Good morning, WFNY Nation!
I’m pinch-hitting for Andrew Schnitkey this morning. Apologies in advance for the lack of nostalgic 90s song, but that’s why WFNY’s Kyle Welch sponsors a random 90s song per day. Also, to take a break from the Indians whiffing on free agents, the Browns’ perpetual plummet to rock bottom, and the Cavs’ continued dominance, I’d like to turn everyone’s attention to the holiday season. December is all about the traditions. If I do the same thing in two consecutive years, then I treat that activity like a sacrosanct ritual going forward.1 That habit is most acutely felt through Christmas movies and TV shows. As such, the following are my most indispensable Christmas programs without which no December is complete.
5. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation: It’s the gift that keeps on giving the whole season. The beauty of this film is that I enjoyed it as a youngster, but every year I re-watch it I understand a new joke. Hey I think Clark was flirting with that department store lady! Wow that cop makes a really weird throwaway joke at the end! Despite the movie’s sometimes flimsy grasp on reality (sound barrier-breaking sleds don’t exist as far as I know) it always feels relatable in the family scenes. The characters all delight in their own way. Aunt Edna appears like an 84th minute soccer sub then immediately scores a hat trick. The movie never hesitates to lampoon (ha!) a good old-fashioned family Christmas, but that underlying familial love never feels distant.
4. Dr. Suess’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas: To be clear, I am talking about the Chuck Jones directed, Boris Karloff narrated, 1966 animated classic. The cartoon showcases all of Jones’ strengths: vibrant colors and zippy action in a world that immediately feels real and significant. Karloff’s aged and foreboding voice perfectly embodies children fiction’s most famous curmudgeon. The animation shines when the Grinch displays the various ways in which one can steal Christmas elements synchronized with a catchy song. Plus, as a kid I always appreciated the Whos’ resolve in the face of catastrophic home invasion and burglary. Maybe they’re all heavily insured.
3. Muppet Christmas Carol: “When a cold wind blows it chills you, chills you to the bone. But there’s nothing in nature that freezes your heart like years of being alone.” Thus, begins the finest Ebenezer Scrooge introduction in any “Christmas Carol” retelling. This film is embedded so deep in my brain I feel like I wrote it. Last week my wife and I watched this movie while baking Christmas cookies and I had to limit myself to only reciting half the film’s lines. The Muppets perfectly assume the famous Dickensian roles, and Michael Caine as Scrooge brings his fastball the entire flick. One would never guess that he is working with dancing felt in most of his scenes. If you don’t get a little misty when you hear “Thankful Heart” then I don’t know what to tell you.
2. The Family Stone: This is my wife’s favorite Christmas movie, and while it only came into my world in the past couple years it has quickly become a tradition. The family dynamic feels more readily available to a twenty-something like me while reflecting how your relationship with your parents changes over time. Even though Sarah Jessica Parker’s character takes putting one’s foot in one’s mouth to Olympic levels it does exhibit how stressful (and cringe-worthy) it can be to meet your new significant other’s family. The movie oozes sincerity and the through line of family keeps the plot honest. Or at least keeps the level of Christmas Magic to an acceptable level. Even in the worst of times there is always family.
1. Muppet Family Christmas: Do you like the Muppets? Do you like Sesame Street? Do you like Fraggle Rock? Do you want to see all three Jim Henson Company properties in the same farmhouse singing Christmas carols? I’ve got great news. This 1987 classic has a unique role in our holiday rotation; we have to watch it while trimming the tree. Timing-wise it almost always lines up perfectly. Bert and Ernie stage a reading of “A Christmas Carol.” The Swedish Chef considers cooking and eating Big Bird. Fozzie Bear animates a snowman with whom he performs comedy. Even the Muppet Babies pop in with a quick home movie appearance. The story is light on plot but offers heart in abundance. Plus it ends with a rare cameo of Jim Henson wearing a suit made of the wallpaper from that one Willy Wonka room.
Would anyone care for a puzzle? Here’s a holiday classic to get the brain working. Some of you may remember this from grade school, but in case you haven’t seen it before the objective is to figure out which famous Christmas carol is visually represented in each square. Also in case you’re feeling brave there is a 50-question and 150-question version of the quiz available on this truly fascinating website.
Hopefully, this article helped get you a little more into the holiday spirit.
Whatever you celebrate I wish you peace, love, good weather, safe travels, and a Cavaliers victory on December 25. Fun fact: The Cavaliers are 7-6 all-time when playing on Christmas Day. Let’s hope they can notch win No. 8 in 2017.