What does it take to get you into the holiday spirit? Some people need a proper office party, others feel the festive mood kick in with the first whiff of orange peel. Most of us do not feel it is really Christmas until Christmas TV starts in earnest. More specifically, some films have been played on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day for so long that the mere sight of a still frame is enough to fill us with soft-focus feelings. But which ones? Here’s my personal top five list.
The Sound of Music (Robert Wise, 1965)
Funnily enough, I didn’t get to see this until I was in my thirties. How I managed to miss it before I honestly have no idea, since not a single Christmas has gone by that it did not play on some channel or another. The perfect family entertainment, utterly devoid of any sex of foul language, and with very little (implied) violence. Watching it as an adult, I suspect, also saved me from developing a daddy complex.
Mary Poppins (Robert Stevenson, 1964)
There is something about Julie Andrews that is endlessly festive. Her consistent adorableness, perhaps, or the fact that she is surrounded by cartoon animals and sings stuff like “Supercalifragisticexpiralidocious” with a straight face. One of my closest friends, a guy well in his thirties, cannot go one Christmas without watching this. I second that.
The Twelve Tasks of Asterix (René Goscinny and Albert Uderzo, 1976)
This one may be hard to get if you didn’t grow up in Eighties Italy, but bear with me: it was on every single year. Of all the Asterix films, it is perhaps the trippiest, most nonsensical, hallucinogenic and flat-out funny. The send-up of kafkian bureaucrats is so hysterical it still gets quoted in conversation.
Trading Places (John Landis, 1983)
This dirtiest of Christmas flicks is both funny and depressing. Set during Reagan’s first mandate, way before the flimsiness of the stock market was exposed, it works as a cruel metaphor of its unreliability. It is also laugh-out-loud hilarious and sure to give you plenty of the warm fuzzies.
Willy Wonka (Mel Stuart, 1971)
Sorry, Johnny Depp. Nobody does Willy Wonka better than Gene Wilder. The secret madness in his melancholy blue eyes cannot be replaced. Also, the musical numbers and the boat sequence are classic.