Sunday, December 22, 2013

This Month in Pop Culture: Christmas Edition

If you know me at all, then you know that this is one of my favorite times of year. Holiday movies, specials, music,  lights, decorations--I unironically love all of it. Although I do love some of it more than others, and thought I'd share with you my Christmas pop culture favorites. You have three days to make sure you're up to speed with all of this. Enjoy and have a happy holidays!

Top 10 Christmas Movies (All-time)

*Don't know if I can take the stress of ranking these, so I'm just going chronologically here.

Holiday Inn/White Christmas (1942, 1954)

I adore Bing Crosby's deep dulcet tones, and these movies, despite their length and kitsch, just make me so happy. The songs stay in your head and who doesn't love a good Fred Astaire and Bing Crosby dance number? No one with a heart, that's for sure. 
Favorite Quote: "I'm dreaming of a white Christmas..."

It's a Wonderful Life (1946)

This one doesn't really need much explanation. Despite the endless parodies and plot-riffs it's experienced over the years, this Jimmy Stewart classic tells a beautiful story about life and the things we take for granted. 
Favorite Quote
: "
Strange, isn't it? Each man's life touches so many other lives. When he isn't around he leaves an awful hole, doesn't he?"

A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
This melancholic film is the one that sobers me up the most to the true meaning of Christmas: remembering a special baby boy and being with the ones you love on a night where anything seems possible. It's also scored by Vince Guaraldi, which elevates it a whole level right there. 

Favorite Quote
“Isn’t there anyone who knows what Christmas is all about?”

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966)

I loathe the Jim Carrey version of this story so much. Luckily Boris Karloff does Dr. Seuss proud the first time around with his deep-voiced, humorous songs, putting me in a state of pure bliss the entire 30 minutes. The film's beautiful simplicity makes it something I have to catch every year, especially for that emotional ending. 
Favorite Quote: "Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn't come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more."

A Christmas Story (1983)

Despite being insanely quotable and the movie my family chooses to leave on the background while we make Christmas cookies (on that TLC marathon loop), I think I adore this movie because of how relatable it is. What kid hasn't plotted the ways to convince his parents to get them the perfect gift? Or had that moment of realization that their parents weren't perfect, yet perhaps perfect for them? Just a perfect coming-of-age story. And that lie about the icicle--I can relate, Ralphie.
Favorite Quote: "In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenity that, as far as we know, is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan."

Scrooged (1988)
It's Bill Murray being his Bill Murray-ist and I wouldn't have it any other way. Not when Dickens is involved. 

Favorite Quote: "I never liked a girl well enough to give her twelve sharp knives."

The Muppet Christmas Carol

It's the Muppets + Charles Dickens. Definitely the best way to go about adapting this classic story. It was also my first introduction to the Muppets, so it wins nostalgia points for that. 
Favorite Quote: "Rizzo the Rat: Boy, that's scary stuff! Should we be worried about the kids in the audience? Gonzo: Nah, it's all right. This is culture!"

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
The movie developed my love for Henry Selick and his brand of dark humor. It's deeply original, visually stunning, the songs are catchy, and you can't helped but be both charmed and creeped out by Jack Skellington's desire to experience the warmth and joy that Christmas brings. It combines my two favorite holidays; what more can I ask for?

Favorite Quote: "There's children throwing snowballs, instead of throwing heads. They're busy building toys and absolutely no one's dead!"

Elf (2003)

This movie could easily become overbearing and into stupid territory, but Will Ferrell makes Buddy the Elf charming and cheerful enough that you can't help but be pulled into the Christmas spirit along with him. And it's just so dang funny.
Favorite Quote: "You sit on a throne of lies."

Arthur Christmas (2011)

My favorite Christmas movie of this decade, Arthur Christmas is another wonderful and hilarious movie from Aardman Animations. It cleverly answers the question of how Santa is able to put presents under each tree in one night with a strong plot and emotional arc for its titular character. 
Favorite Quote: "They can't kill me! I'm Santa!"

Top 10 Christmas TV Episodes/Specials (All-Time)
*No particular order

"Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas," Community (Season 2)

One of my favorite episodes from one of my favorite comedies, "Abed's Uncontrollable Christmas" exemplifies everything I love about Community: the hilarious jokes, clever parodies, and the heart and sentimentality underneath all that. The episode parodies classic Christmas specials like Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer while exploring the psyche of one of its most complex characters and giving an honest examination of what Christmas really means.  It's a gorgeously animated episode that features Christmas pterodactyls and Chevy Chase as a teddy bear. No wonder I find myself watching it several times a season. 

