It’s the most miserable time of the year: Christmas cheer’s been kidnapped, beaten and dragged through the street

Frank Capra, eat your heart out.

Your day is passing. The purveyors of innocence and holiday cheer are out. Misery and misanthropy are where it’s at.

It used to be that this time of year brought a slew of sappy, warm-hearted Christmas-time fables, during which people just like you and me came together with loved ones and learned very important lessons about the holiday spirit.

We grew up on Capra’s “It’s a Wonderful Life,” Bing Crosby, Charles Dickens-and of course those loveable stop-motion cartoons about Rudolph and Frosty the Snowman.

But things are beginning to change.

Where we once found charm and kindness in such films as “White Christmas,” now we’re seeing darker, more sinister flicks like 2003’s delightfully filthy “Bad Santa” and the recent “The Ice Harvest.” Is this just another trend? Merely an alternative to the traditional holiday fare?

I submit that it is not so simple.

With each passing year, we’ve become more disenfranchised with the holiday hassles, the over-commercialization, the angry mobs spilling out of department stores the day after Thanksgiving, miserable in-laws-and, worst of all, Willard Scott.

Movies are only following that mindset. Hollywood’s small but growing trend is indicative of increasing misanthropy and discontent, of the loneliness and desolation now associated with our favorite national holiday.

It’s not that I dislike Christmas-I love Christmas. Love it.

Except for the Sears commercials, the long lines, the smelly people in said lines, the carolers, the mistletoe, the boughs of holly, the Sunday night made-for-TV movies. Those parts I hate.

Especially the carolers. Bloody hell, I hate carolers.

These recent movies, I think, are made for people like me, and there are more of them (us?) all the time-which may not be a good thing, but that’s the way it is. The characters in “The Ice Harvest” are sleazy, dishonest, crooked and divorced-and we laugh at their criminal exploits.

In “Bad Santa,” a homeless man tries to rape a drunken, philandering department store Santa, who over the course of the rest of the film proceeds to beat up schoolchildren, steal a young boy’s house, mangle his Advent calendar and, finally, embezzle hundreds of thousands of dollars with the help of a foul-mouthed elfin midget.

Do the characters inhabited by Billy Bob Thornton, John Cusack and whoever it was that played the midget learn a lesson about family? Do they get touched by the magical light of Christmas and find happiness and contentment, surrounded by the warm aura of a loving family? Gloriously, no.

Would Capra ever have concocted such genius?

It’s nothing against movies like “It’s a Wonderful Life.” That one is a deserved classic.

But is it just me, or does a small part of you want to see good ol’ George Bailey get slobbering drunk, hold up a liquor store with a sawed-off shotgun, head over to a nudie bar to take out some sexual aggression left by his torpid wife, then go on a violent, bloody rampage (in which he kicks and/or steps on a bunny rabbit), find that crook Mr. Potter and go all Patrick Bateman on his ass-before throwing himself into a lake?

By the way, I’m a bad person. There’s documentation.

If it were made today, and Billy Bob played George, maybe that’s how it would play out.

In fact, that sounds like a pretty good remake idea-maybe we could even find a way to get The Gimp from “Pulp Fiction” involved. Oh, imagine the possibilities!

Of course, I may be jumping the gun. After all, we still get adorable, life-affirming fluff like “Elf” and “The Santa Clause.” But it’s no secret that art imitates life-and right now, our society’s idea of Christmas has transformed from the happiest, most peaceful time of the year to a time of chaos, stress and neon, Technicolor advertisements.

The general feeling is one of cynicism and distaste. It seems that almost all of us feel this way nowadays-and it seems Billy Bob and Co. have heard us loud and clear.

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