December 19, 2017

The Movie Nerd’s Guide to the Week Before Christmas

By Tim Hruszkewycz *

A three-week Advent really messed with me this year. I wasn’t ready. I’m still not ready. I watched two Christmas movies this year and I felt that they were just out of obligation. I wanted to really hold onto Christmas movie traditions until I was in the spirit. It also didn’t help that we tried this Advent thing that our pastor recommended. I’m not sure I get it all the way, but he wrote something about minimizing the decorations until Gaudete Sunday to avoid the secular commercialization of the season. He offered it as a challenge and my wife’s response was “We’re doing this!” So, we tried it. I’m not sure I get it, but my house, in its normal state of being littered with hardened Play-Doh and LEGO figures, didn’t get me in the mood.  

Besides, I had to rewatch Star Wars: The Force Awakens before The Last Jedi came out. I had to.

This leaves me in a state of carefully considering what Christmas movies and shows are really worth watching this season.  I’m not saying that I’m really going to watch all of these things before Christmas, but they are heavy contenders.

Scrooged (1988):  Directed by Richard Donner and starring Bill Murray and Karen Allen, this might be my favorite adaptation of “A Christmas Carol.”  “But, whoa, Tim!” you might be exclaiming to your reading device of choice in front of your loved ones, “What about A Muppet Christmas Carol?” This is where I always lose my readership.  I don’t love A Muppet Christmas Carol. Let me clear the air and say that it is fine and far more family-friendly than Scrooged.  (I remember Scrooged being R-rated, but my DVD now says it is PG-13.  You’ll learn about my secret war with the MPAA in future columns.)  I love The Muppets and the entire concept of muppets, but I really have a hard time being emotionally connected to a stuffed Tiny Tim. That’s where the story resonates, so I need my Tiny Tim to deliver. Scrooged does better than any other adaptation at delivering a perfect Tiny Tim dismount. (I am not referring to the Mary Lou Retton joke in the movie.) I know I should apologize to fans of the Alastair Sim Christmas Carol, because it seems that I’m making enemies left-and-right with this Christmas-themed column, but Scrooged is really good. Scrooged is for adult audiences, but the movie is really funny and really touching--maybe while you're wrapping presents. It’s on TV all the time. If not, you can download it on your digital service of choice.

Doctor Who: “A Christmas Carol”, “Last Christmas”, and “The Husbands of River Song.”

My wife calls me the John the Baptist of Doctor Who because I won’t stop evangelizing it to everyone I meet. Sorry in advance. I love this show.  
I have already mentioned my love for A Christmas Carol, because Dickens’ story might be a perfect Christmas tale.  I love what Doctor Who, a story about a time-traveler, does with the Ghosts of Christmas’ Past, Present, and Future.  But “Last Christmas” and “The Husbands of River Song” are also great. Doctor Who’s “A Christmas Carol” is a great episode for new fans. My stepfather, who doesn’t even care for science fiction, really dug this one. If you are afraid to get into Doctor Who, try “A Christmas Carol.” It’s awesome. These can all be found on Amazon Prime. It might not be a bad time to catch up on other Peter Capaldi Doctor Who episodes, before his final episode comes out on Christmas Day.

I should also apologize to those serious Doctor Who fans are complaining that I’ve left out Russell T. Davies, and chosen exclusively Steven Moffat episodes.  I get it.  Doctor Who fans bicker a lot.  But in the spirit of Christmas, let’s put aside petty Doctor Who bickering, at least for a couple of days.

On Her Majesty’s Secret Service (1969): This is for the Die Hard fans who claim that anything involving Christmas is a Christmas movie.  I’ve been there.  It’s a Wonderful Life?  Pfff!  There are no explosions in It’s a Wonderful Life.  But you can’t ride the high of Die Hard forever.  That’s where James Bond comes in.  This movie isn’t for everyone.  But this is a Catholic movie-nerd column, so I’m allowed to let my movie-nerd flag fly.  On Her Majesty’s Secret Service used to be my favorite James Bond movie.  It is so weird.  In some ways, it is a quintessential Bond film, taking the mantle over from the Connery era.  They were still trying to maintain a formula that had made them a lot of money.  But they also wanted to shake things up and establish that George Lazenby could hold a franchise on his own.  (Spoiler: he left after this movie because he’s a weird dude.)  The movie isn’t perfect, but it is set at Christmas and there’s a sweet skiing scene.  Watch it on Amazon Prime and Hulu Plus.

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946):  Because claiming Die Hard is a Christmas movie is kind of ridiculous in retrospect and It’s a Wonderful Life is perfect.  Buy it on DVD, and watch it with the whole family, because it is worth it.

Tim Hruszkewycz is a high school English and film teacher at Villa Madonna Academy in Villa Hills, KY. He also co-hosts the Literally Anything podcast at and blogs about film

* Catholic News Agency columns are opinion and do not necessarily express the perspective of the agency.