MOVIE BUFF-ET: Greatest Christmas Movies Tournament – Part 4: Egg Nog Neo Classics


A a movie buff and a Christmas fan, this truly is one of the most wonderful times of the year for me. There are so many great Christmas-themed films and TV shows, but sadly not enough time to watch them all even if you started now. Believe me, I’ve driven myself crazy trying to do it before.

Even narrowing down the list to a few favorites is tough. If you asked me today what my favorite Christmas movie is, I might tell you “The Bishop’s Wife,” but if you asked tomorrow, I might say “Holiday Inn” or “Elf” or “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.”

Well, maybe not that last one.

Still, it’s complicated for me even to pick a top 10. So, I’ve opted for a Top 64, and to make it fun — or complicated — I’ve broken those 64 yuletide classics or near classics into four brackets for a NCAA Basketball Tournament-style showdown to help me select my favorite Christmas films.

Call it Christmas Madness!

The Fayetteville Flyer is running one bracket a day until we reach a final movie.

Today is the Egg Nog Neo Classic bracket, featuring movies made from 1960-1989. The Candy Cane Classics bracket, featuring movies from 1930-1959; the Mistletoe Modern bracket, featuring films from 1990 until now, and the O Tannenbaum TV bracket ran previously.

The winning picks from the four brackets meet for a Yuletide Movie Final Four, resulting with the crowning of the Movie Buff-et’s Greatest Christmas Movie for 2017.

In the comments, please let us know what you think. With subjectivity, there is always controversy, just like the NCAA Basketball Tournament.

Which of your favorites were left out? Where did the seeding go wrong? And what would you have picked?

Have fun and share your opinions, but be kind.

Remember Santa is watching!

Egg Nog Neo Classic Bracket

1. A Christmas Story vs. 16. Santa Claus vs. The Devil

Santa Claus vs.The Devil is an Italian film from 1960 that I dare you to watch or at least fast-forward through. The premise itself is interesting to me, and some scenes must be seen to be believed, but the movie seems purposefully made as RiffTrax fodder. “A Christmas Story, however, is perfectly sardonic yet somewhat sentimental recollection of Christmases past that all Baby Boomers and most other generations can relate to.

Winner – A Christmas Story

8. Black Christmas vs. 9. Silent Night, Deadly Night

If the Christmas season as become too sugary sweet for you, why not try a Christmas-themed slasher movie? Both films have their thrills and chills, but 1984’s “Silent Night, Deadly Night” somewhat steals the plot from John Carpenter’s masterpiece “Halloween,” but sets it during Christmas. “Black Christmas” from 1974 is one of the earliest slasher films and is one of the first movies to leave the audience hanging about the identity of the killer at its conclusion.

Winner — Black Christmas

Bracket Quarterfinal 1: No. 1 A Christmas Story vs. No. 8 Black Christmas

Ralphie’s family deals with just about every situation you can imagine except for a slasher in “A Christmas Story.” Maybe that should be the next sequel for both films. No? Well, this is no contest.

Winner – A Christmas Story

5. Gremlins vs. 12. Ernest Saves Christmas

Jim Varney’s Ernest character became so popular in the 1980s that it skyrocketed the actor from being a pitchman in TV commercials to being the star in a series of movies. He was funny, but I preferred the small doses on the tube to his actual movies. Joe Dante’s “Gremlins,” on the other hand, remains the high-water mark for mixing black comedy and elements of horror at Christmastime. Gizmo is so cute, but his spawn are decidedly more toothy and menacing.

Winner – Gremlins

4. Die Hard vs. 13. Santa Claus: The Movie

I’m not sure there’s an adult around that likes Santa Claus more than I do, but “Santa Claus: The Movie” is a bloated stinker of a movie. Conversely, “Die Hard” is one of my favorite action movies not only of the 1980s but also of all time. Bruce Willis as John McClane is a great counter-programming Christmas treat.

Winner – Die Hard

Bracket Quarterfinal 2: No. 4 Die Hard vs. No. 5 Gremlins

Both films are set at Christmas, but aren’t really about Christmas, and this is a Christmas movie tournament. I like “Die Hard” better overall, but Christmas is more important to “Gremlins.”

Winner – Gremlins

Bracket Semifinal 1: No. 1 A Christmas Story vs. No. 5 Gremlins

The fact that Gremlins is set at Christmastime creates wonderful fodder for gags and commentary on the lunacy that can be associated with the season, but the film could have been just as effective set on the Fourth of July or in springtime or at the opening of football season. However. “A Christmas Story” is all about the family dynamic at a time when family becomes a central focus. Without Christmas, there really wouldn’t be a movie or it would be all together different. Plus it’s just a better film.

