By Melissa Houghton

Whenever I’m asked what’s my favourite movie, song, or food, I always struggle to pare my response down to one go-to. With so many choices, I decide my top pick depending on my mood at the time. I know, it sounds bendy. However, when deciding what Christmas movies to watch I go back to certain films year after year. My selections speak to what the season means to me: Joy, Hope, Noel and Believe. I also share based on phases in my life as a child, parent, or living with a slightly dysfunctionalfamily. Season’s Greetings to you and yours!

Elf (2003)

Buddy (Will Ferrell) is a man-child living at the North Pole who thinks he’s an elf, so no surprise he wears elf clothing. Buddy’s innocence and belief in the true spirit of Christmas becomes an infectious antidote to the cynicism he encounters when he is cast out of Santa’s workshop and sent to discover his true identity in of all places, New York City. The supporting cast is also excellent: James Caan is Buddy’s Scrooge-like human father, Bob Newhart his elf dad, Zooey Deschanel is Buddy’s love interest, Ed Asner is Santa Claus and Peter Dinklage is the type-A publishing tycoon Buddy mistakes for a real, but angry elf.  It’s hard to choose a favourite scene but my top two – Dinklage leaping across the table and beating the crap out of Buddy after calling him an elf, and Buddy stirring up some fun with the plebes after he’s kicked out of the boardroom and banished to the mailroom. Buddy teaches us about the joy of Christmas, believing in happy, magical times; and in turn he learns about life and eventually finds his place in the world.

Bad Santa (2004)

Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) is an alcoholic grouch and professional safe-cracker, with a penchant for lying, scheming and stealing in this dark comedy-crime film mashup. This isn’t PG entertainment. There are plenty of ribald themes not suitable for impressionable youngsters. Every Christmas, roving Willie gets a job as a store Santa Claus along with his elf sidekick Marcus (Tony Cox). After hours, these con artists mastermind robberies of the same malls where they barely pretend to care about the children or the magic of the season. Enter Thurman Murman (Brett  Kelly) a lonely young boy who thinks Willie is really Santa. Thurman is a frequent visitor to Willie’s Santa booth and eventually invites Willie to live with him and his Grandma (Cloris Leachman).  Grandma should have more screen time, but she’s hilarious as Thurman’s sole caretaker and clueless that Willie is a terrible role model and robbing them blind. A life-changing event melts Willie’s heart and he’s a changed man, or is he? There is a sequel.

Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

Now in its 50th year, I love the old-school animation and dialog in anapestic tetrameter—three syllables insteadof two i.e. iambic pentameter. Okay, I have no idea how to describe that and I leave it to you to listen. Featuring the voice of Boris Karloff as narrator and Grinch, you wouldn’t think a TV special would have much longevity. It’s intended for kids but I’ve watched it since I was a child and I passed on my love of the holiday special to my two sons. For me this is the one and only Grinch film with the deviously conniving Whoville curmudgeon trying to stop Christmas. Welcome Christmas.

Jingle All the Way (1996)

Howard Langston (Arnold Schwarzenegger) plays a workaholic father who is trying to make good by his son Jamie (Jake Lloyd). Howard’s sole mission is to buy THE hot toy that season, and the ONLY thing his son wants, an impossible to find Turbo-Man action figure. Chaos reigns when Howard misses every opportunity to secure the toy that will redeem his relationship with Jamie and his wife played by Rita Wilson. This is on mylist because it reminds me how commercialized Christmas has become. Yet the movie is ultimately about the love Howard has for his son and what he will do to keep his promise. In comedic ways, it also shows the lengths parents will go to buy the prized toy of the particular Christmas year X: whether it’s a Cabbage Patch doll, Talking Baby Elmo, Buzz Lightyear figure, or another gizmo or gadget it has to be under the tree on Christmas morning or Santa isn’t real. In case you have a Baby Shark on the 2018 list of Santa toys, you should get moving, it’s sold out on Amazon.

The Family Stone (2005)

Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker) is the whiney, elitist uptight fiancée of Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney). Meredith can’t catch a break when she spends her first Christmas with Mulroney’s tight knit but free wheeling family, headed by mom Sybil (Diane Keaton) and dad Kelly (Craig T. Nelson). There are unexpected twists that ensue when she invites her sister Julie (Claire Danes), to join her at the Stone residence for moral support. The movie has a bittersweet ending, but despite the harsh and judgmental treatment Meredith endures at the hands of the Stone family, everyone finds love by the end of the journey and begins to heal after a tragic loss.

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