A Christmas Story (1983) Remember what I said about some basic-cable channel putting Elf on an endless loop between Thanksgiving and Christmas morning? TNT has already done that with this movie. And I know I'm not alone when I say that programming strategy has taken away some of my enjoyment of this story of a kid who wants nothing more than to wake up on Christmas and find a new BB gun under the tree. But TNT hasn't beaten me down yet. I used to watch this a few times a season. Now I'm content with one viewing, usually just before settling down for a long winter's nap. But I don't want a BB gun waiting for me when I wake up. Unless when you say "BB gun" you mean "a plasma-screen TV so big that, when it's on, it looks like the doorway to another room." If that was what you meant, then, yes, I want a BB gun for Christmas.
Miracle on 34th Street (1947) Okay, this pretty much goes against everything I said before, right? I mean this is the quintessential Christmas movie. At the very least, it's tied for first for that honor with It's a Wonderful Life. So what gives? Honestly, I'm not really sure. I can't pinpoint exactly what sucks me in every year. I can only report that it happens. And I can tell you this: If you're charmed by the story - which is about a seemingly crazy man who believes he's Santa Claus and what it means if he really is - but are worried that your kids won't appreciate the original because it's in black and white and doesn't really jibe with what they're used to, do not think that the 1994 remake is an acceptable substitute. It is not. It's not even close. I might steer you wrong if you ask me about car insurance or computer repair or something like that, but on matters such as this, please believe me.
The Santa Clause (1994), The Santa Clause 2 (2002), The Santa Clause 3: The Escape Clause (2006) Did I miss the meeting when we all agreed that Tim Allen was a big enough star to carry a franchise? Subquestion: Was that the same meeting when we all agreed it was a good idea to make two sequels to a shoddy original? Seriously, keep me in the loop next time. This is a series of movies that I guarantee you was given the green light before one word of the script was typed. Some guy just walked into a studio and said, "The Santa Clause! You know, with an e on the end? Changes the meaning, right?" If you see a trailer for a clearly bad movie with a halfway clever title, just know that is how it got made.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) I always dreamed that someone would take the beloved animated version of this Dr. Seuss classic and make a live-action version. And in that dream, the live-wire antics of Jim Carrey (fast becoming his generation's Robin Williams, and I don't mean that positively) were on prominent display. Actually, I didn't have that dream. I did have a dream where none of the above happened. Unfortunately, it was only a dream.
Surviving Christmas (2004) When an actor is in a free fall, careerwise, he doesn't just make one bad movie. He makes a lot of them. In retrospect, sure, people will point to one particularly bad film as the moment when it all went wrong. In truth, there are some stinkers before that film and some more clunkers after. When people talk about the fallow period of Ben Affleck's career, they will always bring up Gigli as his rock bottom. But the fact is it got worse for him, and this is the proof.
It's a Wonderful Life (1946) Why do I detest this movie so? For one thing, it was inescapable come holiday time when I was a kid. I'm not talking virtually inescapable. I mean there was no way you could avoid it. But that's not the entire reason, because there are plenty of films I love that cable TV beats into the ground, and I don't really mind it. What I really don't like about this iconic Jimmy Stewart performance is that it's like a version of Scared Straight! for anyone without Christmas cheer. Like, if you're not merrily hanging your stocking by the chimney with care, there's a good chance you'll end up having a conversation with a kindly angel about what the world would be like if you weren't in it. Or maybe I just don't like Jimmy Stewart.
Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984) I'm sort of cheating here, because I don't think anyone in his or her right mind would nominate this slasher flick as a Christmas movie. I don't want to bring up the negative side of Hollywood again, but if you want to know how odious that business can be, look no further than a film that dresses its homicidal maniac in a Santa suit. On the plus side, if you have a kid who is stubbornly holding on to a belief in Kris Kringle, just screen a few minutes of this for him. It'll scare the candy out of his stocking. Of course, you'll be dealing with a different set of problems and possibly a visit from CPS.