GREENSBORO, N.C. (WGHP) – They made a list, and we’re checking it twice. Gonna find out if they prefer naughty or nice.
Christmas (cinema) is all around us – not to steal from the reprise of “Love Actually” – and for every film you see on television this holiday season, there is a list of such movies and their gifts to the holidays.
They are ranked not just by network and genre but also by the preferences of critics and audiences and observers and the all-important-to-some box-office earnings (which doesn’t apply to movies televised by Hallmark or Lifetime or a streaming service).
The latest list we observed was produced this past week by Esquire, and they call it “The 71 Best Christmas Movies of All Time.” It’s replete if not complete, including traditional movies (think “White Christmas”), quirky movies (“Gremlins”), naughty movies (“Bad Santa”) and the even-more-not-nice holiday movies (“Eyes Wide Shut”).
Its top 20 includes the glorious “It’s A Wonderful Life,” the aforementioned “White Christmas,” the ineffable “A Charlie Brown Christmas,” the old, animated staple “Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer,” the macabre “The Nightmare Before Christmas,” the omnipresent “A Christmas Story” and that most nebulous “Eyes” selection, which was a gift to no one. You can consider “Die Hard” as you wish. We won’t.
You will have to look at the list of all 71 movies – and its author doesn’t explain the reasoning behind that particular number – to see how they are ranked and whether you agree or not. And, like a good basketball tournament bracket, you can declaim the horrible oversights (where in the world is the inspiring “The Christmas Bunny”?).
Remember, though, this list doesn’t include any of the 40 NEW movies – not to mention reruns – that Hallmark is televising in its two months of non-stop features this year. Lifetime has 26 new movies, and between streaming originals and various cable networks, there are dozens more.
If you are curious about which Christmas movie has drawn the most attention, CenturyLink, the real-estate company, aggregated data to find out which 1990s Christmas movie was the most searched on the internet.“ Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” was the most-searched in North Carolina and nine other states, but it was outpaced by “The Santa Clause” – the first of the trilogy – which was No. 1 in a dozen states. “Home Alone” (the original) and “Home Alone 3” also showed up, but none of the other “Clauses” made it.
“Olive, the Other Reindeer,” “Silent Night” and something called “Mixed Nuts” (No. 40 on Esquire’s list; Steve Martin was its star) got singular state support.
All of this made us wonder about some other essential pieces of holiday movie tinsel, and we shined our spotlight on them. Here are five gleans that lit up our screens and our scenes.
Ringing in the season
That ring is from the cash register, not a bell (call us old, OK). And no matter what you think about any of the movies, know this: “Home Alone” is a franchise. The first film of that trilogy is ranked first or second on every list of highest-grossing movies. Forbes placed that income at nearly $286 million. “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York” was in the top five ($173.6 million). Various versions of “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” also stole the show – the Ron Howard/Jim Carrey version seems to be the most watched – and the “Santa Clause” (another trilogy) was a bundle of joy for movie moguls. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” made No. 26 on Wikipedia’s list of biggest hits and was the oldest movie to be recognized. Not on any of the top 10s: “It’s A Wonderful Life,” “The Christmas Story” or – appropriately – “Die Hard.”
A holiday state of mind
There also were none of those movies filmed in North Carolina (as far as we can tell), but the state does have an actual Christmas presence for movies – especially if they are produced for Hallmark. Wilmington appears to be a preferred location. A crew was in Wilmington last year for “Christmas in Harmony.” And “Christmas Proposal” also was filmed in Wilmington, too, for tubitv, The Star-News reported.
The stars on our holiday tree
A few of the films in NC included some bright lights in their casts. Most recently, “Christmas in Conway” (2013), also filmed in Wilmington (not in the relatively nearby Conway, South Carolina), had a big-name lineup of Mary Louise Parker, Andy Garcia, Mandy Moore and Cheri Oteri. “A Christmas Proposal” in 1996 included Shelley Long of “Cheers” fame and Barry Bostwick, who once played “George Washington.” But perhaps the most noteworthy holiday film in North Carolina was “One Christmas,” which was shot, yes, in Wilmington in 1994. The movie was based on a short story by acclaimed author Truman Capote and featured Henry “The Fonz” Winkler. But it also starred the renowned Katherine Hepburn in the final role of a 62-year career, the last of her surprisingly low number of 53 acting credits. Among those, she did manage to win four best-actress Academy Awards and earn eight more nominations. Which brought us to this question:
Has a holiday movie ever won a big academy award?
Well, yes and no. In 1971, ABC created a half-hour, animated version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol,” which won an Oscar for Best Animated Short Film. The only thing close to a Best Picture victory was not for a holiday movie but for a movie set during the holidays: “The Apartment,” starring Jack Lemmon and Shirley MacLaine, won in 1960. “The Bells of St. Mary’s” (starring Bing Crosby and Ingrid Bergman, 1945), “ It’s A Wonderful Life” (1946), “Miracle on 34th Street” (1947, the first of its five versions) and “White Christmas (1954)” all were nominated for Best Picture. So were some films in which Christmas played a big part, such as “The Bishop’s Life” and “Mame.”
Shining in tinsel-town
But there have been numerous nominations for Christmas movies and some winners in a variety of categories. For instance, “Holiday Inn” in 1942, in which Bing Crosby sang “White Christmas” for the first time, was nominated for three awards and won for … best original song (guess which one?). Its other nominations were for Best Story and Best Score. “White Christmas” the movie, on the other hand, was nominated for Best Music, Original Song, but that was for “Count Your Blessings.” It lost to “Three Coins In A Fountain.” And, like that, we found a lot of other surprising tidbits:
- “It’s A Wonderful Life” had five nominations – Best Picture, Best Actor (Jimmy Stewart), Best Director (Frank Capra), Best Sound Mixing and Best Film Editing – but it won none. Capra did win a Golden Globe.
- “Bells of St. Mary’s” had eight nominations (including Crosby and Bergman) but won only for Best Sound.
- “Miracle on 34th Street,” though, had three winners: Edmund Gwenn (Kris Kringle, in case you were wondering) took Best Supporting Actor, and it won for Best Writing and Best Screenplay.
- The aforementioned “The Apartment” was widely decorated, earning 10 nominations and winning seven (including the big ones). Besides the Best Picture were Best Director (Billy Wilder), Best Actor (Lemmon), Best Actress (MacLaine), Best Writing/Story/Screenplay, Best Art Direction, and Best Film Editing.
- “Pocketful of Miracles” was 0-for-3 that included Peter Falk for Best Actor, Best Costume and Best Music.
- “Scrooge” (1970 version) was 0-for-4, and “Scrooged” (1988, with Bill Murray) earned a Best Makeup nomination but didn’t win. But “How the Grinch Stole Christmas” (2000 version, Howard’s version) did win in that category.
- That redoubtable “Home Alone” did get two nods, for Best Original Song, “Somewhere in My Memory,” and Best Score (the multi-honored John Williams) but was as lost as Kevin when his parents left town.
- The animated classic “The Polar Express,” with a virtual Tom Hanks in numerous roles had three nominations – Best Music for the song “Believe,” Best Sound Mixing and Best Sounds Editing – but was left at the depot of winners.
- We will sigh that “The Nightmare Before Christmas” lost its only (Best Visual Effects), and we, finally, will allow this: Die Hard was nominated for four awards for special effects. It won none. That’s as close to a Christmas movie acknowledgment as it will get.