Wednesday, December 16, 2009

The Best Absolutely True (Well, Almost) Celebrity Stories That Should Be Christmas Movies

It's a SemiDaily List!

An annual tradition of mine is to complain about the pathetic state of Christmas movies and Christmas specials. Considering that Christmas, as an enterprise, does so much so well, it's amazing how little time, effort, thought, or creativity goes into Christmas movies and TV shows, all of which seem to fall into a couple of simple categories that just keep re-telling the same old tired Christmas stories and themes.

There are movies in the "A Christmas Carol" theme, in which either someone retells the story A Christmas Carol, either directly or by "re-interpreting" it into a Miley Cyrus vehicle in which Miley is visited by the Jonas Brothers playing the Ghosts of Pop Stars Past, Present, and Future. I'm not sure why this story has survived for so long or become such a staple of modern Christmases, especially considering that the story itself has little to do with Christmas: While it's set on Christmas Eve, the story itself has very, very little to do with anything Christmas-y. It could have taken place on any day. Sure, Scrooge denies Bob Cratchit an extra lump of coal for heat and makes him come in to work the next day -- but Scrooge no doubt would have done that every day. And Scrooge-past sees himself abandoned at a boarding school, even at Christmas; but he would have been abandoned at school on every day, too. Scrooge then sees the present, where the Cratchits are very happy even though Scrooge is mean, and sees the future, when the Cratchits are sad because Tiny Tim isn't there on Christmas-- but they would be saddened by that little empty stool every day, not just on Christmas.

In any event, A Christmas Carol has survived for 166 years now, and will probably survive another 166 years, so that we'll eventually be treated to A Christmas Carol 2175: Cyborg Miley Cyrus & The Actual Ghosts Of The Jonas Brothers.

While that's the most popular tired Christmas theme, it's not the only one that's used today. The other very prevalent Christmas movie/special theme is the Family Sucks Except Really They Don't, movies which show us how it's possible to love our families if only we visit them at Christmas. This year's entry in that category is Robert De Niro's Everything's Fine or Everybody's Fine or something like that, with Robert De Niro finding out that his whole family hates him and lies to him... except on Christmas.

(I'm just guessing at the plot, based on watching 1/3 of the movie trailer, the most I could stand before I got bored, and a little saddened by the state of Christmas movies.)

Other movies like this include one of my favorites, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation, and last year's Four Christmases.

Then the other overused category is the "The True Meaning Of Christmas" movie or special, a theme that actually runs contrary to a foundation of Modern Christmas by claiming that Christmas isn't about stuff, when we all know it is.

Let me explain that: There are two pillars on which Modern Christmas is built. The first is A Christmas Carol, which created the "Victorian Christmas" that people associate with Christmas in modern societies in the 21st-Century; people somehow manage to combine into one coherent whole their images of carolers and frosted old-fashioned windows, and the fact that they bought their kids "Zhu Zhu Robotic Hamsters," never noting the cognitive dissonance there.

The second pillar of Modern Christmas is the poem that Clement Moore stole and claimed as his own, the poem everyone calls 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, but which was actually called A Visit From St. Nicholas. In that poem, the speaker regales us with tales of Christmas, and those tales of Christmas are about all the stuff that the people are dreaming of having, and all the stuff that St. Nicholas is bringing them. It's one of the most materialistic poems ever written, as anyone who reads it knows: while the actual author (not Moore, probably) spends a little time detailing the quiet, peaceful scene, he dwells a lot more on the commercial, give-me-stuffery of Christmas:

The stockings were hung by the chimney with care,
In hopes that St. Nicholas soon would be there;
The children were nestled all snug in their beds,

While visions of sugar-plums danced in their heads;

The kids are dreaming of candy and treats -- not of Christmas peace and love and joy. But it gets worse:

With the sleigh full of Toys, and St. Nicholas too.

Note what's listed first: "...and St. Nicholas too." Oh, yeah -- the religious figure is also present.

About that religious figure: 1/3 of his description is the stuff he's bringing:

He was dressed all in fur, from his head to his foot,
And his clothes were all tarnished with ashes and soot;
A bundle of Toys he had flung on his back.

