A cinematic footnote – Christmas edition

What is the best movie to watch during the most wonderful time of the year? I’ve tried to unearth the answer.

If I’m being honest, I haven’t seen that many Christmas movies. Don’t get me wrong, I’ve watched my fair share, but generally, even during December, I still tend to find myself drawn to movies which occupy any genre other than that of ‘Christmas’. Now I think about it, that might have something to do with me being a massive scrooge when it comes to Christmas-related pop-culture. Nonetheless, I’ve compiled a variety of different Christmas films to talk about (some good, some not quite so much).

It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
I haven’t actually seen it. But it seems to appear at the top of just about every ‘best Christmas movies’ list. So I thought I’d chuck it in anyway for good measure.

How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)
As this list goes on, I’ll mention how some of the films aren’t terrible by any means, but suffer from being overly clichéd and sappy. This isn’t really the case here. Instead, ‘How the Grinch Stole Christmas’ is just plain awful. Director Ron Howard is clearly better suited to adapting real-life events (Apollo 13, Rush) than telling a tale of whimsical fantasy. The failure can be partially attributed to Jim Carrey’s horrible portrayal of the Grinch, attempted comedy constantly falling flat and the fact that at least half of the scenes could have been completely cut and the plot wouldn’t notice one bit.

Copyright – Comic Book

Santa’s Slay (2005)
If you haven’t seen this (and let’s be honest, you probably haven’t), then you need to check it out. In it, Santa is actually a demon who lost a bet with an angel, forcing him to take on the toy/joy giving persona which we all know. But when the time on this bet expires, he wreaks havoc on a small town, killing everyone in his path. ‘Santa’s Slay’ is by no means a good movie, but it is absolutely ridiculous and some of the kills are hilarious. It even stars a professional wrestler Bill Goldberg as Santa.

Jack Frost
What’s weird is that, considering this is basically a kids movie, Jack Frost himself looks like the least child-friendly snowman ever conceived. It has a sweet ending but for the most part, it’s pretty boring and cliched. And the fact that Jack was going to melt and consequently die was in the back of my mind throughout. Because, weather.

Elf (2003)
It’s a nice, good natured festive flick but that’s about it. Maybe it’s just because I’ve never really been sold on Will Ferrell (or maybe it’s just because I’m a miserable bastard) but I didn’t find ‘Elf’ very funny and I don’t remember particularly caring about the happy ending – when the citizens of New York re-discover the magic of Christmas with the help of Buddy the Elf.

Love, Actually (2003)
It’s nice to see a bunch of famous actors and actresses keep popping up on the screen. “Hey look, there’s Liam Neeson”. “Oh shit, that’s Emma Thompson”. Some of the stories are okay and quite funny but the film contains way too many of them, meaning each one basically feels rushed. Maybe people just lower their expectations for Christmas films, but this feels very overrated to me.

Copyright – Christmas FM

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
It looks absolutely fantastic, which is especially impressive when you consider it came out 26 years ago. I don’t have too much to say about this one, apart from that it’s just not really my thing. I’ve always been a fan of substance over style and films which Tim Burton has a hand in tend to take the polar opposite stance to this – style over substance. But in terms of appearance, sound and editing at least, it’s great

The Santa Clause (1994)
Tim Allen is great as a dad who refuses to accept his newfound responsibility (can’t say I blame him in all honesty). Seeing his son (who must be about 5-6 years old) have his overactive imagination constantly questioned seems a bit out of place but regardless, the film builds up the magic of the North Pole excellently and is genuinely enjoyable. As for the sequels, ‘The Santa Clause 2’ (2002) is probably worth checking out, if only to see adults rediscovering their childhood by playing games reminiscent of the 70’s and 80’s. The third film (2006) however, is pretty crap.

Black Christmas (1974)
This film was considered a bit of a box office flop at the time. It’s as though people didn’t want to spend the Christmas period watching sorority girls be mercilessly stalked and killed by a deranged murdered. It’s still pretty enjoyable and at least partially influenced other slasher flicks which would go on to become far more popular than it such as ‘Halloween’ and ‘Friday the 13th’.

Bad Santa (2003)
There’s something quite impressive about Billy Bob Thornton’s relentless depression and misanthropy in ‘Bad Santa’. Although he does take a shine to and help out a young boy who is bullied, BBT’s character shows little remorse or resolution for any of his actions by the end of the film. I respect ‘Bad Santa’ for taking a polar-opposite stance to other movies of this genre, even if it is a deeply bleak stance. This being that people are shitty and nobody really cares about anyone other than themselves, regardless of what time of year it is.

Copyright – Empire

Home Alone (1990)
I think, more than any other Christmas film (excluding classics like ‘It’s a Wonderful Life’), this is the one which holds a special place in the hearts of so many adults. And I think it is completely deserving of being held in such high regard. Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern are great as the bumbling robbers who are consistently thwarted by a young child. Joe Pesci’s comedic performance is especially funny when you consider his role in ‘Goodfellas’ earlier in the year. ‘Home Alone’ divulges in slapstick of the highest order and offers a genuinely original plot – something of a rarity within the festive genre. The sequel is okay but completely inferior by definition (considering it’s nothing more than a rehash of the original). 

Edward Scissorhands (1990)
This is probably my favourite Tim Burton film, because it actually provides emotional resonance which so many of his other efforts lack. ‘Edward Scissorhands’ allows Tim Burton to add his visual flair and unique storytelling into the Christmas canon, providing us with a festive movie unlike many others. And though I’m not his biggest fan, Johnny Depp kills it as the lonely protagonist.

Gremlins (1984)
‘Gremlins’ always made me wonder: If you can’t feed them after midnight then when can you feed them? When does it stop being ‘after midnight’? I have really fond memories of this film and it still holds up with some genuinely funny, dark humour. And Gizmo is so cute!

Copyright – Moviehole

Die Hard (1988)
Yes, trust me, this definitely qualifies as a Christmas movie. It might not be in the typical narrative mould but the seasonal backdrop is enough for me. Watching Bruce Willis (when he actually cared about this franchise) and the brilliant Alan Rickman pitted against each other in a war of wits is reason enough to see this if you haven’t already. It’s a classic with some iconic action and some genuine heart which is befitting of the festive period. 

It’s close between ‘Gremlins’ and ‘Die Hard’, but the latter just about takes the cake as my favourite festive flick!

Merry Christmas everyone!

Featured Image Coypright Pinterest

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