Friday, December 23, 2011

Unlikely Festive Films

'Tis the season to watch festive films. And what a choice you have! You can watch the curious tale (on paper at least) of a retarded angel saving a put-upon banker from jumping in the river after a particularly bad day in the office*. Or you could watch the once popular Tim Allen turn into Santa in an at times similar manner to the central character in Cronenberg's version of The Fly (albeit it without the body parts falling off or the sheer viscera and pain). Then there's the surprisingly watchable Muppet Christmas Carol, in which Jim Henson's creations sing their way through Dickens' most famous tale. Or there's the genuinely funny Elf, in which Will Ferrell brings a certain level of charm to the one character he can play well - that of the earnest simpleton. But it is more than possible that by the end of the festive season you'll be sick of the traditional festive films, yet at the same time you might not want to watch something as unseasonal as Eraserhead or Black Swan. So I give you five films that are seasonal if only because they are set during the festive season:

Trading Places

A festive favourite that involves two men fucking up the life of an employee over a one dollar bet. It's a great film, though; pretty much perfectly cast and blessed with Eddie Murphy at his peak. The story is entertaining, fast moving and often very funny. So yeah, the central plot may not be that festive, but if you ever want something light yet absorbing for a post-Christmas dinner film, then you could do far worse than this one.

On Her Majesty's Secret Service

Once upon a time it used to be a quasi-tradition that there would be a Bond film broadcast on TV on Christmas day. Actually, it might still be for all I know - there is very little I watch on TV these days, and films I have on DVD are, fairly, obviously, not included in what I do watch. But if I had to choose one Bond film to watch on Christmas Day, it would be this one. Firstly because it is partly set at Christmas - even to the extent where it contains a Christmas song (albeit one that is so sweet and sickly that it could send even the healthiest of us into a diabetic coma). Secondly, it is quite possibly the best Bond film ever - well directed, with a proper story and central romance combined with some great performances. Of course, there is the massive drag factor of George Lazenby - an actor who seems permanently bewildered not only by the fact that he is James Bond, but also by the fact that there is a film crew following him and like shooting stuff and shit. So whenever you watch this one, picture Connery, Dalton, Brosnan, Craig or even Moore as the star. It may be tough to pull off at times (especially when the late George Baker's voice is crudely dubbed onto Lazenby's flapping mouth), but trust me, this makes the whole film much better.

The Poseidon Adventure

A simple premise for this one: a voyage across the ocean during the festive season goes wrong. In fact, it is safe to say it goes really badly wrong. Capsized by a freak tidal wave, a group of plucky survivors fight their way through the upturned ship. Of course, disaster, destruction and death are not necessarily that festive, but there is something curiously Christmassy about a disaster movie. And there are very few disaster movies quite as good as this one. But if you can't get hold of it, then check out Voyage of the Damned - it's more or less that same story, but set in space and with additional Time Lord goodness.

Batman Returns

Ahhh, Christmas in Gotham. And what does director Tim Burton give us as a present? The darkest cinematic interpretation of the dark knight prior to Christopher Nolan deciding that a broken hero with post-traumatic stress disorder was the way forward for the franchise**. A city under siege; traumatised parents killing their deformed, cat-eating baby; said cat-eating baby turning into a bestial version of the Penguin with a penchant for nose biting and attempted mass murder. Plus there's Catwoman; a PVC clad vengeance machine who ultimately turns her back on Bruce Wayne - favouring, instead, death by electrocution with her murderous boss. So yeah... set at Christmas. Not a great Christmas for Bruce Wayne/Batman. Or Gotham. Or Selina Kyle/Catwoman. Or Oswald Cobblepot. Or pretty much any character who appears in the film.


Perhaps the most Christmassy of all the films listed here as this not only takes place at Christmas but contains numerous references to Christmas and is set against the backdrop of snow. It is even, at times, trying to be a twisted version of It's a Wonderful Life. Of course, it also contains vicious little monsters who create havoc and hurt, maim and kill arbitrarily. Indeed, they'd be some characters in this film who might prefer to have spent the festive period in Gotham circa 1992. But there is glee in this film - even if it is often a malicious, sadistic glee. It is a fun and fast-moving motion picture, even if occasionally scary, and as such is perfect for Christmas.

So that's my list of non-festive festive film treats. If you have any suggestions in a similar vein, well, you know where the comments section is...

*Actually, I really love It's a Wonderful Life, despite what I've written here. But it has to be seen to be believed, because any summary of it does make it sound cheesy and annoying.
**And was actually right in this decision.

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At 8:35 pm , Blogger Pavlov's Cat said...

I abhor Will Ferrell except in Talladega Nights but will happily watch 'Elf' as I want Zooey Deschanel to be my 'Manic Pixie Dream Girl'

I have seen 'Eraserhead' once, many years ago. I never want to see it again. [still have flash backs]

At 6:32 pm , Blogger The Nameless Libertarian said...

Eraserhead is one of the best films ever made. It is also one of the most stressful. Consequently, while I am always poised to watch it again, I never quite manage it as it damages my brain.

I didn't think much of Talladega Nights; much preferred Anchorman and The Other Guys. Blades of Glory is truly atrocious.


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