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Making a list of naughty and nice Christmas favorites

 As the parade of perennials flickers across our television screens this month, let’s take a moment to cheer for those characters who add a little spice to our holiday eggnog.

12. Billy Mack (“Love, Actually”) — Sure, it’s the romantic couples that hold our rooting interest; but it’s Bill Nighy’s over-the-hill rock star that represents the soul of this multi-story modern staple. Stuck in a studio producing a “festering turd” Christmas-themed version of his biggest hit, “Uncle Billy” roars against the hypocrisy of the season, even as he gleefully hopes for a slice of the pie himself.

11. Emily Hobbs (“Elf”) — Consider her plight: Her husband admits to fathering a child out of wedlock, and the kid turns out to be a 6-foot, green-suited innocent raised by Santa’s elves thrust into the wilds of the big city. Mary Steenburgen’s stepmom doesn’t get the big laughs; she’s simply our human connection into this absurdity.

10. Old Man Marley (“Home Alone”) — Ah, the scary shut-in neighbor who carries a heartbreaking secret. Portrayed by the great character actor Roberts Blossom, this Marley has his own ghosts and shares his story with the stranded kid next door — in the process, giving each a reason to better understand Christmas … and family.

9. John McLane (“Die Hard”) — Yippee-ki-yay, you better believe “Die Hard” is a Christmas movie. Bruce Willis’s human wrecking ball is resourceful, determined, sarcastic and bone-tired … but that won’t keep him from rescuing his wife from the Christmas party from Hell. McLane’s just the fly in the ointment, the monkey in the wrench, the pain in the ass we need to save the day.

8. Mary Hatch (“It’s A Wonderful Life”) — What makes Donna Reed’s love-interest role so important is that we know she’s the Christmas present that George Bailey deserves once he re-discovers his reason for living. The epitome of a spitfire never loses her composure, even after she loses her robe.

7. Ebenezer Scrooge (“Mister Magoo’s Christmas Carol”) — I don’t give a whit how many times they remake this story, or how many famous actors take on the role, none will be as affecting as this underrated animated classic. Jim Backus’s vocal magic creates a Scrooge worthy of our fear and, ultimately, our joy.

6. Marcus (“Bad Santa”) — SPOILER ALERT … this is NOT a movie for children. Tony Cox’s elf revels in every expletive-laden line as one of a pair of thieves who rob malls every Christmas and who has had it up to, well, there with Billy Bob Thornton’s besotted Claus. It takes a special ability to make obscenities sound this poetic.

5. Emma Allen (“White Christmas”) — On the subject of wise-cracking sidekicks, although linguistically far tamer, we have the inn factotum played by Mary Wickes. Emma takes no prisoners and minds no sass as she plots with Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye to aid a retired general. He’s the boss, but there’s little doubt who’s in charge.

4. The tree (“A Charlie Brown Christmas”) — Oh, Linus delivers the message, Vince Guaraldi provides the memorable score, and Charlie Brown remains the Charlie Browniest Charlie Brown of them all. But it’s the tiny fir that begins as an object of scorn and winds up the symbol of unity that melts our hearts without saying word.

3. Max (“The Grinch Who Stole Christmas”) — If I had to pick a favorite moment from any Christmas show, it’s when Max … whipped into service as the Grinch’s reindeer … does an Indiana Jones under the sleigh and winds up riding on the back. His tail-wagging, shoulder-shrugging sense of joy doesn’t last long — but, like others in this list — it establishes him as the point of entry for those of us who aren’t a mean one like Mr. Grinch or as simplistically wholesome as the Whos down in Whoville.

2. The Old Man (“A Christmas Story”) — Meatloaf, shmeatloaf? “I’ll get that kid to eat. Where’s my screwdriver and my plumber’s helper.” Darrin McGavin’s Mr. Parker is the father that many of us of a certain age swore was modeled after our own fathers —  a stern, clueless, Oldsmoblian who won’t deny his son a Red Ryder rifle. Smick, melly, whomp walker … give one of Northern Indiana’s most feared furnace fighters a stocking-leg lava lamp!

1. Charlie in the Box (“Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer”) — We’re all just charter residents of the Island of Misfit Toys, and Charlie’s plaintive lament about being unworthy of love or a home hits us …as the kids say … in the feels. The animated classic’s final scene of the toys being delivered to children wasn’t in the original. It wasn’t even shot until legions of children expressed their concern about their fate.

And that, as they say, is the Christmas spirit.

— Mail Tribune copy editor Robert Galvin can be reached at rgalvin@mailtribune.com.

Max winds up on the back of the Grinch's sleigh after a move that would make Indiana Jones proud. [File image]