While I have a standard list of go-to holiday flicks, sometimes it’s nice to watch a movie where the plot doesn’t revolve around shoving Christmas cheer and/or drama into every scene. A nice Christmas-tangential film is perfect for just the perfect amount of holiday awareness without causing you to OD on the big Christmas chill. This list doesn’t include Die Hard (because it is a gaping hole in my pop culture canon) but you know, some people may find that to be a good option as well.
A mogwai can make the perfect surprise Christmas gift. But if you accidentally get him wet, and subsequently feed your mogwai brood after midnight, your town will be in for a Christmas it will never forget! (Also, violence and death.)
Bridget Jones’ Diary
I can watch this year round but so much of its timeline is tied to the Christmas season that it makes for the perfect holiday movie.
Better Off Dead
Who can resist endless microwave meals wrapped up as presents? Or a picture of your host family’s creepy son? Or this movie in general because of its hilarity? I always think of this movie when I see a tiny teddy bear.
“Look Beth, I gotta go. The Christmas tree’s on fire.”
While I would recommend the live on Broadway edition of the show, the movie will also do in a pinch. Rent begins and ends its story on Christmas Eve, which it doesn’t let you forget due to its aggressive notation of the passing year. But the characters and their lives are far more interesting than the holiday itself.
There must be a point for everyone in American Psycho where you either fully get behind what is being presented, or don’t. I’d like to think that process begins when Patrick Bateman makes plans with Paul Allen at the work Christmas party to meet up. Also, “mistletoe alert” is the most abrupt/hilarious/creepy thing.
In between finally watching Boardwalk Empire (SIGH, thanks for the recommendation and heartache, Dad) and the double whammy of Downton Abbey/Doctor Who, I was in serious movie watching mode over the holidays. It started with Shame and ended with Final Destination 5, both of which necessitated me to post my ramblings separately. But what about in between? Through a mixture of theater-going, Netflix, and Amazon Instant Video I took in: Rise of the Planet of the Apes, Midnight in Paris, The Trip, Mission Impossible IV: Ghost Protocol, The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo (2011), Hatchet II and Four Rooms.
Rise of the Planet of the Apes stretched my imaginative capacity a little too far as I found the subject matter just too far-fetched (sorry to all the fans of the franchise). I enjoyed Midnight in Paris more than I expected, and this fella’s involvement certainly helped matters:
I found I could stretch my ability to believe way more in Midnight in Paris than in Rise of the Planet of the Apes. Time travel? YES. Talking apes taking over the world? NO. Plus, I feel like the message resonated more with me: the idea that so many people long for the golden age when people at that time were longing for a time even further back.
The Trip was pretty fantastic: it probably helps if you are obsessed with either Steve Coogan or Rob Brydon. I enjoy Rob Brydon in Gavin and Stacey and I think I love him now after seeing this. I will never think of Michael Caine impressions the same way. Plus it is gorgeous in HD.
I saw MI: IV in IMAX; it was a good choice. Every scene was so much fun. Benji’s scenes were the best and I am so happy they included his character again; caveat, I love Simon Pegg. Everything he did and said stuck out to me. When he took out a bad guy at the end, swooooon. The comic relief and still kick-ass. Jeremy Renner achieved the opposite: kick-ass with good comedic timing. And to think, he used to be “the guy that played Jeffrey Dahmer.” And I was immediately shippin’ a bromance between him and Tom. Immediately.
The Girl with the Dragon Tattoo was an interesting experience. I don’t even know what to think at this point. I read the book and saw the Swedish film version and I feel like I know the core of the story by heart. I think making Anita really be Harriet was a good call, but very rushed. I think in this case Fincher should have adapted the ending differently because while it works in book-form, it falls a little flat in the cinema. It is hard to separate how I see the movie with how people who are just getting exposed interpret the film. My friend said it was fairly confusing at some parts. I can definitely see how that is possible. But, Rooney Mara was fantastic.
Hatchet II is what you would expect if you have seen Hatchet. A very mindless 80-something minutes.
Fate did converge on New Year’s Eve to lead me to Four Rooms on Netflix. I was browsing Netflix via the filmography option. I went from trying (and failing) to look up Christoph Waltz to landing on Quentin Tarantino somehow. And lo and behold, there was Four Rooms. I love Tim Roth so it was almost a done deal. And then I saw the film takes place on New Year’s Eve and of course, duh, I had to watch it.
Damn, those did not disappoint.
I felt physically ill during most of Downton Abbey (it stresses me so) but the payoff was so, so sweet. The scene right before the end was a bit too over the top for me (Lavinia, please go gentle into that good night) but its inclusion closed the book on her and paved the way to glorious happiness.
I want to include every screencap of this moment possible but the above is so perfect. Look how happy Matthew is (finally, away with dreary doom and gloom Matthew!). But the Daily Mail has some other great pictures from the special here. Matthew proposing (properly on one knee)! And Matthew punching Sir Richard! And other things happened.
Side note: More Britons watched Downton Abbey and Doctor Who than the Queen’s speech yesterday. Down with the last vestiges of monarchy via televised drama?
On to Doctor Who: very funny, many memorable quotables. The Doctor makes me laugh out loud more than many sitcoms I watch; I think it is largely due to how Matt Smith delivers his lines. Of course, Steven Moffat warned us we would cry (thus making me more prone not to get sentimental) but he was half-right. I got very teary at the end because Moffat tricked me. I thought he wanted me to get sentimental for the wife saving the husband, when it wasn’t very shocking to me. NO. He had to throw in my kryptonite: the Doctor’s feelings. I immediately got emotional at the idea he was actually going to visit the Ponds. That was already enough. THEN he had to get all humany-wumany with the happy tears. That was such a great payoff too. Especially from earlier in the episode where the Doctor claimed he was not capable of such things (I retorted, oh yes you are Doctor). And boom! Told ya.
I am a huge fan of the one single tear out of one eye as well. If I had more examples of this, I would totally make a Tumblr or something. Alas, my other perfect example is Andrew McCarthy. I feel he has used this in multiple flicks but never as prominently as in Pretty in Pink:
And finally, thinking back to the popularity of the Christmas special in Britain as opposed to the complete lack of programming in the US, I realized it isn’t just that…we don’t or no longer have a tradition of the Christmas special at all. We have the Christmas “episode” which just happens when a 22 episode season coincides with the holidays. We also have Halloween, Thanksgiving, Valentine’s Day, and St. Patrick’s Day (among others) to celebrate season to season.
I have to give props for SyFy’s attempt to re-energize the idea. And even with their specials, there are differences. SyFy’s Christmas episodes aired December 6th, when the Christmas season was at its start. And, these episodes are stand alone. No plot was furthered on Eureka, Warehouse 13, or Haven. So it is sort of disjointed to see characters happy and relatively unscathed from the explosive events of their respective finales. I don’t know about Eureka but Warehouse 13 and Haven ended on significant cliffhangers. In comparison, the British specials moved A LOT of plot, especially in respect to Downton Abbey. But even Doctor Who set the Doctor back up with Amy and Rory before the episode was out.
In conclusion, even though some American shows are moving back toward special holiday hours, they are still afraid of viewers missing out. Strange, but typical.
So excited for the Doctor Who and Downton Abbey Christmas Specials tonight!
And also, I suppose, MERRY CHRISTMAS!