Checked it Twice

We're coming upon the end of this Christmas experiment - at least for this year - and, as such, I'm legally obligated to offer some best of/worst of lists.  I don't think it's fair to group movies and specials together for the "best of" list, so I'm going to set the three best movies aside now.  In no particular order, the best holiday films I saw this year are:  Nightmare Before Christmas, Miracle on 34th Street, and Elf.

I'm not going to differentiate between Christmas specials and holiday themed episodes, though I am going to set one ground rule: these need to be full length.  This eliminates some of the best - including The Spirit of Christmas South Park short where Jesus fights Santa.

Here, then, are the top 10 Holiday Episodes or Specials:

10. Christmas With the Joker: This is a tough one - a case could easily be made that Holiday Knights or Comfort and Joy are better.  But I'm going with my gut and picking the classic.  All three are worth seeing, though.

9. The Powerpuff Girls: The Fight Before Christmas: This is everything an hour-long Powerpuff Girl episode should be.  I actually kind of like the Powerpuff Girl Movie, but there's no question that this is better.

8. The Tick Loves Santa: The Tick's comrades inform him they don't believe in Santa, and he replies: "And you call yourselves superheroes."  Every line in this is brilliant.

7. A Muppet Family Christmas: For fans of the Muppets, it doesn't get much better than this.  Three shows worth of Muppets, and John Denver's not invited.

6. Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas: I surprised myself putting this before A Muppet Family Christmas: last year, these would have been flipped.  But, on this viewing, I was really taken with the depth of Emmet Otter's world and the beauty of the music.

5. How the Grinch Stole Christmas: "You're a Mean One," might just be the best song ever written for a Christmas Special.  On top of that, the animation is fascinating to behold.

4. It's Christmas, Charlie Brown: this and number 5 arm wrestled for the spot, but I think this edges it out.  The attention this pays to tone is just astounding.

3. Will Vinton's Claymation Christmas Celebration: This is a stunning work of animation.  I'm still having a hard time getting my mind around the fact that the human mind is actually capable of making this.

2. Prep & Landing: Seriously, now: is anything cooler than highly trained black ops elves?  This delivers as much cheer as Rudolph and as much action as Die Hard.

1. The Snowman: Simply put, this is the most beautiful and unapologetic Christmas special ever made.  It's an incredible work of art that delves into the wonder of childhood and the tragedy of its loss.

Before we get to the worst, I want to take a minute and cite the best of the bad.  None of these four specials are in any way "good," but they're all worth seeing:

4. The Smurf's Christmas Special: They fight the devil.  With the worst song ever written for television.

3. Frosty Returns

2. The He-Man and She-Ra Christmas Special: In which Skeletor learns the true meaning of Christmas.

1. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians: This is just bizarre.  I'm not actually sure you need to watch the entire thing, but it's worth sitting through at least the first half.  It gets grouped with the 1959 Santa Claus a lot, which makes no sense to me.  That one, you don't need to experience.

Seeing as "bad" is already a subjective assessment, I'm going to instead dub this: The Five Most Painful Things I Experienced This Year.  I know I said grouping movies and specials together wasn't fair in the 'best of' list, but, to tell the truth, I don't really care whether I'm fair to these.  Every one of these is more than an hour long, and none of them benefit from that fact.

Without further ado...

5. Comfort and Joy: This Lifetime Original Movie was horrible.  Every second hurt.

4. Santa Claus (1959): When it tried to be whimsical, it was creepy.  When it tried anything else, it was even worse.  The MST3K commentary makes this watchable - don't make the mistake I made and approach this without it.

3. The Star Wars Holiday Special: I know, I know.  When I originally reviewed the 1959 Santa Claus movie, I said it was worse than this.  But then a funny thing happened: I re-watched The Star Wars Holiday Special.  All two hours of it.  And, you know what?  I was wrong....

2. Barbie: A Christmas Carol: Imagine Hell being redecorated by a six-year-old girl, and you can conjure an image of this thing's reflection on the wall of Plato's Cave Allegory.  Watching this is an exercise in madness.

1. Casper's Haunted Christmas: It's been said that no one sets out to make a bad movie.  I'm not 100% sure that's true, but I know the makers of Casper's Haunted Christmas didn't: there's simply no way someone could set out to make a bad movie and succeed this completely.  There's nothing good here.  Nothing.  No good jokes, no inspired animation.  Not a single emotional beat resonates.  Not even a little.