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Anchored by Jake Tapper, The Lead airs at 4 p.m. ET on CNN.

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December 20th, 2013
06:04 PM ET

Is 'Love Actually" a new Christmas classic?

(CNN) - 'Tis the season of classic holiday movies, starting with "It's A Wonderful Life," and "Miracle on 34th Street."

In the 1960s, a couple TV specials were added to the cannon: "How the Grinch Stole Christmas," and "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

Now, a newer batch of movies are starting to crowd in on the family favorites.

Does Will Ferrell's "Elf" deserve a place on the DVR?

Hmmm. Probably not.

The most heated debate about Christmas movies centers around the film "Love Actually." Does it deserve to be considered a new Christmas classic?

No, says The Atlantic's film critic Chris Orr.

"It's just a very strange conception of love that sort of starts with physical attraction, and then goes immediately to the happily-ever-afters," said Orr. "A classic holiday movie has to have someone who is changed by the spirit of Christmas in some fashion."

Yes, says The Atlantic's associate editor Emma Green.

"The strength of 'Love Actually' though, which is a more recent classic, is that to me it feels more personal. It feels like something I can see in my real life potentially – hopefully – and something that feels fresh," said Green.

Earlier this month, an office conversation turned into a heated debate, "Love Actually" turned into a battlefield.

"Basically every one of our coworkers got up from their cubes, stopped what they were doing and surrounded us 'Fight Club'-style as we debated loudly over the merits of the movie," said Green.

"It was awesome, everything ground to a halt for five or ten minutes," said Orr.

They took their debate to the web with dueling articles. Their work garnered more than 50,000 Facebook shares. Full disclosure: CNN's Jake Tapper was one of them. The argument is brutal and fun.

The now decade old British film follows nine story lines, each about some version of affection: young love, familiar companionship, ill-timed lust, and truly joyful anticipation.

Orr argues these plot lines are not only implausible but superficial, and even immoral! Far from the wholesome virtues expected this time of year.

"'Love Actually' is not nearly an unromantic movie, but an actively anti-romantic movie," said Orr. "It's almost a series of money shots, it's like a mash-up of the first and last scenes of a variety of other romantic comedies, without any of the middle part in which people actually get to know each other and fall in love."

Green says love is the spirit of the season, no matter how sloppy its expression.

"They don't have time to show all of the four-hour conversations that eventually lead people to fall in love intellectually. It's more about that magic chemistry moment that allows people to inexplicably fall into the crush zone, and I think that's a very valid, and magical, and wonderful thing to show," said Green.

"Love Actually" got mixed reviews when it first came out, including Orr's own scathing write up.

"When I watched it again, it was even worse than I'd remembered it, and in particular the Kiera Knightly scene was even creepier than I remembered it," said Orr.

For the record, "A Christmas Story" was also originally panned, but that criticism didn't quite stick.

And now that movie is an indisputable classic, right alongside ... "Love Actually"? Well, actually we're not going to take a position in this great debate.

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