Christmas movies can teach us much.
Don’t shoot your eye out, and other such pearls of wisdom.
Christmas movies can teach us much.
A few years ago people began to quote from a book entitled, All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten. While…
A few years ago people began to quote from a book entitled, All I Really Need to Know, I Learned in Kindergarten. While there is merit to this argument, I would like to amend the idea by stating unequivocably that many of life’s most valuable lessons can be learned via the Christmas movie.
Few movies have delivered a better lesson regarding the power of faith quite like Miracle on 34th Street. The adorable little girl pictured above is none other than the great Natalie Wood. Natalie Wood of course would die tragically aboard a boat in 1981, forever shaking my faith in being on a boat at night, particularly with Robert Wagner and Christopher Walken. (You Tube)
There are several Christmas movies in particular that I believe teach us some of the most valuable life lessons that we as humans can benefit from. There are of course dozens of Christmas movies to choose from, so whittling down the list of choices took some time and effort. (Not really, in all actuality, it’s taking the same three days to write this blog as it always does, but I’ve always been under the impression that the readers like the idea that I’m out researching these topics like some sort of 21st century Jimmy Breslin.)
You see, this is the face of journalism. Rumpled shirt, tie askew, unkempt long gray hair with accompanying mutton chops. Picture that when you picture me plugging away at my bi-weekly blog. (Getty Images)
Some movies barely merited any consideration at all. For example…
- The Santa Claus — My son loved it, and I know Tim Allen has his fans, but everything in this movie ranging from his annoying ex-wife, to his way too adorable kid, to the scene where Tim Allen and his son are eating a lonely meal in Denny’s on Christmas Eve with all the other divorced dads would bum anybody out. Keep in mind, I’m neither Christian nor divorced, and I still found it depressing.
- Christmas with the Kranks — Another Tim Allen specialty, this time with Jamie Lee Curtis. This one focuses on the idea that a neighborhood family can’t go away for Christmas since they put up the best decorations. I’m not sure what the lesson here might be other than, try to steer clear of Tim Allen movies, unless he’s playing “Buzz Lightyear.”
- Four Christmases — I’m usually a fan of Vince Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, but despite a cast that includes Robert Duvall, Mary Steenburgen, and a completely jacked up Jon Favreau, this silly slapstick farce fails as a Christmas date movie, other than you will find yourself constantly turning to your date and saying, “Boy, this is really stupid.”
- Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas — Again, another great cast including Jim Carrey and Jeffery Tambor, and it was directed by Ron Howard, and yet, it’s so long and boring, in addition to the fact that you literally can’t understand a word Jim Carey says, you have to wonder why they tried so hard to recreate something on-screen, that never needed to be recreated.
- Santa Claus Conquers the Martians — Santa unloads against the green hoard! More protectionist, populist tripe. Next time Santa, build a wall.
Staggering special effects, first-rate acting, compelling story telling. None of these apply to the abysmally bad Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. (You Tube)
While the above Christmas offerings fail to deliver any type of life lessons that I could practically apply to the peaks and troughs that make up my existence, there are as I stated earlier, several holiday classics that give us much to chew on philosophically. Life’s lessons can be taught to us at any time in any arena. It is our responsibility to maintain an open mind. In my humble opinion, much of what I feel all people need to know can be found in the following Christmas offerings.
Home Alone — If we pay close attention, there is much we can learn from watching one of the highest grossing pictures of all time. Home Alone is the story about a pain-in-the-butt eight year-old named Kevin McCallister who is accidentally left behind by his family as they travel to France for Christmas. Kevin, who is completely dependent on his parents and older siblings, soon discovers that he could indeed survive and even thrive when left to his own devices. Three key life lessons to be gained from Home Alone?
- Always snoop through your big brothers’ stuff. You never know what might come in handy.
- Befriend old men who walk around the neighborhood with a shovel. Keep your friends close, but, your enemies closer.
