A Christmas Story

It was a beautiful day today - 70 degrees out, sun and a light breeze that picked up a lot at night. It was pretty unfathomable that I had to watch A Christmas Story in that kind of weather! The movie was directed by Bob Clark in 1983, and was not received very well. Now, it's pretty much a classic, a staple of the holidays that is notorious for airing in 24 hour blocks.

To try to make the movie viewing more...Christmasy, I had my friend Barry over. I put up some little Christmas trees and made some cheap cookies from Target with red and green sprinkles. It didn't really make it feel Christmasy at all - not even with the movie on - which was sort of shocking to me! Anthony and I usually put this movie on whenever we put up Christmas decorations, so I always associate it with strong feelings of the holidays. I still like the movie, but it didn't make me yearn for Christmas like it normally does.

Everyone knows the plot of this movie, or has at least heard of it. Could you avoid it when it airs for so many hours? Ebert writes a lot about the parts of this movie he could relate to, growing up during such a time. He owned a Red Ryder BB gun himself, and other such things. I love this movie for a different reason. Barry, who is not a fan of the film, wanted to know what it was that I liked about it. "Why?" he asked me. "Stockholm syndrome," I replied seriously.  I'm not really exaggerating. I was probably nine years old when this movie first starting airing for 24 hours at a time. Before that, it was often on with great frequency. My cousins are my age, and we'd be dragged off to my Grandma's house every Christmas eve. As antsy kids, we'd sit upstairs in front of her TV. Nothing was on, except A Christmas Story, and year after year, hour after hour, we would watch the movie. Eventually, we grew to like it - or at least I did. It's hard to not think of Christmas memories when I see the film, not so much because I can relate, but because I remember watching it so much. It was like the background noise during our holidays.

I lied. I can relate, to some extent. I was never a boy in the 1940's, but I did have a pretty traditional celebration of Christmas. We always had turkey, always. Stuffing and green been casserole. Yams from the can- and cranberry sauce, never from the can (always made fresh by my talented aunt). We liked the turkey enough that me and my cousins would pose by it for pictures, sticking a serving fork in it's crispy skin. One year, my uncle's dog, a stunning black lab, managed  jump up on the kitchen counter and  scarfed down most of our turkey before it was served. I always think of this when I watch the Bumpuses' hounds tear apart the turkey that The Old Man is salivating over. My slightly younger cousin (after watching this movie), stuck her own tongue to a frozen metal pole, and arrived at a holiday event and showed us her red, wounded tongue. I remember being completely excited to see Santa, even asking to wear a nice dress to the mall to go see him. Once I approached the man, I was afraid and inconsolable. Just like in the movie, on Christmas morning, my parents and I would get up early and open presents in the morning in our pajamas, a tradition that we only had when I was younger (Christmas Eve is when we celebrate now).

These are the details I can relate to. I wasn't ever bullied. I didn't ever have to write Christmas themes or, hell, even beg for what I wanted for Christmas. I didn't have siblings, eat red cabbage, or ever have a father who won a "major award" (although for some reason I could imagine my Grandpa making such a fuss over something like that). I love this movie because I love watching it with my family year after year. I love it because I love acting out the scene where the leg lamp is broken with Anthony ("You used up all the glue....on PURPOSE!"). I love the things that I remember when I see this movie, the times when I was a kid making fun of it with my cousins, or now, reflecting on past holiday memories.

The movie has other, yunno, things that make it a good movie. Like a good story, and genuine, loveable acting. But not many people look for those things when they watch this movie, because you usually watch this with family and friends, doing other holiday festivities. Even Ebert doesn't dare comment on the cinematic high points of the film. Why bother? No one tunes into the 24 hour marathon to see interesting match-cuts. We watch the 24 hour marathon because this movie is sort of like the holiday Rocky Horror. You know all the lines, you know all the jokes, and it's so familiar at this point that it only keeps getting better each time you watch it.
Well. To me, at least.

Ebert's Great Movie Essay on A Christmas Story
Buy it on Amazon

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