I had heard rumblings from the street that local filmmaker Damian K. Lahey had left his job to start pre-production on his next feature film, a micro budget sci-fi drama ‘Call-Center’ to be shot here in Jax in January. I reached out to him but couldn’t get many details regarding that project (but I’m working on it, folks). All I gleaned from him was cast and crew were being assembled and script was being polished. Lahey was also using the time off from work to platform his just completed short film ‘Soccer Moms In Peril’ for a festival run as well as overseeing the distribution of his last feature, “The Heroes Of Arvine Place,” which was just released on BluRay this past week. I asked Lahey if he could dash off a Christmas movie list for EU. Since he had a Christmas movie coming out, it seemed a perfect fit. I shoved a couple cans of HyperFizzics, my locally produced energy drink, in his face and put him to task.
Now I’ll let Lahey grab the reigns of the flying sleigh…
First of all, a shout out to The Mad Doctor, Richard David Smith III for holing himself up in his laboratory and concocting possibly the most mind expanding batch of his HyperFizzics energy drink EVER. Lord have mercy!! People, if HyperFizzics was a movie it would be a mash up of ‘Space Truckers’ and ‘The Wizard of Oz’!! So wired out of my mind on that high octane elixir and with Joan Jett’s triumphant cover of ‘Drummer Boy’ on repeat, I got to work.
Again, this list is entirely subjective and are simply my favorite holiday movies – the ones I watch over and over and look forward to seeing every time the season comes around.
As anyone who knows me will tell you, when it comes to this time of year, I am a big sap. I can’t help it. I am made of Christmas Spirit! As has been mentioned before, my last film, the scrappy Holiday flick, ‘The Heroes Of Arvine Place’ was JUST released on BluRay and is ramping up its availability on digital platforms this month, BUT as a gift to EU readers, I wanted to go ahead and give away five BluRays of the film to the first five EU readers that send me a message on FB. Just shoot me your addy and you will get a little something else to put in your stocking!
I hope everyone has a great holiday and be safe!!!
1. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946, Dir. Frank Capra)
Such a feat of filmmaking. A man wishes he had never been born and is shown by an Angel what life would have been like without him. A fiercely optimistic film about self-worth that with every ounce of strength rallies against the idea that man is ever without hope.
2. Scrooged (1988, Dir. Richard Donner)
Depending on where you’re at in life, this film is either going to be more poignant or more obnoxious than the last time you watched it. Bill Murray gives one of his best performances in this highly imaginative and clever retelling of the story with a modern day Scrooge being a TV executive putting on a live broadcast of ‘A Christmas Carol’ while being plagued by the story in real life. This is one of my personal favorites, one of the reasons being Murray’s improvised monologue during the end credits in which he genuinely implores people to the point of exhaustion to use the holiday season as a time to reach out to old friends, family, college buddies, army buddies, ex girlfriends and let them know how much you care about them. And he’s right. You should.
3. Nobody’s Fool (1994, Dir. Robert Benton)
Paul Newman is at his finest here as a father who never was that reconnects with his son and grandson during the holidays. This dry and eccentric comedy features sterling performances from Jessica Tandy, Bruce Willis, Melanie Griffiths and Phillip Seymore Hoffman. Crisp writing and crisp direction make this not just one of my favorite Christmas movies, but also one of my favorite movies PERIOD. Flawlessly executed and effortless.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965, Dir. Bill Melendez)
So much has already been said about this that to even attempt to add anything new to the conversation would be pointless. There are simply times in art when all elements simply fall into place to create something culturally phenomenal and timeless and this is one of them. Such an indelible artifact of Americana that I encourage people to track down a couple of the “making of” documentaries to see how they created the magic.
5. Black Christmas (1974, Dir. Bob Clark)
A VERY influential horror film about a bunch of sorority girls being terrorized by a serial killer during Christmas break. A lot classier than its premise would have you believe, this film would oddly enough, not only become highly regarded as a great horror film but as a great holiday film as well and to this day it is still played late night on TV channels on Christmas Eve, which is where I first saw it.
6. A Christmas Carol (1984, Dir. Clive Donner)
This is a tremendously emotional and exhausting version of the oft told tale. This one is for adults and I don’t recommend watching it by yourself during the holidays as it can make for quite a depressing viewing experience. George C. Scott absolutely crushes it as Scrooge. No other actor has so convincingly captured the anguish and regret of a man being forced to face the consequences of a life wrought with missed opportunities of the heart.
7. Lethal Weapon (1987, Dir. Richard Donnner)
Some people prefer “Die Hard” as their holiday actioner and some prefer “Lethal Weapon.” They’re both hopelessly unrealistic and macho but I prefer “Lethal Weapon.” The director’s cut is a superior film and includes scenes you haven’t seen a million times before, so definitely make sure that’s the one you’re watching this Holiday season. Eric Clapton’s cheesy guitar licks interwoven with Holiday standards help set the tone to this big hair and big coking cop/buddy film with Mel Gibson and Danny Glover trying to bag the bad guys during Christmas.
8. Twas The Night Before Christmas (1974, Dir. Jules Bass, Arthur Rankin Jr.)
Super charming with really catchy and corny songs I haven’t been able to get out of my head for three decades now! The plot revolves around a selfish mouse that’s lost his belief in Santa and wants to ruin Christmas for everybody by sabotaging the town clock whose chimes bring in the big man every December. It’s as warm and comfortable as an old coat. Kudos to the super sincere voice talents of Joel Grey and co. for really putting this one over-the-top. Also includes the most beat red drunk looking animated Santa EVER.
9. ELF (2003, Dir. Jon Favreau)
This is a great example of an actor really elevating the material. It’s a good script but Ferrell’s performance makes it great. He’s helped along by Bob Newhart, James Caan, Zoey Daschenell, and a scene stealing Peter Dinklage in this story about a human raised by elves in the North Pole who goes to the big city to search for his real father. This film is absolutely hilarious.
10. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989, Dir. Jeremiah S. Chechik)
Chevy Chase leads a cast so strong and so endearing that they rise above the odd timing and poorly constructed gags that abound in this hugely popular Christmas movie. This film has aged remarkably well and one must raise a glass of Egg Nog to Randy Quaid, who boosts the movie’s cred with his gonzo performance as cousin Eddie. No Holiday season is complete without a screening of this film. [RDS3’s note: Beverly D’Angelo is incredibly and under-ratedly hot in this movie]
Honorable Mention: Yogi’s First Christmas (1980, Dir. Roy Patterson)
Forget the lame title, this is a riot! All of the Hannah Barbara characters all crammed into one bizarre Holiday Jubillee. You got it! Boo Boo, Ranger Smith, Huckleberry Hound, Snagglepuss, Herman The Hermit, Quick-Draw McGraw, Augie Doggie & Doggie Daddy. There’s some nonsense about Yogi and his main squeeze Cindy being woken up from hibernation and needing to thwart some criminals at the Yellowstone Lodge and…yeah, it’s pretty dumb, but ignore the plot and the crappy songs and have fun seeing all these characters together, acting ridiculous and raising some serious Yuletide Whoopee!!!