It wouldn’t be Christmas without syrupy movies. Along with fruitcake and continuous holiday music, nothing says ’tis the season like the Hallmark Channel and Lifetime. With a remote and a DVR, it’s time to wallow in sentiment.
My holiday viewing schedule is so packed, I’ve taken to recording all the Christmas shows. Then I scan the plot synopsis offered by the cable company, pick a show, grab a cup of coffee, sit back and push “play.” None of the plots are complicated, so I can leave and come back, leave and come back without missing a major development.
I’ll watch just about any Christmas movie, good or bad. But this year there are so many, plus new ones arriving at the local theatre, I’ve been forced to be more selective. I won’t watch movies about a real-life earthly member of Santa’s family, whose personal complications may or may not affect the timely delivery of toys. Santa’s family just doesn’t interest me much. I’m also not fond of mean-spirited Christmas movies. Hitting and yelling and blowing up things and drinking and cussing don’t feel uplifting, so I skip those.
There are at least two seasonal movies that stand out from the rest as memorable, each for different reasons. My current favorite, which I watch every year, is One Special Night (1999) with Julie Andrews and James Garner. I’ll watch those two in anything. I love this movie most for portraying two mature people with full lives.
The other standout took me a while to warm up to. It’s Noel (2004) with a stunning cast, including Susan Sarandon, Alan Arkin, Penelope Cruz, Robin Williams, Chazz Palminteri, and others. It’s an odd story and is very nearly not Christmassy at all, depending on your point of view. But I haven’t been able to forget it, so I’ll try to find it again.
Lest you think a couple of quality offerings make me a discriminating viewer, oh no, no. Those two are the exceptions. Most Christmas movies offer only two basic plots. The first involves someone whose beloved just passed away. Along comes another someone or a young family missing a spouse and all are united after only a few minor glitches. Summary of plot number one: Completion of the family unit.
The other plot is becoming more popular. These stories tell how the twin evils of ambition and technology conspire to rob our leading man or woman of their true selves, leaving them incapable of feeling the spirit of Christmas. As these movies get closer to the end, cell phones are thrown away, major job promotions are turned down, snow storms create whiteouts that bring commerce to a halt long enough to force our hero/heroine to slow down and learn some Christmas lessons. Synopsis of plot number two: Dude, mellow out.
One favorite sub-plot involves removing these over-achievers from an urban area and plopping them down in bucolic settings where expensive wardrobes are ruined and hilarity ensues. The movie unfolds in a charming cabin or a country house far away from the workaday grind that’s eating them alive.
There we have my thumbnail description of every movie that’s playing between now and the end of the year. Add the every-year Christmas repeats from Charlie Brown and Rudolph and Dr. Seuss and Bing and Rosie and the gang at the Inn, and it’s a dash just to keep up.
Of course I know what’s going to happen on TV this season, but that doesn’t mean I’ll quit watching. Predictability is one of the joys of Christmas. Only a Grinch would suggest otherwise.
Ó Anita Garner