Friday Five, Vol. 104
The holidays are here, which means it's time for an extra special Friday Five! Here are the movies, shows, and music that get us into the Christmas spirit!
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
December is probably the best time of year to hunker down and watch a TON of movies. It's cold, you have a lot of days off from work, and you are sitting around with family. It only feels natural to throw on a movie. On top of the ideal viewing conditions, there's also an entire genre of movies that you can only watch for one month every year. And out of all the holiday classics, National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation is the one Christmas movie we have to make sure we watch each year. It's got everything you could ask for. A stellar lead performance from Chevy Chase, an incredible side role from Julie Louis-Dreyfus, and more memorable scenes and one-liners than we can count. Whether your favorite moment is the light display, the Christmas dinner, the squirrel in the tree, or something else, this movie just hits year after year. More than 30 years later, and it is still one of the most enduring classics from the National Lampoon era, which is pretty wild, considering it is a holiday movie. There are a few other classics that we make sure to check out, but our number one priority each December is the annual Christmas Vacation rewatch.
Seinfeld - Festivus
Aside from all the great holiday movies, there are a plethora of incredible TV holiday episodes to rewatch this time of year. With respect to The Office, Friends, and the newly released Murderville Christmas Special, our favorite holiday episode will always be Seinfeld's "The Strike." This is where we all learn the history of Frank Costanza's invented Festivus, which takes the place of the "too commercial" Christmas and Hanukkah. Festivus is so well-known, it's hard to believe it didn't arrive until Seinfeld's 9th and final season on air. Jerry Stiller turned in iconic recurring performances as George's father, and "The Strike" was some of his finest work. He airs grievances like no other, and steals the show in an episode that has a LOT of different plot lines. For as famous as Festivus might be, it takes up a really small portion of the episode. But from the opening scene at a Hanukkah party, to the closing moments at a Festivus to remember, this episode is worth a watch every holiday season.
Bruce Springsteen - Merry Christmas Baby
Bruce Springsteen is one of rock's most prolific and legendary performers, so it probably shouldn't be a surprise that he's put out a few great Christmas jams over the years. His rendition of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" is pretty memorable, especially because of his work with the crowd beforehand. But if we were only going to be able to listen to one classic Christmas song every year, it would be his cover of "Merry Christmas Baby." It has all the quintessential elements of a Springsteen jam, folded into a rendition of a very famous Christmas song. A lot of huge artists have taken a go at "Merry Christmas Baby," from Otis Redding and Chuck Berry to Christina Aguilera. But our favorite has to be Bruce's. There's Springsteen's gravelly vocals, some big guitar parts, the banging drums, and of course the absolutely killer saxophone solo. It's just incredibly upbeat and fun, without leaning into the totally cheesy, pop nature of so many holiday songs. We'll probably stop listening to it on December 26th, but "Merry Christmas Baby" is one of the few Christmas songs we don't get tired of listening to, which is saying something. Until the 26th, though, we'll keep on jamming with Bruce.
Aloe Blacc - At Christmas
While he doesn't have quite the track record that Bruce does, Aloe Blacc is one of the more exciting voices working in music today. And in 2018, he put out a Christmas album called Christmas Funk that, as the title would suggest, puts a funky twist on the holiday music genre. Instead of an album full of covers, the singer decided to enter a brand new slate of original tracks into the genre, imbuing them all with some serious grooves. Our favorite of the bunch is the song that leads off the album, "At Christmas." It goes through all of his favorite Christmas traditions and activities, set to a killer bass line, and of course sung with his silky smooth vocals. The chorus behind him is a great addition, too, and it just feels like an incredibly homey, warm, comfortable song. It's hard to get traction with a new Christmas song in the canon of holiday music, but if there's one recent song that should have a chance to break through, we think it's Aloe Blacc's "At Christmas."
We cheated a little bit with this final entry, because we couldn't choose just one Christmas cocktail. Instead, we figured we'd throw a few out there that are always hits, and let you decide. First and foremost, we always need to have a glass (or a few glasses) of champagne to toast the holidays. Whether you want to ball out for something nice like Veuve, or just have the cheap stuff for a quick toast, it all works. Want to get fancy? Maybe a cranberry gin fizz will tickle your fancy. Gin, prosecco, cranberry juice -- a few easy ingredients, and you have a stellar holiday drink. And of course, you can't go wrong with an espresso martini, especially topped with a Kahlua whipped cream. Need something warm? Maybe spike some egg nog or apple cider with a little bit of whiskey. And warm apple cider, egg nog, or hot chocolate can of course be a nice non-alcoholic alternative. Whatever you're drinking, party on, be safe, and have a great holiday!