In which Julie gets tipsy on red wine with her best friends and teaches you all about Christmas movies and cookies.
How do you know you have the best tribe of friends? When one of them suggests a potluck to watch Love, Actually together and ALL THREE OF YOU bring the same thing: a bottle of red wine and a box of Trader Joe’s Chocolate-Covered Peppermint Joe-Joe’s.
Best cookie, best drink, best movie, best gals. THAT, my friends, is a perfect night.
There are moments in Love, Actually that rip my heart out. Like when Emma Thomson goes into the bedroom to try to dry her tears and nervously straightens out the duvet. Or when Keira Knightley realizes that Andrew Lincoln is in love with her (her face, as it dawns on her, stuns me every single time.) And then when Andrew Lincoln leaves the apartment and paces in front of the door for a second – that pacing KILLS me. I want to tell him, Go back in, your heart is breaking, you deserve to get your girl! NO don’t go, that is a monstrous thing to do to your best friend!
But you can’t watch Love, Actually every night. (I could, but the other people who live in my house get all uppity about it. Looking at you, Mr. Act-As-If-You-Like-It-But-Still-Heaves-A-Big-Annoyed-Sigh-When-Carl-Plays-With-Sarah’s-Hair) Sometimes you have to watch other movies. Movies that are more family friendly.*
As such, I give you a list of Julie’s Top Ten Christmas movies ranked on a scale from Fruitcake (Worst Ever/Eyes Wide Shut) to Peppermint Joe-Joes (Best Ever/Love, Actually.) You can totally trust my judgement.
* Funny side note: Kimberly had only ever seen Love, Actually on an airplane, so she did not know about the porno couple. She invited her twelve-year-old daughter to our Ladies Movie Night. We had to politely kick the daughter out. Because 1) we needed to say cuss words about the stress of the holiday season and 2) the porno couple.
Elf – the only movie that comes close to Love Actually in movie perfection. The funniest, most delightful, least cynical, most joyful of all movies. I cannot say one word of criticism about this movie. If you are doing your Christmas shopping and someone does not yell “Santaaaaaa! I KNOW HIM!” at the mall Santa, you need to move, because your town sucks. On a scale from Fruitcake to Joe-Joes, I rank this movie: Peanut Butter Blossoms. Everyone loves it because it is a perfect combination of sweet and salty. All alternate versions of this cookie are useless derivatives – strange flavors of Hershey kisses, non-peanut butter cookies, weird additions. None of those abominations should ever be eaten. Stick with the tried and true, it is never wrong. If you are a given a cookie platter that does not have peanut butter blossoms on it, you should throw it away and ghost the people who gave it to you. They cannot be trusted.
A Christmas Story – Sweet and charming and delightful. Like everyone, I am lulled into the belief that “the past” was easier and therefore better, and a non-electric toy really could make me everything right with the world. On a scale from Fruitcake to Joe-Joes, I rank this movie: Spritz cookies. Simple, neither too dense nor too flimsy, and you can’t stop even when you really should. Perfectly delicious and nothing to complain about.
It’s a Wonderful Life –I will tell you my one criticism of this movie: when George sees what happened to Mary in his absence. OH THE HORROR she is an Old Maid and GASP! a librarian. What finally breaks George is not that his brother died, not that Uncle Billy is in the insane asylum, not that Mr. Gower is a homeless drunk, not that Violet is a – what is she? Some sort of hooker or stripper? I’ve never been sure. No, it’s when he sees that his wife is a librarian that George Bailey flips out. You know why Mary screams? Because she’s about to give up her single life of books a by the fire every night and go back to mothering those four kids and a husband who has been whining about his life literally since he was ten years old. She starts screaming because she is thinking Call me an Old Maid all you want, I got me some books and a quiet house, so please go have your 40-year-long existential crisis somewhere else! That’s a minor quibble though, perhaps only noticed by introvert bookworms who never understood why people make fun of librarians. Other than that, there is nothing wrong with this one. Whenever things get chaotic in the Strauss Haus, Mr. JulieWroteABook quotes George Bailey: “You call this a happy family? Why do we have to have so many kids?” Which always makes me laugh. I get weepy every time Harry Bailey says, “To my big brother George, the richest man in town.” On a scale from Fruitcake to Joe-Joes, I rank this movie: Gingersnaps. Satisfying, old fashioned with just a little, teensy bit of a bite. Best not to think too much about what it all means and enjoy it because it’s a classic.
