French hens are hard to come by, the only good partridge is a baked one, and Lord knows six geese a-layin' make one vicious stain on the living room carpet. So to celebrate the most stressful countdown of the year, I've taken the liberty of creating a new, more easily attainable holiday list — The 12 Flicks of Xmas. You won't find Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer, A Charlie Brown Christmas or Dr. Seuss' How the Grinch Stole Christmas on this list (those are gimmies. Start checking your TV Guide on a daily basis now). No, these movies are either old, odd or push the limits of good taste. But they all pay homage to Santa's favorite season in their own unique ways (excepting one Chanukah flick). Even more important, most are available at your local video store for a pittance. The holidays are enough of a financial burden already without the additional care and feeding of four calling birds.
12th Day: National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
Ease your way into the fray with Clark, Cousin Eddie and 25,000 imported Italian "twinkle" lights. It's no National Lampoon's Vacation, but Christmas Vacation will help you take the season less seriously. And what could be more cheering than Eddie's friendly cry, "Shitter's full!"
11th Day: Gremlins
Cute and cuddly Mogwais, a pre-coke Corey Feldman and a post-Fast Times Phoebe Cates. The mischievous monsters will remind you of your kids (or remind you why you don't have any). I always find myself wishing the mean Mrs. Deagle (played by Polly Hollyday) would say "Kiss my grits!" just once.
10th Day: Snowman Double Feature: Jack Frost/Jack Frost
One, a super-cheesy horror flick from 1997, features a serial killer reincarnated as a snowman and offers one-liners like "I'm the world's most pissed-off snow cone!" The other, a super-cheesy family film from 1998, features a neglectful dad (Michael Keaton) reincarnated as a snowman and is about as much fun as an icicle in the eye. But the holidays wouldn't be the same without a little suffering, so there ya go.
9th Day: Bikini Bandits Save Christmas
"The First Full-Length Flash Animation Movie Ever!!!" According to its website anyway, but who cares? All you'll be interested in are the bad-ass, foul-mouthed, gun-totin' buxom Bikini Bandits, a funky group of ho-ho-ho's who must save Christmas from the evil Mr. G (who wants to buy the holiday for his own nefarious purposes) and rescue Santa after he's drugged at a titty bar and kidnapped by a bunch of thugs and a voodoo vixen. Check out www.gyromart.com if you don't believe us.
8th Day: Adam Sandler's Eight Crazy Nights
Sandler's homage to Chanukah (and himself), Eight Crazy Nights has silly and hysterical songs, the oddly adorable yet disturbing Whitey Duvall, and juuuust enough seasonal seriousness to give the ol' heartstrings a tweak. Stop your kvetching already and check it out.
7th Day: Silent Night, Deadly Night
Parents protested the release of this movie back in 1984 because it depicts a young man — who works as a toy-store Santa — axing people to death while wearing his work uniform. Personally, I think it makes a moving statement about the stress on Santa impersonators.
6th Day: Christmas Action Double Feature: Die Hard/Lethal Weapon
Nothing says Christmas like "Now I have a machine gun — Ho Ho Ho" (Die Hard) and Gary Busey shooting Jimmy Stewart's Wonderful Life image with .223 ammo (Lethal Weapon).
5th Day: Bad(der) Santa
More sex, more foul language, and more of Billy Bob Thornton playing a drunken asshole of a department store Santa. How about that scene where he pisses his Santa pants in front of a line full of kids? And don't even get us started on the string of women who "couldn't shit right for a week."
4th Day: The Nightmare Before Christmas
Anyone who's ever wanted to be something they're not can identify with Jack Skellington, the Pumpkin King of Halloweentown, in his bid to replace Santa. Sure, the jolly guy himself suffers a few indignities, but the fat bastard has been revered long enough. And this stop-motion fable by Tim Burton is amazing for its originality and execution.
3rd Day: Emmet Otter's Jug-Band Christmas
Holidays Jim Henson-style. This twist on "The Gift of the Magi" finds Emmet and Ma making sacrifices to win the yearly talent show. Note to purists: The DVD release has minor but noticeable differences from the original 1977 version.
2nd Day: Scrooged
At times more reminiscent of Charles Addams than Charles Dickens, Scrooged features Bill Murray at his misanthropic best as Frank Cross, a TV exec who has to be scared into changing his ways. John Forsythe, Carol Kane, Bobcat Goldthwait and Buster Poindexter steal scenes in turn.
1st Day: A Christmas Story
The story of a boy and his gun, A Christmas Story is so beloved by so many, the Bay area gets a 24-hour fix every year — 6 p.m. Christmas Eve till 6 p.m. Christmas Day on TNT. Grab your Little Orphan Annie Secret Decoder Ring, order some Chinese takeout, down a shot every time someone says "You'll shoot your eye out," and cuddle up close with your nearest NRA-member loved one to watch every last second. Merry Christmas.