There is no finer tradition in this great country of ours than sitting on our asses and watching TV. And with the holiday season upon us, it's prime time to couch with your extended family. You guys probably watch the same movies every year. What are they?
I'll start: Every year, You've Got Mail and It's Complicated will be on WE, Oxygen, TBS, or some other mid-dial cable channel that sounds like a great prescription drug. One or the other is always on, without fail. Both are hifalutin yuppie fantasies about people with no genuine problems beyond finding love with an old guy.
Mostly, I enjoy marveling at Meg Ryan's enormous Upper West Side apartment she could never afford as the owner of a failing children's book store and those fucking chocolate croissants a "high" Meryl Streep and Steve Martin make together. (I have tried to make those croissants. They never taste as good as they look in the movie.)
These movies fulfill every consumerist fantasy I've ever had. They are also breezy and inoffensive to nearly a fault. They play in the background as my mother cooks, or as me and my brothers wrap gifts, or play with the baby. You can look at the flickering screen at any point in either movie and be entertained.
Here are recommendations from other members of the Gawker.com staff. (All staffers were given the opportunity to contribute. Some opted not to, against their better judgment. In the New Year, this slight against me will be forgiven. Maybe.)
I realized today I've been watching The Holiday multiple times every December since I was 16 years old, which is too much watching of The Holiday. But when I think of Christmas, I think of Cameron Diaz staring at Jude Law looking down at Kate Winslet smiling over at Jack Black in a snowy Nancy Meyers dreamscape. The main idea is that Kate (Brit) and Cam (Angeleno) switch houses for "the holiday" after breaking up with their bad, bad boyfriends. Both ladies learn a lot about themselves, and the men learn nothing. I love it!
By definition, The Wood is not a traditional holiday film. It follows the reunion of three friends—Mike, Roland, and Slim—as they come together for a wedding, which poses to fracture the group's strong ties. Told through a series of flashbacks of the trio's growing up in Inglewood, California, there's all the typical, warm-pulsed experiences that define the ecstasy of youth: girl-chasing, succumbing to peer pressure, awkward middle school dances, the ebb and flow of puberty, and the promise of immature, pimple-faced love. Miracle on 34th Street this is not. But, like clockwork, I revisit The Wood every year I travel home for Christmas. Unintentionally (or maybe it is intentionally), the film captures what, for me, has become an unavoidable fact of life: my precarious connection to home as an adult. Returning to once-regular haunts, running into old friends you've lost touch with, reminiscing about long-ago, after-school excursions to the Fox Hills Mall or Saturday trips to Six Flags. At its best, The Wood is a reminder of all that's most important in life: the substance of family, and the good fortune of friends who have become family.
When my brothers and I were young, my family loved watching Pee-wee's Playhouse together. It is a wonderful and joyous television series and anyone who doesn't like it is a humorless grinch with a blackened heart full of shit, no offense. During the holidays, along with the California Raisins Christmas special, we would always watch Christmas at Pee Wee's Playhouse. It's great. Dinah Shore calls Pee-wee on the phone, Frankie Avalon and Annette Funicello make Christmas cards with potatoes, Pee-wee teaches Little Richard how to ice skate, Charo performs, and so much more. A few years ago, I purchased the special on DVD to reignite the tradition with my family. It was met with a bit of confusion and to be honest I had to press the idea that we should all watch it together again a bit more than I thought I would, but in the end we all watched it and I enjoyed it very much. I will do the same this year, I don't care if my family would prefer not to.
Home Alone is a movie I never intend to watch during the holidays but then I take one look at that baby McCallister face and I can't look away. What's not to love about the John Williams-scored, Joe Pesci-slapstick, fast-paced thrill ride through one child's dream-meets-nightmare-meets-cheese-pizza-pigout. I love watching smug, babyfaced McCauley Culkin eat an ice cream sundae like there may never be another ice cream sundae again, and every subtle facial expression he makes that proves he really does love his family is a heartbreaker. Not to mention the tantalizing feeling of knowing what happens when Pesci puts his hand on that hot door is too much to handle. Give me the hi-jinx of Home Alone over the sincerity of It's a Wonderful Life any day. Merry Christmas, you filthy animals.
Home Alone 2: Lost In New York, because it is the most inadvertently honest Christmas movie of all time. As a product cash-in, it completely encapsulates the commercialization of Christmas. Also, Pigeon Lady is cool.
There's no one holiday movie I watch every year, but if I watch one this year it will probably be Elf. Will Ferrell hasn't made a hit in a while, but he remains an amazing genius, and Elf—released right between Old School and Anchorman—is right in his sweet spot. As if Ferrell weren't enough on his own, thrift-store ukulele Zooey Deschanel also makes an appearance, and she sings! What could possibly be more joyful?
Die Hard is not just a Christmas movie on the "technicality" that it takes place during Christmas Eve—"Families, stockings, chestnuts, Rudolph and Frosty. Those things ring a bell?"—it's a Christmas movie because its hero is motivated by that classic holiday theme of reunion with loved ones. Ever hear of a little song called "I'll Be Home for Christmas?" John McClain probably has, motherfuckers. His heroic transformation from everyman to badass wouldn't have been possible if he and Holly hadn't had their relationship (and their lives) on the line. If that's not Christmas-y enough for you, your Grinch heart is a few sizes too small.
Is it fair that other Christmas movies have to compete in the same category as the film that defined the contemporary American action genre? Not really, but that doesn't mean you get to arbitrarily disqualify it. And if you think Rickman was better in Love Actually than he was as Hans Gruber, I just can't help you.
Die Hard is the best Christmas movie. It's not "clever," it's just true.
There are very few movies I can watch again and again, but when time slows over the holidays I make room in my life for Erin Brockovich. This is a great movie. Nothing gets me quite like the scene in which Albert Finney buys Julia Roberts a Chevy Blazer. It is a film about the power of humanity, the power of research, the power of the law, the power of the truth, and the power of women. That is what my Christmas celebrates.
The only movie to watch during the holidays is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. Hallelujah. Holy shit. Where's the Tylenol?