Mr O has somehow convinced me that he and I should endeavour to watch either a Christmas film or Christmas TV special every day of December. This will be in between toddler wrangling, gift shopping and wrapping, all the Christmas baking, various social engagements and my full time job that is currently trying to kill me. Read more…
A lot of this post is down to the fact that Netflix’s selection of Christmas films is dire…
A Christmas Carol (2009)
This animated telling of Dicken’s classic Christmas tale (grumpy miserly man hates Christmas, is visited by ghosts from his past, present and future and then changes his ways) uses motion capture techniques to transfer Jim Carrey’s bendy face onto Scrooge and several other characters. For the most part this works quite well and Carrey injects a fair amount of both humour and malice into the miserable old man. Added to this the scenery also looks pretty amazing throughout, the animation means the ghosts are really dramatic as are the scenarios in which Scrooge views his past, present and future. Unfortunately by having a kind of halfway house between live action and animation also means that some of the characters just look a bit weird and the emotions don’t come across with sincerity, leaving A Christmas Carol missing the one element that really is essential for a Christmas movie – heart. 2.5/5
I have to admit that I haven’t actually seen any of the other Santa Clause films so it took me a while to figure out what the hell was going on… but anyway, Santa (Tim Allen) who used to be Scott Calvin decides to risk the secret of Santa by bringing his in-laws (Alan Arkin and Ann-Margaret) to the North Pole to placate his pregnant wife (Elizabeth Mitchell). At the same time Jack Frost (Martin Short) offers to help with toy production problems as away for atoning for attempting to take over the whole holiday. Unfortunately Jack only has nefarious intentions and Santa is too distracted by his home life to notice until he’s been tricked into wishing he’d never taken over the North Pole. Now Santa must fight to save Christmas from Frost’s capitalist plans and also keep his family together. Every element of this film reeks of cashing in and it’s just completely tacky and lame…. and weird. How does no one seem to notice or care that the North Pole seems to be running entirely on child labour? The end resolution also happens far too quickly after what seems like an eternity of set up. And Martin Short is so incredibly annoying! Maybe the first two films were good but this one is utterly pointless. Bah humbug! 1/5
In this modern retelling of A Christmas Carol Bill Murray plays Frank Cross, a heartless, greedy TV executive working on a Christmas spectacular live showing of the traditional Christmas Carol. As Frank focuses on revenue and torturing his beleaguered assistant (Alfre Woodard), sending bad presents to family members and making ever more shocking adverts for his show, he is visited by the ghosts of past, present and future Christmas. The best ghost is definitely the Ghost of Christmas Past played by former New York Dolls frontman, David Johansen as an angry cab driver. Carol Kane is also hilarious playing the Ghost of Christmas Present as a particularly violent fairy. With this being made at the height of the 80’s greed is good era the idea of the Scrooge character being a TV exec makes a lot of sense and Murray is on top form even though he appears to be half cut for most of the movie. 3/5
The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
This is yet another retelling of A Christmas Carol, this time with Michael Cane in the role of Scrooge with Kermit and Miss Piggy playing Mr and Mrs Cratchit with Gonzo and Rat along for the ride. All the rest of the characters are played by various Muppets and there’s a lot of singing and some brilliant slapstick comedy, mostly from Gonzo and Rat. This particular version portrays Scrooge with more heart than most do, which makes his transformation seem more believable and touching somehow. I think I kind of expected to hate this but in the end it was sweet, funny and pretty much everything a Christmas film should be! 3.5/5
The kind of thing that normally makes a Christmas movie good – a moral, a happy ending, the feelgood factor – are not really the kind of things I normally like from a film, which means that my list of festive favourites is probably quite off the beaten track compared to most people’s and also missing a few supposed classics, but I have decided to have a go anyway and there are some in there that are more traditional holiday fare so I hope you enjoy them.
The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Starring (voices): Danny Elfman, Chris Sarandon, Catherine O’Hara
The gist: The king of Halloween decides he’s going to have a go at running Christmas his own way, kidnaps Santa and takes over but things soon go very wrong because he totally doesn’t get it.
The Christmas moral: Be yourself, stick to what you’re good at and don’t be too proud to admit defeat.
“Jack Skellington: [singing] And on a dark cold night, under full moonlight, he flies into the fog like a vulture in the sky!
[in a deeper tone]
Jack Skellington: And they call him, Sandy… Clawssss…! “
Love Actually (2003)
Starring: Colin Firth, Keira Knightley, Bill Nighy (and about 40 other people)
The gist: The lives of several Londoners all come together in the weeks before Christmas
The Christmas moral: There are opportunities for love everywhere… but sometimes life sucks and you have to take the rough with the smooth.
“[At the altar, just before Peter is married]
Peter: No surprises?
Mark: No surprises.
Peter: Not like the stag night?
Mark: Unlike the stag night.
Peter: Do you admit the Brazilian prostitutes were a mistake?
Mark: I do.
Peter: And it would have been much better if they’d not turned out to be men?
Mark: That is true.“
Just Friends (2005)
Starring: Ryan Reynolds, Amy Smart, Anna Faris
The gist: A slick businessman who was once a fat, geeky teenager returns home for Christmas after years away and tries to reconnect with the girl he was in love with in high school.
The Christmas moral: Don’t be a bellend
“Chris: What about Sheila? You making any headway?
Ray: We’ll see. I’m taking her to lunch today.
Chris: Oh, whoa, whoa whoa. Don’t – don’t do that. Okay? Don’t do lunch.
Chris: That’s like the express lane to the friend zone.
Ray: What the hell’s the friend zone?
Chris: See when a girl decides that you’re her friend, you’re no longer a dating option. You become this complete non-sexual entity in her eyes, like her brother, or a lamp.
Ray: I don’t want to be a lamp.
