Thursday, December 23, 2010

You’ll Shoot Yer Eye Out!!

A couple of weeks ago I posted the following status update on my Facebook page: “Some people look forward to Christmas for the family get-togethers, or the turkey, or the egg nog, or the presents. I’m looking forward to the 24-hour marathon of ‘A Christmas Story.’”

A Christmas Story was released in movie theatres in 1983 to a poor reception. It’s only when it began showing on TVs at Christmas that it really picked up and became the holiday classic it is today. It’s relatively new in the greater scheme of things – It’s a Wonderful Life and White Christmas are decades older – but it’s like it’s always been around.

When I posted that status update, the response I got was immediate and enthusiastic, and it was only in reading some of the responses that it suddenly occurred to me just how important this movie is to me. It not only pervades every inch of Christmas for me, but much of everyday life.

• Every time I see FRAGILE written in large letters on something, I say, “Fra-gee-lay... must be Italian.”
• As a mom, almost every meal consists of me getting the kids’ plates filled up first, then ours, then jumping up to get something more for the kids, then filling drinks, then getting seconds for them, then remembering condiments... and I can’t help but think of that line, “My mom hadn’t had a hot meal in 15 years” from the movie. I laughed at the time, but now I laugh even harder.
• Getting my son to eat can be a negotiation. I’m always saying things like, “Here comes the choo-choo train!” or “Can you count to five with your fork by taking five bites?” and my husband always replies with, “Tell us how the piggies eat, Randy!”
• Whenever my kids are bundled in snowpants and coats and scarves and mittens and hats, my husband says they look like a tick about to pop.
• My brother and I are extremely close, and we’ll be in the middle of a discussion about someone who’s driving us particularly nuts and my brother will raise a fist in the air and yell, “Bumpuses!!”
• In our first apartment, someone in the adjacent building had dogs, and my husband and I always called them the Bumpus hounds.
• I bought one of those hospital lottery tickets one year, you know those ones for $100 and you can win a million bucks or a car or something, but even if you don’t win you know Sick Kids is getting the money? Anyway, I won a boombox... like, with a TAPE deck. This was three years ago. My husband and I, after our fits of laughter subsided, stared at it for a minute and I said, “You know, this is my major award!”
• When bathing the kids, I used to joke to my husband not to get the soap near their mouths, “You don’t want them coming to us when they’re 25 and blind and accuse us of ‘Soap... POISONING!’”
• Whenever my brother and I see one of those store Santas, we always do the evil, “HO... HO... HO!!” voice.
• My daughter loves the 1982 Annie movie, but when I’m looking for the DVD I can’t help but sing in the nasally radio voice from the movie, “Little orphan Annie!”
• I think I use the “You’ll shoot yer eye out” line on a weekly basis.
• Every time I think I have too many cords going into one power bar, I picture that absolute mess of cords in the wall behind the Christmas tree in the movie.
• There have been many, many occasions where a conversation between my husband and I goes something like this: “So I was out and I [insert line about doing something stupid here] and I said oh... fffffffuuuuuuudddgggge.” “Only you didn’t say fudge, did you? You said the queen mother of all swear words, didn’t you?”
• I’ve often wanted to put a bar of soap in my mouth to find out what it tastes like.
• My husband hates meatloaf and won’t let me make it, and so I call it “Meatloaf beetloaf,” just like Randy.
• We’ve walked by houses with weird lights in the window, and one of us will inevitably say it’s like electric sex gleaming in the window.
• I’ve been known to swear like the dad. “Bifflefarklefrakkingeffin...” (Though I’m more often known to swear like that guy in the movie Johnny Dangerously... my husband and I have been using the term “fargin icehole” for about 20 years now...)
• Whenever I see one of those word games where you’re supposed to decode something, I assume there will only be one answer. I waited for years for John Locke to uncover something on the island that promised all the answers, only for it to say, “Be sure to drink your Ovaltine.” I think everyone in my family can do that scene by memory. “Be sure to... be sure to what???... Ovaltine? Son of a bitch.” But the closest Lost ever got to A Christmas Story was when Scut Farkus ended up as Jack’s best man at his wedding. I was thrilled to see him again!

It’s everywhere. This is probably one of my all-time favourite movies. Much of it was filmed right here in Toronto (when you see scenes with the streetcars, that’s us!) The actual house is in Cleveland, and my aunt and uncle went there in the summer and showed me a picture of it just the other day. Now I MUST get to Cleveland and tour the house... they had a picture of them standing next to the electric sex gleaming in the window. I wonder if there was a faint smell of ozone as they lit it up.

How about you? What’s your favourite holiday movie and why?


Fred said...

