Merry Christmas from Film School Rejects; Now Go Watch One of These Movies

Gonzo rizzo flying

Here at Reject HQ, we’re about to have a silent day. But before we take off to enjoy friends, family and other interesting Christmas Day adventures (none of which including writing about movie news), we’d like to take a moment to wish you all a very Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy Kwanza, Merry Festivus and happy whatever you celebrate.

Even if you don’t celebrate anything, we wish you a safe and restful holiday season. Eat some cookies, drink some egg nog (or other libations) and above all, watch some great seasonal movies. To help you out, I asked a few of our FSR staffers to bring their favorite things to watch on Christmas day. The list includes a few Christmas films, a few specials and well, some real classics. It all begs the question:

What are you watching on Christmas Day? 

Kate Erbland: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

As an only child, holidays around my house weren’t always the most wacky and wild of affairs – they were generally pretty laidback and stress-free, to be honest. And yet, I still think both my parents and myself craved big, boisterous family gatherings where just everything went wrong or, at the very least, craved watching such hijinks from the safety of our realtively staid family unit. Enter Christmas VacationEvery single thing that can go wrong over the holidays happens to the Griswolds – they almost die getting their tree, Uncle Eddie empties sewage into their street, a cat dies in the most hilarious way possible, everyone acts like a total asshole, and daddy Clark gets shafted by the man. There are near-deaths, illegal explosions, and even a kidnapping. This stuff does not happen during the typical family holiday, but man, is it fun to watch.

Landon Palmer: Shop Around the Corner (1940)

Though Jimmy Stewart is certainly better known for that other 1940s Christmas movie where he plays clinically delusional, deeply depressed pharmacologist who somehow coaxes his community into giving up their money through the power of friendliness and supernatural bells, he also starred in another classic Christmas movie six years earlier. Directed by the incomparable comic auteur Ernst Lubitsch, Shop Around the Corner is one of the best romantic comedies of Hollywood’s golden age. The films pits Stewart against Margaret Sullavan, both gift shop employees who can’t stand each other but are unknowingly pen pals who have fallen in love through their written correspondence.

This is a truly hilarious and touching (without the cloying of Frank Capra) film about the different masks we put on for people during our various social routines, and it’s ultimately a simple tale about selflessness, forgiveness, and learning what it truly means to understand one’s neighbor – themes that speak well beyond any theological or materialist confines of Christmas day. Best of all, the film is based on a Hungarian play by Miklos Laszlo, and for some reason this adaptation keeps the story’s Budapest setting with the entire cast speaking perfect American English (this component was inexplicably dropped for the film’s AOL update, You’ve Got Male). Alfred Kralik may not be as well-known a Hollywood Christmas figure as George Bailey, but Shop Around the Corner is easily the best holiday film from the 1940s starring Jimmy Stewart as an Eastern European retail worker.

Caitlin Hughes: Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special

According to Caitlin Hughes lore, my mother apparently bought me the VHS copy of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special when I was two years old, and was able to do in my presence, as she snuck it over the top of the stroller. So for about 25 years now, I have been watching this Christmas special, every single Christmas and maintain that this 49 minutes of perfection is the greatest thing to ever happen to television. In the special, Pee-Wee learns the true meaning of Christmas – that “Christmas is the time when we should be thinking about what we can do for others” – after his Christmas list is so expansive that if Santa gives him everything on it, there will be no presents to give to the children of the word. Pee-Wee doesn’t get too much of a rough deal in that he gets to be Santa’s helper! Complete with a mindblowing roster of celebrity guests sporting full-on ’80s regalia, including Cher (who retrieves the Secret Word!), k.d. lang (in a denim dress!), Oprah, Frankie and Annette, Charo, and Grace Jones, Pee-Wee’s Christmas Special maintains the intelligent, adult humor of Pee-Wee’s Playhouse, and even adds an addition to the fantastically-stylized playhouse in the form of a new wing made of Pee-Wee’s unwanted fruitcakes. Feliz Navi-blah indeed!

Brian Salisbury: Die Hard

Oh the weather outside may be frightful, but watching John McClane dispatch The International House of Terrorists is always delightful. Die Hard isn’t merely the best Christmas action movie ever made, it is in fact one of the greatest action films period, and the standard by which many are judged to this day. Quotable banter, brilliant use of a claustrophobic setting, and standout performances by Bruce Willis and Alan Rickman are all beautifully underscored by Michael Kamen’s surprisingly menacing jingle-bell-heavy soundtrack. Christmas is a time for all of us to come together, reflect on what’s most important to us, and insert invectives into cowboy lingo. Now you know what you have to watch today…ho ho ho.

Scott Beggs: A Charlie Brown Christmas

Call me a sap, or obtuse, or too obvious, but there’s nothing like watching A Charlie Brown Christmas when the Yuletide comes along. No doubt it’s the message of the entire thing that stands as a nice reminder that even as people shove each other down onto the cold, unforgiving tile of a local department store, the real beauty of the season is fellowship with each other and a shared deep breath taken in the middle of winter before exhaling together into the new year.

Neil Miller: The Muppet Christmas Carol

When I was younger — this is sometime in the mid-90s — we had a VHS copy of The Muppet Christmas Carol that has since been worn out. The reason? It’s a Miller household tradition. My mom, brother and I would watch it every single year. Like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation on Christmas Eve and Home for the Holidays on Thanksgiving, it has long been a Christmas day ritual. Michael Caine dazzling in one of his great performances alongside a group of felt-skinned favorites that call back to one’s earliest childhood memories. The brilliance of Kermit as Bob Cratchit, Stadler and Waldorf as Marley and Marley, the effortless cool of the freshly designed (at the time) ghosts of Christmas past, present and yet to come. A classic story retold with Jim Henson’s wonderful creations. For an extra special double feature, time permitting, one might pair this with Emmett Otter’s Jug Band Christmas.

Neil Miller is the Founder and Publisher of Film School Rejects. For almost a decade, he has been talking movies on television, the radio, and the Internet. As of yet, no one has stopped him.

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