We are officially two weeks away from Christmas Eve (I know, I gasped as well), and our attention at Film Misery has turned towards the Holidays. This week we decided to ask a question about traditions that is particularly appropriate for this time of year.
QUESTION: Do you have any Holiday film rituals?
The thing about the Holidays (captial H) is that movies made about them, which might be insufferable any other time of year, are exactly what I want when they roll around. It’s cultural, it’s Pavlovian, but as soon as December 1st hits, Rudolph fills my head with thoughts of cocoa instead of confusion. While not a strict tradition, I try as hard as I can to run down a short checklist before Christmas hits, the contents of which probably won’t surprise – Mickey’s Christmas Carol (complete with Donald Duck snow-fort short), A Muppet Christmas Carol, It’s Christmas Charlie Brown… okay, and also Die Hard. (Side note: I seem to be the only person left of my generation for whom the shine has come off of A Nightmare Before Christmas, hence its exclusion.)
As for proper traditions/rituals, when I go to my aunt’s house for Christmas, if I can’t hear the annual 24-hour marathon of A Christmas Story, then something feels amiss. Sure, it occasionally gets interrupted for sports, but eventually one of my many aunts will wander back into the living room and demand, “Where’s Ralphie?!” and a grumbling relative will flip it back on. Also, last year was the first time I was able to participate in an annual tradition at my girlfriend’s family’s Christmas Eve. Her family is less centralized than mine, so to sort of bring everyone together, one of them chooses a film and every household Netflix-es it, watches it, and takes place in a conference call trivia contest about the film for Christmas prizes. While I didn’t get to play in the conference call, the whole tradition felt sweet and wholesome, even if no one I was with enjoyed that year’s move, What’s Up Doc. – C.M.
To share my own tradition, I have to explain another. One day – all day – each year, the women in my family get together to bake Christmas cookies for the entire family. This tradition isn’t exactly a larf for them. “Cookie Day” is a militantly run, well-oiled machine; you must come prepared with the designated ingredients and you must be willing to do your part. My own orders – mostly due to my possession of a Y chromosome – are to stay the hell away (oddly enough, they have no qualms about inviting my boyfriend). The great thing is that I typically get a laundry basket (seriously, a laundry basket) full of cookies by the end of the day, but I usually need to find something to do while I wait.
The other men in my family go off to do their own thing, which likely involves football somehow. Personally, I capitalize on this free time to finish (and in some cases, to start) my Christmas shopping and, of course, to catch a movie. Sometimes, if I am with friends we will watch something at the multiplex connected to the mall. If I’m alone, however, I visit the arthouse theater in town to do some much-needed catching up on the important films coming out at the year’s back-end. Ideally, I look for a movie I know relatively little about. Most recently, I managed to catch little-seen gems like Claire Denis’ White Material and Arnaud Desplechin’s truly outstanding A Christmas Tale. An annual screening of the latter film, incidentally, has become one of my most newly implemented of holiday traditions, film-related or otherwise.
To be pretty straight-forward, no I do not have any film related holiday traditions. The closest thing to it would be the TNT marathon of A Christmas Story, which my family doesn’t miss a single year. My parents started this watching this on TV when they found it on accident. Before the marathons and the madness of one of film’s most bizarre pop-culture phenomonons, NBC began to air it. That’s where it began for me. I can’t help but wonder if my family would have sought the film out again or recognized it as great had it not had its mysterious surge in popularity.
I’ve always liked the idea of having some sort of tradition here. But my family just doesn’t watch films and the connection to A Christmas Story, despite its lack of any ritual in the viewing or originality of such a tradition at this point, is too strong to break. One Christmas movie a year, and the same one every time, more than fills their quota of cinema.
When I was in college in a small town in Minnesota, I used my time back in “the cities” over the Holidays to catch up on the multitude of Oscar contenders that I had yet to see. My parents knew to stuff my stocking with movie theatre gift certificates so I was fully equipped to spend every day between Christmas and New Year’s at the cinema. My friend and I invented the Budget Film Festival, where we would go to a local movie theatre for their first showing of the day and stay all day, hopping from screen to screen. I am not proud of the dishonesty, but it definitely helped me fill out my end of the year lists and prepare me for the upcoming Awards season.
Now I live in St. Paul with constant access to new movies, so I don’t have to cram in quite as many at once. However, there is still an understanding with my family that during the Holidays, I am all about the movies (luckily so are many of them). I save up my vacation time all year so I can take days off, I meticulously plan out my screening schedule, and I make numerous trips to a nearby Redbox to pick up an earlier release that I missed. This also helps me prepare for those numerous Holiday parties where I will inevitably be asked by one of the friends or family members who is aware of my affinity for cinema – what’s good that’s out right now?
What is your Holiday tradition or ritual?