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Christmas movies: With Clooney and Obama, it's a wonderful mash-up

December 17, 2011 | 11:00 am

Nothing says Christmas like the original Die Hard starring Bruce Willis.
When it comes to Christmas movies, Michelle Obama loves "It's a Wonderful Life" -- "the old people's Christmas movie." George Clooney's heart belongs to "White Christmas" because of Aunt Rosemary, the sultry alto. And actor Nathan Fillion likes "Die Hard."

But then, celebrity or not, most people have their own favorite Christmas movie -- and they like to share their recommendations.

For the first lady, it's the 1946 Frank Capra classic.

PHOTOS: The Times' 12 movies of Christmas

At an event Monday at Children's National Medical Center in Washington, according to the White House, she was trying to convince a group of young people of the merits of "It's a Wonderful Life": "It’s an old black-and-white movie -- yes, I know. It’s just -- [laughter]. All right, so that's the old people’s movie. ...

"You should get it," she insisted. "It's about a man who thinks he’s not useful in the world. And he’s got this beautiful family, and something happens and he wishes that he weren’t there, and a little angel comes down and grants his wish, and he sees what would happen in the world if he wasn’t there. And even though he doesn't think his life is significant, he sees that the whole town falls apart. And then he wakes up and realizes that he’s got a wonderful life. My favorite story."

More laughter from the younger generation followed. The kids weren't buying it.

We're still waiting for a response from the White House as to the president's choice of a feel-good holiday film. (He has acknowledged being a fan of "Modern Family," "Boardwalk Empire" and "Homeland," but what that might suggest about his holiday favorite is anyone's guess.)

Clooney plugged the work of his aunt, late actress and songstress Rosemary Clooney, to iVillage U.K. His favorite Christmas movie:

"White Christmas" ... because of my aunt, Rosemary Clooney. She sang those wonderful Irving Berlin songs with Bing Crosby. It's a loose remake of "Holiday Inn." My aunt sang "Count Your Blessings" and "Sisters" -- the latter with Vera-Ellen."

Liza Minnelli's family ties also influenced her choice, "Meet Me in St. Louis," according to iVillageU.K. She noted that father Vincent Minnelli directed, and that mom Judy Garland "sang the incomparable Ralph Blaine-Hugh Martin song: 'Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.' "

As for Bruce Willis fan Fillion ("Castle," "Waitress," "Serenity"), not only does he spend Christmas with "Die Hard," but he will also "drop everything" if "Groundhog Day" or "Aliens" is on TV on a Sunday, he Christmas this year is on a Sunday. Fillion may have some hard choices to make.

As for regular folks, they're talking Christmas movies online. Tweeters on Wednesday were praising "A Christmas Story," "The Bishop's Wife" and "The Polar Express," among others.

Just watched "Emmet Otter's Jug Band Christmas" last night! #Christmasmovies (yield2peds Garrett Lowe)

On Amazon's Listmania, Patricia Maier of Maine starts out with"National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" and "The Nightmare Before Christmas," but she finds a place at No. 8 for Jim Varney's "Ernest Saves Christmas." So what if movie critic Leonard Maltin says the title character of that film "makes Gomer Pyle seem like Albert Einstein"?  Ernest has his cadre of fans.

JPL of California begins a listwith 1940's "Beyond Christmas," starring Harry Carey, and follows it with "Red Skelton Christmas" and Laurel and Hardy's "March of the Wooden Soldiers."

But while some people were trotting out their warm and fuzzy favorites, others were rounding up Christmas worsts.

The folks over at Nerd Blerp, to which we can't link because of some offensive language, provides a holiday antidote with a list put together last year: "10 Anti-Christmas Movies." Included are Billy Bob Thornton's "Bad Santa" and the serial killer Santa of "Silent Night, Deadly Night."

Slate's Top 5 "Truly Bad Christmas Movies" includes "All Mine to Give," a 1957 involving diphtheria and typhoid, as well as a 1959 film from Mexico called "Santa Claus," in which the bearded one battles Satan's minions.

Santa pitted against Satan? In Capra's hands, that might have had potential.


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Photo: Bruce Willis in the original "Die Hard" (1988). Credit: Twentieth Century Fox