Pop Rocks: Your George Bailey-Free Christmas Viewing List

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Christmas, Christmas time is here. Time for ulcers to bleed freely and the roughly 22 percent of the U.S. population who identify themselves as "other than Christian" to smile through clenched jaws and wait for the adult contemporary stations to stop playing Bruce Springsteen's "Santa Claus is Comin' to Town."

It's also time for family, which -- if you're like most of us -- means spending several days crowded around the TV and watching movies.

Maybe back in the "old days" people used to have meaningful conversations about the past year and your hopes for the future (personally, we think Grandma was full of crap), but this is the 21st century, and honest human interaction can't hold a candle to the wonders of Hollywood. Especially since the latter doesn't usually feature Uncle Joe knifing Aunt Lurleen in the backyard after a night drinking his special "eggnog" consisting of bourbon and bourbon.

Problem is, what they usually pass off as holiday entertainment is the same shit you've seen a thousand times already. It's A Wonderful Life? Sentimentalist bilge, and Pottersville looked like a more swinging place to live in than Bedford Falls anyway. Miracle on 34th Street? The Grinch had the same message, and took over an hour less to tell it. Babes in Toyland? Okay, I never actually saw this, I'm just bitter because I accidentally rented it while looking for...something else. Memo to video clerks: nothing starring Ray Bolger belongs in the "Fetish -- Toy" aisle.

Anyway, it's a new millennium, and that calls for some new Christmas classics. Here are my suggestions.

Invasion, U.S.A. (1985)

The filmmakers put together a rogue's gallery of Reagan-era boogeymen (Cubans, Russkies, a Gary Hart lookalike), setting them loose on decent, god-fearing Americans during the holidays, and it's up to Chuck Norris to save Christmas. Because nothing says "peace on earth, goodwill towards men" like Norris monotoning, "See you in hell."

Ernest Saves Christmas (1988)

The kids need something to watch too, you know. There's a lot of Ernest hate out there, which never made much sense to me. Like Barney, or Elmo, or the Star Wars prequels, he's aimed at children. And if children can handle the Senate debates and trade disputes from The Phantom Menace, they can handle Great Uncle Lloyd.

Better Off Dead (1985)

Funny how they don't make comedies about teen suicide anymore. Al Meyer in the full-body armadillo suit trumps Ralphie the "pink nightmare."

Lethal Weapon (1987)

Reasons why this is a Christmas movie: 1. Riggs sympathizes with the jumper because lots of people have problems "during the silly season like now." 2. Mr. Joshua shooting the TV during the ending of A Christmas Carol ("It's goddamn Christmas!"). 3. Riggs asking for a "six-footer" to put the cocaine under. Happy holidays, indeed.

Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984)

Frankly, I think we're far too willing to just sort of look the other way with regard to some bearded Canadian sneaking into our house every year. Watch it with your children and think of it as a cautionary tale.

A Midnight Clear (1992)

Snark aside, this is one of my favorite movies, Christmas or otherwise. You've got an oddly beautiful setting for a war movie, Gary Sinise's film debut, and a surprisingly non-annoying Ethan Hawke, Also: "Schläft gut, Kraut."

Black Christmas (1974)

Future film historians and medical experts will continue to ponder what happened to Bob Clark -- the guy who directed this, Porky's, and Porky's II: The Next Day (and A Christmas Story, which missed this list thanks to that 24-hour airing on TNT) -- to make him go on to make Baby Geniuses and The Karate Dog

Die Hard (1988)

Diamonds? Bah. New Lexus? Pfft. The gold standard for Christmas gifts has, since 1988, been delivering your estranged wife from Eurotrash criminals while rocking a wife-beater. And "Yippee ki ay, motherfucker" has so much more *oomph* than "Attaboy, Clarence."

Gremlins (1984)

This Joe Dante effort is so as cinematically significant as White Christmas: it's credited -- along with Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom -- with being so violent that another MPAA rating between "PG" and "R" was needed. So in a way, Gremlins is responsible for the watering down of every horror movie since. Thanks Joe.

Bad Santa (2003)

Aside from Sling Blade, I never really felt like Billy Bob Thornton had much range, acting-wise. That's fine, because the role of Willie is to Thornton's wheelhouse what a high fastball is to Albert Pujols'. And Lauren Graham is hotter than doughnut grease.

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