I’m no Deadhead – more of a punk rock spirit, thank you very much – but even I can’t help but paraphrase those hippies when noting what a long, strange trip this year has been. And now we’re right in the middle of the holiday season frenzy and it feels even stranger than ever. I know there are people openly – proudly! – flouting medical experts’ warnings and holding large gatherings, not wearing masks, and just generally being irresponsible and inconsiderate for the health and safety of the rest of us. I’m not one of those people. I’m still home most of the time, and while it’s definitely driven me a bit batty these last nine or ten months, it feels more than worth it to reach an end goal where fewer people have to die from the coronavirus. It’s a no-brainer.
Holiday season is always a little stressful for me anyway, even in the best of years. I love seeing the magic and wonder of Christmastime reflected in my children’s excitement for Santa and decorating trees and giving and receiving gifts, but my own seasonal celebratory efforts tend towards the darker, more cynical or sarcastic end of the holly jolly spectrum. This is the time of year when I pull out old holiday favorites for another viewing, and my tastes often run more macabre or towards slightly askew views of holiday mirth. Stuff like Black Christmas (the essential and perfect original 1974 movie, although I might finally check out the recent remake this year), Krampus (a new edition to the Christmas horror cannon that I absolutely love), Eyes Wide Shut (Kubrick’s final masterpiece and one of Nicole Kidman’s finest performances), Batman Returns (Michelle Pfeiffer and Michael Keaton!), Running Scared (Billy Crystal and Gregory Hynes goofing around in Chi-town at Christmastime), and Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang (From Christmas season director extraordinaire Shane Black) always fill me with my own, alternative-style holiday spirit.
Obnoxious people on the internet like to get into completely pedantic and idiotic arguments over what constitutes a Christmas movie. I couldn’t care less about anyone’s opinions on this topic. For me, a Christmas movie can be largely about the holiday or just set during that time of year so that the holiday provides background textures. The movies that people like to argue are not Christmas movies are often more thematically resonant with Christmastime than these self-appointed gatekeepers even realize.
Speaking of nontraditional Christmas movies, maybe I’ll even toss on one of my all-time favorite comfort films this month, Grease 2, because the Christmas scene and accompanying musical number is always a holiday delight for me. The visual is just perfection: there’s Michelle Pfeiffer as Pink Lady supreme/spirit animal Stephanie Zinone at the Rydell High talent show, outfitted in a goofy Christmas tree dress holding a star on top of her head, looking lovesick and full of ennui. Christmas-induced ennui is real, let me tell you, so I always vibe with this moment every December. During “(Love Will) Turn Back the Hands of Time” Stephanie sings, “I just close my eyes and bring back yesterday.” Now I’ll be thinking about that line and how it speaks so much to our experiences this year. Even for a curmudgeon like me, I’m hoping for “yesterday” to become “tomorrow” next year and every year after, when we can once again safely gather with people we love. In the meantime, we’ll muddle through the rest of this seriously strange, sad, and scary year. Spike the egg nog, folks. We’re gonna need it.