To help get your Netflix in order, Street is taking a pre–Thanksgiving look at some of our favorite holiday movies.
Thanksgiving was difficult for me as a six–year–old fat kid. Sure, there was food, but I’d have rather been playing Starcraft. Instead I was forced to interact with all these people that my parents assured me were my extended family. So many aunts, uncles and cousins all occupying the same house gave me no opportunity for a quick Zerg rush.
So how did I endure? With that one saving grace that shut everyone up: TV. “A Charlie Brown Thanksgiving” seemed like relief at first. But then Woodstock carved and ate a turkey. A turkey! I had never heard of cannibalism at that point, but seeing Woodstock happily eat his own kin shook me to the bone. I wept bitter tears, but my family just laughed. What did they find so goddamned funny? Fat kid or not, I didn’t touch the turkey that year.
—Isaac Louis Garcia
Every Christmas Eve my dad’s family gets together at my uncle’s house to celebrate. Many years ago, my cousins and I were all kids who put on Santa plays and had football tournaments in the backyard — and always watched “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol” on VHS on my uncle’s old fuzzy TV.
Now we’re all grown up (mostly), and we drink wine and talk about college and jobs and life, but we still watch “Mr. Magoo.” There’s something about this particular kids’ flick that sticks with us more than all the stop–motion Santa movies or even the holiday films that actually made it into theaters. Every year we pop that same VHS in and watch the man with the squinty eyes sing his way through the Charles Dickens classic, complete with “razzleberry dressing” and the scariest ghost of Christmas future ever. We still play football too, only now my uncles can only really last a few minutes before one of them can’t breathe anymore. I guess movies are an easier tradition to keep as you get older.
Every New Year’s Eve as a kid, my mom and dad would sweep off in a cloud of perfume and cologne to their cocktail parties, leaving my sister and I with five blissful hours of freedom, a TV and no babysitter in sight. Naturally, we watched “Home Alone.”
We lived vicariously through Kevin’s adventures, imagining ourselves using kitchen utensils to make traps even Jigsaw would have approved of. (Think a creme brulee torch tied to a butcher knife.) We longed to be adults and go grocery shopping and eat ice cream for dinner.
This year, I’ll watch “Home Alone” with my sister as usual, but we’ll probably be playing a drinking game (“Take a shot every time someone says ‘Christmas’”). We’ll live vicariously through Kevin, wishing we were little kids again, just waiting for Santa Claus to show up.
On the bright side, we’ll probably be eating ice cream for dinner.
Like many New York Jews, my family has always chosen to celebrate Christmas with a trip to the movies. For me, the golden age of this tradition was 2001–2003. While my mom stayed home with my little brother, my father and I made an annual pilgrimage to see each installment of “The Lord of the Rings” trilogy.
My 8–year–old self was thrilled to be invited on such a grown–up outing. (PG–13! I was practically a woman.) I pretended not to cower in fear at the sight of the Uruk–Hai army and stifled my tears when Boromir (spoilers!) died trying to protect the hobbits. I might be the only girl in the world whose first crush was an elf from Middle Earth.
Needless to say, my dad and I were both thrilled to discover that “The Hobbit” is opening in theatres this December. For one day only, we will revive my cherished childhood tradition—between the popcorn and Peter Jackson, merriness will abound. I might even bust out my Gollum impression. You know, for old times’ sake.
During my innocent elementary school years, Christmas movies were all about cartoon characters, family hijinks, and embracing your fellow man. But once I became an acne–faced, action–movie–obsessed pre–teen, suddenly that wasn’t good enough. Why didn’t Tim Allen blow anything up in “The Santa Claus”? Wouldn’t “Rudolph the Red–Nosed Reindeer” have been better if Yukon Cornelius fought the Abominable Snow Monster to the death? I’ll leave those questions for you to answer, but thirteen–year–old me really didn’t see the point of Christmas movies anymore.
That all changed one day when, while mindlessly scrolling through movie channels, I stumbled upon “Die Hard.” I was struck by a barrage of adult language, international terrorism and Bruce Willis in a tank top, all with Christmas trees and Santa Claus hats scattered in the debris. I not only found an amazing Christmas movie, but my favorite movie of all time. Yippee ki–yay.
Everyone has a go–to cinematic genre. For some people, you can’t go wrong with a murder mystery or a war epic. For me, it’s the intertwining story line film. I’m a sucker for any movie that features ensemble (all–star) casts slowly revealing interconnections and coming together. The creme de la creme for this underappreciated genre is the 2003 English rom–com “Love Actually.” Every winter over the last five–ish years, I’ve made it a point to gather a group of Christmas–lovers (most of whom are Jewish, like myself) to watch this masterpiece on the season’s first snowfall. The event is exclusive to those appreciating the charm of London at Christmastime and the prowess of the elite British cast: Hugh Grant, Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Emma Thompson, Liam Neeson, Alan Rickman and more. Following the closing credits, over which plays The Beach Boys’ “God Only Knows,” we sit around with hot chocolate and discuss which story line was the favorite this time around, be it the touching, the tragic or the hilarious. Subsequent American attempts to emulate the perfection of this film (“Valentine’s Day,” “New Year’s Eve”) have paled in comparison to this wintery delight that reminds us, “love actually is all around.”
The lights in my living room go out and the most improbable premise unfolds onscreen: Jewish boys are good at basketball. So good at basketball, in fact, that with a few life lessons derived from the tale of Hanukkah and the battle tactics of Judah Maccabee, they win the championship in a game involving a power failure and a generator that lasts just long enough. It’s like the menorah. It’s a miracle. The film in question is “Full Court Miracle,” a Disney Channel Original Movie from 2003 based on the true story of Lamont Carr, college athlete turned coach of Yeshiva boys. And also the true story of Hanukkah, duh. While this movie brings back some rough gym class memories and visions of Jewish boys in the midst of puberty, I know where I’ll be come winter break. This girl can’t resist a miracle, served with a side of latkes.
My dad is large. Like, linebacker large. He’s a hair–on–your–chest and salt–in–your–wounds type of guy. But if there’s one thing my burly father and his gay son can bond over, it’s musical theater. He loves it. So much so that he forces me to watch “White Christmas” every year in December (not that I’m complaining). We watched it for the first time when I was five or six. I remember during that opening army scene, my father leaned over and said, “That’s Bing Crosby, we love him.” And love him we do. Christmas still isn’t complete without my father crooning away while putting up the Christmas tree, “I’m dreaming of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know…” He’s no where near as good as Bing, but I love it just as much.
What’s the one holiday movie that’s become a cherished tradition for me? Is it the classic “It’s a Wonderful Life”? No. How ‘bout “Miracle on 34th Street”? Nope. Those claymation specials form the 1970s? Not even. “The Family Stone”? . . . Yes.
It is by no means a fantastic movie, but for years it’s been the one that I share with my mother, and that is why I love it so much. I have a sister only two years older than myself, so growing up it could be hard to get some alone time with my mom. But this movie is all ours. If you haven’t seen the film, it’s about is a family with adult children all coming home for Christmas, something that seems ever more poignant now that I’ve moved to the other side of the country. Diane Keaton’s insufferable whining even makes a little sense.
So every year we turn off all of the lights, we start a fire, we snuggle up under a heavy blanket, we pretend that the California palms outside are a snow covered forest of pines, and we watch “The Family Stone,” just the two of us.