MOVIE CLIPFEST "A Night at the Movies: Merry Christmas!"

WHEN | WHERE Premieres Tuesday night at 8 on Turner Classic Movies (encores at 11 Tuesday night, and 5:30 a.m. Wednesday)

REASON TO WATCH We've all been home alone, dreaming of a white Christmas story about a wonderful life.

WHAT IT'S ABOUT Christmas movies! (Duh.) It's the latest TCM tribute hour, filled with clips and comments that run the gamut from old-time classics ("It's a Wonderful Life," "A Christmas Carol") to modern faves ("The Santa Clause," "Elf"), from the whimsical ("A Christmas Story") to the weird ("Tim Burton's a Nightmare Before Christmas").

"Christmas isn't just a day, it's a frame of mind," we hear from Santa himself, played by Oscar-winner Edmund Gwenn in 1947's original "Miracle on 34th Street." For some, Christmas is warm and hopeful. For others, as Beverly D'Angelo says in "National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation" in 1989, "We're all in misery."

Ah, but we're all there, with our own holiday memories, many of which involve the perennial films featured here. With about three dozen in the hour, most time is devoted to "It's a Wonderful Life," which seems only fair, considering its profound dramatic stew of doubt, redemption, family, community, greed, guilt and other emotions the holidays seem to stir up.

Comments come from those who've appeared in these films (grown-up Zuzu from "It's a Wonderful Life," the bully from "A Christmas Story"), those who've directed them (Joe Dante of "Gremlins," Chazz Palminteri of "Noel") and those who've studied their spell (author of the book "Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas").

MY SAY As a Christmas connoisseur myself (author of the book "Christmas on Television"), I can appreciate how much ground is covered here. But I can also quibble. No footage from Alastair Sim's iconic 1951 "A Christmas Carol," while we see plenty from 1935's "Scrooge" with Seymour Hicks and Michael Caine's '90s Muppets version? And "The Ref" -- really?

BOTTOM LINE In the Christmas spirit, let's not be picky. (Now that we have been.) We'll simply say, watch "Merry Christmas!" to all. And to all a good night, as TCM also runs "A Christmas Story" at 9 and "Miracle on 34th Street" at midnight.


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