For me, the holy trinity starts with Rankin/Bass' 'Twas the Night Before Christmas, the animated special that showed us that even a miracle needs a hand, and that mousy intellectuals with a penchant for clockwork should just mind their own damn business. The sleigh ride continues with the classic "Peace on Earth/Little Drummer Boy" from Bing Crosby's Merrie Olde Christmas, featuring the legendary crooner and David Bowie—the oddest of holiday pairings since "fruit cake" and "delicious." (You can sense Bing's impending fear of a dandy home invasion when Bowie walks through the manor and asks to use his piano.) Then there's the Muppets' timeless rendition of "The 12 Days of Christmas" from John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together. The gusto from Miss Piggy belting "Five goooold rings!" always gets me in the mood for the season—and for Christmas ham.
Christmas is always such a frantic season for movie-watching for me—packing in all the stuff to be considered for year-end awards—that I almost never have time for stuff I've seen 100 times and actually like. Probably the closest I get to something like this is Robert Zemeckis' The Polar Express, which I often have a hard time turning away from when I'm channel surfing during the holidays. It gets even more fascinating as the years go by, and its primitive "uncanny valley" motion-capture computer-animated characters look ever creepier. Sure, it's cheesy, schmaltzy spectacle, but it also feels more nightmarish than anyone involved could ever have intended.
I used to start watching holiday movies as soon as the calendar turned to Dec. 1. Nowadays, I have trouble getting into the holiday spirit with all the anxiety-building hustle. The one movie that always gets me ready to shop until I drop or spend the evening with all my extended family is Love Actually. This isn't your typical holiday movie, but I adore it. I stumbled upon it a few years ago, and have continued to watch it over and over again. I'm a fool for good ol' rom-coms and this one adds a bit of Christmas magic. As the only perpetually single gal in my family, I suppose Love Actually reminds me that "love is all around us," even though yet again, I'm single another holiday season.
Come December, I try to stay far away from seemingly everyone's favorite Christmas flick, Elf. Instead, I find myself more fascinated with mid-1990s holiday nostalgia. This is clearly because those were the years I still believed in Santa and everything seemed magical. Now, if I'm flipping through channels and come across Jingle All The Way, you can sure as hell bet I'm not going anywhere else. Between Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad's buffoonery trying to track down the virtually sold-out Turbo Man action figure and the cheesy lines throughout (I'm going to deck your halls, bub!), I can't help but smile. Bonus: I first saw this film during a birthday party at the small theater inside Jolly's Pharmacy and Top Hat Video on 1300 South and 1700 East—you know, back when video rental stores were still a thing. Ah, the '90s.