Chris: Yea well then don’t be her friend, okay? Take that guy for example…
[points to a clumsy guy and a gorgeous girl skating together]
Ray: You mean that couple?
Chris: No, I mean the guy that *wishes* they were a couple.
Ray: What is your point?
Chris: My point is – Call Sheila, Ray. Call her right now. Move your day date to tonight. Play the entire thing aloof and no matter what you do, kiss her at the end. ‘Cause friends don’t kiss.“
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
Starring: James Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore
The gist: After his life doesn’t turn out quite like he planned, George Bailey wishes he had never been born so an angel shows him what life would have been like if he hadn’t.
The Christmas moral: You are more important to your family and community than you think you are.
“Clarence: Strange, isn’t it? Each man’s life touches so many other lives. When he isn’t around he leaves an awful hole, doesn’t he?”
In Bruges (2008)
Starring: Brendan Gleeson, Ralph Fiennes, Colin Farrell
The gist: When a job goes wrong two hitmen hide out in Bruges at Christmas waiting for instructions from their ruthless boss.
“Harry: [about Ray] So he’s having a really nice time?
Ken: Well, I’m having a really nice time. I’m not sure it’s really his cup of tea.
Harry: [after a long pause] What?
Ken: You know, I’m not sure it’s really his thing.
Harry: What do you mean it’s not really his thing? What’s that supposed to mean? It’s not really his thing. What the fuck is that supposed to mean?
Ken: Nothing, Harry.
Harry: It’s a fairytale town, isn’t it? How’s a fairytale town not somebody’s fucking thing?”
Home Alone (1990)
Starring: Macauley Culkin, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern
The gist: The McCallister family accidentally leave eight year old Kevin at home when they set off for a Christmas vacation and he has to protect their home from intruders.
The Christmas moral: Kids are more resourceful than you think
“Kevin McCallister: Everyone in this family *hates* me!
Kate McCallister: Then maybe you should ask Santa for a new family.
Kevin McCallister: I don’t want another family. I don’t want any family. Families suck!
Kate McCallister: Just stay up there. I don’t want to see you again for the rest of the night.
Kevin McCallister: *I* don’t want to see you again for the rest of my whole life. And I don’t want to see anybody else either.
Kate McCallister: [softly] I hope you don’t mean that. You’d feel pretty sad if you woke up tomorrow morning and you didn’t have a family.
Kevin McCallister: No, I wouldn’t.
Kate McCallister: Then say it again. Maybe it will happen.
Kevin McCallister: I hope that I never see any of you jerks again!“
Starring: Will Ferrell, James Caan, Zooey Deschanel
The gist: A man raised as an elf leaves the North Pole in an attempt to find his real family.
The Christmas moral: Never forget your roots
“Buddy: Sounds like somebody needs to sing a Christmas Carol.
Jovie: No way.
Buddy: The best way to spread Christmas Cheer, is singing loud for all to hear.
Jovie: Thanks, but I don’t sing.
Buddy: Oh, well, it’s just like talking, except longer and louder, and you move your voice up and down.
Jovie: I *can* sing, I just choose *not* to sing. Especially in front of other people.
Buddy: If you can sing alone, you sing in front of other people. There’s no difference.
Jovie: Actually, there’s a BIG difference.
Buddy: No there’s not. Wait…
[Starts singing loud and off-key]
Buddy: I’m singing/I’m in a store/and I’m siiiiiingiiiiing!/I’m in a store/and I’m siiiiiingiiiiing!
Gimbel’s Manager: HEY! There’s no singin’ in the North Pole!
Buddy: Yes there is!
Gimbel’s Manager: No there’s not!
Buddy: We sing all the time!
Gimbel’s Manager: No you don’t!
Buddy: Especially when we build toys!
[Back to Jovie]
Starring: Jonathan Pryce, Kim Greist, Robert De Niro
The gist: In a dystopian future a bureaucrat gets sucked into a relentless and unforgiving government machine.
The Christmas moral: Big brother is watching
“Santa Claus: What would you like for Christmas?
Little girl on his lap: My own credit card.”
Bad Santa (2003)
Starring: Billy Bob Thornton, Bernie Mac, Lauren Graham
The gist: Conman, Willie, and his partner, Marcus pose as Santa and an elf in an attempt to rob a department store but things get complicated when Willie befriends a strange kid who thinks he is the real Santa.
The Christmas moral: Even the most jaded person is capable of connecting with someone.
“Woman in Food Court: Look who’s here! It’s Santa! Tell Santa what you want for Christmas!
Willie: [yelling] I’m on my fucking lunch break, OK?
Woman in Food Court: The manager’s going to hear about this.
Willie: You think you’re a threat? You think you can make my fucking life any worse? Go ahead, take a shot!“
Batman Returns (1992)
Starring: Michael Keaton, Danny DeVito, Michelle Pfeiffer
The gist: Batman has to defend Gotham City at Christmas when the deformed Penguin in cahoots with a corrupt businessman tries to take over the city.
The Christmas moral: Stay out of the sewers
“[Shreck shoots Batman]
Selina Kyle: You killed me… The Penguin killed me… Batman killed me… that’s… three lives down. You got enough in there to finish me off?
Maximillian ‘Max’ Shreck: One way to find out.
[Shreck fires two shots at Catwoman]
Selina Kyle: Four… Five…
[cracks her whip]
Selina Kyle: Still alive!
[Shreck fires two more]
Selina Kyle: Six… Seven… All good girls go to heaven…
[now within reach of Shreck; he pulls the trigger, but there are no bullets left; she laughs hysterically]
Selina Kyle: Two lives left. I think I’ll save one for next Christmas. But in the meantime, how about a kiss Santi-Claus?
[grabs ahold of a power cable and moves towards Shreck with a stun gun and a kiss]“