Christmas Vacation – Every line in this movie reminds me of a member of my family. It is funny every time, and I don’t know a single person who doesn’t have a relative like Clark W. Griswold or Cousin Eddie. The first time each of my kids watched this movie, they understood what it means when we say, “Look kids! A deer!” On a scale from Fruitcake to Joe-Joes, I rank this movie: Snickerdoodles. Easygoing and only mildly offensive. Your basic American cookie for first-time bakers.
The Holiday – Just like with Love, Actually, this movie makes the eyes of Mr. Oh-God-Not-This-One-Again roll so far back into his head that he nearly goes blind. I don’t let him watch this movie with me anymore because his vomit noises are completely childish. For heaven’s sake, Mr. Kate-Winslet-Would-Never-Fall-For-Jack-Black, it’s a Nancy Myers movie, so YES, she would. Smart, beautiful women always fall for slightly derpy guys in Nancy Myers movies because those guys are kind and they make us laugh and we’ve had our hearts broken too many times by good looking cads. Wait, what are we talking about again? The movie?Right, the movie. Yes, as a matter of fact I do believe that the owner of a Hollywood mansion would just happen to swap homes with the owner of a perfectly charming English cottage, Mr. That-Would-Never-Happen-Like-That. That is the way things happen in FANTASIES. You know how Darth Vader could make that one dude stop breathing just by pinching his fingers together? This is the same thing, except for women. On a scale from Fruitcake to Joe-Joes, I rank this movie: Chocolate crinkles. Rich, indulgent, and Mr. I’ve-Worn-the-Same-Size-Jeans-Since-High-School loathes them.
The Grinch – a lot of people hate this movie, because it’s kind of a maniacal remake of a classic book. My family loves this movie, and all six of us can quote it line by line. I’m not going to see Ferdinand, and I refuse to watch The Cat in the Hat and The Polar Express because they ruin perfectly brilliant children’s stories. And yet: the Grinch is fantastic. I cannot explain my double standard, but I love this crazy, over-the-top interpretation of a very simple book. On a scale from Fruitcake to Joe-Joes, I rank this movie: 7 Layer Bars. Just way too much going on, kind of nauseating, and still so, so good.
Nightmare Before Christmas – Wacky and weird. On this list because it has a wonderfully goofy Danny Elfman soundtrack. As with all Tim Burton movies, I never quite know what is going on, and it’s all a bit strange and discombobulating. But in a good way. On a scale from Fruitcake to Joe-Joes, I rank this movie: Rum Balls. Nothing about this is right, and you should not mix your hootch with your dessert. But who cares? It’s fun, and you feel kind of groovy and off-center afterward. Just don’t overdo it, or you will wind up with a skewed world view and a gateway habit.
Home Alone – If you think about this movie for even one second, you realize it is an absolutely terrible story. What the hell is wrong with those parents? I mean yeah, I get it, we didn’t have cell phones back in the day. But not one person thought to pick up a landline and, I don’t know, call a trusted neighbor? A family friend? The goddamned cops? My ten-year-old son thinks this movie is absolutely hilarious. Despite my reassurances I would realize I had forgotten him long before I got on a plane to Paris, he likes to imagine that, left to his own devices, he could fight off bumbling thieves with a combination of household items, wit, and moxie. That is as it should be. To a kid this movie is a blast. To an adult, it is a case study for Child Protective Services. On a scale from Fruitcake to Joe-Joes, I rank this movie: Frosted Sugar Cookies. Only children like them. They make adults sick to their stomachs. They represent everything we hope adulthood will be – exciting and adventurous, but really quite terrible for you if you stop to think about them for too long.
The Santa Clause – Meh. It’s good for a few chuckles, but ultimately kind of forgettable. On a scale from Fruitcake to Joe-Joes, I rank this movie: Snowballs. They look harmless, but then you take a bite and inhale that toxic sugar dust. And the cookie is always dry and crumbly and you start choking and you want to ask for help like maybe a cup of water but all that comes out of you are puffs of dry sugar storm like you are smoking? Eventually you recover, but you have a headache and your throat burns for a while and you wonder why you bothered because snowballs are kind of pointless.
Die Hard – Disqualified. Not a Christmas movie. Yeah, I said it. Come at me! This one goes with Lethal Weapon, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, and Trading Places in that weird category of movies that penis-owning people always insist are Christmas movies just because they are set at Christmas time. But they are not really Christmas movies because of the guns. Look it up. That’s in the Bible. On a scale from Fruitcake to Joe-Joes, I rank this movie: Almond Roca. Perfectly fine in the right context. It’s just that it’s a candy, not a cookie. Therefore, disqualified. Yeah, I said it. Come at me!