Christmas is here, and that means it's time to watch some terrible movies! After all,Christmas is all about tradition, and doing things you don't enjoy for reasons you're no longer sure of is the literal definition of the word "tradition."
I mean, not every Christmas movie is terrible, of course. If that was the case, science would still be baffled by the magic of Die Hard to this day.
That said, there are plenty of holiday movies that still get heaped with praise despite the fact that, if we're being completely honest with ourselves, we should have outgrown them a long damn time ago, for a variety of reasons. Christmas movies that get more praise than they deserve are the topic of discussion on this week's Unpopular Opinion podcast ...
... where I'm joined by comic Chet Wild and musician Danger Van Gorder. We kick things off by talking about a film that's become every bit a symbol of Christmas as blinking lights and binge-drinking:
4It's a Wonderful Life
You know who loves It's a Wonderful Life? Every person who's ever had to write a list of the best Christmas movies of all time. Also, your mom. Your mom, my mom ... all the moms. Beyond that, I don't know a single person who cops to enjoying this movie, and, if nothing else, the box-office numbers from back when this freight train full of boring first pulled into the movie station kind of back that up. It raked in a mere $3.3 million, which probably seems like a lot in old-timey Jimmy Stewart money, but it wasn't enough to keep the film from registering a $525,000 loss for the studio that initially released it. Yes, it was nominated for a bunch of awards, but trophies don't make a movie fun to watch. Maybe It's a Wonderful Life was an action-packed thrill ride back in the 1940s, but it is dull as fuck by today's standards.
Sandia National Laboratories/Photodisc/Getty
Case in point: not a single explosion.
Oh, that's it, right? I'm being unfair by holding it up to the movie-making standards of today? Well, if you don't want me doing that, don't show this movie on an infinite loop for two solid weeks each year. That kind of heavy rotation should be reserved for shit that holds up. Again, I understand that watching this movie is a tradition of some sort, but it's only been that way since the '80s, and probably just because a lapsed copyright in 1974 meant showing it on television was way cheap for a while. Somehow, that cost-saving measure has since been rebranded as an annual tradition that happens purely out of love for this movie.
He doesn't even love this movie.
Does it inspire you? Is that what you find enjoyable about this film? Seriously, I'm asking, mom. Because I feel like there's a pretty strong argument against that too. The bare bones version of the plot is that George Bailey wants to commit suicide because his life has gone to hell on the money side of things. Sure, he's got a wife and three kids who love him, but they'll be fine -- that's precisely why God made insurance policies.
Money can't buy happiness, but it totally cures sadness.
So it's a noble cause, at least. Except it really isn't. Once the guardian angel shows up, George informs him that he wishes he was never born, which is nothing more than a seemingly less shitty way to say he wishes he never got married or had kids.
No worries, though -- that stranger snaps him out of his suicidal funk. George heads back to town ready to make things right, but there's a problem. Thanks to $8,000 that went missing on account of him being the most inept, irresponsible bank manager possible, George is facing criminal charges. Will he be arrested? Of course not! The townspeople just show up and give him the money he needs.
The moral of the story: just wait for this to happen and things will be fine.
So ... he didn't think to just ask for help in the first place? A man who gives out loans for a living didn't think to ask for a loan? Just immediately with the suicide and the leaving the wife and kids broken and depressed? And now the future and security of said wife and kids once again rests in the hands of a mentally unstable slacker who's added "talking to angels" to his repertoire of crazy? Yeah, that's super inspirational!
3Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
OK, right off the bat, stop-motion weirds me the hell out, and it always has. It's fine if we're not on the same page about that; just know that I absolutely think you're a lunatic for finding entertainment in such treachery. We're who knows how many decades removed from the invention of that particular animation technique, and it's yet to advance much beyond the herky-jerky nightmare fuel of the original Green Giant commercials ...
... and it probably never will. That's why no one uses that shit anymore and, in turn, why we no longer have to be subjected to its unpleasantness. That is, except when Christmas rolls around and every grown-up on the planet pretends to get nostalgic for Christmases past spent gathered around the television watching a bunch of thrift-store toys oppress the shit out of each other.
Forced labor is Christmas as fuck.
Because there's that too, right? How do you watch this and not wonder at least a little bit about how everyone at the North Pole came to be under Santa's thumb like that in the first place? Rudolph's parents barely have time to wipe the canal juices off their freak show of a child before Santa swoops in to get a gauge on exactly how he can use their new addition to further his own needs.
"I ho-ho-hown you!"
That doesn't strike anyone as a tad harsh? How about those elves? Where'd they come from? Because seeing as there are no other humans around for miles, it seems like he kind of just showed up one day and conquered a race of ultra-productive little people in the name of benefiting mankind. And even that last, seemingly positive aspect of the otherwise harsh reality of Santa's elves requires us to give the man who enslaved an entire people the benefit of the doubt and assume he's not making some sort of massive profit on the back end.
Everything about this seems like a celebration of the fact that The Man is constantly holding you down, and that's before you even get to the Island of Misfit Toys, where "flawed" goods are exiled to live their lives in shame for a variety of crimes. Dolly, for example, earned her place in Broken City by virtue of being depressed over the fact that her owner abandoned her.
Feelings don't put gifts under trees, missy.
So the Island of Misfit Toys is basically like one of those old-timey asylums where dudes could drop off their wives and have them admitted against their will forever on the grounds that they were being kind of a bitch.
The message is pretty clear. Being different is wrong, and nothing matters more than getting toys into the hands of children. Merry Christmas?