father change a flat tire. HIMYM’s take on this allusion was “Grinch!” (But I didn’t say ‘grinch.’) The story itself is heartwarming, and (spoiler alert), his father surprises him with one last gift: the air rifle.

4. Home Alone: We did not watch this one with Maggie. She was at school. The scene that I wanted to shield her from was the sled down the stairs scene. Her favorite pastime is to watch her toys bounce down the stairs. The last thing I want is for her to get any ideas of sledding down the stairs in a laundry basket. Besides that, I remember watching this one as a kid. I used to love watching Home Alone. As a child, I remember feeling amused by watching this little boy outsmart the grownups. I wonder as my kids grow up whether they’ll have that same thought or whether they’ll have different takeaways.

5. A Bad Moms Christmas: Mila Kunis’s opening monologue sums up the unrealistic pressure many moms experience to put together the perfect Christmas: “My name is Amy Mitchell, and this year I’ve ruined Christmas. Christmas is absolutely the most stressful time of the year. One million things have to be achieved and everything has to be done perfectly, otherwise, you can never forgive yourself, and neither will your children... I’ve always loved Christmas... But Christmas is also crazy hard work.” Even in the midst of the pandemic, even with our small family of four, I totally get her frustration. The movie goes on with the surprise visits from the Bad Moms’ Moms. Grandmas are in town, and they redefine toxic motherhood on a whole new level. Watching this made me want to simultaneously hug my mom and my mother-in-law while saying “I love you” between laughs.

6. A Charlie Brown Christmas: Hands down, this was my favorite Christmas movie this year, period. Charlie Brown feels left out and doesn’t understand Christmas, especially as he sees Snoopy the dog get carried away with decorating his dog house, frustration over his new role as Christmas play director, his sister’s letter to Santa, and everyone’s rejection of the sad little Christmas tree he picked out. My favorite scene was when Linus came up and recited from memory the true story of Jesus’s birth from scripture, capturing what I believe is the true essence of Christmas. The entire cast transforms Charlie Brown’s sad little tree using Snoopy’s doghouse decorations into a beautifully decorated Christmas tree. Charlie Brown feels the spirit of Christmas, right at the end.

7. Love, Actually: This was my least favorite of my 2020 Christmas movie selection. I had never seen it, but I’ve heard lots of reviews and people who love the intersecting love stories as everyone approaches Christmas. As a narrative device, I think this can work. What I didn’t like were the characters themselves. I was disappointed with Alan Rickman’s character succumbing to his secretary’s whim and purchasing that necklace. I thought Keira Knightly was sweet, but her new husband’s best friend was completely unfair in his cue card declaration of love. Hugh Grant’s budding office romance as Prime Minister, his firing of his assistant, and then later his attempts to reconcile leading to a surprise on-stage kiss wasn’t romantic. If anything, it could be a potential workplace sexual harassment lawsuit. The only relationship that I liked was that of the man and woman who met and performed graphically (ahem, not a kid’s movie) in an adult movie because their introduction and blossoming romance seemed genuinely sweet compared to the secrecy, confusion, and duplicitous riddled in the other relationships.

8. Yes, Virginia: This movie is based on a real-life editorial in New York when an eight-year-old Virginia O’Hanlon wrote a letter to The Sun asking whether there is a Santa Claus. Honestly, I wish I saw this movie prior to my declaration about Santa in a previous post. I’m not saying I changed my mind. I’m mulling it over. Either way, our kids are too young to understand one way or another. The editor’s response, especially after his apprehension from writing it in the first place, was deeply touching. “Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus. He exists as certainly as love and generosity and devotion exist, and you know that they abound and give to your life its highest beauty and joy. Alas! How dreary would be the world if there were no Santa Claus? It would be as dreary as if there were no Virginias.”

9. White Christmas: I first watched this one last year with my mother-in-law. It’s one of her favorites. This 1954 classic includes notable stars like Bing Crosby and Rosemary Clooney (aunt to actor George Clooney). I think this was one of Hazel’s favorite Christmas movies because of all the dancing. It’s a very 1950’s Broadway musical with lots of singing and dancing. The movie features two army friends who, after one saved the other in war, became a duo stage act turned producers. They met a pair of performing sisters and together, they all went to Vermont to perform at an inn. Surprise, the inn is owned by their former general who was falling into hard times. This musical duo created a performance to honor the general and helped turn around his business.

10. The Santa Clause: Scott Calvin (played by Tim Allen), a divorced father with a strained custody arrangement, is home with his son after a rather dismal Christmas Eve dinner at Denney’s. They read “‘Twas the Night Before Christmas” and outside, they hear a clatter. Is that Santa? Despite pressing his ex-wife and her psychiatrist new husband to not tell their son that Santa isn’t real, he thinks it’s a burglar. A startled Santa falls off the roof, disappears into oblivion, and ends up putting on the suit, which makes Scott Calvin the new Santa Claus. What I enjoyed most about this movie was watching the adults grapple with the idea of Santa, not just as a parenting decision, but also reflecting on their own belief system. In the end, Santa prevails.

There’s plenty more Christmas movies and we’ll continue watching them until the big day, but these are what we’ve seen so far this season. Merry Christmas.


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