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Monday, May 20, 2024
The Observer

The Most Wonderful Time of the Year

Best Christmas Movies

"Home Alone"

There was a time when MacauleyCulkin was the coolest kid around. Though that time has passed, his Christmas classic "Home Alone" remains a favorite for younger generations. Though the movie itself doesn't center on Christmas, the holiday is an important plot point. The story of a boy who defends his home from burglary may not sound like typical Christmas fare, but the Christmas carols, decorations and triumph of valiant youth make for a perfect Christmas flick.

"Muppet Christmas Carol"

This classic film takes the traditional story of "A Christmas Carol" and the meaning of Christmas and tells it using the Muppets. What could be more fun? The story tells of a man named Scrooge, who cares more about himself and his money than others. With the help of the ghosts of Christmases Past, Present, and Future, Scrooge comes to realize what an unfulfilled life he is living and learns the true spirit of Christmas. The story ends on a happy note, but you'll have to watch it to see exactly what it is. If nothing else, watch it for the Muppets.

"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation"

This movie starts out in a very optimistic way with Clark Griswold preparing everything needed to make this the best Christmas ever. He invites the whole extended family to town (a few unwelcome guests show up as well) and decorates the house lavishly. He is eagerly awaiting the arrival of his Christmas bonus when he finds out that his miserly boss has decided to cancel them this year, making many of Clark's plans go awry. Despite this sad occurrence, hilarity ensues, including Clark's boss being kidnapped by his cousin. However, everything works out in the end and Christmas is saved.


This movie is yet another take on the classic story by Charles Dickens, "A Christmas Carol." In this take, the Scrooge figure is not an old man, but a young producer with a full life ahead of him, as played by Bill Murray. When he is assigned to produce a special showing of "A Christmas Carol," he starts noticing his life mirroring the story. He eventually realizes the error of his ways and wishes everyone a merry Christmas. This more modern and more relatable variation of the classic tale will make you think about the person you want to be and how you would like to spend this holiday season.

"The Holiday"

Jude Law. Kate Winslet. Cameron Diaz. Jack Black … Jude Law. What more do you need in a holiday film? Maybe a little romance, the most charming home in England and adorable little girls that give you hope not all kids are devils? "The Holiday" has all of that and more.  Grab a mug of hot chocolate, a handful of your best friends and snuggle in to watch a film that will raise your spirits as you curse the fact that Law lives thousands of miles away.


While this 2004 film hasn't reached 24-hour marathon status, it is quickly becoming a Christmas classic. Will Ferrell delights in this movie as Buddy the Elf, a human raised by elves. He returns to New York City and his birth father (James Caan) only to discover that he is ¾gasp ¾on the naughty list. Buddy brings Christmas joy and laughter to all in this film with his disarming smile and indefatigable enthusiasm. At all the right points, the film is touching, hilarious, tear-jerking and uplifting. Do not forget to include this in your Christmas movie marathon list this year.

"It's a Wonderful Life"

If you haven't seen this movie, you need to stop everything you are doing ¾even if it is writing a term paper ¾and rent it. George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) finds himself down on his luck and imagines what life would be like if he had never been born. Luckily, his guardian angel Clarence (Henry Travers) is there to help him out, showing him all the lives he has touched and the difference he has made for his small town. This touching drama brings out all the important themes of Christmas in a beautifully acted package, inspiring Christmas spirit in audiences of all ages.

"Miracle on 34th Street"

Deciding which version you like better, the 1947 classic starring a very young Natalie Wood or the 1994 remake with the precocious Mara Wilson, says a lot about a person. Then again, it probably says more about which one your parents chose to sit you in front of as a kid. No matter which one you're partial to, this story of a department store Santa who might just be the real thing is always charming to watch. You can't help rooting for Kris Kringle as he tries to prove his case in court at the end.

"The Santa Clause"

A Tim Allen film that's actually enjoyable? It exists, just like Santa in this 1994 instant classic. Workaholic and divorced father Scott Calvin is an unlikely successor for Santa, but the old Santa dies delivering presents on his roof, enacting the clause that puts Scott on his new career path. The best scenes are seeing the magic of the North Pole come to life through Scott's son's eyes, complete with elves, toys and reindeer. Above all, "The Santa Clause" shows that even those with the least bit of Christmas spirit can be transformed with a little belief.

