Four movie marathon contenders beyond ‘A Christmas Story’

     Still image from 'A Christmas Story'

    Still image from 'A Christmas Story'

    This is 15th year that TNT and TBS will marathon “A Christmas Story” from 8 p.m. Christmas Eve through Christmas Day. Perhaps it is time that we look for another Christmas-themed movie to entertain us for the day.

    Each month, Philadelphia’s prolific podcasters, the Black Tribbles, visit Speak Easy with special reports on everything sci-fi, comic books, movies, video games, cartoons, and other stuff that every nerd needs to know.

    Tis the season for days of feasts, thanks and giving. An annual tradition at my house, unbeknownst to the family at large but noted by a sharp-eyed BatTribble, is to sit back and watch the kids tear into gift after gift, toy after toy, all day long as “A Christmas Story” plays in muted rotation on the large widescreen TV behind them.

    About the time young Ralphie Parker comes downstairs in a pink bunny onesy for the 6th time, my sister Adrienne will note aloud, but to herself, “Is this still on?” Then she’ll go back to telling my niece Simone to take off my other niece Milan’s tiara and try on her new dress to see if it fits right before we trash the receipt.

    2015 marks the 15th year that TNT and TBS will marathon the 1983 holiday comedy from 8 p.m. Christmas Eve and throughout Christmas Day. They have taken what was once a hidden treasure — this rose-colored homage to the 1950s, the optimism of youth and frozen tongues on flagpoles — and turned it into a certifiable Yuletide classic.

    The film opened to mixed reviews from the New York Times and Roger Ebert in 1983 and tallied just over $19 million dollars during its first run. Yet with subsequent television airings and video releases over the years, director Bob Clark’s adaptation of Jean Shepherd’s shorts stories from “In God We Trust: All Others Pay Cash” has come to be appreciated for its sweetness and understated charm. Actors Darren McGavin and Melinda Dillon (Mr. and Mrs. Parker) fill the screen with the harried frustration of parenting-at-Christmastime. And Peter Billingsley (Ralphie) probably hasn’t bought himself a merry shot of whiskey since he became legal, because trust me – we’ve all been there, brother. We are Ralphie.

    However that is not to say that we are not due for a change of pace. Perhaps it is time that we look for another Christmas-themed movie to entertain us for the day; to steal us away from the hearth to glimpse its hilarity, to peek into its sincerity, or to gaze upon its colossal wreath of ornaments, officers and artillery. How about we spend the day with …

    “Trading Places” (1983)

    This is Dan Aykroyd at the height of his game; Eddie Murphy too young to know what he shouldn’t do on camera and funny enough to get away with it; Jamie Lee Curtis as versatile as she is captivating: plus: Ralph Bellamy, Don Ameche, and Denholme Elliott stealing as many scenes as he does in the “Indiana Jones” movies. Philadelphia is dressed in its winter best. Christmas — check! New Year’s — check! Santa — filthy … but check! Aykroyd in blackface … wait a minute! Next, please.

    “Die Hard” (1988)

    It’s Christmas Eve when Detective John McClane (Bruce Willis) travels cross-country to Los Angeles, in hopes of rekindling his marriage to Holly (Bonnie Bedelia), just in time to thwart a big-time heist led by Hans Gruber (Alan Rickman). This movie not only started a franchise, it started a genre! And it’s Christmas! There’s an office party complete with spiked punch and desktop shenanigans. It has carols of old (Winter Wonderland) and new (Christmas in Hollis). This could be on repeat for a week, yet alone a day. There is nothing but action, explosions and one-liners for days — “Yippee-ki-yay, motherf—er.” Who says one of the greatest action films of all-time can’t also be the greatest Christmas one too?

    “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” (1989)

    Unlike the Parkers of “A Christmas Story,” the Griswolds of the “Vacation” movie series are not “us.” They are “that family” across the street that you can not stand living in your neighborhood even while you stare out the window with coffee in hand waiting to see what happens next. Clark Griswold (Chevy Chase) takes us on a ride from a few weeks before the big day waiting for the holiday bonus to do last minute shopping to the dreaded Christmas Eve arrival of the in-laws and the siblings from hell. No sweetness, no saccharine; just mishaps and pratfalls and physical comedy of the highest order. The cast litters the screen with a punch bowl full of puns and wordplay. An insane flick that is a staple of many cable networks’ holiday schedule. It’s hard not to see why.

    Home Alone (1990)

    Perhaps we should trade in a 1950s mop-top for the ’90s equivalent. Director John Hughes made us all believe that an 8-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macauley Culkin) could survive being stranded in his big suburban abode all by himself, despite the “Wet Bandits” (Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern) lurking outside his door. The madcap ways that Kevin botches the burglars’ robbery attempts are reminiscent of early Tom & Jerry cartoons, and there is sweetness to Kevin’s misgivings and ultimate friendship with his “haunted” neighbor Marley (Roberts Blossom). The snow-trimmed houses and choral hymns set a merry atmosphere that will play well in any living room. As broad as the comedy is, there’s warmth here. This could be a winner.

    Should we break out “It’s a Wonderful Life” once again? Gather around for another round of “Scrooged”? What film would you marathon to fill your house with holiday cheer? Let a Tribble know below in the comments.

    Each month, Philadelphia’s prolific podcasters, the Black Tribbles visit Speak Easy with special reports on everything sci-fi, comic books, movies, video games, cartoons, and other stuff that every nerd needs to know.

    Subscribe to the Black Tribbles’ podcast, “Tribble Nation,” on iTunes and Pod-o-matic. “Tribble Nation” is a monthly podcast focusing on the geek in every color imaginable, from scientist to author, from comic book artist to comic book collector. Each episode features an interview with a special guest and a review of current topics within his or her field of geek interest.

    The Black Tribbles are: Jason Richardson, aka Spider-Tribble; Len Webb, aka BatTribble;Kennedy Allen, aka Storm Tribble; Erik Darden, aka Master Tribble; and Randy Green, aka Super Tribble.

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