Better Watch Out: Best, Worst, Most Deranged Holiday Films




 Do you think Hollywood will ever stop making new film versions of A Christmas Carol?
Well, it doesn’t cost them anything, so that’s always appealing. And it’s a story that we’ve come to love hearing over and over again even though we know every exact beat. I think Dickens would be thrilled that it’s a flexible enough tale to accommodate both Jim Carrey and Tori Spelling, the latter in the TV movie A Carol Christmas.

What qualities must a movie possess to become a holiday classic?
Generally speaking, I think they either tap into our own personal nostalgia for the holidays and how we enjoyed them at Christmas, or they tell us thing we want to hear about the potential in people to be their best selves, even if it’s only once a year. Different people get different things out of Christmas movies, but I think those two elements are the common bond between many of the films we think of as classics.

What are some recent films that you think we’ll refer to as holiday classics in the future?
2011 was actually a pretty good year for Christmas movies — I loved both Arthur Christmas and A Very Harold and Kumar 3-D Christmas, albeit for very different reasons. I’ve been saying that Arthur Christmas is a great film with a horrible marketing campaign, but I’m hoping it’s one that audiences discover either during its theatrical life or later on DVD.

Which film in your book are readers most surprised you included?
I probably get the most raised eyebrows over Stanley Kubrick’s Eyes Wide Shut, but again, take another look at the film and you’ll be amazed at how almost every scene includes a decorated tree or wrapping paper or twinkle lights.

A film such as Meet Me in St. Louis is about an entire year in the lives of a family, yet watching it is a tradition around Christmastime. What do you think makes a film such a holiday favorite?
True, that one could just as easily be a Halloween movie, since there’s a chunk of the film devoted to that. But the movie has its emotional climax at Christmastime — plus you’ve got Judy Garland singing “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas” — which firmly places it in the holiday pantheon.

You were a guest on the TCM Classics cruise earlier this month. What was that experience like?

I did a clip show and lecture based on my book, and it was a real blast. There was an interesting mix of people on the boat in terms of ages, ethnicities, and sexual orientation, but everyone there was a movie fan and thrilled to be around not just movie stars like Ernest Borgnine and Eva Marie Saint but other classic film fans. You would get seated with strangers at dinner, and within minutes you’d be comparing notes about your favorite John Huston movie.

Purchase Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas here. Watch 1959's Santa Claus on the next page.

Tags: Books