I could go on, but you get the point: that poem, the other pillar of Modern Christmas, sets up a purely commercial Christmas: It's a merry Christmas because a saint brought material things to them.

That, though, has been somehow entirely twisted around to the Modern Christmas theme of "The True Meaning Of Christmas," which is always set up as "It's not the stuff we get but the emotions we feel." And so Charlie Brown learns the true meaning of Christmas after buying a terrible tree (only to have the terrible tree become a great tree using the commercial stuff) and The Grinch learns the true meaning of Christmas after taking all the stuff away (but then gives the stuff back, anyway.)

Those examples show that we're really only paying lip service to all this True Meaning Of Christmas idea anyway - -because in the end, after we learn our lesson, we get stuff anyway. Even the Cratchits got the biggest, fattest Christmas goose available, and they didn't need to learn a lesson to get some booty.

I'm tired of those old tropes at Christmas, as you might have guessed, but I don't just sit around and complain about things; no, I take positive steps to remedy the situation, pointing out what Christmas movies are truly worth your while, and coming up with better Christmas movies that should be made, which I'm going to do again this year, with a twist. I'm not only going to give you ideas for better Christmas movies so that maybe next year we could have some good ones to watch while eating fruitcake and drinking egg nog, but I'm also going to add in a "True Life Stories" twist by making each of my movies, this year, based on Actual Celebrity Lives that are Absolutely True, Almost, which is how I came up with the title for this list:
The Best Absolutely True (Well, Almost) Celebrity Stories That Should Be Christmas Movies

These are all absolutely true stories about celebrities... almost, as the Magic of Christmas lets me tweak their stories just a little bit to take the true story, make it a little better, and then make an all-new point about Christmas!

Let's begin!

The Quarterback From Santa Claus:

The True Story: Real-life celebrity Jay Cutler is a pro football quarterback born in Santa Claus, Indiana. Growing up, Jay always dreamed of the day he'd play football in the NFL, leading his team to victory. But it's been a rough couple of years for The Quarterback From Santa Claus, as his disappointing career gets him traded from Denver to the Chicago Bears. Jay arrives in Chicago full of hope, but by December, the Bears' season is almost over, the coach is on the verge of firing, and things are looking grim for our hero...

The Twist of Christmas Magic: Just before Christmas, Bears' coach Lovie Smith is fired by the team, which announces it's moving in a different direction. Lovie is jobless... just before Christmas eve!. When he hears this, Jay realizes that this is his true Christmas destiny: Saving Lovie's job and Lovie's family's Christmas. Jay goes to the practice facility to try to convince the team to rehire Lovie, but the place is locked up for the night. Thinking quickly, Jay organizes a pickup game of football, to be played on Christmas Eve, featuring NFL stars from all over the country. As the stars fly in, they realize they've got no field to play on -- until Jay suggests playing right on Chicago's Magnificent Mile at the height of last minute shopping. As word of the game spreads, the media arrives to cover the events unfolding on the brilliantly decorated shopping district, and shoppers pause in their errands to watch when Jay takes the field with an all-star NFL lineup. Just as he does, Lovie walks out of the store where he's been despondently window shopping. Jay turns to him and says, "Hey, Lovie -- you can coach this team!" Lovie guides Jay and the team through a thrilling montage of football action, at the end of which offers to coach other teams pour in through the media-- and Jay's love of football is revitalized for next year!

The Timeless Christmas Message This Movie Emphasizes: On Christmas, anything can happen if we just believe!

The Updated Christmas Message For Our Modern Society: The 24 hour news cycle and barrage of new media makes it possible to game the system to promote any cause if you come up with the right hook -- and Christmas is always the right hook!

I'll Be Gone For Christmas

The True Story: Real-life celebrity Randy Quaid goes on the run after absconding on a $10,000 hotel bill. As that story unfolds, Randy and his wife face mounting trouble from other government officials who claim that the Quaids stole government papers, falsely accused officials of being corrupt; meanwhile, other actors and show-biz types say Randy is missing rehearsals unexpectedly and that the actor and his wife have been acting in a threatening manner towards business acquaintances...

