the staff looks at some of their favorite yuletide classics…
Ann Hale — The Christmas Toy (1986)
Hands down, my favorite Christmas movie is The Christmas Toy. I grew up in a home with two very large Jim Henson fans for parents, who would gather us together to watch Fraggle Rock when it came on. When a new film would come out, we would go as a family to the theater to see it. Even when all of my siblings were “too old,” my parents still had us go as a group to see The Muppets Christmas Carol because I was still young enough to be absolutely amazed by it. I still am.
Rugby the Tiger was Jamie’s favorite Christmas toy last year. This gives him a giant chip on his shoulder. His best friend is Mew the mouse cat toy who stinks of catnip. Amongst his friends is also Apple, the doll. Tonight is Christmas and Rugby has found out that Jamie is about to get a cool new toy. He cannot have this. So, Rugby sneaks down to replace the new toy so that Jamie will be so excited when she opens the box to find him. However, the new toy, Meteora, is a space queen and very loud and opinionated. Should they get caught and touched outside the toy room, by humans, where they were left, they will remain frozen forever. Rugby, Apple and Mew must now get Meteora back in her box before they are discovered.
The Christmas Toy brings back so many memories of different Christmases as a child. We would watch a different Christmas movie every night from Thanksgiving until Christmas Day and my parents always let us take turns choosing the films each night. Mine was always The Christmas Toy first. We would snuggle up together in the family room with the fire going and watch as Jim Henson’s characters came to life, making you love the characters so much that one wrong turn had you in tears. I still cry to this very day at this movie. This film was the inspiration for the Pixar film Toy Story, which I absolutely adore but, to me, it will never hold a candle to my childhood love.
Michael Dworkis: Laurel and Hardy: Babes in Toyland/March of the Wooden Soldiers (1934)
This movie airs every year on or around Christmas. Now, being the good Jew that I am, I only look forward to Christmas, for a sandwich with jam. I do not even celebrate it, but I will always accept good movies to watch while I lazily sit. I jingle my bells and deck my hall as I crawl onto my couch with remote, drink, and all.
The comedy of Laurel and Hardy can never be repeated, only through their old films can they be appreciated. During the course of the film, childish and playful becomes the joyous mood, one cannot help but to think back to their fond memories of childhood. Two hapless jokers wind up some soldiers. Then our comedy icons overcome the evil foes, Laurel and Hardy turn out to become heroes. It is a story we could only fantasize as young and imaginative children, so watching the March of the Wood Soldiers, one can discover what it is like to be Babes in Toyland.
Erica Batchelor — Home Alone (1990)
The original Home Alone brings back a lot of wonderful memories for me. As a kid, that was the movie that brought the family together for a great laugh. Nothing screams Happy Holidays more than a paint can to the face.
Kelly Gonsalves — Serendipity (2001)
I don’t care what kind of films you enjoy on a regular basis. It’s Christmas; therefore, it is the time of year when you sit back with the fam and pop in a cheesy seasonal rom-com. No exceptions. For me, the one that frequents my family’s crusty old VCR player every year is that 2001 movie that made a little cafe in New York City famous – Serendipity. You know the story. Two random strangers meet, fall in love, but then never see each other again. Years upon years later, they each conveniently embark on a search to find one another at the exact same time and encounter many a plot device threatening to keep them apart. It’s exactly that kind of movie where you already know the ending; you just want to see exactly how they get there. For a movie as predictable as this one, the number of times you’ll find yourself thinking (or, as in my case, screaming frantically at the screen) “Did that just happen?!” and “Oh, come on!” is pretty hilarious. It’s just too easy to get invested in the plot; you’ll unquestionably be routing for these two lovers by the end of the film. Want to feel warm and fuzzy and be fed romantic nonsense about the power of destiny? Serendipity is the movie for you.
Daniel Cohen — Batman Returns (1992)
I know what you’re thinking: ‘When I think of Christmas, I too think of deformed Penguin men who live in the sewers, secretaries who get pushed out of windows and are reborn as Cat zombies, and most importantly, penguins with armed missiles.’But…Batman Returns actually does take place during Christmas. But it’s the ending that makes me want to watch this film every holiday season. We just saw Bruce Wayne/Batman go through a whirlwind of emotions and battles through out this two hour plus film, but in the end, it concludes with a single car on a deserted snowy Gotham street as Bruce and Alfred wish each other a Merry Christmas, with Bruce getting the last line: ‘Good will towards men…and women.’ For me, that moment always puts me in the holiday spirit in an otherwise dark, dreary, and at times, depressing film.
Luke Kalamar — A Claymation Christmas Celebration (1987)
Sure, I was born two years after this came out, and technically it’s not even a movie, but that hasn’t stopped this Emmy winning television special from having a major place in my heart. My family and I do all we can to watch it every year, and so far we’ve been really good at it. My earliest memory of this special was watching it on a VHS tape that my Mom used to record it on when it originally aired. We even had some snippets of commercials in it. Now we have it on DVD, and it’s still just as good. As a kid, I found the various antics of these characters hilarious. It’s a very funny program! However, it wasn’t until I was older before I really appreciated what a major piece of art it is. The entire special is done in stop motion with handmade clay figures and decor, a style rarely seen nowadays. I love it more very year and I plan to keep this tradition going for quite a long time.
Jason Stives — Gremlins (1984)
I found myself having a hard time finding a Christmas movie to talk about which is strange because I have a laundry list of films that I watch in the weeks leading up to the big day. I’m also notorious for trying to be off the cuff and unconventional and finally I found myself landing on a film that fits that mold and in all seriousness is one of my favorite holiday films in Gremlins. Much like Die Hard, Gremlins is another film that just happens to take place at Christmas and its story is built around it but oddly enough Gremlins is far more jacked up on Christmas spirit than it should be. Besides taking place at Christmas time, the story of a young man named Billy (Zach Galligan) coming into possession of a furry creature that can turn into an evil monster also strings Christmas stories into the plot. I’m being coy I’m talking about the incredibly messed up story of Phoebe Cate’s character Kate talking about her father dressing up as Santa and ascending their chimney only to break his neck and die. I never understood how that fit into this film but then again Gremlins is one of those 80s gems that fits somewhere in between its genres so it barely fits into an actual Christmas movie. That being said I loved Gizmo as a kid and share a pension for impersonating Howie Mandel’s man child voice to be cute but ultimately much like the film I just come off a tad creepy. It’s a fun film and always admired the puppet work as a kid especially in the iconic scene of them all watching Snow White in the movie theater. You can’t help but smile when watching that scene!
Brendan Williams — Babes in Toyland (1934)
I may get a few “how the hell is that your favorite Christmas movie?!” remarks especially since Babes in Toyland was released in 1934, but nothing says Christmas to me more than that. It’s a classic Laurel and Hardy comedy I watched every Christmas with my grandma (which introduced me to the Bogeymen (which scared the crap out of me forever)). Needless to say, I continue to watch it every Christmas and laugh all over again. Also, I’m still terrified of the Bogeymen.