For Boomer-era people on, the annual watching of certain movies has become a traditional part of marking the holiday season. But this can be a chore. The equally essential TV specials, like Rudolph, The Grinch and A Charlie Brown Christmas, don’t require the same investment of time, during an already hectic season, as movies do. Yet when the holidays are over, you may feel a pang that you didn’t get to White Christmas or Scrooged or A Muppet Christmas Carol.
One way to make Christmas movies a priority this year might be to make them the focus of some of your partying — to grab some family and friends and go see them at a theater. Several local screens around the Valley are devoting themselves to Yuletide classics between now and Christmas, for instance:
Gremlins—Joe Dante’s 1984 horror comedy, about cutesy fuzzy creatures who mutate into anarchic hell-raisers if you get them wet or break other rules, is regarded as a Christmas movie. In no small part this is due to a seemingly out-of-nowhere speech near the end, by Phoebe Cates, about a particularly unpleasant Christmas memory.
It plays at 8 p.m. on Friday, December 13, at FilmBar, and at 4 p.m. Sunday, December 15 at Alamo Drafthouse Cinema Gilbert.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation—Clark Griswold’s plans to have the picture-perfect suburban Christmas are foiled, as always, by cruel fate in this John-Hughes-scripted 1989 effort. Chevy Chase’s deadpan turn, at the center of a thoroughly goofy cast, is what gives the heavy-handed gags their force.
The film plays at 7 p.m. Tuesday, December 17, at several Harkins multiplexes, as part of the chain’s “Tuesday Night Classics” series.
A Christmas Story—I know, I know; it’s on TV for 24 hours straight on Christmas. Many households use it as video wallpaper on the big day. But if you haven’t given it your full attention in awhile, you might want to hit one of the upcoming Valley screenings. On balance, Bob Clark’s 1983 masterpiece, based on the writings of the great Jean Shepherd, remains one of the funniest American movies; not many films have so effectively and unpretentiously depicted the difference between the epic point of view of children and the mundane point of view of adults on the same events.
It plays at 6 p.m. Saturday, December 14 at Alamo Drafthouse Tempe and at 7 p.m. Christmas Eve at several Harkins locations as a “Tuesday Night Classic.”
It’s a Wonderful Life—Then there’s Frank Capra’s influential tale of desperate everyman George Bailey (James Stewart) learning how important his life really is. It’s said to have been a box-office dud when it was released in 1946, but it’s gradually grown into one of the most beloved American films. It works, to a large degree, because of its dark edge; the implication that one person’s decency can be the difference between a wonderful world and a rotten world is inspirational, sure, but it’s also scary.
It shows on Monday, December 16 at both the Gilbert (6 p.m.) and Tempe (7:30) Alamo Drafthouse Cinemas, at 7 p.m. at Flix Brewhouse Chandler, and at 10 a.m. Saturday, December 21 at several Harkins Theatres.
Die Hard—At 2:30 p.m. Saturday, December 21 at FilmBar, you can check out the violent action classic in which high-tech bad guys crash a Christmas party at an L.A. office building, not having reckoned on the presence of smart-alecky New York cop Bruce Willis. For some years now there’s been a sort of parlor debate about whether this should be considered a Christmas movie or not; the real answer to this question, of course, is who cares? It’s a terrific picture any time of year.