Last Thursday night I saw the Polar Express for the first time. My wife and I watched on the small set in our television/office space at our house. Watching the animation and the scenes made me want to see it on a much bigger screen.
Friday morning I woke up and told my wife that I thought it was the best Christmas movie I had ever seen.
She remineded me I had said that before about some other movies, and she was right. The list of flicks I have loved is long, and some hold little bearing to each other in terms of holiday entertainment.
Until Thursday night I had to say my favorites were The Christmas Story and It's a Wonderful Life. But I also have to say that the 1938 production of A Christmas Carrol and 1941 movie, Holiday Inn still hold a lot of strength in my heart.
What is it that makes us like certain movies more than others, while our neighbors (or even our wives in my case) have a completely different view of what makes up the term "good movie?"
For years I have forced my family each Christmas to endure watching Holiday Inn. I always loved Fred Astaire and this movie shows off his and Bing Crosby's talents very well. Best of all it is the movie where the song White Christmas was introduced to America, 10 years before I was born. I guess the idea of having an ideal life on a Connecticut farm turned night club appeals to me.
Over the years, the numbers of those watching the movie in my basement with me on Christmas Eve has dwindled; not because they left home (which they have) but because I no longer hold the sway I used too ("Watch this or Santa won't come tonight!").
I still love the movie, but now I watch it sometime during the holidays, drinking hot chocolate with peppermint schnapps added to it, in the middle of the night. I and Mr. Schnapps still get a kick out of it.
If you ask some people though, Christmas movies/ programs can range from Die Hard (which takes place on Christmas, but has little else about the holiday in it) to The Bishops Wife (which also takes place at Christmas time, and is a love story supreme). What people like in Christmas movies has something to do with how they were brought up, where they were brought up and how they view the holiday.
Some religious people believe that secular Christmas movies like Miracle on 34th Street and Family Man are good, but don't have a truly spiritual feel to them. They may end with the characters believing in something greater than themselves and not valuing material things, but they don't point to Jesus and the true meaning of the holiday.
Others think Christmas should be less serious and more funny. Those people like the Christmas comedies like Christmas Vacation, Home Alone and The Santa Clause (and it's sequels).
Some people particularly like animation. A Charlie Brown Christmas is always a big hit, along with stories like Frosty the Snowman, Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer, The Muppet Christmas Carol and others.
Some like to mix up the holidays, often in a kind of scary fashion. The Nightmare Before Christmas, How the Grinch Stole Christmas and others will do that for these people. (I guess Holiday Inn fits that bill too, but it isn't scary unless you are my kids and I make you watch it).
There are also some odd Christmas movies that fit no ones particular bill, but are still very entertaining. They range widely from near comedy to very serious movies, some of which don't end with as warm of feelings as, say, It's a Wonderful Life. Some of those include Scrooged, Bad Santa, Christmas with the Kranks, Trapped in Paradise, The Ref and others. These are pretty good movies, but a little twisted for my Christmas cheer.
Some Christmas movies make you feel good, some make you feel good and think, and others just make you think. The Christmas Box, The Fourth Wiseman, and Mary and Joe are some of these.
Of course I have left dozens, maybe even hundreds of movies out of this column. I also haven't differentiated between those that were made for television and those that appeared on the big screen. Let's face it, after a few months they are all on DVD anyway and it doesn't matter.
For me the problem is that I have just never have the time to look at every one I have ever seen listed, nor will I ever have it. I might catch a few movies I haven't seen on the Hallmark channel or on TMC, but I generally don't go looking for them. However, once in awhile, when I can't sleep at night and I am up channel surfing, I run across one that catches my heart, and that can be added to my list.
They keep coming up with new ones every year; some fall into a black hole only to be seen on middle of the night television, others become modern classics, and, of course in time, not so modern classics.
And some will never be Christmas movies to me, no matter how they market them. I heard someone is coming up with the Texas Chainsaw Christmas next year.
I wonder if that will be about cutting Christmas trees?