Truly, I do not have a favorite movies for Xmas. My treat for Christmas is reading murder mysteries with a Christmas theme, and of course, endlessly playing The Nutcracker along with anything Bach, Berlioz and Rutter. I've never seen Home Alone, nor even White Christmas. Of course, like most, It's a Wonderful Life is blazoned on my neural pathways; but, I prefer The Bishop's Wife (1947). The list of what I haven't seen, which most of the world has, is stunning: Babes in Toyland, Miracle on 34th Street, Elf, or even the multiple series by Tim Allen The Santa Clause. Perhaps, it is inevitable, but I have seen Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim.

So I might say I have a very slim selection from which to choose any one Christmas story. Nevertheless, I could opt for the most beautiful The Umbrellas of Cherbourg, which my roommate introduced me to years ago. For sheer fun, on a sublime level, Tim Burton's The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Forest City Fashionista said...

Nikki, thanks for this lovely tribute to "A Christmas Story", which is one of my top favourites for the holidays (National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation and White Christmas are the others on the list). A friend got me a box of fudge that had a picture of Ralphie on the top, saying "Ohhh Ffffuuuuddgge" just for the box. Thank you for all the reading pleasure you have provided over the year, and I hope you and your family have a wonderful Christmas.

Susan said...

My vote is for A Charlie Brown Christmas, which I have always loved best but for which I now have more appreciation after watching Arrested Development (the sad, head-down walk).

Actually I'm not sure it counts as a movie, since it's only a half hour, but I'm still voting for it ;-)

JS said...

Am I the only person in the western world who hasn't seen this movie? I will have to look for it in the next 72 hours.

My favorite? A tie between "Die Hard" - always makes me cry, and I get to yell expletives at the TV. (Actually I do that all the time, but I like doing it at Christmas, too.) I think this was the first action movie I fell in love with, and often wondered what I might do if I were in John McClane’s predicaments. Would I have the wherewithal to blow up a plane with a simple cloth in the tailpipe type trick? Or be able to walk barefoot over glass if I had to? ALSO, Alan Rickman!!!

This guy agrees with me  and so does this guy 

AND ELF - he is just so enthusiastic! "Smiling's my favorite!" I love it more every time I see it. And yes, I also cry at the end.

What kind of person loves these two very different movies? Let me get back to you on that.....

word verif - jaccingl - interupted jingle!

Gillian Whitfield said...

@ JS: I haven't seen "A Christmas Movie" either, but I've heard a lot about it.

My favourite Christmas movie is a mini-series produced by BBC, and aired on the CBC last night (first time I saw it) called the Nativity. I also like the adaptation of The Polar Express. That's the runner-up to The Nativity.

Blam said...

Hmm... My favorite Christmas movie? I was always partial to Miracle on 34th Street (the original, uncolored) over It's a Wonderful Life. Since I'm old enough to remember life pre-cable, I have a soft spot for movies that used to come once a year as events (sort-of like The Ten Commandments still does at Easter/Passover); the big ones were Willy Wonka, The Wizard of Oz, and, on a Sunday afternoon around Christmas, Miracle. Of course, Wonderful Life did, too, and still does I think, as do abominations like the live-action Grinch (which I've never actually seen), but I think Miracle spoke to me more as a kid than Life.

I saw A Christmas Story in the theater — again, me being old, I suppose, although what really makes me feel old about that is that I can't fathom how seeing a movie from 1983 in the theater certifies me as old. What's so neat about it, besides the great visuals, laugh lines, and skewed family love, is that it's one of those films, like Grease or Stand by Me, that are totally significant of the times in which they're made and the times in which they're set, in different ways.

Anyway, Miracle on 34th Street definitely has childhood nostalgia going for it, and A Christmas Story is a rewatchable, quotable reminder of my cusp-of-teenage years, but in terms of truly favorite — not counting TV specials — I'd be just as likely, depending on the mood, to pick Scrooged, The Muppet Christmas Carol, or The Nightmare before Christmas, all of which are rather meta, it occurs to me, and all of which I haven't rewatched in too long now.

VW: hydrex — n. 1. A divorced Atlantean. 2. A deceased many-headed snake. 3. The remains of a creme-filled chocolate sandwich cookie (syn., depending on brand, formoreos).

Blam said...

Gillian: I also like the adaptation of The Polar Express. That's the runner-up to The Nativity.

No, I'm pretty sure that The Nativity is about as far back as a Christmas story can go. ;^)

VW: applayer — n. Someone hooked on their smartphone games.

Gillian Whitfield said...

@Blam: What I meant was, in terms of Christmas movies, The Polar Express is my second favourite.

Fred said...

@Blam:I saw A Christmas Story in the theater — again, me being old. I know what you mean. Very soon, and perhaps already, generations will define themselves as "old" if they saw Christmas Specials on mobile devices. You'll hear someone say, "I fondly remember watching It's a Wonderful Life on my iPhone."