Winner – A Christmas Story

6. Scrooged (Bill Murray) vs. 11. Scrooge (Albert Finney)

To many, “Scrooged” is their very favorite film version of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” For me, it’s one of the worst. It’s like a cocaine-fueled nightmare and considering that it was made in 1988, it might have been. I do like Bill Murray a lot, but this film with admittedly great special effects, is a bore. “Scrooge” from 1970 is one of my favorite versions of the oft-told tale, and the fact that it is a musical helps separate it from other adaptations.

Winner – Scrooge (Albert Finney)

3. The Apartment vs. 14. The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t

“The Apartment,” written, directed, and produced by Billy Wilder is one of the best comedies ever made. It stars Jack Lemmon, Shirley MacLaine and Fred MacMurray in a love triangle with aspects of the film set at Christmas. It’s a great film everyone should see at one point or the other. “The Christmas that almost Wasn’t” is a charming 1966 Italian-American production that tells the tale of how Santa Claus was almost evicted from his toyshop by his malignant landlord Phineas T. Prune. Prune holds a grudge against Santa from a Christmas past. Look, “The Apartment” is the better film, by far, but “The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t is just more Christmasy.

Winner – The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t

Bracket Quarterfinal 3: No. 11 Scrooge Vs. No. 14 The Christmas That Almost Wasn’t

Both movies are musicals, but “Scrooge” is a major motion picture with sumptuous sets and better tunes.

Winner – Scrooge

7. Trading Places vs. 10. One Magic Christmas

“Trading Places” isn’t my favorite Eddie Murphy movie — “Coming to America is” — but it without a doubt is my favorite film that co-stars Dan Ackroyd. No, I’m not a fan of “Ghostbusters,” and “The Blues Brothers” is very uneven experience. “Trading Places” is a hilarious spin on “Pygmalion,” and the Christmas setting only helps. If you look up the word “maudlin” in the dictionary, it probably references “One Magic Christmas.” The film stars Mary Steenburgen and Harry Dean Stanton. It is a good movie, but it is a weeper. I’ve only seen the movie all the way through once. I’m glad I did, but that might be enough for a lifetime. I enjoyed “Trading Places” more, but “One Magic Christmas” is more centered on the holiday.

Winner – One Magic Christmas

2. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation vs. 15. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

“National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” ranks among my favorite Chevy Chase movies. Clark Griswold’s holiday struggles are just a heightened version of the ones many of us face this time of year. Though the movie has hilarious bits, I think it’s the commonality we find with the Griswolds that makes the movie so beloved. “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians” is more RifTrax fodder that features emerald green Martians kidnapping Santa Claus so that he can bring much-needed joy to Martian children. Winner — National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Bracket Quarterfinal 4: No. 2 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation vs. No. 10 One Magic Christmas

I could make an argument for “One Magic Christmas” winning this pairing. It’s a terribly sad, but moving film. However, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” offers the viewer the solace of believing no matter how bad it gets, I’ll never be as big a sap as old Clark Griswold.That’s value, my friend.

Winner – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Bracket Semifinal 2: No. 2 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation vs. No. 11 Scrooge

My favorite film version of Scrooge, Marley, the three ghosts, and joyful little Tiny Tim is is the 1938 version of “A Christmas Carol,” with “A Muppet Christmas Carol” next on the list. After putting together these pairings, I guess the 1970 musical “Scrooge” is next. However, “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” trumps it.

Winner – National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Bracket Final: No. 1 A Christmas Story vs. No. 2 National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Despite upsets along the way, the chalk held for the finals of The Egg Nog Bracket, and in the final estimation, it holds again with top-seeded “A Christmas Story” getting the nod over “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation.” The latter really is more of a string of crazy Christmas comedy bits than a fully satisfying movie. “A Christmas Story” gives us more of a complete story for Ralphie and his family, and isn’t quite as silly.

Winner – A Christmas Story

All the other brackets

Part 1: The Candy Cane Classics bracket, (movies from 1930-1959)
Part 2: The Mistletoe Modern bracket (movies since 1990)
Part 3: The O Tannenbaum TV bracket (made for television)
Part 4: The Egg Nog Neo Classics bracket (movies from 1960-1990)
Part 5: Yuletide Final Four & The Movie Buff-et’s Greatest Christmas Movie of 2017