The Twist Of Christmas Magic: ... but Randy and Evi soldier on, facing more and more attacks, until, on Christmas Eve they are arrested and seen being taken into jail in Los Angeles while reporters and paparazzi crowd around them, taunting them. Randy finally stops and addresses the crowd, claiming that he finally is authorized to reveal the truth: He is Santa Claus, and has been undercover for some time now trying to decide if it's worth it to continue his practice of bringing presents to good kids and excluding the naughty kids; in this materialistic world, Randy asks, does anyone even care any more if you're naughty or nice? The hotel bill was a misunderstanding on his part, and the attacks from government officials are part of a campaign to discredit him because those people are on the Naughty list. The world laughs, of course, and Randy is put in jail, where he decides to stay to teach everyone a lesson. But watching the small TV on the jailer's desk, he sees a story about some underprivileged kids who won't have anything under their trees that year. Randy/Santa realizes that even if most of the world no longer believes in or cares about him, there are still people who depend on him, and so just before midnight he summons the reindeer, walks out of the jailhouse, and begins delivering presents all over again. The paparazzi are there, and cover the story with a newfound respect for Quaid and Santa.

The Timeless Christmas Message this movie emphasizes: It doesn't matter if you believe in Christmas, because Christmas believes in you!

The Updated Christmas Message For Our Modern Society: It doesn't matter how crazy, dangerous or illegal your activities are: You're always just around the corner from respectability and a book deal.

You Say It's Your Birthday

The True Life Story: Real-life celeb Jesus is born in humble circumstances in Bethlehem; his surroundings don't give a real indication of his status as the Son of God and Savior of the World, but a few people recognize the importance of the day and celebrate it with visits and gifts, which get built up and expanded upon over the centuries, until eventually what began as a small ceremony becomes a months-long celebration of lights, parades, television specials, gift-giving, drunken parties, and garish sweaters, with scarcely a mention of the man whose birth is being celebrated.

The Twist of Christmas Magic:... watching all of this from Heaven, Jesus becomes not irate, or jealous, or upset, but overwhelmed by the commercial aspects of Christmas. He ventures down to the "real world" to do some Christmas shopping, picking up Snuggies for the Angels ("They look just like the robes they wear... but warmer!" he tells the clerk) and trying fruitcake for the first time, goes ice skating at Rockefeller Plaza, and otherwise partaking of the worldly pleasures -- all the while attracting more and more attention as people realize that this really is Jesus. As he attracts more and more attention and goes more and more commercial, people become upset that even Jesus has gone commercial, and start turning away from Christmas --- and religion-- themselves. Jesus decides that he doesn't need everyone in the world at all, that he just needs himself and his stuff, and falls asleep in Christmas Eve looking at his own expensive, dramatically decorated Christmas tree... then wakes up to find Santa sitting across from him and looking at him. The tree is surrounded by tons and tons of presents. Jesus begins opening them while Santa watches, and the gifts pile up.

But suddenly, Jesus looks around and realizes it's all useless: He's got Guitar Hero, but nobody to play it against! He's got a bunch of the latest CDs, but nobody to play them for. He's even got a new laptop and digital camera... but no friends on Facebook!

"I can't enjoy all this stuff alone! What am I supposed to do, Santa?" he says, and Santa smiles and says:

"Well, Jesus, I haven't unloaded all your presents yet..." and opening his bag, we see the entire world gathered together, smiling up from Earth. "Happy Birthday, Jesus!" Jesus realizes that he needs people as well as stuff, and, having learned a lesson, we fade out with Jesus challenging John the Baptist to a rousing game of Guitar Hero -- and they're playing The Beatles' "Birthday!"

The Timeless Christmas Message this movie emphasizes: Christmas is a time to say I love you, and mean it.

The Updated Christmas Message For Our Modern Society: Your stuff is only good if you can show it off to other people.


Petri Dish said...

I'd go see You Say It's Your Birthday!
Gremlins-Best Christmas movie ever...that I can think of right now

thelamest said...

Bad Santa has to be the best xmas movie!!