As a movie buff and a Christmas fan, this truly is one of the most wonderful times of the year for me. There are so many great Christmas-themed films and TV shows, but sadly not enough time to watch them all even if you started now. Believe me, I’ve driven myself crazy trying to do it before.
Even narrowing down the list to a few favorites is tough. If you asked me today what my favorite Christmas movie is, I might tell you “The Bishop’s Wife,” but if you asked tomorrow, I might say “Holiday Inn” or “Elf” or “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.”
Well, maybe not that last one.
Still, it’s difficult for me even to pick a top 10. So, I’ve opted for a Top 64, and to make it fun — or complicated — I’ve broken those 64 yuletide classics or near classics into four brackets for a NCAA Basketball Tournament-style showdown to help me select my favorite Christmas films.
Call it Christmas Madness!
The Fayetteville Flyer is running one bracket a day until we reach a final movie.
Today is the Mistletoe Modern bracket, featuring movies made since 1990. The Candy Cane Classics bracket, featuring movies from 1930-1959 ran previously. The O Tannenbaum TV bracket is up next followed by the Egg Nog Neo Classics bracket featuring films from 1960 to 1990.
The winning picks from the four brackets meet for a Yuletide Movie Final Four, resulting with the crowning of the Movie Buff-et’s Greatest Christmas Movie for 2017.
In the comments, please let us know what you think. With subjectivity, there is always controversy, just like the NCAA Basketball Tournament.
Which of your favorites were left out? Where did the seeding go wrong? And what would you have picked?
Have fun and share your opinions, but be kind.
Remember Santa is watching!
1. Home Alone vs. 16. Mixed Nuts
This is no contest. “Mixed Nuts” is a Nora Ephron comedy starring Steve Martin as a man who runs a suicide hotline, set during Christmas. It may be my least favorite of Ephron’s movies, and off hand, I can’t think of a worse movie starring Martin. “Home Alone,” however, is an outlandishly funny movie with a whole lot of heart.
Winner — Home Alone
8. Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas vs. 9. Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
Two remakes and two decent movies, here. Ron Howard’s live-action reimagining of the classic cartoon TV special is a technical masterpiece, and Jim Carrey is perfectly cast as the day-glow green Grinch, but the film is too excessive for me. The 1994 version of “Miracle on 34th Street” is valiant effort by producer John Hughes and director Les Mayfield to recapture the magic of the original. Richard Attenborough is wonderful as Kris Kringle, and Mara Wilson is admirable as Susan, but as solid as the movie is, it falls far short of the original, but I prefer it to Howard and Carrey’s Grinch retread.
Winner: Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
Bracket Quarterfinal: No. 1 Home Alone vs. No. 9 Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
Two John Hughes-produced movies doing battle here, but “Home Alone” is an original concept, and just a better movie. The part of bratty Kevin who gets left alone at home by his family made a star of Macaulay Culkin. This is another easy choice.
Winner: Home Alone
5. Love Actually vs. 12. Arthur Christmas
This is an odd pairing. Both films are British products and comedies, but the R-rated “Love Actually” has as much bitterness and heartbreak woven through its tapestry of stories as warmth and love. Arthur Christmas is a delightful, computer-animated feature showing that even the First Family of Christmas can have its dysfunctions. I like both a great deal, but for some reason I like “Love Actually” just a bit more. Kiera Knightly might tip the scales.
Winner: Love Actually
4. Bad Santa vs. 13. A Very Harold and Kumar Christmas
Watching either of these movies might get you banished to the naughty list, but it’s worth it, especially for “Bad Santa.”
Winner – Bad Santa
Bracket Quarterfinal: No. 4 Bad Santa vs. No. 5 Love Actually
“Bad Santa” features a raunchy tour de force performance by Arkansas native Billy Bob Thornton that kept me laughing all the way through.However, “Love Actually” hits my Christmas sweet spot, and fine, nuanced performances by Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman, and Laura Linney, plus an uproariously funny one by Bill Nighy trumps Billy Bob’s singular effort for me. Winner: Love Actually
Bracket Semifinal 1: No. 1 Home Alone vs. No. 5 Love Actually
This is a tough choice. “Love Actually” does a nice job of pointing out the highs and lows of the Christmas season, and it usually leaves me with a smile, but, I have to admit the movie is feeling well worn 14 years after its release. However, I never get tired of “Home Alone” in my every-other-year Christmas-movie rotation. It might be that I’m a sucker for slap-schtick and Daniel Stern and Joe Pesci bring that in spades.
