Remember the part in Dumb and Dumber when Harry and Lloyd are sitting in a fancy hotel room watching some saccharine over the top schmaltzy thing on television together, weeping uncontrollably while wiping away tears with handfuls of cash? And then we find out it was only an AT&T commercial? I mean, I laughed but that’s a pretty accurate gauge of how sentimental I am from time to time, especially around the holidays. Particularly these ones where most of the news lately sounds like something out of a post-apocalyptic hellscape or an especially desperate episode of 24 except instead of Jack Bauer responding to save the day we get yelled at by a bullying anthropomorphic Q-Tip who has somehow stumbled into a few billion dollars. I myself have been stumbling in my own way to put together a review of The Man in the High Castle that consists of something more than, “Well. It’s just……..really damn good,” and then the literary equivalent of a shrug. It’s also a bit depressing of a subject and trying to spark an interest in a story about the Fascist and Imperial occupation of the United States in a news climate like this one is like trying to start a campfire at the bottom of a swimming pool. But then an excellent suggestion was floated my way by a fearless leader, captain and mother to us all over at Monkeygoose Magazine: a top ten list. I thought, This is a great idea, people love lists! And I love suggesting things to people that will make them cry! Because I’m sentimental, not a sadist or anything.
So what kind of list? It’s got to have a holiday theme, that’s for sure. And it can’t just be about crying or romantic schmaltz. Yes. I’ve already used that word once but it’s an excellent word that I don’t get to roll out very often and it perfectly defines the emotion I’m aiming for. I like families coming together and inspiring grandiose speeches and everything in between, so I’m not restricting myself to any one genre. I decided to make this list consist of that one signature moment in a movie that cuts to the bone of what the holidays mean to me and only me. I’ll be skipping the classics as well, go home Miracle on 34th Street, you’re drunk. I’m just kidding Miracle on 34th Street. I didn’t mean it. But I’m not including those movies that we watch because it’s the holiday and are only appropriate within that context. Except maybe Love, Actually, watching that when it isn’t the holidays is a little bit sad and weird when I’m alone. A person, I mean, not me. A hypothetical person that I definitely wouldn’t judge at all. I’m also going to include Thanksgiving even though most of America bolts for Christmas the second the Turkey cools off and the gravy starts to congeal. One last thing, I’m going to stick to film unless I think of something that must be included from television or another relevant medium. So, here we go, I’m going to try to avoid abusing John Hughes. But who are we kidding. In no particular order, spoilers, obviously:
Planes, Trains and Automobiles– The Ending Scene
And it’s John Hughes right out of the gate. A lot of this scene is dependent on the rest of the movie building up a kind of wonderfully tender loathing of John Candy’s character. Somehow he manages to be both cloying and endearing at the same time and the emotional payoff here comes out of nowhere, it left me speechless the first time I saw this film. Candy hits his line so artfully you forget you’re watching a comedic actor and all the weariness in his character comes spilling out. It still brings me to tears years on regardless of the absolutely atrocious musical selection and the fact that everyone is conveniently positioned in the foyer upon their arrival.
Groundhog Day– The Homeless Man
This is cheating just a little bit. Obviously, Groundhog Day is not really included when people are referring to the holidays but who cares. This is my thing. It’s snowy, magical, and emotional and that counts. For a movie that starts out as a pretty straightforward high concept comedy, this pic by Harold Ramis explores some pretty profound ideas on its way to an oddly romantic conclusion. In a way Bill Murray’s character really starts to find happiness and purpose in the unexplained repeating loop in time when he accepts the futility of it all, exemplified by the death of one stranger that he simply cannot save no matter how hard he tries. Now, if you’ll excuse me I had chopped onions for lunch and I rubbed my eyes with them for some reason I haven’t made up yet.
Dutch– The Shelter Scene
I know I said I wasn’t going to abuse John Hughes but THIS IS MY THING. I don’t play by anyone’s rules, not even my own. This is an incredibly underrated film in my opinion, I think it’s a perfect combination of Hughes’ road trip and Ed O’Neil’s physical comedy. Like most of his films, it’s fundamentally about people from different places on the social spectrum finding common ground and respect for each other and I always try to share this flick with people when I get the chance. In this scene the rich, entitled jerk-off kid Doyle finds himself looking at the other half with a new found sense of awareness as well as acknowledging O’Neil’s character as something of a father figure, albeit a flawed one. It’s a humbling and beautiful exchange.
I couldn’t find this scene on YouTube but it is on Netflix and starts at 1 hour and 28 minutes in. Here’s the terrible, terrible trailer:
Love, Actually– The Whole Damn Movie.
Ghostbusters II– Statue of Liberty
This counts for New Years and I was shocked, shocked I say, to grow up and find out that this film was critically derided in its time. As a kid I loved both films equally and as an adult I find it entirely plausible that there is a river of evil emotion slime churning under the streets of a city like New York. More so in a city like Philadelphia, but that’s besides the point, Internet. Maybe its time to revisit this movie and see what all the fuss was about but until I have the time I will reflect warmly on Peter MacNicol’s fantastic accent. Why am I covereds with goo? Why, indeed, sir. Why, indeed.
Jingle All The Way– Put It Down
I think this is an underrated holiday film. Yes, it’s pretty ridiculous all around but I remember it being a good time, nonetheless. Also, what happened to Sinbad? If you’re wondering why this belongs on the list my reasons are two-fold. One, a terrible misguided soul took this man, Phil Hartman, from the world and I miss his voice all the time. Two, the other man in this clip was a elected Governor of a major industrial and agricultural state and if that doesn’t make you weep for humanity I can do nothing for you.
Home Alone– Family Reunited
I’m not referring to the McAllisters here, although that’s a touching moment as well. I found the story of the lonely old man who was estranged from his family because of an argument with his son incredibly touching, so much that just thinking about it makes lower lip quiver just so. Not to discount the movie as a whole but I find it remarkable when such a brief but powerful side story can be so affecting with only a few words or, in this case, a look. John Hughes strikes again. Apologies for the cam quality clip:
The Nightmare Before Christmas– Meant to Be
I’ll just leave this right here.
Elf– I Know Him
Maybe this isn’t a weepy moment per se but it always makes me feel good in a weird way. Like, I haven’t been this excited about anything in a really long time and who better than Will Ferrell to capture pure unadulterated joy? No one. No one better.
Scrooged– I Get It Now
It sincerely bothers me that there are people who haven’t seen Scrooged, it’s hands down the best adaptation of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol that exists in the world. I’ll be completely honest, I get tired of the cloying artificial atmosphere this time of year, it’s all advertising in one form or another. But Scrooged sets all that on its ear with parody and self-awareness, it’s the only thing I insist on watching at least once before I get terribly drunk and emotional celebrate the holiday with friends and loved ones. It’s weird and dark and hilarious and I love it.
And that’s all I got. Bill Murray is all over this thing, I didn’t plan that. But here’s a fun anecdote I read about the guy. Apparently, he and Harold Ramis were not getting along at all during the entire filming of Groundhog Day, to the point where Murray apparently hired a deaf personal assistant just to make things difficult for the cast and crew. I don’t know how that feud started or why but I do know that he’s no longer that person. The Murray we know now seems like a pretty fun guy. Am I trying to imply a lesson here about turning things around and improving ones character, to elevate those around us and therefore appreciate the life we have for what it really is: a profound gift? Or am I really just trying to make you cry in that bittersweet, reflective way that reminds you you’re alive? Maybe a little of both. But definitely the crying one.
Happy Holidays, all.