Offbeat Christmas Classics
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Stockings are hung by the chimney with care, chestnuts are roasting over an open fire, sugar plum fairies are getting jiggy with it, and It's a Wonderful Life is showing 24 hours a day -- it’s that holly jolly time of year again. A time of gift giving, joy spreading, and eggnog-flavored memories. As the holidays draw near, I recall favorite presents, fighting killer snowmen, and playing kick the frozen Jell-o. 'Tis the season to remember, and it seems the more offbeat the experience, the more memorable the memory, so in that tradition, here’s a list of offbeat holiday movies...

A Charlie Brown Christmas
A Charlie Brown Christmas centers on animated social philosopher Charlie Brown, who becomes disheartened by the over-commercialization of the holiday and embarks on a journey to find the true meaning of Christmas. While it's not Chuck's best work (that honor goes to It's the Great Pumpkin, Charlie Brown) it is the longest-running cartoon special ever televised.

The cartoon classic relates to an annual family tradition. Every year, my father inevitably sought out the most pathetic "Charlie Brown" tree and insisted we adopt it because no one else would. Every year, my mom countered with a big, beautiful evergreen, and the two would have to compromise on a mid-size fir that was somewhat hapless, but not completely hopeless.

A Christmas Story
All "Ralphie" Parker (Peter Billingsley) wants for Christmas is a Red Ryder Carbine Action Range Model Air Rifle BB Gun. Unfortunately, his mom (Melinda Dillon), his Old Man (Darren McGavin), his teacher, and even Santa Claus are all convinced he’s going to shoot his eye out.

Despite the fact that it takes place in the 1940s, the real magic of A Christmas Story is that it perfectly represents grade school culture: the power of the "Double Dog Dare," neighborhood bullies, embarrassing family customs, and over-active imaginations.

The Nightmare Before Christmas
Among the cartoon Christmas characters making up the holiday, there is only one Yuletide Pumpkin King -- Jack Skellington. The Nightmare Before Christmas is the magical holiday story about Jack, Halloweentown's number one celebrity, who becomes infatuated with Christmas, kidnaps Santa (with the best intentions), inadvertently ruins the holiday, and then in turn has to rescue Santa to save Christmas. This spin on the cliché "Christmas in jeopardy" storyline is delivered in signature Tim Burton style with stunning animation and an awesome soundtrack.

Planes, Trains & Automobiles
Planes, Trains & Automobiles is one of the best buddy cop movies ever made -- except that this odd couple isn't fighting crime, they don't carry guns, and they're not cops. Nonetheless, the formula is still there -- surly, cynical Neal Page (Steve Martin) and obnoxious, blabbermouth Del Griffith (John Candy) embark on a surreal holiday journey where they irritate, agitate, and annoy one another, all the while discovering things about each other, themselves, and the world around them. It's all very moving.

Wishing you and yours an off-kilter holiday season and a more than interesting New Year.

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