- Low - Christmas, opens a new window; also available at SCCLD, and also my favorite Christmas album of all time. RIP Mimi Parker.
- Merle Haggard - If We Make It Through December, opens a new window
- LCD Soundsystem - Christmas Will Break Your Heart, opens a new window
- Wham! - Last Christmas, opens a new window
Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas is in the movie Meet Me in St. Louis (1943). It appears in a scene where the family is distraught by the father's plans to move away from their beloved home in St. Louis, Missouri just before the 1904 World's Fair begins. It is Christmas Eve and Judy Garland is singing the song to cheer up her crestfallen five-year-old sister played by Margaret O'Brien. They are both very sad and the song is so wistful. It really hit home during the pandemic when we we were all feeling "Someday soon we all will be together, if the fates allow. Until then, we'll have to muddle through somehow." You can download the song on Freegal. There are many covers of this song and you can also check out the soundtrack and movie.
I'll Be Home For Christmas is another even sadder song, recorded in 1943 by Bing Crosby to honor soldiers overseas during WWII who long to be home at Christmas time. At first it sounds like the soldier is coming home, but the song ends on a melancholy note saying "I'll be home for Christmas, if only in my dreams." It became the most requested song at Christmas USO shows. But in the UK the BBC banned the song from broadcast as the management felt the lyrics might lower morale among British troops. You can download it on Freegal and hear many versions of this Christmas standard on cd.
White Christmas is a little wistful and the melody is a bit sad. It's nostalgic, and maybe that's what makes it so popular. It was written by Irving Berlin, a Jewish immigrant from Russia, in 1942 for the film "Holiday Inn" and won an Academy Award for best original song. Like the previous song, it was popular with the soldiers fighting abroad, who longed to be home for the holidays, and was made a hit by Bing Crosby, who said that one of the most difficult things he had to do as an entertainer was in northern France at a USO show, when he had "to stand there and sing 'White Christmas' with 100,000 G.I.s in tears, without breaking down himself." But this song has a backstory which may also explain its soulful, longing feeling. Berlin's infant son died on Christmas Day in 1928 and ever since, the Berlins visited their baby's grave on that day. You can hear many versions on Freegal and cd.
This beautiful and funny romantic comedy features the great performances and chemistry of its two leads James Stewart and Margaret Sullavan as well as one of the most stressed out Christmas seasons ever. Not only are they both dealing with the escalating tension of a holiday shopping season but with staff feuds, jealousy and unemployment. It all resolves beautifully with the signature touch of the great director Ernst Lubitsch.
Jane Wyman and Rock Hudson are the star crossed couple in Douglas Sirk's most acclaimed (and possibly heartfelt) film about toxic community values and the personal havoc they create. A particularly powerful section of the film shows Wyman trapped in a harrowing suburban Christmas, a very unhappy holiday indeed. The film is so worthwhile for its wondrous visuals (this film inspired the lovely Far From Heaven) and its compassionate look at the people who defy the cookie cutter suburbia of the fifties.
This film is not intuitively titled for a film that covers the holidays. The film begins in the summer in the 1950's with multiple illicit affairs, destroyed marriages and one of the most melodramatic Christmases in film. Is it corny and over the top? Yes! But it's also a fascinating glimpse into what scandalized (and brought in) audiences in 1959! The famed theme song was a huge hit for bandleader Percy Faith and even won the Grammy for Record of the Year.
The Jarretts are an upper middle class "perfect" family dealing with the death of the eldest of two sons. The film takes place through both Thanksgiving and Christmas and shows how tense and emotionally fraught the holidays can be as people struggle to be festive and "ordinary" through extraordinary pain. The movie won four Academy Awards including Best Picture, Best Director (Robert Redford) and Best Supporting Actor (Timothy Hutton).
With a terminal illness and an awkward struggling relationship combined with all the normal friction that comes from large families and the holidays, this film is haunted by sadness and unhappiness. This is a sincere tear jerking comedy/drama that delivers with terrific ensemble work lead by the great Diane Keaton and a superb Sarah Jessica Parker.
The holiday season is typically associated with warmth, joy and festive cheer, but what if you're looking to break away from the saccharine sweetness of traditional holiday movies? Here are some holiday movies that come with a dash of dark comedy and a sprinkle of horror. Enjoy!
Black Friday - This movie takes the mayhem of Black Friday shopping to new heights.
A Madea Christmas - Run! It's a Madea Christmas movie!
A Bad Moms Christmas - This comedy follows some moms who rebel against the high expectations and chaos of the holiday season.
The Night Before - Join three friends as they embark on a wild and memorable Christmas Eve adventure.
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation: It certainly wasn't a happy holiday for Clark's neighbors or grandma's cat. This movie is high on cringe in the best way possible. If you're having an unhappy holiday, give it a watch and it just might make you laugh out loud.
Krampus: What could be worse than getting stalked by a mythical being intent on dragging your entire town to hell? Krampus is summoned by a naughty child and brings with him a cast of creepy characters, including evil elves and ghastly gingerbread men.
Stepmom: This is a bittersweet movie about a mom's battle with cancer, and her preparations for making sure her kids are taken care of after she's gone. I can't help but cry every time I watch the scene between Susan Sarandon and Julia Roberts at the hotel bar discussing the kids' future.
Snowman by Sia: From the Every Day Is Christmas album. Even snowmen get sad during the holidays.
Santa Can't You Hear Me by Kelly Clarkson and Ariana Grande: There are a few unhappy holiday tunes on the When Christmas Comes Around... album, and this one features two of the best vocalists rejecting all of the holiday glitter.
Which of the following won the Grammy Award for Best Children's Album?
A Charlie Brown Christmas0
How the Grinch Stole Christmas0
The Muppet Christmas Carol0
The Nightmare Before Christmas0
A Year Without a Santa Claus0
Last Week's Trivia Answer: Pathé
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If you'd like more traditional and happier holiday fare, the Movie and Music Team has these helpful lists!
Holiday Movies @ SCCLD
A brave list of handpicked films from the SCCLD Movies and Music Topic Team which is sure to please holiday purists as well as the somewhat cynical.
Have Yourself a Jazzy Little Christmas @ SCCLD
A jazzy and surprisingly eclectic selection of holiday tunes to enjoy.
Holiday Music for the Rest of Us
Holiday music feeling a little derivative? Not any more