Sugar plums and lumps of coal:

By Jim Vorel

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Christmas movies reserve a special ability to turn the average human mind into a blob with the consistency of warm tapioca. There is just something about these films that melt even the grinchiest hearts among us, rendering us pathetic, shambling husks of Christmas spirit. We celebrate those films which have proven time and time again to pull the appropriate Yuletide heartstrings, as well as those that just plain sucked.

The Classics

“It’s a Wonderful Life” (1946): I think there’s a law in debate on the House floor that makes watching this movie at least once per holiday season mandatory and enforced by Christmas goons. It is, of course, the story of a downhearted man who learns what a big difference he has made when his guardian angel shows him what the world would have been like without him.

“A Charlie Brown Christmas” (1965): Subtracting commercials for snack cakes and network television programming, the entire thing is around 13 minutes long. This makes it all the more impressive that such emotional heft manages to come from the little Peanuts children, especially Charlie Brown, whose despair at the commercialization of the Christmas season is the backbone of what is probably the greatest television Christmas special of all time.

“Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer” (1964): An amazing triumph of stop-motion animation features the folk-singing talents of Burl Ives and the weirdest, most wonderful cast of characters to grace a Christmas movie. Among them are an elf who wants to be a dentist, a “Bumble” yeti, and the denizens of the trippy “Island of Misfit Toys.” Whoever heard of a Charlie-In-The-Box?

Of course, it can’t all be good. For as many Christmas movies that have become holiday staples, there have been some truly awful ones as well. I present now, classically bad Christmas films.

“Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” (1964): Oh, where to begin. It’s a story about Martians who kidnap Santa Claus and two Earth children to bring Christmas to the children of Mars. The film features some of the worst costuming committed to celluloid (the credits actually credit a “custume” designer), as well as the unforgettable character “Dropo,” who traipses about in a slack-jawed, Gilligan-esque sort of way for most of the film, causing what the filmmakers probably thought were “wacky hijinks.” Rent the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” cover of the film for a hilarious holiday celebration.

“Santa Claus: The Movie” (1985): Dumb name, dumb movie. It turns out that Santa Claus is some sort of immortal, toy-giving semi-deity, and his head elf, Patch, wants to strike out on his own to make his own toys. Nice job with entrusting the rebellious elves with leadership positions, Santa. Patch teams with evil toy magnate B.Z., the ever-evil John Lithgow. They then attempt to corner the market and eliminate Santa Claus. Because apparently Santa competes with toy firms. For profits, or something.

“Jingle All the Way” (1996): It is a well-known cinema factoid that casting Arnold Schwarzenegger guarantees hilarity and success in a

Christmas comedy. Or maybe I’m thinking of someone else, someone who is not Arnold Schwarzenegger. Either way, the “Governator” must find the hot Christmas toy, a Turbo-Man (pronounced “Tuhrboh-Mahn”) for his son on Christmas Eve to make up for being a really crappy father. Unfortunately, no amount of Christmas goodies can make up for having seen this film.