I suppose what I want out of a Christmas movie is not sentiment, but to be transported away from the moment. no sentiment, no telling me how I should feel, no moral story. I cheer for the Grinch, and who doesn't? A fuzzy green villain with a Boris Karloff voice. Aside from movies, I began to think of TV episodes dedicated to a Christmas theme, and perhaps my favorite two are from Big Bang, when Penny gives Sheldon a napkin with Leonard Nimoy's DNA on it, and the very latest Family Guy when Stewie and Bryan go to the North Pole.

Marebabe said...

@Blam: My husband and I also saw “A Christmas Story” in the theater in 1983. It initially received very little promotion here, as I recall (in Wichita, Kansas), but it looked good to us, so we saw it on opening day. We absolutely loved it, and talked it up to all our friends. And THEN... it was gone after playing for only two weeks! We were shocked and horrified, because we felt the movie was destined for new-modern-classic status, and further felt that EVERYONE should see it! Well, the reason that happened was that the theater owners had no idea what a delightful movie it was. Also, the fans who had seen it in that first, limited run were very vocal about how great it was. So, in a couple weeks, “A Christmas Story” returned to our local theaters for a nice, long run, with much promotion, both word-of-mouth and in the news, and the legend became very well established here. Just as it should be. :) MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL!

VW: extricin - Ask your doctor if Extricin is right for you!

Linda345 said...

This is it: my favorite Christmas movie. I don't like/have tired of all others. Favorite moments are all those you mention, Nikki, and the dogs dragging the turkey out the door. Then the family goes out to a Chinese restaurant for Christmas. The mom is so patient and good-spirited (and her curly hair soooo 80s). The tongue on the post. Har har! The apple for teacher and the wink. The Ovaltine fakeout! I haven't tried but I'll bet I could recite the lines along with it.

Marebabe and Blam: I certainly could have seen this in the theater but didn't. Looks like we're in the same age group. Remember the 80s? Remember being scared of the USSR? WHAM? Big hair? Grainy TV? Looking things up in books? Ah yes. Those were the days.

Joan Crawford said...

Grandpa Blam is in exceptionally high spirits this year! Usually he is firing off emails about the price of Spam and how children today should have to use old socks as Christmas stockings.

We love you, Blampa!!! No, over here. This way... follow my voice. Jesus, just look up and we'll snap the picture, OK?

The Question Mark said...

My favourite has always been National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation. It's like a personal rule that I have where I absolutely NEED to see this every year at Christmas-time, otherwise the Hatch will explode.

All the other Vacation movies were funny, but this one is the one I just keep going back to. I enjoy it so much. And the fact that it can still make me laugh after 23 years is a testament to how timeless John Hughes' script is!

For me, the funniest moment in the whole flick has to be when all the in-laws show up at the front door of the Griswold home, and what follows is a few minutes of sheer chaos, loud chatter, and horrifying "old people" stories, all accompanied by hilariously frightening music. It kills me every time!

Joan Crawford said...

I am surprised nobody has mentioned Gremlins yet. That is the greatest holiday movie.

I present to you the evidence:

HA! Merry Christmas, Grandma!

Anonymous said...

Our neighbours have a leg lamp (exactly the same one as in A Christmas Story) that they put in their window every December. It makes me smile every time I see it!

Chuck Power said...

I am kind of obsessed with Scrooged. I'll watch it over and over, just like A Christmas Story. Also love Gremlins and Elf.

R.P. McMurphy said...

I can relate and appreciate your Christmas Story experiences. Nice to know I'm. Not the only one making these somewhat obscure references throughout the year!


TM Lawrence said...

The Nutcracker Prince, Small One, Elf, Fred Claus, Scrooged, It's A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story. Oh and The Father Ted Chrismassy Special and The Vicar of Dibley's Christmas episodes.

Rebecca T. said...

I had never seen this movie until this past July (don't judge, my brother made me do it) and it was okay, but I have no burning desire to see it again.

Probably my favorite Christmas movie - well, I guess there are two: White Christmas and Muppet Christmas Carol.

But the movie that is completely intertwined with every Christmas memory is Garfield's Christmas which virtually no one has ever heard of. I have no idea how or when, but it is a Christmas Eve tradition to watch it just before bed.

Merry late Christmas and Happy New Year!

Blam said...

Remember being scared of the USSR? WHAM? Big hair? Grainy TV? Looking things up in books?

I remember being scared of the first three. 8^)

Linda345 said...

Oh Blam, really I did catch the awkwardness of my wording as soon as I posted, but since I can't find any edit feature here, I had to leave it and hope nobody would notice. (Goshdardnit, Blam!)

Then again, '80s big hair WAS scary, especially on a woman wearing a "power red" suit with linebacker shoulder pads, along with Mary Kay-inspired day-glo makeup; and especially if that woman was your boss! Nowadays we have nothing to fear but vampires and zombies. And maybe, not having a boss. Happy New Year!