Are you looking for a bit of Holiday cheer at the moment? Not finding anything to watch to put you in the sparkly, enchanting Christmas spirit? Well, I think its about time I came up with my own list of things to watch. Whether you can find them easily on Netflix, or have to go digging on YouTube, here are some essential watches for me this year that you too can stream for all the merriment and cheer you deserve!
White Christmas (Netflix)
Filled with all the whimsy and nostalgia of 1950’s Christmas decor, White Christmas is a classic for many reasons: the plot evokes a lot of the Mickey and Judy “Let’s Put On A Show” flicks of the 30’s/40’s, there’s charming Irving Berlin tunes one after another, Post-World War II patriotism, the pastel holiday frocks of Edith Head, and even though some of its aspects might be a little dated, there’s heart warming mush and romance galore.
But probably my favorite element on display in White Christmas is one that is both perfectly done at times, but also flawed: its reflections on gender roles and how the war effected it. From the relationship between Bing Crosby’s and Rosemary Clooney’s characters, to the struggles for aging masculine representation with the General character, plus the lyrics in Berlin’s songs, White Christmas has a lot to say about men and women had certain post-war roles to fulfill, and if they didn’t, they were emotionally conditioned to think themselves a failure.
Unfortunately, the movie loses these sorts of “big thinking” aspects by the third act, trading in somewhat mindless sentimentality for bigger discussions for audiences to have. But maybe if it talked too much about things that recent musicals like Band Stand bring to the public eye, it wouldn’t be the Christmas classic it has become. But the knowledge that those topics were even being hinted at makes it not just a seasonal favorite, but a film that needs more respect than it gets outside of holiday viewings.
The Wish That Changed Christmas (YouTube)
Thanks to the wonderful people of the internet, special yet forgotten little gems like The Wish That Changed Christmas can still exist in this world. Brought to my consciousness by the “wonderful” individuals at McDonalds (who have two cute little nostalgic promos that begin and end the presentation), this animated short tells the story of an orphaned girl, a lonely hardworking family, and a beautiful Christmas doll that all came together to make each other happy.
Perhaps the animation might seem a bit dated to some, and yeah some of the voice acting (especially Jonathan Winters as the evil Owl doll) can seem a bit over the top, but there’s so much whimsy and beauty in this tiny yet important tale that still sticks with me. And with every single frame looking like a stunning painting, it is hard to not find something about it that sticks to your soul.
PS: Man, do I miss old McDonalds commercials. Sure the food is terrible for you and they are a greedy corporation, but the old school puppetry and effects, coupled with the really cute character designs for the old Ronald McDonald crew still give me the warm and fuzzies. (But more on that later.)
It’s a Wonderful Life (Amazon Prime)
There isn’t much to say that hasn’t been said about this Frank Capra classic. It has endured the test of time, and though it reflects much of the nostalgia and charm of the 20’s – 40’s that us “younger” audience love to reflect on, there is a modern quality to it that makes it a much watch for generations and generations of movie lovers.
Interestingly, much like White Christmas, it graces a similar yet different difficult topic: the effects of deep depression on a family, and the regrets of you not fulfilling your life goals. And though it trims this cinematic tree with the warmth of moments from childhood and all the greatest hits and misses that life brings, it is the central personal struggles of George Bailey (Jimmy Stewart) that are at the heart of the story, and give it a sort of relevance that most movies of that era don’t retain.
So whether you are more of a Mary, or side more in the realistic camp of a Mr. Potter (minus the cartoonish villainy), it is hard to not find something to connect to and smile (or full of cry) about this most important of films.
Pee-Wee Christmas Special (Netflix)
Yes, I love Pee Wee. Judge me all you want, but this character will always be among my favorites in the world of comedy. Sure, he isn’t as refined as other comedians, and to some he can be incredibly irritating (like to my boyfriend), but Paul Reubens’ infectious creation will always remain an important part of my life. He opened my mind to 50’s kitsch, music that represents my love of cheese and pop culture related humor, and – oh yeah – introduced me to my first LGBT icons!
That’s right, the Pee Wee Christmas Special was one of the most progressive ones out there. Not only was there a cast of diverse characters on the show alone, most of the special guests were once or are still considered by many to be either heroes of the rainbow rocking club (that I’m a member of), or were once alienated by the public eye for their risk taking difference. If you want the deets, I highly recommend this video essay by Matt Baume.
Regardless if you are looking for some sort of culture significance in your TV specials, or just want something with a cute lesson in a ultra childish manner, than this special might be for you – and it has Magic Johnson! How can you go wrong?!
So what are you watching this Holiday season? Let me know your favorites in the comments below!