And so this is Christmas…
There are twelve days of Christmas, and not one of them is in November! So even though we are only one week into December, I’m already sick of the season. You can call me the Grinch in you want, but I worry about that boy - his heart grows two sizes, that’s indicative of some serious medical conditions. His life is a stake because he was brainwashed by the Whos. Were it Whovians I’d sort of understand, but heyho.
That should give you a bit of a clue about what this particular rant is about. Not that I hate Christmas – I don’t, I love Christmas. What I hate is the commercialisation, and more specifically the cloying, overly-sickly, sentimentality of Christmas movies which makes me want to throw-up. But this isn’t going to be a rant about how awful such movies are, instead it's a rundown of some of the great movies that you can watch at Christmas without going into a sugar coma.
Let’s start with one of the best known, and I believe one voted the best Christmas movie ever...
It’s a Wonderful Life
It's a Wonderful Life starts normal and quickly descends into an attempted suicide. Okay, not the cheeriest thought that you’re ever going to encounter, but it reflects the sense of utter despair that so many of us feel in the run up to Christmas. I feel for George Bailey, he works hard but suffers for the incompetence of others. I get why he went to that bridge. Clarence is possibly the best angle ever – oh wait, what I am I thinking, Castiel (Supernatural) forgive me – let me try that again Clarence is possibly the best angle in the movies ever. Clarence is honest, straightforward, and understated. And not a pair of wings in sight. Okay, yes the ending is sentimental, but it’s more about being hopeful and thankful, we all want to ring the bell for Clarence’s wings. It’s a good movie to watch, and it might even make you cry.
Possibly the widest read secular fiction story for Christmas is, of course...
A Christmas Carol
At its core A Christmas Carol is a ghost story. We have Marley, the first to be seen, the Ghost of Christmas Past, the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the Ghost of Christmas Future. Now there have been a huge number of films based on this story, in all sorts of forms from serious and deadly to animated, musical to puppetry, every possible treatment has been applied, even Captain Picard showed his ankles under the night shirt in one version. But there are two versions I’m going to specifically talk about...
Starring Bill Murray as Frank Cross, a television boss who pushes his employees to the limit. Now I have to say that I am not a Bill Murray fan - Scrooged, Groundhog Day and Ghostbusters are about all I can stand, mind you Ghostbusters was on earlier in the year and I couldn’t even make it through the whole of that, but the thing I like about Scrooged is how dark it gets, in particular when Carol Kane turns up as the Ghost of Christmas Present. Generally I’m not a fan of slapstick, but what she does is so funny, torturing Murray as she goes (maybe that’s why I like this film). Yeah, again it gets a little sickly at the end, but what meal at Christmas doesn’t?
Second version, and while not my favourite movie, this does contain my favourite quote from a movie...
“Light the lamp, not the rat, light the lamp, not the rat!”Have you got it yet?...
The Muppets Christmas Carol
This is just brilliant. OK some of the singing isn’t, but the film is. I like the way it’s told, the questions Rizzo the Rat poses. Is this story suitable for children? Well yes, of course it is, not because it’s “Culture” (which it is), but because it’s a good story about love and loss, death and redemption, and none of those are things we should hide from our children. The Cratchits are, of course, Kermit and Piggy – who can beat that? I love the scene near the start with ‘This is my Island in the Sun’ song at the office. Again here I love the Ghost of Christmas Present, he’s so jolly and big and cuddly, the way he ages through the section is a surprise to, and a good comment on the fact that time is fleeting and we should all make the most of what we have.
The next one is more of a rom-com, but it is based at Christmas time so it justifiably makes the list.
While You Were Sleeping
Back with the lonely hearts club here, the best way to sum this up is a line from the film:
“Have you ever been so alone you spend the night confusing a man in a coma?”A bit of a comedy of errors, I love the scene where Peter wakes up and everyone thinks he has amnesia, the look on Lucy’s face (Sandra Bullock) is absolutely priceless. This is a feel good movie, sometimes a little bitter-sweet, and generally quite funny. A good one for the girls without alienating the boys.
Next another comedy/horror...
Mogwi is so cute and little and sweet, until you have to bathe him, which would be a big mistake… it also makes me wonder how much he must stink. Gremlins has inscrutable Asians, cute cuddly fuzz balls, goblin-like monsters and a sense of humour when it comes to stringing up the fairy lights. It’s a laugh and that’s what we all need at Christmas.
If you’d like something a bit more “traditional”, try...
The Santa Clause
Tim Allen knocks Santa from his roof and so has to become the big guy in red. This film’s worth the effort if only for David Krumholtz in tights.
If you’re into films about neglectful parents who leave a precocious (read obnoxious) kid on his own, you could try Home Alone, but don’t claim I sent you – I’m warning you (about the film, not the claim).
Now one for those who like ghost stories...
The Canterville Ghost
I’m specifically referring to the 1996 version, I know there have been many others but this is the only version I’ve seen. Patrick Stewart again turns in an interesting performance in not the best movie ever, but if you’re sitting ruminating after a massive blowout Christmas dinner, at least this one won’t make you want to chuck up. It’s the story of a man bricked up in the house whose soul is saved by the innocence and purity of a young woman (not entirely convinced Neve Campbell pulls this off, but it’s better than the sequels to Scream).
If sci-fi is your thing and you're prepared to get really tenuous, you could try...
Star Trek: Generations
One of the better ST films and it does contain at least one Christmas scene. And it’s Patrick Stewart again – I seem to be developing a worrying sub-theme here.
Last but definitely not least, is my favourite Christmas movie...
Christmas with the Kranks
Tim Allen and Jamie Lee Curtis star as a couple of empty nesters who decide that with their only daughter away for the holidays that they are going to be “Skipping Christmas” (the title of the book on which this film is based). The book was written by no less than John Grisham - yes that one! The one who wrote “Time to Kill”, “The Pelican Brief” and “The Firm”. Anyway, the movie is an interesting demonstration of how we suburbanites do not have the freedom of choice that we’d like to think we do. It’s all peer pressure, heavy sales, name-and-shame tactics and generally all those things about human interaction that make me glad I can be called an unsociable woman. The understated Santa is just brilliant. Aside from being a genuinely underrated but good movie, Christmas with the Kranks does have another claim on my interest, with headliners like Allen and Curtis, and a lot of known-but-not-that-well-know bit part actors, this film can be an important link in the game of Six Degrees of Separation whether you’re working towards Kevin Bacon or Lwaxana Troi.
So there you go, nine good films and Home Alone that give you a non-sickly viewing alternative this Christmas.
Gail Williams lives in her own private dungeon populated with all the weird and the wonderful she can imagine. Some of it’s very weird, and the odd bits and pieces are a bit wonderful. Well okay, she lives in Swansea with her husband and daughter. And the world’s most demanding cat. To find out more about Gail, check out www.gailbwilliams.co.uk - Dare you!