Sunday, December 20, 2015

Where's the bucket full of popcorn and half gallon of soda?

It should come as no surprise to anyone that knows me to read that I like movies. I have literally hundreds of movies on DVD and blu-ray. And then I rewatch some of them because they're my favorites.

Every October, I watch scary or suspenseful movies. The last couple years were devoted to Hitchcock because those aren't as traumatizing to small children who might wander in. Some years, though, I do a theme of ghost (Session 9, The Changeling, The Others, Poltergeist, etc) or gore (Evil Dead, Cabin in the Woods, 28 Days Later, etc). Sometimes it's suspense like Panic Room or Red Eye. Anything that gets the adrenaline pumping is awesome.

There's not a ton of Thanksgiving movies, but I do try to watch Planes, Trains, and Automobiles every couple of years. John Candy and Steve Martin road tripping against their will is always going to be funny. For a while, our family watched Flash Gordon every year and that. is. terrible. As Dad would say, it's so bad it's good. It's camp.

Jaws, of course, is great for the 4th of July. Or really anytime of year. It's Jaws. What's not to love? Though if Jaws isn't your speed, there's obviously Independence Day because if you don't like blowing up sharks, you might like blowing up invading aliens.

There are plenty of romantic movies, both dramas and comedies, to watch around Valentine's Day and war movies to watch around Memorial and Veteran's Day.

My favorite time of year, though, is December when it's time for Christmas movies.

Growing up, we didn't have a TV until I was 10. Mom and Dad had a TV-VCR combo at the office for educational purposes and over the Christmas break they'd bring it home and we'd binge watch movies before that was really a thing. We'd all go to Videoville and everyone got one movie then we'd go home and watch them all that night and go back the next day. I saw a few movies I probably shouldn't have at young ages, like Lethal Weapon and other similar movies. I remember very little about those films but it was always my favorite time of year. Piling everyone on the foldout sofa bed to watch movies and roast marshmallows in the fireplace was so much fun for a little kid. The older kids probably didn't like it at much, but who cares.

When I got out on my own, I started doing my own version of movies in December. I started out with stereotypical Christmas movies, like A Christmas Story and Christmas Vacation. (I'm really not a fan of It's a Wonderful Life or White Christmas so I don't watch them if I don't have to.) I added in While You Were Sleeping at some point because I really love that movie. It's not TECHNICALLY a Christmas movie, though, so that began a new twist to my tradition: the non-traditional Christmas movies.

It's been disputed recently in our household what exactly that means. We've come to a fairly simple explanation. A Non-Traditional Christmas Movie (NTCM from now on) takes place at or around Christmas for the whole movie. Christmas is a key part of the plot, but not the reason for it. You could take Christmas out of the movie and it would still make sense.

Examples where the movie wouldn't make sense if it weren't Christmas: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, any iteration of A Christmas Carol (though the writers could probably figure it out), Elf, The Santa Clause, Miracle on 34th Street, Polar Express, Christmas with the Kranks, etc. The list goes on and on. It's easy to find traditional Christmas movies. It's not easy to find traditional Christmas movies that don't have Santa and since we don't "do" Santa, that makes it tricky for us.

Movies that meet the NTCM requirements might surprise you. This is MY opinion, so if you disagree, that's fine. But think about it.

Home Alone: family could forget Kevin at ANY time of year (and seriously, they do it twice. I don't feel like such a terrible mom when I think about that). Terrible parenting and frantic traveling happen all the time. Granted, it's more frantic at Christmas and there's more motivation for the thieves, but still. Could happen any time.

Die Hard: He could have been going to LA just to see his family, or for his kid's birthday, or whatever. It didn't HAVE to be for Christmas. They could have been having a party to celebrate a big merger or something. Same for Die Hard 2: She could have been flying anytime. Again, Christmas makes it easier to explain crowded areas, but it could be rewritten to be anytime.

Trading Places: it takes place around the holidays but the only part that really matters for that is the reading of the orange crops at the end. I have no idea when that happens in real life or of there's something similar that could be substituted, but I'm betting yes.

Gremlins: It's been a while since I saw this, but when I did, I'd totally forgotten that it took place at Christmas.

Love Actually: Christmas definitely helps to tie all the threads together.

Silver Linings Playbook: I can't remember, but I want to say it's around Christmas? I feel like I remember Christmas lights. I haven't seen it since it came out.

A Nightmare at Christmas is kind of in a gray area as to whether it's traditional or not. It covers two holidays, but Christmas is an integral part of the plot.

Movies that I personally think DON'T count as Christmas movies, even though they have Christmas scenes:

Harry Potter
Bridget Jones
The Lion, the Witch, and the Wardrobe
When Harry Met Sally
Raising Arizona

So every year, we make a pile of our favorite traditional and NT Christmas movies and watch them throughout the month. It's fun and comforting and I look forward to it every year. It's probably my favorite part of the month, second only to the excitement from the kids when they open their presents. The shopping and hiding and wrapping and the cooking and cleaning and transporting and keeping track of are stressful and tiring.

So what'd I miss? What are your favorite Traditional and NT Christmas movies? What movies do I need to add to my roster? Nearly everything I've mentioned I own, which shows you have extensive our collection is. If you don't watch a movie with Christmas in it, what do you watch? We also used to watch The Sound of Music at Thanksgiving, but it's soooo long. I like to keep it at or under 2 hours.

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