"LudaChristmas," 30 Rock (Season 2)

Jack, with the terrifying Colleen as a mother, says there's no such thing as a perfect family, despite seeing the seemingly perfect Lemon clan lovingly together. The Donaghy's plot to turn the Lemons against each other at Christmas dinner is one of the funniest scenes of all time. I'm just glad no one in my family suffers from "Trauma Induced Nivea Aphasia." No amount of Christmas sweater-wearing could make me pretend like it was always 1985. Oh, Kenneth also accidentally inspires everyone to tear down the Rockefeller Center tree. I just love this episode.   

"The One With the Routine," Friends (Season 6)
Friends has a lot of great holiday episodes, but this one wins my favorite solely because of Ross and Monica's routine at Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve. Kills me every single time.

"The Strike," Seinfeld (Season 9)

It's the episode that made Festivus a thing. It also features The Human Fund and the reveal of Kramer's job, but let's not forget that Festivus is now a thing on Dec. 23 featuring feats of strength, airing of grievances, and a Festivus pole. Long live Festivus!  

"Simpsons Roasting on an Open Fire," The Simpsons (Season 1)

I just learned that this classic was apparantly the show's first full episode. That makes it special in and of itself, but I just always loved it for that darned Santa's Little Helper. 

"An Echoll's Family Christmas," Veronica Mars (Season 1) 

This episode is probably my favorite all-time Veronica Mars episode, not to mention one of my favorite Christmas episodes. Logan Echolls was just a jerky antagonist to our heroine up until this episode--which takes a look at his truly messed up home life and gives him some real emotional depth. From this episode on, Logan became my favorite character. Also, he plays a mean game of poker.

"A Christmas Carol," Doctor Who (Season 5) 
Doctor Who's Christmas Specials are hit-and-miss, but "A Christmas Carol" is perhaps the biggest hit of them all. Featuring Michael Gambon as the Scrooge character, it embraces the essence of the original Dickens story while subverting its cliches using time travel and sharks that pull sleighs. Funny, clever, and moving, this is one of my favorite Who episodes. I might change my mind following the upcoming Christmas special (I miss you already Matt Smith), but for me this is the peak of them so far.

"Afternoon Delight," Arrested Development (Season 2)

Christmas with the Bluth family; what could possibly go wrong? This brilliant, hilarious episode just doesn't stop with the jokes, from the misunderstanding of the meaning of the titular song, to Gob trying to be a company man, to Buster becoming addicted to the claw game. It's an episode I watch multiple times a year while wearing my $4,000 suit.

"Benihana Christmas," The Office (Season 3)

It's a tie between this and season 2's "Christmas Party" as my favorite The Office holiday episode, but I think "Benihana Christmas" wins out due to Kevin's karoake, Dwight running over a goose, and the hilarious yet sad "bros before ho's" speech. I miss you Michael Scott. 

"Amends," Buffy the Vampire Slayer (Season 3)

Yes, it's the one where the snow makes Angel have faith and stop wanting to kill himself. But it also tells a beautiful story of forgiveness and redemption, and learning to believe in the impossible, even in a world where most of the impossible is already possible. And it brings a whole new meaning to the words "Tree. Nog. Roast beast."

Music (2013)

*Cheating here because it would be literally impossible to choose my favorite Christmas tunes (and then my favorite versions of those songs) of all time. I mean, my Spotify Christmas playlist is 700 songs long. So here are the ones released this season I've been putting on repeat. 

Kelly Clarkson - "Underneath the Tree"

Pentatonix - "Little Drummer Boy"

The Killers & Dawes - "Christmas in L.A."

Kate Nash - "I Hate You This Christmas"

Mary J. Blige - "This Christmas"

Leona Lewis - "One More Sleep"

Erasure - "Bells of Love (Isabelle's of Love)"

Ariana Grande - "Snow in California"

Toni Braxton & Babyface - "Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas"

Never Shout Never & Dia Frampton - "Under the Mistletoe"


  1. Where's Mariah Carey???? I'm guessing it was conscious decision to leave her off the list, right? : )

    1. Haha if we're talking about the same song, it's because it wasn't originally released this year. That is one of my top 10 of all time though :)

  2. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation??!!