"Love Actually"

This was the original Holiday-themed ensemble romantic comedy, following nine interconnected love stories during the Christmas season. There isn't much not to love about "Love Actually."  The film features some of the UK's most famous actors, including Alan Rickman, Kiera Knightly and rom-com titan Hugh Grant. With just the right amount of British humor (or should I say "humour") and heartwarming romance, "Love Actually" is the perfect movie to watch when you're looking for a crunch time pick-me-up. Through the end of the semester, campus television station NDtv will be playing "Love Actually" on channel 53, giving you plenty of opportunities to snuggle up and watch during the cold days ahead.

"A Christmas Story"

Have you ever gotten your tongue stuck to a metal pole or worn so many layers that you couldn't put your arms down? If you answered yes, then "A Christmas Story" might seem eerily similar to your holiday season. This 1983 film set in our beloved Northern Indiana follows Ralphie, a little boy on a mission to get a BB Gun for Christmas. With a family almost as crazy as yours and a plight that those who have wanted a "dangerous" toy for Christmas can relate to, "A Christmas Story" is a classic for a reason. TBS will be airing "A Christmas Story" in a 24-hour marathon beginning at 8:00 PM on Christmas Eve.

"Die Hard"

This holiday film has everything you could ask for in a Christmas classic ¾family reconnection, a father's redemption, Bruce Willis and, above all, the selfless spirit of helping one's neighbor. Willis plays John McClane, an overworked New York City police officer whose wife has moved to Los Angeles with their two children to pursue a career opportunity. McClane is visiting for the holidays, but it seems like he'll need a Christmas miracle to keep his family together. Thankfully, one arrives in the form of Alan Rickman and a bunch of international terrorists.


Best Christmas Songs

"Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" - Bing Crosby and David Bowie

Bing Crosby and David Bowie made this Christmas mash-up a hit in the 1970s with a delightfully awkward video on the TV special, "Bing's Crosby's MerrieOldeChristmas." While the video reeks of an old-time feel, the song remains a mainstay on the best Christmas playlists.

"Carol of the Bells"

Descended from a Ukrainian carol, this choral Christmas tune has been growing in popularity since translated to English in the 1930s. Numerous versions of the song abound, so revel in the melodic wonder of any of these hauntingly beautiful "Bells."

"It's the Most Wonderful Time of the Year"

Nothing's better than a truthful song, and you know Christmas really is the most wonderful time of the year. Andy Williams' classic about the joys of the holiday season has aged well, and the magic certainly has not been lost. So pop in the song, get out your hot chocolate and be of good cheer!

"12 YATS of Christmas" - The YATS

Those of us from Louisiana (or more generally the South) will already have this song very close to our hearts. However, even if you are from somewhere far away, this song is so full of fun that you should still check it out. It takes the popular classic "The 12 Days of Christmas" and turns it on its head by changing the lyrics to reference pieces of Louisiana culture. From the Lower 9th Ward to the popular phrase, "Ate by yo momma's," to a crawfish taking the place of a partridge, this song is full of unusual rhymes and innovative uses of the numbers themselves. No matter where you're from, this song should be in your repertoire.

"All I Want for Christmas is You" - Mariah Carey

If you are somehow not familiar with this song at this stage in your life, you must be walking around with cotton in your ears. As soon as Christmas songs are socially acceptable, this song is on every radio station, in every home, blaring from Fisher's windows and sung well or poorly in all the showers. Mariah Carey's hit, which has topped the charts for many years, will always get stuck in your head. Just by the first notes, consisting of sharp high bell sounds, you know what's coming. With her catchy tune, repetitive words and distinctive voice, Mariah is sure to be played all around campus.

"It's Beginning to Look a Lot Like Christmas" - Bing Crosby

This classic song really gets you in the mood for Christmas, no matter who you are. Whether you're young or very old, you will find something in this song to make you smile. Sung by the wonderful and popular Bing Crosby, this song talks about the signs that the Christmas season is beginning, like snow, music, decorations, bells, Christmas trees, toys, general merriment, etc. Everything that is mentioned in this song instills in the listener a sense of warmth and excitement (except maybe the part about wanting school to start again). No matter where you are in life, even if you are frantically studying for finals, this song can still bring happiness to your heart.

"Do You Hear What I Hear"

Bing Crosby made this classic Christmas tune popular in the 1960s, and its popularity has only skyrocketed since then. Performers like Carrie Underwood and the "Glee" cast have recently released versions of the song, joining the likes of Bob Dylan, Whitney Houston and Robert Goulet. The song is a beautiful plea for peace that was written during the Cuban Missile Crisis but still resonates today. Its lyrics are touching, and Crosby, whose version is still the best, has a wonderful voice sure to bring Christmas cheer.

