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The Best and Worst of Holiday Media

This year, The Rock at Boston College is doing the season of joy in a big way by generating new content every day in our first ever “25 Days of Christmas”. The Rock is proud to present this installment in our holiday special.  

When it comes to Christmas-related music, movies and television, everyone’s entitled to their own opinion.  There are some who love it, some who hate it, and some who hold a soft spot in their heart for some specific holiday trope.  I’m sure we can all agree that there are some forms of Christmas entertainment that are just better than others, or at least that capture the spirit of the holidays in a more heartfelt manner.  I’ve rounded up some of the best and worst of the Christmas genre here for your holiday season enjoyment.

Song (Classic)

The Best: “The Christmas Song” by Nat King Cole.  It literally does not get any better than this.  This is the song I think of when I think of Christmas: a chilly evening by a toasty-warm fire, a feast with family, children young and old hopeful for the arrival of Saint Nick.  There is a reason why this song is called “The Christmas Song” and that is because it is the best.  When it comes to Christmas tunes, nobody does it better than old Mr. King Cole.  But remember kids, only you can prevent chestnuts roasting on open fires.

The Worst: Tie between “Baby It’s Cold Outside” and “Santa Baby.”  First off, “Baby It’s Cold Outside” does not reference Christmas at all, and therefore doesn’t belong in the Christmas genre.  Secondly, though I don’t believe this myself because the song was written in a different time when society’s rules about female sexual autonomy were more oppressive (don’t get me started), the arguments over the song’s predatory overtones are enough to ruin it.  (Reference.)  In the case of “Santa Baby”, the sexy-Santa thing has never worked for me.  Also, the original singer was also the voice of Yzma in The Emperor’s New Groove.  Not sexy.  Hands down. 

Song (Modern)

The Best: Anything off of Michael Bublé’s Christmas.  I am not very familiar with Michael Bublé’s other works (besides that charming song about not having met you yet).  Frankly, I don’t really care about his other works.  Bublé was born to sing Christmas carols, and his 2011 album of Christmas songs is proof positive.  Who cares if the songs aren’t original?  Not I.  His smooth, jazzy style has earned him a place next to Nat King Cole and Harry Connick Jr. in the pantheon of Christmas-carol-singing gods.

The Worst: “Christmas Shoes” by Newsong.  There’s a well-known standup comedy routine by Patton Oswalt (best known for his role as the cooking rat in Disney/PIXAR’s Ratatouille) that’s too crass to quote here, but essentially sums up my feelings about this song.  Here’s a summary: curmudgeonly guy goes to a store on Christmas Eve, meets a kid desperate to buy shoes for his dying mother, learns the true meaning of Christmas (i.e. baby Jesus).  It’s tragically trite.  Had the song been written about the snazzy shoes pictured at left, it’d be a whole different ball game.  (Dishonorable mention: Lady GaGa’s “Christmas Tree”.  It’s just so… bad.  There’s no other word.  It’s bad.)

Movie (Classic) 

It-s-A-Wonderful-Life-its-a-wonderful-life-32959911-1500-1045The Best: It’s A Wonderful Life.  Forget Christmas movies—this movie is one of my all-time, across-the-board favorites.  I’ve been known to watch it in August, or whenever I start to feel hopeless.  In this timeless 1940s picture, George Bailey is visited by his guardian angel, who shows him what life would be like had he never been born.  Along the way, Bailey learns a lesson that we could all stand to remind ourselves of at this busy time of year: that no man is a failure who has friends.  Rumor has it that there’s a sequel in the works, but honestly, you can’t mess with the classics.  Jimmy Stewart, you scamp, you can lasso me the moon any time you want.

The Worst: I had a tough time with this one, as most of the articles I turned to for research listed primarily movies that have been made in the last decade or so (what does that say about the quality of this generation’s holiday entertainment?  Classic millennials).  Call it a respect for our venerated cinematic past, but I just couldn’t find a classic movie that I deemed truly awful. Moving on…

Movie (Modern)

The Best: Love Actually.  “When I start to get gloomy with the state of the world, I imagine the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport…”  This British film, depicting the intertwined lives of several Londoners in the weeks leading up to Christmas, is chock-full of tales of friendship, family and of course, romance.  Funny all the way through and exceptionally moving in places (I’ve been known to tear up at the “to me, you are perfect” scene, as well as the one where Emma Thompson cries over Professor Snape’s infidelity), this movie is an absolute masterpiece.  (Honorable mention: Elf, which is in a class by itself.  SANTAAAAAA!!!!!)

The Worst: the Santa Clause sequels.  I love the original Santa Clause: nothing warms my heart more than Tim Allen and his precocious son cavorting around the North Pole with the assistance of the nebbishy guy from Ten Things I Hate About You in an elf suit—and don’t get me started on how much I love Neil, the sweater-wearing stepdad.  The sequels, however, reek of Disney and their 21st-century penchant for making money off of too much of a good thing.  Charlie on the naughty list?  Breaking my heart.  Juliet from Lost becoming Mrs. Claus?  Even worse.  Martin Short as Jack Frost?  Please, just stop.  If they had made a fourth movie, I would have completely given up on Christmas. 

TV Special (Classic) 

The Best: “A Charlie Brown Christmas.”  Good old Charlie Brown—watching him take on the tribulations of the holiday season, hear Linus’s Biblical speech and trim a sad-looking tree never gets old.  Not to mention that the jazzy soundtrack, performed by the fantastic Vince Guaraldi Trio, makes excellent background music to whatever you may be doing this holiday season, be it finals preparation or more festive activities.  Really, you haven’t lived until you’ve danced around the O’Connell House to “Linus and Lucy”.  (Honorable mention: The Year Without a Santa Claus, a Claymation classic and an institution in my family.)

The Worst: “Dr. Seuss’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas!”  Okay, sue me.  I hate the Grinch.  Hate him.  Hate Dr. Seuss for making him.  As a small child who was terrified of virtually everything, I was put off by the sinister background music and startling appearance of the Grinch.  Just look at that face–how was this made for children?!  Even if his heart does grow three sizes and the Whos try to provide relief with their little “ba-hoo-doris” song, I can’t be convinced to enjoy this special–it lacks merriness.  The 2000 remake with Jim Carrey and a young Jenny-from-Gossip-Girl is no better. 

TV Special (Modern) 

The Best: The Office’s “Christmas Party” episode.  As an avid fan of Michael Scott and the crew, this is the episode that really sold me on the series.  From Dwight wearing elf ears to Jim’s heartfelt Secret Santa gift, to Michael’s hissy fit over a homemade oven mitt, to Meredith’s “revelation” in the final moments of the party, this episode not only captures the spirit of the holiday season, it captures the spirit of The Office as it was rising to popularity in the mid-2000’s.

The Worst: “Charlie Brown’s Christmas Tales”.  Created in 2002 as a way to fill up the one-hour block devoted to “A Charlie Brown Christmas” on ABC, this eighteen-minute special just doesn’t live up to the reputation of the original Peanuts holiday special.  Trying to emulate the fractal style of the original’s dialogue comes off as somewhat contrived, and the animation is just too clean to be a true Charlie Brown special.  Though I will admit that I laughed when the girl Linus has a crush on decided to change her name from Jezebel to Susan.

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