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Teachers’ Favorite Holiday Movies

Previously published Dec. 17, 2020
Teachers Favorite Holiday Movies

Previously published Dec. 17, 2020

For this festive holiday season, the BISV Quill would like to serve you, our lovely and loyal readers, the peppermint edition of Teacher Tea! If you’re looking for a movie guide to binge out the purple tier, you’ve come to the right place.

Dr. Jensen
For my favorite holiday movies, it’s a tie between National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation and Elf. I enjoy both of them immensely because they are both hilarious. Just about every scene of Christmas Vacation has something funny and memorable. It’s amusing to watch Clark Griswold’s gradual descent into Christmas madness and his eventual recovery at the end. Elf is perhaps Will Ferrell’s funniest film. Buddy the Elf is absurd but kind-hearted, childlike but gigantic, and super annoying and simultaneously magnanimous. These are both films I’ve watched since I was young, and I make a point of watching them each holiday season.

Dr. Parson
My favorite holiday movie is Christmas Vacation. It is hilarious; it made me laugh as a child and continues to make me laugh as an adult. My kids love the movie as well, and one of the first things we do heading into the holiday season is to sit and watch the movie together. The laughs are a mixture of in-your-face funny and subtle, and each time you watch the movie you’ll pick up on a new line or glance to add to the humor. But it is not just the humor that makes me love the movie. The story is about a father who wants to give his children an old-fashioned Christmas, complete with a fully decked out home, lots of family time, holiday activities, and a big surprise gift for the family. Of course, the comedy comes from the fact that nothing ever goes as planned. It ends, in the predictable manner that all holiday movies end, with the message that what is truly important about the holidays is being together with the ones you love and enjoying the time together because life is just too short.

Mr. Vermouth
I have two, and for different reasons…
1. My favorite holiday movie is Elf, starring Will Ferrell. There are a few reasons. Of course, I just think it’s hilarious. Ferrell is one of my favorite actors, and I feel like the director (Favreau, who is also great) just set up some scenes and said “be yourself and we’ll film it.” It’s also a holiday movie that is live-action and stars adults, yet is willing to still argue that we should be happier and more positive, and appreciate little things. “I just like to smile; smiling’s my favorite.”

2. The newer animated Grinch movie, starring Benedict Cumberbatch. Growing up, I always watched “the original” with Boris Karloff. My daughter once watched the newer one, and she LOVED it. My original thought was, “how dare she. The original is better – new stuff is lame.” But watching her become absorbed by and truly appreciate the new movie changed my mind. The holidays, after all, are about kids and family. Now, every time she watches it, I am reminded that being a parent is not about what I want or what I like, but rather about appreciating life through the eyes of my daughter.

Ms. Kolb
My favorite holiday movie is It’s a Wonderful Life. I think it’s really easy to get stressed out and overwhelmed with a lot of things, particularly this time of year, and watching this movie every year gives me a good perspective and reminds me to take a moment and be appreciative for all that I have, for things could always be worse.

Mr. Small

There aren’t a lot of options for Hanukkah, so I’m going to break the mold a bit and say how much I love the Rugrats Hanukkah Special. Tommy Pickles and his infant/toddler friends reimagine the story of the Maccabees (Macca-babies) and their defeat of Antiochus’ Greek Army. It stars Tommy’s vaguely Eastern European Jewish grandparents (from the “old country”) and retells the Hanukkah story in a family-friendly way. It’s all we had growing up, so I love it.

Dr. Allendoerfer
It took me a while to think of a favorite holiday movie, but I keep coming back to something I remember seeing on TV when I was a little kid: The Homecoming, A Christmas Story. It is set in 1933 in West Virginia during the Great Depression, and was the inspiration for the 1970s TV show, “The Waltons.”At that age I really liked to pretend and put myself into stories, and I loved this movie because it enabled me to do that. I sympathized with the youngest daughter, Elizabeth, when she got a creepy broken doll as a Christmas present from a missionary. And the oldest son, John Boy, was an aspiring writer who hid his writing tablet under a mattress. I adopted this habit too, thinking that I might be a writer someday. The setting made many simple things seem like miracles: a perfect Christmas tree in the forest, the birth of a calf in the barn, a good Christmas meal, the Christmas lights still working after a year in storage and finally, dad coming home again after being away for work. The movie was a window into another world and showed me what Christmas was like for generations past.

