Commentary: The Best Christmas Movies Ever

Critic, schmitic. How can you pretend to be engaged in objective aesthetic appraisal when you’re talking about movies that you first watched decades ago in your childhood living room, while your late mother was trimming the tree and your long-dead dad was setting up the Nativity scene? The feeling that washes over you the moment the opening credits begin has relatively little to do with these movies’ actual merits, if any. Of course they get to you: They’re part of what shaped you; they’re artifacts of the long-vanished era in which you grew up; like Proust’s bite of madeleine, they trigger tsunamis of precious memory; like attending a midnight Mass on Christmas Eve or a Yuletide performance of the Messiah, watching them is a cherished ritual, carrying meaning through time and underscoring the irretrievable nature of the past even as they make the past feel, briefly, just a bit less irretrievable.

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