Now is the time of year for Christmas movies, and arguing about Christmas movies, so let’s get started.
Now is the time of year where everyone talks about how much they like It’s A Wonderful Life, and I try to listen politely, but I just don’t get it.
I know I’m supposed to be one of those people who finds It’s A Wonderful Life heartwarming because it’s anti-capitalist and all about sharing, but I don’t. I hate it. It’s A Wonderful Life is not so much a movie as a desperate cry for help. There is nothing likeable about George Bailey; he’s a flailing spaz who talks in an annoying squeak, and his relationship with his wife is a bouquet of red flags.
George begins his relationship with young Mary by calling her “brainless” for disliking coconut on her ice cream. He escalated to stealing her bath robe and making her beg for it while she crouched naked and frightened in the hydrangeas. He abandoned her there when he got the message about his father. He took over the Building and Loan despite having no aptitude with money whatsoever and nearly crashing it into the ground multiple times, but he refused to give it up and find another outlet for his social justice work (which is admittedly admirable). He yelled and screamed at Mary that he didn’t want to get married but then got married anyway for some reason. She’s the one who had to take the initiative in buying the drafty old house which he cruelly criticized even though he knew it was important to her. Then, when his incompetence got the better of him one Christmas eve, he snatched the phone from Mary and bawled out Zoo Zoo’s Kindergarten teacher, reducing her to tears. And then he screamed at the children that he wished they’d never been born and tore up the living room in front of them. When Mary found out that her husband was going to prison, instead of saying “Good riddance” and letting him get arrested so she could have a peaceful holiday, she went out and codependently begged her neighbors for money while George crashed the car and went to get drunk.
On top of it all, when the guardian angel from Heaven showed up, he didn’t actually fix anything, he just scared George half to death. For this, he was awarded wings and George went from depressed to manic.
Why is this movie heartwarming? It’s a horror story.
If I’m going to watch a grim and cynical movie portraying uncanny events and a loveless sham of a marriage at Christmas, I’ll watch the director’s cut of Eyes Wide Shut.
Seriously, though, there is one family Christmas movie that I actually love. Unlike It’s A Wonderful Life it is actually wholesome and fun. Like It’s A Wonderful Life, it has characters named Ernie and Bert. And you can watch it for free any time right on Youtube.
Yes, I genuinely love Christmas Eve on Sesame Street. It’s an excellent film. It begins with a comical ice skating sequence where Oscar goes flying down a staircase and through a particle board wall and enjoys it, and it only goes up from there. There are tear-jerker moments like the Ernie and Bert “Gift of the Magi” mix-up and Bob’s sign language Christmas gift to Linda. There are hilarious improvised interviews with telegenic children. There’s Kermit the Frog trying to be a grown-up in the midst of it all. The adult human characters are wonderful with the children. The dialogue is first rate. I particularly like the banter between Big Bird and Oscar, because both characters are played by the same puppeteer and it amounts to the brilliant Carol Spinney berating his own self. It’s brilliant.
And yes, I also enjoy Muppet Christmas Carol, but my favorite dramatization of A Christmas Carol is the one starring Reginald Owen. Not for any good reason, it’s just the one we watched on VHS growing up every year at Christmastime, because my father had watched it on television every year at Christmastime. It’s cheery and endearing. I especially like the ridiculous overacting of the suspiciously old Cratchit “Children” when Bob brings home the Christmas goose.
Those movies are heartwarming.
So, what’s everyone else’s controversial Christmas movie opinion?
Image via Pixabay
Mary Pezzulo is the author of Meditations on the Way of the Cross and Stumbling into Grace: How We Meet God in Tiny Works of Mercy.
Steel Magnificat operates almost entirely on tips. To tip the author, visit our donate page.