Dr. Van Dusen
My favorite animated holiday story is the original TV special Dr. Seuss’ How the Grinch Stole Christmas (1966) because it is a story about forgiveness and inclusion. It is also a story about the true spirit of the holidays and the positive transformative change it can create.

The story begins with a grouchy, cynical Grinch who despises his noisy neighbors, the Whos. So he plots to ruin their Christmas by stealing it. After sneaking into their homes in the dead of night on Christmas Eve, he begins his filching: he steals literally everything–the Christmas trees, the decorations, the stockings, the presents, the candy canes, the Who hash, the roast beast, everything–right down to the crumbs that were even “too small for a mouse”!

He then loads up his sleigh and races up to the top of Mount Crumpit just as the Whos begin to wake up. He looks down on the village and awaits their reaction:

“They’re finding out now that no Christmas is coming. They’re just waking up, I know just what they’ll do. Their mouths will hang open a minute or two, then the Whos down in Whoville will all cry, “Boo-hoo-hoo.”… And he did hear a sound rising over the snow…every Who down in Whoville, the tall and the small, was singing without any presents at all!

He hadn’t stopped Christmas from coming! It came! Somehow or other, it came just the same! And the Grinch, with his grinch feet ice-cold in the snow, stood puzzling and puzzling. “How could it be so? It came without ribbons! It came without tags! It came without packages, boxes, or bags!” He puzzled and puzzled till his puzzler was sore. Then the Grinch thought of something he hadn’t before. Maybe Christmas, he thought, doesn’t come from a store. Maybe Christmas, perhaps, means a little bit more…and then the true meaning of Christmas came through.”

The Grinch’s heart softens towards the Whos and fills with holiday spirit and with a smile in his soul, he races down Mount Crumpit and returns all the presents! The Whos forgive him and welcome him, and his dog Max, to their holiday feast. The final message: Christmas Day will always be just as long as we have each other.

The spirit of togetherness is essential to many world religions and festivals at this time of year, so although The Grinch is a “Christmas” movie, it tells a story of acceptance and merriment that transcends cultural borders.

Ms. Myers
My all-time favorite holiday movie is A Charlie Brown Christmas. I have loved the Peanuts gang since I can remember due to the fact that Snoopy is incredibly droll and carefree despite the situations that the other Peanuts characters are enduring. The nostalgia that the movie evokes makes it the perfect film for the holidays. I have watched A Charlie Brown Christmas with my family every year since my earliest memory of Christmas and I eagerly anticipate watching it again this year. The soundtrack featuring jazz pianist Vince Guaraldi is stellar and adds to the magical setting of the film as well as the spirit of the holiday season.

Mr. Meyerowitz

My favorite 22-minute holiday episode of a long-running animated show is from the first season of South Park, titled “Mr. Hankey the Christmas Poo.” The highly musical episode features Kyle, one of the four misfit stars of the show, being pulled out of his school’s Christmas pageant by his mother because he is Jewish. While the focus of the episode is on Kyle’s conflict with his mother and Kyle’s belief in a religiously pluralistic Christmas poo who comes to life, my favorite part is when Kyle sings “The Lonely Jew on Christmas.” This song captures how I felt as a kid during the holidays since all my friends had Christmas trees and believed in Santa Claus, while I had eight nights of Hebrew song, a silver candelabra, and fried potato pancakes. I often wondered why Christmas was a far more exciting and popular holiday than Hanukkah, and I didn’t understand the relationship between the bright strings of light, the baby in the barn, and the flying reindeer, all of which seemed more interesting than Hebrews quarantining in the Temple. Plus, the mall near my house seemed obsessed with Christmas for at least ten weeks every year. I identified with Kyle in this episode, and still empathize with young people who don’t celebrate Christmas and may feel left out. Although I don’t believe in a Mr. Hankey who helps bring people of all faiths together with a friendly “Howdy Ho!”, I do believe that if we listen to Kyle during the holidays, we’ll understand that while we may have different customs this season, we all want to share in its fun.

Ms. Odell
One of my favorite holiday movies of all time is the original 1966 How the Grinch Stole Christmas—I watch it every year. Besides the amazing music, I love the movie’s hopeful message that we don’t need a bunch of presents and decorations to enjoy the holiday season, as long as we can spend time with our loved ones. It’s a comforting idea even in a pandemic—as long as I can still call my family and talk with them, it will still feel like Christmas.

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