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five holiday films for your inner scrooge
immunize yourself against the douchebaggery
by joe procopio (@jproco)
pop culture

I'm constantly surprised at the amount of people who lament the ushering in of the holiday season immediately after Halloween. To me, it's not the season itself that's the issue.

After all, what is it encroaching on really? Are we being distracted from fully enjoying shitty weather? The all-important first 10% of the NHL season? Have our fast-food and beer commercials gone all sellout trying to capture some of those Santa dollars?

"Aw man! Now there's a stupid polar bear on my can of Coke!"

Look, if you're bitching about the onslaught of the holidays, it's my opinion that you're trying to save the wrong whale. Yeah, there are Christmas decorations up in Wal-Mart in November, totally obscuring the Shake Weight display. There are Christmas songs on the radio, and every Johnny Mathis ditty is one less opportunity to hear artists like Nickelback or Lady Gaga. And God forbid we have to miss one of the CSIs this week to make room for Rudolph?

Effing kids.

My point is, the culprit is not the holiday, it's that the holiday is being exploited in ways you already hate.

I know. I'm oversimplifying. But if you're already bah-humbugging yourself over seeing the 30th commercial for Desperately Seeking Santa, might I suggest a pre-emptive strike?

December's here. So here are five movies you actually should see, right now, to immunize yourself against all the douchebaggery and truly enjoy the spirit of Christmas through a dark lens. Apologies to my Jewish friends, you're still stuck with that dumpster fire from Sandler. At least he tried.

Cross /'kros/n: A thing they nail people to.

From a mural in the office of Francis Xavier Cross, the head of programming at a fictional television network in the holiday classic, Scrooged. The joke is subtle, never directly referenced in the film, and in one wide shot nails how you're supposed to feel about Bill Murray's awful, evil, but wickedly funny protagonist in this deranged Dickens update.

Without question, it's a dark moment. And not only does it encapsulate Frank Cross, but it solidifies the movie's place as the progenitor of the dark holiday classic. Scrooged was a total anomaly for its time. It was daring, and probably in a way that led Murray to do some of the most uncomfortable comedy work of the 2000s. He's the go-to creepy comedy guy now, which is probably the reason we'll never get Ghostbusters III.

Or, for that matter, Meatballs III.

Or, thank God, Garfield III (yeah, there was a II, and yeah, he reprised the role).

Ignore: Any other Christmas Carol movie, including the Muppet one. Yes, there was a time when they sucked, roughly from 1980 until the moment you see the new Muppet movie with Jason Segel.

2. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

If there's a movie that deserves to be loved as true family classic, much like Miracle on 34th Street, this is it. You probably already have plans to watch it, as well you should, as it pours snark over every single holiday tradition and makes spending time with your own nutjob family seem perfectly serene.

Ignore: A Christmas Story which is getting, I don't know, a little too beloved. Yay! BB gun!

3. Elf

I won't lie to you. The first time I saw Elf, I yawned through it. But I swear, since that time, like some sort of Christmas miracle, Will Ferrell has gotten funnier, Zooey Deschanel has become more attractive, and even Mary Steenburgen's voice has become far less grating. It's sweet, but guy sweet. Like donuts.

Ignore: The Polar Express. I still don't get the story. It's a bunch of saccharine loosely connected by unreal plot devices with a depressing ending relayed by an old person. Plus the motion-capture is the height of creepy, explaining why this breakthrough technology was used exactly once.

4. Bad Santa

Everything about this movie is wrong. It's so wrong, there are lines in it I love but will never repeat out loud. You will hate yourself for loving this movie, but you will love this movie because you secretly hope car-crash rubberneckers will slam into the car in front of them.

Ignore: The Santa Clause, which, despite starring someone's favorite TV dad Tim Allen, actually has a worse message than Bad Santa.

5. Die Hard

I only list this as number five because it's such an awesome way to close it out, maybe on Christmas Eve, surrounded by family and friends. It's that kind of movie, where the awesomeness of John McClain can bring us all together.

Ignore: Love Actually, for which you actually have to suspend more disbelief than the concept of a lone, grumpy cop taking out a squad of highly trained German terrorists who also happen to have an armory and a hacker in a sweater.


Joe Procopio trades in pop culture and tech culture, allowing him to poke fun at so many things. He's written for a number of online and offline publications from the late, lamented Smug to the fancy-pants Chicago Tribune and also for television. He's a novelist, a shredder, a joker, and a family man. Scoff at joeprocopio.com or follow on Twitter @jproco.

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