Winner — Home Alone
6. The Muppet Christmas Carol vs. 11. The Polar Express
I understand why “The Polar Express” is a beloved children’s Christmas story, and the movie, no doubt, has its charms, but the early CGI of the human characters still comes off awfully creepy looking to me. On the other hand, Michael Caine’s turn as Scrooge mixes wonderfully with Jim Henson’s Muppets in “The Muppet Christmas Carol.” It’s a wonderful adaption that is equal parts Dickens and Henson.
Winner – The Muppet Christmas Carol
3. The Santa Clause vs. 14. Christmas With the Kranks
Two Christmas movies featuring Tim Allen, here, and one of them has to go. “Christmas with the Kranks,” based on John Grisham’s novella “Skipping Christmas” is a fun idea with empty-nesters attempting to escape all the pressures of the season with a tropical trip. The idea is better than the execution in the novella and the movie. Both works are hit and miss for me. However, “The Santa Clause” is a home. It address the tough topic of divorce and how it plays upon not only the couple that splits but also the child. The movie reimagines the Santa Claus myth with wit, humor, and a warm heart.
Winner — The Santa Clause
Bracket Quarterfinal: No. 3 The Santa Clause vs. The Muppet Christmas Carol
“The Muppet Christmas Carol” is a great version of Dickens’ classic tale, but a strength of “The Santa Clause” is its originality. It’s close, but Tim Allen’s movie gets the nod.
Winner — The Santa Clause
7. The Nightmare Before Christmas vs. 10. Rare Exports
“Rare Exports” might not be everyone’s cup of tea, but if you like horror movies and Christmas, it can be a delight. It’s a Brother’s Grimm take on Santa Claus, and I do mean grim, in the best sort of way. “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is also a horrifically fun movie, but one that it safer for the small fry. Tim Burton’s work is hit and miss with me, and for whatever reason, I’ve never truly connected with this stop-motion-animated film. It’s an upset for sure, but give me “Rare Exports.”
Winner: Rare Exports
2. Elf vs. 15. Friday After Next
The stoner comedy “Friday After Next” is the third in the Friday series, and it is funny, but come on “Elf” with the hilarious Will Ferrell, James Cann, Mary Steenburgen, Bob Newhart, Ed Asner, Peter Dinklage, and the ever alluring Zooey Deschanel is a wonderful Christmas confection that is already a beloved Christmas classic.
Bracket Quarterfinal: No. 2 Elf vs. Rare Exports
Will Ferrell’s performance as Buddy the Elf with its naiveté, silliness, and wonder has worked itself into the fabric of Christmas. Buddy may not be as popular as Santa and Rudolph, but he’s on the next rung. “Rare Exports” is horrific fun, but it can’t compete with “Elf.”
Winner — Elf
Bracket Semifinal 2: No. 2 Elf vs. No. 3 Santa Clause
At the moment, “Elf” might be the most popular Christmas movie behind “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The film is that charming, that colorful, and that beloved. It is a fine movie, wonderfully directed by James Favreau. However, the film is an homage to the great TV Christmas specials of the 1960s and 1970s as well as the classic Christmas films of the 1940s. It even rips off the stage play of “Peter Pan,” where Peter asks the audience to applaud to revive Tinker bell. Buddy uses the same ploy to revive the magic of Santa’s sleigh. To me, “The Santa Clause” is more original and just as delightful.
Winner: The Santa Clause
Bracket Final: No. 1 Home Alone vs. No. 3 The Santa Clause
This is a totally subjective exercise written on the spur of the moment. If I were writing it tomorrow, I might have a different choice, but for now “The Santa Clause” is the winner of the Mistletoe Modern bracket. Its wonder and cleverness won me over, and the fact that Tim Allen’s character arc as Scott Calvin is stronger than Macaulay Culkin’s as Kevin, give it the nod.
Winner — The Santa Clause
All the other brackets
Part 1: The Candy Cane Classics bracket, (movies from 1930-1959)
Part 2: The Mistletoe Modern bracket (movies since 1990)
Part 3: The O Tannenbaum TV bracket (made for television)
Part 4: The Egg Nog Neo Classics bracket (movies from 1960-1990)
Part 5: The Final Four & The Movie Buff-et’s Greatest Christmas Movie of 2017“>Yuletide Movie Final Four & The Movie Buff-et’s Greatest Christmas Movie of 2017