Season’s Screenings: A Few of Our Favorite Holiday Movies

by Elizabeth Stoddard

You know with the crew of writers on this site that the movies we choose to watch at holiday time may not be typical. To close out this year’s Season’s Screenings run, I asked folks to write a short post about their favorite holiday movies (and I joined in as well).

Without further ado…

Brendan:Shane Black has always said that the reason he always sets his blood-soaked crime capers (and Iron Man sequel) on Christmas is so he could use the joviality of Christmas imagery and iconography to offset the physical and emotional traumas that so frequently beset his heroes.

Nowhere is that disparity put to more effective use than in Black’s directorial debut Kiss Kiss Bang Bang. As wildly and relentlessly entertaining a film as any other released in the past decade, KKBB uses the season jollies and beloved hallmarks of Black’s scripts (endlessly quotable dialogue exchanges, deceptively effective badasses, sudden and shocking explosions of violence) as the sugar on top to feed the audience an acidic story about the families we escape, the families we build, the fallibility of fiction, and the pain that comes from reaching middle-age and looking back at a lifetime of regret.

For that reason, KKBB is a great Christmas movie, and one I almost always revisit during this season. The film gets at everything joyous and celebratory about the holiday, and everything that’s lonely and laced through with regret. More, the film understands and depicts precisely how those two poles reflect and enrich one another. (@TheTrueBrendanF)

Jon:As a Brit, my Christmas is usually tied somewhat more with TV shows than films. A big holiday, the BBC and other channels usually churn out special episodes of beloved shows old (Only Fools and Horses, Dad’s Army, French and Saunders) and new (Doctor Who, Sherlock, Luther) for our viewing pleasure. Catching the The Snowman and Father Christmas, animated classics by Raymond Briggs is another sign of Santa’s approach. As ever, James Bond is synonymous with the Holidays.

There are a few other films that tend to get me in the festive spirit and are required viewing. Trading Places springs to mind not just for the Christmas vibes but also being one of the greatest comedies of the 80s. Gremlins is another and one I will take great joy showing to my young nephew for the first time this week. An offbeat choice would be Brazil. Perhaps my most essential pick is a spin on a classic, Scrooged. A Christmas Carol given new life by Bill Murray, a man who long ago reached national treasure status. It’s not Christmas until I hear “Niagara Falls, Frankie…”. (@Texas_Jon)

Elizabeth: About a Boy, based on the Nick Hornby novel (although he didn’t write the screenplay), is one of the many cozy classics I turn to when the holiday is nigh. While not technically a Christmas movie, the theme of building a community is strengthened by showing Will’s (Hugh Grant) solitary plans for the day compared to his actual plans after becoming involved in the life of Marcus (young Nicholas Hoult). And of course there’s the awkward Christmas dinner hosted by Marcus’ mom (Toni Collette). Most of my usual round of seasonal films are comedies, and this is no different.

Auntie Mame is another comedy I tend to watch in December. The humility thrust upon Mame (Rosalind Russell) during the winter after the stock market crash and the sacrifice made by her staff Nora and Ito (notably the only moment of real humanity granted this otherwise stereotypical supporting character played by Yuki Shimoda) is likely to get me a little teary-eyed. It’s only one scene in the 1958 film, but it’s a memorable one. (@elizs)

Austin:Here’s a left-field Christmas pick that I can very emphatically recommend. Moody firefighter epic As The Light Goes Out is both foreign (Hong Kong) and recent (2014), rendering it highly unlikely to register on the radar of Christmas classics, but it’s so deserving not only of appreciation, but of being a part of the Christmas films conversation.

After introducing us to a brotherhood of firefighters and showing a window into the hardships of their professional and personal lives, the bulk of the tale takes place on Christmas Eve. Due in part to bureaucratic neglect, an explosion in a major power plant creates a massive fire and blankets much of Hong Kong in darkness. The fire team is faced not only with the fight of their lives, but a major rescue operation to aid the people trapped in the toxic, smoke-filled inferno. Inspiring heroics, a palpable brotherhood, and emotive musical selections all help make As The Light Goes Out a holiday winner. [Austin’s Full Review] (@VforVashaw)

Previous post JOY Box Office Alternative: WHITE OLEANDER is the Rarest of Coming-of-Age Dramas
Next post Oh, JOY, What a Mess