This is a preview of our pop culture newsletter The Daily Beast’s Obsessed, written by senior entertainment reporter Kevin Fallon. To receive the full newsletter in your inbox each week, sign up for it here.
- The Morning Show eviscerates Matt Lauer
- The only Christmas movie worth watching
- Important Mariah Carey news
- Living in a post-CATS world
- An Instagram post that deserves your attention
What is a Christmas movie?
It’s my least favorite question and it’s asked every season. A Christmas movie is a Christmas movie, you fools. Stop insisting that movies that are not Christmas movies are. It’s cute on Twitter, but annoying to me.
Is Diehard a Christmas movie? The Harry Potter films? Eyes Wide Shut? People are actually alleging that the Nicole Kidman/Tom Cruise orgy movie is a Christmas movie. This year, it’s Hustlers that’s joined the conversation. The argument isn’t particularly evolved. Someone notices that there’s a scene in a movie that takes place on Christmas, ergo the movie is a Christmas movie. It’s about as exhausting as those people who think making fun of Love Actually is an interesting personality trait.
You know what’s a Christmas movie? A Christmas movie. It doesn’t merit any further explanation than that. Are you smirking smugly while making the suggestion that a certain film is a Christmas movie? Then it’s not a Christmas movie. It’s rude to actual Christmas movies that, as evidenced by trying to shoehorn these non-Christmas movies into the canon, are incredibly difficult to execute.
It’s a tall order, to create something that captures the warring feelings and aesthetics of the season. A great Christmas movie is sentimental but not manipulative, warm but not corny, and touching without being cloying. It hits the notes of melancholy and loneliness that are inescapable at Christmastime, while still celebrating the joy and togetherness. They don’t ignore the religion and the capitalism, but they don’t exploit those things either. They’re funny and emotional, and feel-good but a bit sad.
In other words, A Charlie Brown Christmas is a perfect Christmas movie.
It’s technically an animated TV special that first aired in 1965. That nearly 55 years later it still beats the biggest TV shows on air in the ratings speaks to its timelessness—something else that’s crucial in a great Christmas movie.
The plot is wonderfully simple. Charlie Brown gets depressed at Christmas. That everyone around him seems distracted by the bells, whistles, and fanfare of the holiday only exacerbates things. When he finds only one pathetic-looking sapling in a tree lot filled with ostentatious fake trees, he brings it to his friends and they all mock him. Doesn’t anyone remember what Christmas is all about, he wonders?
His friend, Linus, under a spotlight, delivers a monologue from Luke’s gospel, recounting the birth of Jesus. Everyone hears and rallies around Charlie Brown, helping him to decorate his small tree and joining hands in a carol around it.
Sure, it’s message-y, railing against the gross commercialization of Christmas by centering its climax around the story Jesus’ birth. But, stripping religion from that message, it is still a worthwhile sentiment, a reminder to use the holiday to commemorate family, friends, love, and generosity.
But there’s something else about A Charlie Brown Christmas that strikes me each year. It just somehow feels like Christmas. Certainly, the classic score composed by Vince Guaraldi sounds like Christmas. It’s riddled with ennui, yet strikes chords of hopefulness. It’s great. It’s a movie that means something. But sure, go off on how Die Hard is a Christmas movie.
Twenty-five years after it was first released, Mariah Carey’s “All I Want for Christmas Is You” has gone to No. 1. That’s astonishing!
It is only the second holiday song to ever top the chart, 61 years after, of all things, “The Chipmunk Song” did it. It is Carey’s 19th No. 1 single, putting her one away from tying The Beatles’ record of 20. She now has the longest-ever span of No. 1 singles, with over 29 years between when “Vision of Love” first did it and “All I Want...” this week. Along with Britney Spears, Christina Aguilera, and Usher, she is one of only four artists to have a No. 1 in the ’90s, ’00s, and ’10s.
It’s all very impressive, but perhaps more so is the fact that, after 25 years and its current incessant circulation everywhere you go, the song never gets old. It never feels overplayed. It’s never not thrilling. It’s not just a great holiday song, it’s a practically perfect pop song. As such, it may actually be the best No. 1 single of 2019.
Now next year let’s do the same thing with Kelly Clarkson’s “Underneath the Tree.”
What is there to say about the Cats movie? Actually, a lot! And I did, in this review here. Read it. All I want for Christmas is page views.
The cats in Cats look insane, and the movie is at once out of its mind and shockingly boring. I have to say, I never would have imagined, after those deranged trailers, that this movie would be such a snooze.
After screening it Monday night, I have now lived nearly a week of a post-Cats existence. In that time I keep going back to one moment from the film. Idris Elba’s Macavity has kidnapped Judi Dench’s Old Deuteronemy. He threatens to push her into the river unless she selects him as the chosen cat. With absolute sincerity, Dench whips her head around and says, “YOU WILL NEVER BE MY JELLICLE CHOICE!”
I may never stop thinking about it.
What to watch this week:
1917: An incredible war movie.
John Mulaney and the Sack Lunch Bunch: An incredible comedy special.
Little Women: An incredible movie about little women.
What to skip this week:
Cats: I mean, are you out of your mind?
Star Wars: Episode IX - The Rise of Skywalker: Paying attention to how to properly punctuate that title is all the effort I wish to spend on this movie.