You can probably tell, from the salvation army bell ringers on the street and the Christmas music which follows you wherever you go, that holiday time is upon us. With Thanksgiving (and my birthday!) on Thursday, stores have wasted no time trying to pump up the Christmas/Chanukah spirit, hoping to get panicked shoppers to spend money they don't have on presents they can't afford. Don't get me wrong, I'm not a grinch, it's just that this will be a very different holiday season. People we know are losing their retirement, their jobs, even their homes, so it's difficult to rationalize buying a new flat screen tv or fancy watch. With consumer's budgets tightening, we may see something we've actually never seen before... real Christmas spirit. Instead of making this season all about how many gifts we need to get or who's got the most expensive payout, maybe it can be about family, friendship and togetherness again (call me corny if you want). This year, we all need a pick-me-up, something to remind us that even though things are rough right now, the future can still be bright. As you can probably guess, my recommendation is film related... I see this as the time to get together with your friends, grab some warm blankets, hot chocolate, maybe a little vodka, and watch some holiday movies. It's cheap, it's warm, and it's comforting. So I've put together my official "Holiday DVDs to Watch List", guaranteed to distract even the gloomiest of grinches (yes, that means you depressed stock market guy).
- Love Actually - Sometimes, it's hard to remember that love actually is all around. This movie really has everything from Christmas in London, to cute kids singing, to Emma Thompson. You really can't go wrong watching this incredible British cast get their eggnog on.
- Elf - I remember when I first saw the trailers for this movie, I was skeptical. I mean I loved Anchorman, but c'mon Will Ferrell... a Christmas movie, really. But then I saw it, and it made me so ridiculously happy for no reason at all. Seeing Ferrell in tights, running around NYC talking about sugar and Santa is priceless (or $19.99 for the DVD). See Elf and try not to smile... I bet you can't.
- Hook - As well as being a great holiday movie, Hook also happens to double as my absolute favorite movie of all time. It has everything, action, adventure, romance, comedy, drama, flying, fairies, baseball... the list goes on and on. But the reason Hook makes it to my holiday DVD list is because the movie happens to begin as the family flies to London to spend Christmas with granny Wendy. Hook helps you remember what's really important in life, family and being with the people who love you (even when they've lost their "marbles").
- Miracle on 34th Street - Miracle is the epitome of the classic Christmas movie, and typically requires a viewing at least once a year. I consider it a Christmas movie for the eternal optimist, or at least the true Santa believer. Every part is great, but my favorite is when young Natalie Wood begrudgingly repeats to herself "I believe, I believe..."
- Harry Potter and the Sorcerer's Stone - HP may not seem like an obvious holiday movie choice, but when you see Harry celebrating a "Happy Christmas" with his friends for the first time, it's hard not to get a little sentimental.
- A Charlie Brown Christmas - This is another holiday standard not to be missed. My personal recommendation: get up and do the Snoopy dance with the gang. It will put you in the holiday mood :)
- How the Grinch Stole Christmas - No, I am not talking about the silly live-action Jim Carrey version, I'm talking about the real thing. This Dr. Seuss cartoon resonates with every person not quite in the celebrating mood.
- Babes in Toyland - It's not exactly a Christmas movie, but with all the toys it certainly feels that way. Laurel and Hardy make their way through the insane place that is Toyland, using humor to make it through.
- Home Alone 2: Lost in New York - As brilliant as the original Home Alone is, I actually prefer the second one. Macaulay Culkin plays precocious Kevin McCallister, a kid you definitely don't want to mess with. Watching Kevin run around snowy NYC, get Christmas room service at the swankiest hotel and drop by the most incredible toy shop in all of New York is why Home Alone 2 makes a great Christmas flick.
- The Nightmare Before Christmas - Everyone deserves to have a merry Christmas, even the spooky residents of Halloween Town. Jack Skellington, the pumpkin king, sets out on his biggest undertaking yet, to discover something new and exciting with which to fill his empty life. He happens upon Christmas Town and suddenly his life has new meaning. This stop motion animation musical is another holiday standard not to be missed.
- Serendipity - Everyone secretly hopes they'll meet the love of their life the way Jonathan and Sara do, but it rarely happens. The two leads get their Christmas miracle when they both want to buy the same pair of black cashmere gloves in a dept. store, only to discover it's the last pair left. After their encounter, Jon and Sara spend a magical Christmas in New York but leave each other with the hairbrained notion that fate would bring them back together one day. What's even crazier, is that their plan works... Jeremy Piven is a great co-star, and he and John Cusack have chemistry together that rivals Jon and Sara's.
- A Muppet Christmas Carol - Muppets and Michael Caine, how can you go wrong?
- The Family Stone - The first time I saw this movie, I wasn't sure how I felt about it, but it kept playing on tv, and somehow I kept watching. Slowly but surely the film grew on me, to the point where I feel it warrants a place on my list. It's Christmas themed in every way, and tear jerking at some points. It seems like a bit of an odd jumble of a cast, but it really works in the end.
- The Polar Express - I just saw this DVD for the first time the other night and loved it. I read and loved the book as a kid, and am glad to say they successfully were able to lengthen into a full length feature film. It makes a great Christmas eve pick.
- The Santa Clause - Last, but far from least, is my favorite Christmas movie, The Santa Clause. I can't really explain why, but this movie gets to me every time, and it has a great cast. Tim Allen just makes me laugh.
So there you have it, 15 movies, guaranteed to get you humming "Jingle Bells."
Here are a couple of other fun things: