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TO DEC. 30

For the seasonal-affective-disorder-inclined, nothing sets off that crippling wintertime depression quite like Christmas: staring at a fully decorated Scotch pine and wondering why the part of you that used to overflow with holiday cheer at such a sight is now as hollow as a toy soldier’s drum, no matter how many ornaments you pile on; wandering through the fluorescent-lit aisles of a department store bustling with wild-eyed soccer moms fighting one another over the last Robosapien like hyenas at the kill; wracking your brain for the perfect gift idea for that special someone, only to stress out beyond the point of reasonable decision-making and end up giving her some soap assortment purchased at a gas station on Christmas Eve and wrapped up in a copy of the Express. No wonder the despairing protagonists of Christmas films are in constant need of guidance by some member of the afterlife. Perhaps, had Paxil been invented in the early ’40s, suicidal banker George Bailey’s pharmacist could have saved a certain wingless angel a lot of trouble. Of course, if that had happened, It’s a Wonderful Life (pictured) would have never existed—and what would a world without Frank Capra’s holiday tearfest bombarding the airwaves throughout the entire month of December be like? Wait, what do you mean NBC owns exclusive TV broadcast rights now? Well, then I suppose it would be a world where Jon Favreau’s Elf (last week’s featured offering in the series) is considered a “Yuletide Classic.” The series, which also features screenings of It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story, runs through Thursday, Dec. 30 (see Showtimes for a complete schedule), at the American Film Institute’s Silver Theatre and Cultural Center, 8633 Colesville Road, Silver Spring. $8.50. (301) 495-6700. (Matthew Borlik)