Best Christmas Movie Ever: A Christmas Story

A Christmas StoryAs the television gets deluged with viewings of every yuletide heartwarming movie known to mankind, my thoughts turn to pondering — what makes a great Christmas movie? [Note to readers who don’t celebrate Christmas: I don’t mean to give short shrift to all the great Hanukkah and Kwanzaa movies out there – I simply don’t know of any. Please enlighten us if there are!]

So what makes a great Christmas movie? For answers, let’s examine what, in my opinion, is the best Christmas movie ever: A CHRISTMAS STORY, based on the book by Jean Shepherd. It’s become one of those cult sensations; you’ll probably have to look hard to find a showing of it. But see if you can; it’s worth the hunt.

  • Focus on children. Face it — despite our best attempts to bring our families back to the true meaning of Christmas, kids mostly fixate with laser-like focus on one, maybe two, things: the coming of Santa and presents. A CHRISTMAS STORY honors this reality.
  • Acknowledgement of the nuttiness of the season: A CHRISTMAS STORY works in long Santa lines; the quest for the tree; the debates over decoration of said tree; the Christmas turkey; and every other fine holiday tradition that stresses us out.
  • A light heart. Yes there are lessons learned in this film. [SPOILER ALERT] Ralphie gets his Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle, and then proceeds to shoot his eye out. Almost. But the movie quietly and subtly pays homage to the power of family as well with a light touch. You know as you watch it that this is a family whose members love and are loyal to each other.
  • Lines that you can quote by heart. I defy you to see this movie and not come out of it without immediate memorization of several favorite lines (a sign of great movie writing, by the way). My favorites:

Narrator Ralph: In the heat of battle my father wove a tapestry of obscenities that as far as we know is still hanging in space over Lake Michigan.

Mr. Parker: It’s a Major Award!
Swede: Shucks I wouldn’t know that. It looks like a lamp.
Mr. Parker: What is a lamp, you nincompoop? Tt’s a Major Award. I won it!
Swede: Damn, hell, you say won it?
Mr. Parker: Yeah, mind power, Swede; mind power.

Adult narrator Ralphie (referring to the leg lamp): Only one thing in the world could’ve dragged me away from the soft glow of electric sex gleaming in the window.

The movie is the perfect combination of period nostalgia seasoned with a pinch of absurdity (Leg lamp, anyone?) and pure silliness.

Of course, you’re always free to come to your own conclusions. I welcome all comments to the Great Christmas movie debate.

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