2007 Santa Smackdown: And the Winner Is…

Hero_shot_2_2_3From the Editor |  Bryce Zabel 

The results are in from our 2007 Christmas season Santa Smackdown where each of ten critics put forward their favorite Christmas film, and we let our readers vote.
As you can see from the final numbers, there’s a new champion in town, but the old champ still packs a lot of punch. 


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“A Christmas Story” (favorited by Smackdown critic Scott Baradell) came in first with 28% of the total votes in this crowded field. In second place, “It’s A Wonderful Life” (favorited by Smackdown critic Jonathan Zabel) was competitive, but ousted. Anyway, here was Scott’s winning review:

When I think of classic lines from Christmas movies, “Every time a bell rings an angel gets his wings” isn’t the first one that comes to mind. And neither is “God bless us, every one.”  No, for me, the most memorable line ever in a holiday movie is “You’ll shoot your eye out, kid!” from 1983’s “A Christmas Story” — novelist and screenwriter Jean Shepherd’s giddily cynical look at growing up in small-town Indiana in the 1940s.

The story line may not, at first blush, strike you as proper Christmas movie fodder. It’s all about a kid named Ralphie who passionately wants to own… tin drum-roll, please… a Daisy Red Ryder 200-shot Carbine Action BB gun. Oddly, everybody he talks to seems incapable of discussing this potential possession without using those words, “shoot your eye out.” The world this film lives in no longer exists and that’s part of the reason it’s so much fun to visit for a couple of hours.

This is truly the Little Engine That Could of holiday flicks. A low-budget box-office flop featuring minor stars Peter Billingsley, Melinda Dillon and Darren McGavin, and directed by Bob Clark of “Porky’s” infamy, “A Christmas Story” began to pick up steam with audiences when Ted Turner’s WTBS began broadcasting it in the late ’80s. By the mid-’90s, Turner was airing 24-hour marathons of the film on Christmas Eve and Christmas Day. The reason for the success?  The movie has an ear for how kids talk, and a heart for how they feel. It manages to be nostalgic without being sentimental. And that’s no mean trick.

This, BTW, mirrors a recent Time article by James Poniewozik, “Generation X-mas: How an Upstart Film Became a Holiday Icon for the Post-boomer Set.”

This is one of those little pop-cultural shifts–football overtakes baseball, salsa defeats ketchup–that signal bigger changes: here, in the relationship between the community and the individual. In a traditional Christmas story, the larger holiday is a social good. It uplifts the suicidal, raises every voice in Whoville, renders peace between Macy and Gimbel. Those who reject it–Scrooge, the Grinch–must be forced into its tinseled embrace. Community is all, as in Wonderful Life’s blend of World War II patriotism and New Deal populism: your money’s in the Kennedy house and Mrs. Macklin’s house and a hundred others!

A Christmas Story–and the snarky holiday comedies that have followed it–inverts this moral. Here, the Christmas celebrated by the greater society is crass, stressful and risible. The movie opens with a crowd of kids staring slack-jawed at the pagan temple of a store-window display. (No, George–that’s where my money is!) In the end, the characters discover an authentic holiday outside the usual traditions–as when Ralphie and family, their turkey devoured by the neighbor’s dogs, discover “Chinese turkey” (Peking duck) at a chop-suey restaurant. It’s the individual Christmas that matters. Bedford Falls can take a hike.

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So, for what it’s worth, the 89 readers who took part in the Santa Smackdown are in step with with this new trend. They like Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) as their new Christmas champ.

That’s right. 89 readers voted. This poll was up for a month, on several blogs, probably had between 10 and 20-thousand sets of eyeballs on it and 89 people voted. If everybody had voted, it wouldn’t have been scientific. If 89 vote, it’s ridiculous. We hereby declare (for now) the end of polls on this website. If we need results anymore, we’ll just make them up. That will be much simpler and just as accurate.

If you want to read our ten reviews from our Smack Refs, just click here.

About Bryce Zabel 196 Articles
Drawing inspiration from career experiences as a CNN correspondent, TV Academy chairman, creator of five produced primetime network TV series, and fast-food frycook, Bryce is the Editor-in-Chief of "Movie Smackdown." While he freely admits to having written the screenplay for the reviewer-savaged "Mortal Kombat: Annihilation," he hopes the fact that he also won the Writers Guild award a couple of years ago will cause you to cut him some slack. That, plus the fact that he has a new StudioCanal produced feature film, “The Last Battle,” shooting this summer in Europe about the end of World War II. He's also a member of the Directors Guild, Screen Actors Guild, and a past enthusiast of the Merry Marvel Marching Society. His new what-if book series, “Breakpoint,” just won the prestigious Sidewise Award for Alternate History, and has so far tackled JFK not being assassinated and The Beatles staying together.

1 Comment on 2007 Santa Smackdown: And the Winner Is…


  1. So since I voted 20 times, does that mean I skewed the results in my favor? 🙂
    Merry Christmas to all, and to all a good Smack!

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