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Tuesday, December 16, 2008

Merry Mongo Christmas: My Favorite Shows Part 2

When last we left St. Mongo, he had been tabulating his list of favorite Christmas Shows. Unfortunately, a blinding fog has obscured his list. Who could ever help St. Mongo deliver his list of Christmas Show goodies to all the good little boys and girls? Perhaps, Rudolph, with his nose so bright, will help guide this blog tonight.

And now Part 2.

6: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Another instant classic that offers Holiday quotes for whatever the occassion. Who can forget, "Shitter was full!" The last great Vacation movie from the minds of National Lampoon. From displaced psychotic squirrel's to leg humping hounds, what tried and true family Christmas warrior could not find something in which to relate?

7: Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas (1977)
Two things from my childhood were a given. I liked Christmas and I liked Muppets. The combination of the two are perfect match made in Frogtown Hollow. As a take on The Gift of the Magi, Ma and Emmet Otter sacrifice each other's source of income in order to compete in a talent contest. Unbeknownst to each other they intend to use the winnings to buy a Christmas gift the other really wants. I still quote this show when my wife asks me to hang a holiday themed item on the wall. If the task requires a hammer and nail, I say, “But to do that, you gotta put a hole in the washtub.” She doesn’t get it. It’s ok. I do.

8: The Polar Express (2004)
Though, I've never read the book, the film is becoming a favorite. It has some wonderful imagery of a fantastical childhood adventure to the North Pole. These are the kinds of landscapes that you envision as a kid when you think about what it would be like to go visit Santa. And with the message of believing in Christmas and growing up a believer, it clicks on all holiday cylinders. The only detraction is those dead soulless eyes that comes with CGI rendering of people. PIXAR and Dreamworks are fantastic in creating realistic environments, but they always caricaturize their humans and it works. It seems that the more you try to make a CGI character look like a real human, the less real it looks.

9: "Mr. Hankey, the Christmas Poo" (1997)
As far as Christmas cheer goes, some people can’t do much better than talking poo. Reminiscent of the Great Pumpkin in terms of believability adults and plausibility to children, Mr. Hanky supposedly emerges from the toilet bowl to spread good cheer and, in all reality, poo stains wherever he goes. The episode remains a classic because of the biting commentary on the controversy of Christmas vs. Holiday nomenclature in today’s more, if not overly, politically correct society. Because Kyle’s family is Jewish, it’s offensive to his mother to have Christian imagery in the public school pageant. The end result of the holiday pageant’s stripping of all things Christmas leaves a minimalist song and dance accompanied by Philip Glass. It’s not what is wrong with Christmas, Mr Hanky teaches, it’s about what is so right with Christmas that is important.

10: "Amends" Buffy The Vampire Slayer (1998)
Vampires at Christmas? Ok, but hear me out. "Amends" is a favorite of mine. It’s a twist on the Dickens’ Christmas Carol and It’s a Wonderful Life motif. Angel is haunted by First Evil, a pivotal antagonist for the series in its final season. Showing him the visions of his past victims, he is slowly driven insane in an attempt to get him to kill Buffy. Because of his feelings for the Slayer and his restored soul, he can’t follow through and opts to kill himself, instead, as a release of his pain. Buffy confronts Angel on a hilltop just before sunrise, which will kill him, in hopes that she can talk him down off the ledge. When dawn brings snowfall blocking out the sun, the miracle gives Angel and Buffy hope that a higher power is guiding his destiny instead of an evil one.

11: Scrooged (1988)
When in doubt parody convention. Better than half of all Christmas movies are remakes, parodies, or homage to traditional stories. Scrooged is just that with a shot of Vodka added. Frank Cross is a rich and conceited television executive who markets the hell out of the holidays for a live television version of A Christmas Carol. Meanwhile, life imitates art as ghost show Cross the error of his ways. It’s campy, well staged, and has its message all done up with a bow. For being 20 years old, it’s very well placed and relevant in today’s entertainment world. Besides, nothing screams Christmas like a soundtrack done by Danny Elfman.

12: Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
It’s a straightforward retelling of Dickens’ work but the magic is in the muppets. The gags, the humorous spin on certain elements make it a great addition to all things Christmas in my book. My favorite part, Rizzo’s peck on the blue beak of Gonzo.

13: "The Bells of Fraggle Rock" Fraggle Rock (1984)
While it’s not overtly referenced to Christmas as the holiday being celebrated in Fraggle Rock. After all, only the silly creatures know what that is. However, the thematic ideas of a “true meaning” and the “spirit” of a holiday are there as Gobo tries to put a face on faith and locate the “Great Bell of Fraggle Rock” at the expense of his friends.

14: Gremlins (1984)
Now, you know we can’t have too much despair at the holidays and Gremlins brings the bah humbug full tilt with evil little creatures terrorizing a Norman Rockwell version of small town life. When Billy gets the coolest gift ever for Christmas, he ends up causing havoc as he breaks the first two rules of Mogwai by getting them wet and fed after midnight. As the townsfolk prepare for the holidays, the newly hatched gremlins wreak havoc across the town. It’s enough to make you want to skip Christmas.

15: Miracle on 34th Street (1947) and (1994)
Whether you are a traditionalist and love the 1947 version or a lover of contemporary films and follow the 1994 version, you cannot deny that at the heart of every Christmas is a child’s faith and belief in Santa Claus. When grownups get in the way of this belief, bad things happen. Someone who believes he is really Santa Claus draws on everyday jaded folks fear that this person must be sick or criminal. The real victim is the child who sees her belief system challenged by the people (grownups) who instilled it in the first place.

On to Part 3 (16-25+)
Back to Part 1 (1-5)

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