"Baby, It's Cold Outside"

This duet is a heartwarming conversation between two people, generally though of as a Christmas song because of the mention of the snowy outdoor temperatures. ZooeyDeschanel and Will Ferrell made this song popular in their hit film, "Elf." But with lyrics like, "I've got to go home; baby, you'll freeze out there; say lend me your coat; it's up to your knees out there," it's a beautiful romantic song for all audiences.

"The Christmas Song" - Nat King Cole

Cole's Christmas classic simply must be on everyone's Christmas playlist. It has everything we love about Christmas ¾Chestnuts roasting on an open fire, Jack Frost nipping at your nose ¾and it gives you that good old-at-home feeling that makes you want to curl up with some hot chocolate.


A great, fun Christmas song that you can dance to, and it's not too hard to learn all the words, so you can sing along. It's a famous song that everybody knows and loves, whether you speak Spanish or not.

"Let it Snow"

It is a perfect song to help everyone appreciate the South Bend weather. No matter how bad it looks outside, you can celebrate being warm and cozy indoors and enjoy a little Christmas spirit. With so many renditions of this song, it's hard not to find one you'll like for your playlist.

"Santa Claus is Coming to Town"

No song does a better job of getting to the holiday season's bottom line than "Santa Claus is Coming to Town." Be good so that Santa will bring you presents. That is a simple message that kids can understand, and it offers an incentive for good behavior for all those children who have a hard time with morality and stuff. First heard on Eddie Cantor's radio show in 1934, the tune has since been recorded by over a hundred artists, but the most popular version today might be the one by Bruce Springsteen and the E Street Band. 


Best Christmas TV Specials

"The Office" – "Christmas Party" Episodes

Any Christmas party episode on "The Office" is guaranteed to be one of the best episodes of the season. The people at Dunder Mifflin never fail to throw a bizarre holiday party that always creates the perfect personal drama, crammed with comedy in between.

"The Year Without a Santa Claus"

This film was originally a Christmas TV special, and while it still plays often during Christmas season, it has become so popular that it has been released on DVD. Santa wakes up on Christmas with a terrible cold and is advised by his doctor to take a holiday off instead of deliver presents because no one seems to care about Christmas anymore. Elves Jingle and Jangle must find people who still believe in Christmas, and their adventures outside the North Pole are entertaining. Oh yeah, and this film features the musically talented Heat Miser and Snow Miser, the memorable duo who never get along but must in order for Christmas to happen. It's a touching Christmas classic that you shouldn't miss.

"How the Grinch Stole Christmas!"

Skip the Jim Carrey version of this movie, whose only redeeming moment is Cindy Lou Who (Taylor Momsen) singing, "Where Are You Christmas?" The animated version, made in the 1960s and based off the Dr. Seuss book, is still the best version of the movie. Mean Mr. Grinch tries to steal Christmas from the Whos, but he can't steal the spirit and joy of the holiday, just like finals and airport delays will never kill the joy for all of us as we struggle towards Christmas break. The film is a moving testament to the true meaning behind Christmas.

"Seinfeld" – "The Strike"

This memorable episode of the hilarious series introduced to the world the holiday of "Festivus." Frank Costanza's father (Jerry Stiller), hating the commercial and religious aspects of Christmas, makes up his own holiday. The holiday includes the airing of grievances, feats of strength and a Festivus pole instead of a tree. The holiday, of course, is a source of tension in the Costanza family, but that just makes the episode even funnier. If you are looking for an alternative holiday to celebrate this winter, look no further than this "Festivus for the rest of us!"

"Rugrats" - "A Rugrats Chanukah"

The Rugrats always had very active imaginations, and in this holiday episode they put them to good use, envisioning themselves as the actors in the Hanukkah story and explaining the holiday to all their young viewers. The show was one of the first specials recognizing a Jewish holiday and, while a childish interpretation of the story, still promotes the lesser known holiday to the masses of children that loved following the lives and adventures of Tommy and his pals. It provides innocent fun, so consider putting it on your watch-list this holiday season.

"A Charlie Brown Christmas"

Charlie Brown finds himself depressed as Christmas approaches despite all the festivities and presents he sees around him. He is determined to discover the real spirit of Christmas, and it takes a school pageant to remind him that he doesn't have to get dragged down by the commercialization of the holiday, but can rejoice in the true meaning of Christmas ¾the birth of Jesus Christ.