- The only type of musicians that you can trust your wife with are those who play in polka bands
A Christmas Carol — I’m speaking of course of the Alister Sim version from 1951. The Charles Dickens classic offers much in the way of redemption. Ebenezer Scrooge, a local business legend is accosted by the ghost of his former business partner Jacob Marley. Marley’s ghost warns Scrooge that if he doesn’t give up his mean, vindictive, and miserly ways, he will forever walk the earth as a fettered spirit. Marley sends to Scrooge three spirits in order to give the old miser the ultimate attitude adjustment. It works, and Scrooge spends the rest of his days allegedly happy as he is forced to kiss the ass of his supposedly poor nephew, (Who lives in a huge house with a servant.) and his bumbling clerk, one Bob Cratchit, who is also living in poverty. It should be noted however, that despite his meager earnings, Cratchit appears to have no issue with pumping out a veritable colony of children who it would seem he is barely able to take care of. The lessons to be on the lookout for here include…
- No matter how much of a prick you are, you can still find redemption. Since Scrooge was a good few years older than I am now, I have plenty of time to clean up my act.
- Apparently, if you give people money, all is forgiven, but if you ask for people to pay you back, you are a selfish miser.
- It is absolutely to your benefit to eavesdrop on people you know so you can find out what they really think of you, and what they do inside the supposed privacy of their own homes.
It’s a Wonderful Life — Perhaps the most famous Christmas movie in cinematic history. It should be noted though that very little of the action actually takes place at Christmas. The story for those of you who literally have no soul deals with the plight of one George Bailey, (Played by Jimmy Stewart) a good man with a lot of talent, but who ends up getting trapped in his one-horse of a hometown, Bedford Falls, New York. (Many have tried to guess what town Bedford Falls was supposed to be, my wife who’s from Jamestown, New York has always maintained that it was in fact Jamestown) He gets in financial trouble through no fault of his own, and almost ends up in prison. He loses faith and wishes he had never been born, only to be saved by a bumbling angel by the name of Clarence. Clarence allows George to see what life would have been like without him, and he begs for a second chance. The townsfolk, who owe their lives to George bail him out, and he is declared the “Richest man in town.” There are several nuggets of sage advice worth heeding in this holiday favorite, including…
- George could have been a millionaire many times over if he had taken the business offer extended to him from his very rich and successful friend, Sam Wainwright. If your friends offer you a business deal, and they’re already rich…take it!
- When you are about to leave on your honeymoon, and the town has gone completely insane due to a “bank run,” you might as well go enjoy yourself. Your problems will still be there when you return. When my wife and I were returning from our honeymoon in 1987, the stock market crashed. Whatever?
- If you want to get some action, and you’re 22 years old, go to a high school dance. George had his choice of “babe’s” at the dance, and ended up with Donna Reed. Nothing wrong with that.
A Christmas Story — A modern cautionary tale of wanting something so bad, that nothing else seems to matter. Little Ralphie wished more than anything else in 1940s Indiana for a Red Rider, carbine action, two hundred shot range, model air-rifle. His parents, and practically every adult Ralphie encounters warns him that he shouldn’t be allowed to have such a dangerous toy out of fear that he will shoot his eye out, which he eventually does when he gets the rifle for Christmas. There are lessons for both young and old in this 1980s fan favorite.
- For starters, obviously, be careful what you ask for. Ralphie almost ended up like Sammy Davis Jr.
- Always have a good Chinese restaurant in reserve in case your Christmas dinner is ruined, as Ralphie’s family learned the hard way. Of course, all Jewish families are well aware of this.
- Never, never, ever stick your tongue on a frozen metal pole in winter…unless you’ve been dared of course.
Scrooged — This Bill Murray tour-de-force, may not be his funniest movie, but this modern take on A Christmas Carol successfully updates the Dickens’s classic, and brings together the talents of Michael J. Pollard, Robert Mitchum, and Buster Poindexter. If that’s not eclectic casting, I don’t know what is. It is also a movie with valuable advice for all, including…
- Try not to fire workers right before Christmas. There’s a good chance they will return drunk with a rifle, and a score to settle
- Don’t cast Buddy Hackett as Ebenezer Scrooge, ever, for any reason.
- If somebody gives you several pounds of veal for Christmas, consider yourself blessed.
The Communists have their “Manifesto,” the Jews have their Talmud, the Muslims have their “Five Pillars,” the Buddhists have their “Four Noble Truths,” but in America we have our Hollywood elites giving us pearls of wisdom one Christmas movie at a time. God bless us all….everyone, and be careful you don’t shoot your eye out.