Chevy Chase teams up with Charlton Heston at Christmas

chevyThis year I put in an old-favorite and a newcomer to watch with family and friends, rediscovering that Christmas can really be a popular setting for movies.  I think some Christmas movies are even must watch movies for any person who might consider themselves a movie aficionado.  To be honest, I had never thought these two movies were any better than some others, but I now believe they are truly up there.  I can’t think of any more heartwarming or inspirational movies.  What are they?  Glad you asked!

I think Chevy Chase was at the height of his comedic career and his appeal as movie draw when he made National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.  It was made in 1989 and feels timeless, like it takes commonalities from the everyman’s family, common stories that we all can relate to.  We all have annoying relatives.  The lights never work right.  There’s always shopping, eating, and presents to buy.  Your boss is a jerk.  Your neighbors are snotty, arrogant people.  America’s commonalities!

They certainly go over-the-top, but the movie really is middle-American.  I guess it could be considered cheesy in some spots, but I think it’s just plain funny in spots.  Everybody loves people falling down.  My father himself used to trudge all over putting up Christmas lights, so I found Chevy Chase extra funny in those sequences.  The movie really isn’t about much more than a series of disasters at Christmas time and some family problems.  That’s it.  Chase’s  character Clark reacts exactly like we think and stretches it to hilarity.  It’s just beautiful.  I watch it every year with my family.  I endure even the sappy moments with a smile, mostly because Chevy Chase falling down for the 100th time is so damn funny for some reason.

benhurDid you know Ben-Hur was a Christmas movie?  It has one of the most well-known and noted sequences in all of film history and I wanted to see it mainly for that reason.  I had forgotten for some reason that it was a Christmas movie.  Maybe I was mired and beat down by Gladiator or 300, ground down by action spectacle after action spectacle.  I never expected something so deep or moving. I can now see why it is considered one of the best movies of all time.  It is also somewhat American and definitely a religious film.  The whole movie rests on the story of Jesus.  Of course, Jesus is the whole point of Christmas and that is why Ben-Hur is a classic, Christmas movie.  However, a couple of people I know call the film a “Sunday school lesson” on film and I guess I see their point, but I can also appreciate the film without disregarding it merely because it has some religious things.  I don’t mind those things.  I can see how other people might find the film uplifting because of those things.  I can also see how still other people might find the chariot race completely awesome over all other things.  All in all, you’ll have to admit that Ben-Hur is a significant film worth remembering.

It is an epic tale in the same methodical way that 2001: A Space Odyssey is an epic space drama.  That doesn’t mean it is tired and boring though.  I might skip a couple musical interludes though.  The 50th anniversary edition was recently released on DVD and shows the film in its original form, completely restored frame-by-frame by Warners.  The DVD has an option to watch the movie with the music soundtrack only, which I found amusing.  Why would you want that?

There are certainly other movies worth remembering over the holidays, but these were my two choices this year.  Movies like It’s a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol are a little too much for me, maybe its their age.  But they’re always on TV in December so I can at least catch part of them until I can take no more!  Then I can throw in Die Hard to remind myself that it’s a Christmas movie too.