Street Talk: Christmas movies, whether you like it or not

Last week in this space we had a frank discussion about the end of the world and how if you stay drunk until the new year, you'll barely notice. It was an unpleasant conversation but we got through it and many helpful ideas emerged."What," went a typical email response, "have you been smoking?"


There were other insightful comments, too, but the one that sticks with me most was from a woman, presumably on powerful mood elevators who said: "I enjoyed your piece on the apocalypse and I look forward to living in my basement and eating bugs until I am dead. Now you should write something warm and fuzzy for Christmas to offset the doom and gloom."

Quite so, Madame Thorazine. Warm and fuzzy is kind of my thing, what with all the stockings hung by the chimney with care and these three dozen puppies I plan to personally deliver to orphans after I'm done caroling with the neighborhood a capella group.

In spite of my many, many complaints about the holiday season — about winter, blinking lights, snowmen, mistletoe and hot cocoa, I'm all about the spirit of Christmas. And if a year should come along and that spirit is slow to come, I will hasten the process by taping my eyes open, strapping myself to a chair and for 24 hours straight, watching nothing but "A Clockwork Orange."

Wait. That's not right. It's a "A Christmas Story" I will watch over and over to remind myself that Christmas is about hope and without hope you have... I don't know. Flag Day.

Fun fact: "A Christmas Story" first aired in 1983 and that happens to be the exact number of times it will run — on the same channel — between Christmas Eve and Christmas morning. It's the story of a young boy, whose name I am too lazy to look up, running around at Christmas time and trying to convince the world that he's responsible enough for a Red Ryder BB gun. He wants the Red Ryder more than he wants anything else in the world and that's why the movie succeeds and why the average human will see it 6,959 times in his lifetime.

As kids, we all craved something with that same desperate passion, be it a BB gun, an Etch-a-Sketch or a doll capable of realistic bowel movements. At one time or another, every one of us has made desperate appeals to Santa, promising to be good boys and girls right up until noon on Christmas Day, at which point we would resume being spoiled, sassy brats with our fingers up our noses, as God intended us to be. As fully grown, reformed nose-pickers, we relate to the boy's plight and this is why the movie has endured.

Of course, it doesn't hurt that some dumb kid gets his tongue stuck to a flag pole, a bully gets pummeled and shapely leg lamp gets busted, causing its anguished owner to fire off a string of profanity that incredibly doesn't contain a single dirty word.

Next on our list . . . wait, when did this become a list-type column? Ah, who cares. I'm almost done — is the classic "A Christmas Carol," featuring talented stars like Albert Finney, George C. Scott or Mr. Magoo. Frankly, I enjoy the Finney version the best, but regardless, it's a movie I was tricked into watching as a child. I thought it was a horror movie, you see. I had heard there were ghosts in the film so I naturally assumed there would also be vampires, a man-eating shark and a guy with a chainsaw.

Remarkably, the movie succeeds without those things and in the end, as the transformed Scrooge joins Tiny Tim and the rest of the Scratch It family, the message is inescapable. The message being that you have to be extremely wealthy to enjoy Christmas.

Fun fact: There are no fun facts associated with this motion picture.

And who can forget the mega-classic "It's a Wonderful Life," the movie that spawned the timeless lines: "Every time a bell rings, an angel gets his wings" and "Waddaya know about that, Burt? My lip's bleedin'!"

It's a movie that reminds us all to reflect upon our own lives and to think about what the world would be like without us. George Bailey is Every Man. For who among us has not, at one time or another, lost several thousand dollars of a bank's money and then summed up the crisis with the immortal words: "Do we have to have all these kids?"

Who can forget the horror as an increasingly agitated and lanky George runs through a version of the world where the once charming Bedford Falls has morphed into — let's face it — Lewiston. It's a film that urges us to appreciate what we have, consider our impact on the lives of others, and to make sure our banister balls are securely attached.

This is a truly beautiful movie, one with a final scene that will make you cough into your fist and then excuse yourself so you can go out into the kitchen and weep in the dark. And don't say you haven't done it because I witnessed it with my own eyes that winter I lived in the cupboard beneath your kitchen sink.

Fun fact: If you utter "Waddaya know about that, Bert? My lips bleedin?" to a woman over 40, she will find you charming and cute and she will probably go home with you. Utter it to a girl in her 20s and she will gape at you in that vacuous way before texting mean things about you to her friends.

And what about the everlasting joys of "Miracle on 34th Street?" Actually, I've never seen that movie all the way through. Kind of sad. But hey! There's your fun fact!

"A Charlie Brown Christmas"? "Rudolph"? "How the Grinch Stole Christmas"? Animated features that nonetheless carry powerful and timeless messages. These are programs you are supposed to stop watching when you turn 12 or so, but does anybody really ever quit them? Not me, brother. I'll watch Grinch any time, anywhere, keeping the "previous channel" button tuned to ESPN in case anybody of importance walks into the room. Also, "Frosty the Snowman," which teaches us that if you have faith — if you truly believe to the finest fibers of your soul — you can cause someone to melt right there on the sidewalk.

As much as I moan about Christmas each year, I cannot deny the nostalgic draw of Christmas movies and holiday music. Sometimes I go into Walmart just to hear the same six songs over and over. Yes, this is why you saw me crouched in the lingerie department that day.

Coming up next week: The top 10 Christmas songs and how "I'll Be Home for Christmas" alone can cause me to sob uncontrollably beneath your kitchen sink.

Mark LaFlamme is a Sun Journal staff writer. Send your fun facts to

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Steve  Dosh's picture

Love Actually ?  oh ! * snap

Love Actually ?  oh ! * snap * Join Mitchell sings a h a u n t i n g version of her own song in the moovee , " Both Sides Now ." *<;-Q~ Hugh Grant •

KRIS KUCERA's picture

Frosty, sidewalk melting? Flashbacks?

Me confused. Frosty melts in the greenhouse. What a drip.

The fun fact from A Christmas Carol is in the text. Dickens writes of old men in the street, bad-mouthing Scrooge, and one of the men has lengthy snot dangling from his nose. Dickens, master of words, terms the misplaced mucus a "pendulous excrescence." (Not as good as Hunter Thompson's "glistening secretions" line in Hell's Angels, but close. Note: Hell's Angels is not a Christmas tale.)

Anyhow, Santa has it right: Be good for goodness' sake

JOANNE MOORE's picture

Mark, dear man.........

Please take your meds.

RONALD RIML's picture

You don't remember his name!!??


A Christmas Story - or how Little Ralphie got his Gun. Jeesh.......

Steve  Dosh's picture

Ron , by Gene Shepard ?

Ron , by Gene Shepard ? 'member listenig to him on WGN from Chocago on am radio ? The troposphere skip ? ayuh , we did • *<;-Q~ 2 0 1 3

RONALD RIML's picture

How' 'bout

Franklyn MacCormack

Or you too young for him........

Kim Lessard's picture

Promotion for Christmas!

Mark, I just love reading your work! If Dave Barry dies and you survive in tomorrow's should definately get his gig!


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