My Favorite Christmas Movie Performances (by the man of the house)

It’s been a busy Christmas season for me so far. Somehow Dana has been to, what seems like, half a dozen more parties than me. And I only recently got to do the thing where you fight the crowds at the mall and do some last-minute shopping. So how have I kept the Christmas spirit this year? By watching whatever Hollywood has produced on the subject! So what I’d like to do is rather than list off for you my favorite Christmas movies, I will list for you my favorite Christmas movie performances (yes, in some of my favorite Christmas movies). One major qualification for my list: it had to be made in my lifetime. Sorry, all you fans of It’s a Wonderful Life and Miracle on 34th Street.

Here are my top 5 favorite performances, in reverse order:
5. Hart Bochner in Die Hard, as Harry Ellis
Yeah it’s an R-rated film, but I’m referring to the milder more family-friendly TNT edited version. You might be asking yourself “wait, Die Hard is a Christmas movie?” You bet it is. Haven’t you heard “Christmas in Hollis” by Run-DMC? Straight out of Die Hard. There are Christmas songs throughout the whole movie. So what’s so great about Hart Bochner’s appearance in Die Hard? He’s a greasy salesman from LA, trying to schmooze his way out of a terrorist hijacking.
His best lines:
“Hey babe, I negotiate million dollar deals for breakfast. I think I can handle this Eurotrash.”
“Business is business. You use a gun, I use a fountain pen. What's the difference?”

4. TIE: Zooey Deschanel in Elf, as Jovie (Will Ferrel’s love interest) and Faizon Love in Elf, as the Gimbel store manager

Why these two? Well, the whole point of Elf was to take a big dorky human-elf (Will Ferrel) and put him into as normal a New York environment as possible. Deschanel and Love provided that, and more than compensated for a lackluster James Caan. With Deschanel as the weirded-out co-worker and Love as the high-energy boss, you get thrown right onto a department store retail team trying to keep up with all the insanity that comes during Christmas.

And since we’re already cramming two actors where there should only be one recognized, let me also acknowledge what a hilarious elf Bob Newhart made. And did anyone else notice a grown-up Peter Billingsley from A Christmas Story as one of the elves in the North Pole? Watch for him next time.

3. Chevy Chase in National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, as Clark Griswold

This one’s kind of a no-brainer. Sort of obligatory, even. Chevy Chase was limited, even in his prime. I’m not sure he had anything to offer outside of Mr. Griswold and Fletch, but he sure was good at those two characters. Anyway, here’s to Clark Griswold: a dad who just wanted his family’s Christmas vacation to go perfectly. Clark held the torch as the idiot dad until Homer Simpson took that role in a, well, cartooney direction.

2. Patrick Stewart in A Christmas Carol, as Ebenizer Scrooge
I had to reserve room for at least one serious entry. Patrick Stewart’s A Christmas Carol is the best version for those who want to be placed right into Charles Dickens’ short story without actually reading the book. Stewart is always good, and delivers a passionate version of Ebenizer Scrooge. He makes Scrooge’s transformation feel real, to the point where you actually believe that a man that’s been this cranky for so long kind of doesn’t quite know how to be jolly. Good for viewing once a year.

1. Darren McGavin in A Christmas Story, as the Dad
Arguably the best Christmas movie of all, and having seen it recently again through the eyes of a father, I appreciate the performance of the late Darren McGavin. The Leg incident, haggling over the price of a ratty pine tree, the tire changing scene, the furnace, and the Bumpus hound dogs. Admiring the totality of McGavin’s scenes reminds me of an old Jerry Seinfeld bit about how men are superheroes in their own little world. McGavin takes occasional breaks from his superhero endeavors to do some fathering, and by the end of the movie IS the hero that makes his kid’s Christmas dream come true. I believe that I have literally watched this movie, at least in parts, every year since it came out in the early 80’s. I cannot envision a Christmas in my future where I won’t watch some of it.


Toughskins said...

Hart Bochner!! I've never known that guy's name but I'll never forget it now. A very astute choice from one of the greatest (not just) Christmas movies ever made.

sachia said...

I'm with you 100 percent on your number one choice in Christmas movies, I especially like it when the dad get's the leg lamp! Grat pics, cool post!

lyndsey said...

yay! i love when casey posts. except what about the all-time wonderful christmas classic of home alone? sort of cheesy, but still one of my ultimate fave christmas movies. while there are some choice lines in that film ("you're what the french call, les incompetante"), i would have to say best performance goes to john william's soundtrack.