The following is a running list of holiday movies I've watched this year, my favorite parts from each of them, and for what occasion I recommend them:
1) Planes Trains and Automobiles
Why I love it: Three people -- Steve Martin, John Candy, and John Hughes. Before Judd Apatow and his cronies, there was this holy trinity of comedy. The storyline's fraught with sap, but it's worth sitting through the 80s syth soundtrack just to watch the hilarity that ensues throughout.
Best Part(s): It's a toss up. Steve Martin's f*ck-fraught monologue, which could even put Clark Griswold to shame, AND John Candy playing the piano on the car dashboard. Oh, AND the taxi cab chase-down between Martin and Kevin Bacon. You could almost believe he's playing the same character as She's Having a Baby, and he just happens to be on business in New York. Again: love John Hughes.
Occasion: Just before Thanksgiving, with your roommates, while you all dream of eating turkey and other food you can't afford.
Why I love it: Besides the genius that is Will Ferrel and the secondary genius that is John Favreau, who came up with the story, it serves to contrast the commercial American life in tandem with the true delights of Christmas. When seen through Buddy's eyes, even a crappy cup of coffee becomes holy.
Best Part: Every part where Will Ferrel is arguing with people about his being an elf. Again, this man is a comic genius.
Occasion: Early in the season with group of good friends, homemade cookies, and hot scnapplettes.
3) Home Alone
Why I love it: John Hughes is the Aristotle of family comedy. If you know me at all, it goes without saying why this movie is in the top three of my Christmas favorites. When this movie gets rolling (somewhere around "I made my family disappear!"), the Culkin heartwarming is infectious, and you find yourself looking for the second installment just 5 minutes after "KEVIN! WHAT DID YOU DO TO MY ROOM?!"
Best Part: When Kate McCallister is fighting her way through the airport, snapping at all the Frenchies. I love Catherine O'Hara! Also, JOE PESCI!! Seriously, how did they get him to do this movie?!
Occasion: With your siblings.
4) National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Why I love it: Every time I think I've seen this movie too many times to appreciate it anymore, I find some dear soul who hasn't ever seen it, and I don myself John Hughes Wise Man, and bless them with 90-some minutes of Chevy Chase slapstick hilarity. Seriously, did it ever get better than 80s family comedy? "Merry Christmas... Kiss my ass. Kiss your ass, kiss his ass... Happy Hanukkah." Splendid.
Best Part: Two parts of physical comedy that I can never stifle laughter during -- When Clark's decorating the house and he gets stuck on the back of the ladder, then puts his hand over, under, over-under, unable to figure out how to get around. It's perfect. Also the chewing of the too-dry turkey. Oh, wait! And the bit on the sled. And Eddie and the eggnog. And OF COURSE the "Where's the Tylenol" monologue. Okay, I've gotta go watch it again.
Occasion: With anyone who's a National Lampoon Vacation series virgin.
5) Home Alone 2: Lost In New York
Why I love it: It's all the delights of the first movie, but this time it's in NEW YORK. What kid wouldn't love to get left in that city with their yuppie parent's credit card and an endless supply of fool-proof one-liners? You can tell how much John Hughes loves about this place just by how he tells the story -- for years I'd felt like I'd been to New York just because I'd done the cinematic journey with Kevin so many times.
Best Part: As usual, there are many, but my favorite moments of this flick have to be the Darlene Love "All Alone at Christmas" montage and all the Plaza hotel scenes. Tim Curry is splendid. My brothers' favorite line tonight was Joe Pesci's "You open your mouth and you'll be spittin' gum out through your forehead."
Occasion: With your siblings again. Or better yet, with the whole family.
6) Little Women
A Preface: Because I shared this movie with two dear girlfriends of mine so many years in a row, it feels almost sacrilege to watch it without them... But I think the first time we watched it together it felt just as bad to watch it without my mama. Mom used to rent this right around the time it started to snow -- or when I got sick, I seem to remember. She's the greatest Marmee.... Anyway, it's never too late to share the movie with new little women, even if they'll never quite be the Hannah-Jo and Katie-Beth and Sharmee you remember!
Why I love it: Christian Bale and Winona Ryder make this movie for me. I always have to resist the urge to stop the movie when he moves to France because it breaks my heart every time. I'm still trying to understand, even though now I can appreciate Professor Baer's attributes now better than when I was a little girl. Also, a young Kirsten Dunst delivers every Amy sting flawlessly.
Best Part: There are too many to choose, so I will proffer favorite lines instead:
"If I weren't going to be a writer, I'd go to New York and pursue the stage! Are you shocked?"
"I'm so degraditated -- I owe at least a dozen limes!"
"Evangelina and I will make you some tea..."
"Don't be such a beetle!"
"Oh Jo, how could you? Your one beauty!!"
"A letter. That'll show him."
"Jo, you have so many extraordinary gifts; how can you expect to lead an ordinary life?"
Occasion: All piled up on the couch with Trader Joe's Jo-joes and Pound Plus Chocolate and two best friends.