Okay, I admit to some holiday blues here.
- Probably all the staggering amounts of food, for one thing – always makes me nervous and irritable.
- All the Christmas cards arriving in the mail and e mail, makiing me feel guilty and inadequate.
- The endless Christmas music. We went out to a dinner with the in-laws the other night -very nice, but a Christmas tape was blasting (who decreed that EVERY SINGLE SONG you hear during the month of December has to be a Christmas song?). I went in to the bathroom and a waitress came in without realizing that there was anyone else in the restroom, and "Winter Wonderland" started blasting over the speakers, even louder in the confines of the bathroom, and I heard her mutter, "Just shoot me now."
My sentiments exactly.
The fact is that I am JUST NOT a homebody, so any holiday that revolves around decorating, baking, shopping, and obligatory writing of greeting cards is bound to give me the hives. My friends know I love them. I hope. They know I love them enough not to cook for them, anyway.
I also got a really unpleasant surprise in the mail this week - my editor sent me the galleys of THE UNSEEN so that uninterrupted time I thought I was going to have at the end of the year to finish my current book is gone. More anxiety for the holidays. Thanks a lot, St; Martin's. Clearing your desk to dump it on mine is not my idea of holiday spirit.
I also hate the feeling of HAVING to participate in all this commercialism. It's become so forced and desperate. I heard Donovan's "I Don't Like Christmas Anymore (cause they push it on the TV and they push it in the stores...)" on the radio the other day and felt a savage pleasure in it.
And surely there’s more unnamed angst, deeply buried, requiring years of expensive therapy to unearth.
Truthfully, I grew up with not much religion. At all. My parents, both of the scientific mind (despite some pretty typical religious training for their generation) are two of the most agnostic people you are ever likely to meet. My siblings and I were not forced to any particular church as children; instead, our parents encouraged religious promiscuity – meaning, whatever friend’s house was the slumber party for the weekend, we’d end up at that friend’s house of worship in the morning, whatever that was. Or - not.
Little did our parents know how broadly we would apply that theory...
Well, never mind that.
I was really a lot better about Christmas when I had singing to do. When I was in middle school, through college and those undefined and fucked up but kinda great years after college, Christmas was all about choir rehearsals and holiday performances, the obligatory but ecstatic gang-bang Messiah, and all that endless caroling, including impromptu a cappella breakouts into song on San Francisco cable cars, magical!!! I didn’t have to THINK about Christmas – I just FELT it, in the music.
Nowadays, I don’t have any formal singing to do, I don’t have any children to create a Christmas myth for, and there’s just too damn much chocolate around, leering and beckoning. (“Everyone’s wearing sweaters this time of year anyway... no one’s going to notice...” Oh yeah, right.)
Luckily, the antidote is clear. The best thing about Christmas, besides champagne, is Christmas movies (and okay, what I really mean is HOLIDAY movies, but when I say Christmas I say it as a total pagan, so just back off).
Here are mine:
The ultimate escapist fantasy. Yes, let me make a living doing 12 live shows a year, simultaneously keeping two men at my beck and call, one who sings, one who dances. Where do I sign? Best line: “But I do love you, Jim. I love everybody.” Best song: “Be Careful, It’s My Heart”. Best dance - Fred and the firecrackers. Best cat-fight moment: Marjorie Reynolds trying to look contented with Bing Crosby while Fred is dancing up a storm with Virginia Dale.
IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE
A non-escapist fantasy that puts you through the emotional wringer only to emerge the feel-good - that's, feel GOOD - film of all time.
Used to show it to my gang kids in prison school – it remains one of the all-time highlights of my life to see those kids start out whining that I was showing them a black and white film and then watch them fall under this movie’s spell. Oh man, did they GET it.
George Cukor directing a Donald Ogden Stewart & Sidney Buchman adaptation of a Philip Barry play starring Cary Grant and Katherine Hepburn. Anything else you need to know?
See above, plus Jimmy Stewart, and the brilliant and under-known Ruth Hussey (“Oh, I just photograph well.”) and Virginia Weidler as the weirdest little sister on the planet (“I did it. I did it ALL.”) Not a holiday movie, per se, but if you’re looking for cheer...
RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER
Best Christmas musical soundtrack there is – one great song after another - only the whole thing makes me cry so hard I generally end up avoiding it.
BBC series written by and starring John Cleese and Connie Booth, with Cleese as the most incompetent innkeeper in the history of innkeeping. The entire series is genius, every single episode - not exactly holiday themed, either, but guaranteed healer of depression and all other ills. Be prepared to laugh until you're sick.
My brother turned the fam onto AB FAB and now it just wouldn’t be a holiday without Patsy and Eddy and Saffy. Sin is in, sweetie.
GODSPELL and JESUS CHRIST SUPERSTAR
Okay, so I’m not technically a Christian or anything, but I can see God in those two shows.
Hah! I'm feeling better already!
So give. What movies mean Christmas, or the equivalent, to YOU?