This week, FIELD OF STREAMS presents 6 holiday streaming picks for folks who are so totally over Christmas
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“It’s the most wonderful time of the year,” or so the song claims. For the most part, it actually is. As far as many people over the world are concerned, the holidays represent a time of celebration, togetherness and everything else that has made the entire year worth it. But for every two Merry Christmases, there’s at least one bah humbug as the holidays tend to rub salt in the emotional wounds of those whose lives are in such a lackluster place, which the holidays only make worse. This year, however, the feeling of a blue Christmas is stronger than ever. The holidays can’t come quick enough for many as Covid-19, recession, civil unrest, climate change and an unprecedented election have left society beyond exhausted. Many would like to see the holidays simply over and done with so that the new year can arrive, carrying with it Joe Biden and the vaccine we’ve been hearing so much about.
Until then however, Christmas still needs to happen. In honor of this sad year and the people for whom this month represents the worst of 2020 (or any year for that matter), here are some holiday streaming titles featuring a collection of characters who likewise have no desire to celebrate Christmas whatsoever, yet manage somehow to make it through the season relatively unscathed.
REMEMBER THE NIGHT (Peacock)
In this underrated 1940 Christmas tale, a pre-Double Indemnity Barbara Stanwyck and Fred McMurray star in the story of a woman on trial for shoplifting and the DA charged with making sure she gets put away. When the trial is postponed until after Christmas, John (McMurray) takes pity on Lee (Stanwyck) and invites her over to his family’s home for the holiday leading both to re-examine their images on one another. Lee is a great Stanwyck character; a woman with a hard edge who expects nothing good from life since life has never treated her all that well. Likewise, John is a great fit for McMurray; an example of the kind of inherent empathy that exists in people, especially during the holidays. Earnest without being sentimental, the Preston Sturges-penned Remember the Night is an exercise in humility, redemption and the kind of goodwill toward men repeated through the ages that can’t help but ring true.
CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (Fubo TV)
Stanwyck wasn’t done in making a contribution to the Christmas movie canon by any means. Five years after Remember the Night, the actress returned to the holiday genre with the instantly popular Christmas in Connecticut. In the film, Stanwyck plays Elizabeth, a Martha Stewart-like columnist famous for her homemaker expertise. In reality, she’s a jaded, cynical singleton who can’t cook and loathes what her career as a journalist has become. When a returning war hero (Dennis Morgan) credits Elizabeth for helping him make it through the war, her editor (Sydney Greenstreet) arranges a welcome home dinner/photo op, which throws the phony domestic goddess into a panic. There’s some good-natured slapstick throughout Christmas in Connecticut as Elizabeth tries to pass herself off as the perfect woman (at least by society’s standards) for an unexpected audience, which makes the film quintessential yuletide viewing. At its heart however is a film about breaking down the facades we put up and embracing the possibility of something more than what’s in front of us.
I so wish this charming late 60s comedy was more popular it is. Still, the love felt for Fitzwilly continues to grow year after year as does its standing as a Christmas comedy. Claude R. Fitzwilliam (Dick Van Dyke) runs a tight ship as the butler to Miss Victoria Woodworth (Edith Evans), a slightly daffy socialite who has no idea that she’s actually broke. The reason Victoria doesn’t know she’s broke is because Claude/”Fitzwilly” has done everything possible in the way of elaborate schemes and cover ups to keep her thinking that her wealth is intact. There’s a sweet farcical nature to Fitzwilly thanks to the main character’s frantic desperation to keep the rouse going; of course having Van Dyke (in one of his best turns) as the film’s lead doesn’t hurt. Fitzwilly turns into a Christmas movie upon its third act and it’s here when not only the biggest scheme the title character has ever attempted comes into play spectacularly, but it’s also when the tightly wound, devoted butler is finally allowed the chance to let down his guard and genuinely smile.
MIXED NUTS (Tubi)
What could be worse than being the head of a suicide hotline at Christmas? Probably the fact that your non-profit business is about to go under come New Year’s. That’s the problem Philip (Steve Martin) is facing and doesn’t know how to break the news to his small overworked staff (Madeline Kahn and Rita Wilson). Throw in an annoying downstairs neighbor (Adam Sandler) a pair of combative expecting parents (Juliette Lewis and Anthony LaPaglia), a lonely transvestite (Liev Schreiber) and a serial killer known as the “seaside strangler” stalking the streets of Venice Beach, and you’ve got Mixed Nuts; Nora Ephron’s 1994 dark holiday comedy. This little-seen movie does a good job of finding the humor in a collection of people simply trudging through their lives, giving a refreshing take on “misery loves company.” Lambasted upon release for its brand of morose humor and lack of genuine cheer, Mixed Nuts has since become a cult classic and a love letter to those who generally dread the holidays for one reason or another.
Very few know of this Guillermo del Toro-produced thriller directed by Susan Montford featuring a standout Kim Basinger and a toolbox which del Toro described as “the red box of death!” Upper class Della (Basinger) lives a life no one can envy as a battered wife who is afraid of her own shadow. Discovering on Christmas Eve that there’s no more wrapping paper in the house, Della heads to the mall as it’s closing where she’s eventually cornered by a gang of thugs led by Lukas Haas. As she’s chased into the nearby woods with only the aforementioned tool box and its contents as protection, she eventually learns how to stand up and fight. There’s an exploitative element to While She Was Out that’s inevitable and impossible to shake. But it doesn’t hamper the film’s core strength of an individual whose been bruised both physically and emotionally finally reclaiming her voice. Although it isn’t a high career watermark for anyone involved, While She Was Out is still a thrilling and surprisingly inspiring holiday story.
There’s always at least one family member who is such a downer during the holidays, they can’t help but bring down the festive mood of the entire family. When it’s the entire family suffering from the holiday blues (summoning a legendary mythical Christmas creature as a result), well then you’ve got an instant holiday classic. That’s pretty much Krampus in a nutshell. When an average family headed by Adam Scott and Toni Collette all begrudgingly get together to suffer through the holidays, their down-in-the-dumps moods trigger the wrath of the titular monster who promptly disposes of them one by one. Krampus is everything you could ever want it to be: tongue-in-cheek, festive, scary, action-packed and full of great special effects. A wondrous interlude explaining Krampus’s origins comes up that adds a dark beauty to the movie which ends becoming more emotional than one might expect. Overall though Krampus is a holiday horror rollercoaster with a message of appreciating your family all year round that isn’t lost on anyone.
There are countless services to explore and great things to watch on all of them. Which ones did we miss that you would suggest to us? And, as always, if you’ve got thoughts on titles we’re missing out on or new services to check out, leave a comment below or email us.
Till next week, stream on, stream away.