We’re a few days late, but let’s be honest, it’s never the wrong time to celebrate the holidays!
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It always feels like a bit of a trip to be in the thick of summertime bliss and then suddenly realize that we’re once again halfway to the holidays. It’s a stark contrast to the mentality of days by the lake, barbecues and long blue nights to know that the most craziest, draining and cheeriest time of the year is on the horizon. Many pockets of society have embraced this halfway point however. There are Christmas in July sales all over the place and The Hallmark Channel seizes upon the month by programming a whole slew of their holiday TV movie titles (as if they actually needed an excuse to do so.)
We here at Field of Streams have decided to follow suit this year by looking at some quality holiday themed streaming titles which mainly forego the traditional Christmas saccharine other offerings do and instead honor the most wonderful time of year in ways which are unconventional, yet certainly fitting.
THE FAMILY STONE (Prime)
This sleeper of the 2005 holiday movie season still holds up thanks to the way it balances both genuine comedy with the kind of real emotion that comes from being around family during the holidays. When an uptight woman (Sarah Jessica Parker) goes to Connecticut on Christmas Eve with her fiancé (Dermot Mulroney) to meet his family, social differences can’t help but rear their ugly heads. The cast, which also includes Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson, Claire Danes and Rachel McAdams, all bring out the heart of this touching and well-written comedy, culminating in both an explosive dinner scene and a third act that offers up three different tear-filled moments. The Family Stone uses its “meeting the family” premise for some great laughs, but it’s the way it taps into the time of the year when emotions are high, defenses are down and everyone is at their most human, which makes it work.
FITZWILLY (Epix , Prime, Sling TV, Paramount+, Philo)
Of all of Dick Van Dyke’s onscreen turns, it’s this one which deserves more praise than its been given. In Fitzwilly, Van Dyke plays the title character, a loyal butler/head of the household to a once-wealthy socialite (Edith Evans) who is unaware that her fortune has dwindled away. The reason she is unaware is because Fitzwilly continues to do everything in his power to prevent his employer from knowing that she’s actually broke. However the arrival of a new secretary (Barbara Feldon) threatens to change everything. Fitzwilly perfectly fits into the mold of madcap 60s comedies with its leading man being both zany and romantic all the way through. The array of wacky characters adds to the movie’s many colors, especially the hilarious and side-splitting Evans and Fitzwilly’s third act, in which everyone infiltrates a department store on Christmas Eve, is full of such exhilaration and farce that it instantly makes the movie a cult holiday classic.
BATMAN RETURNS (HBO Max)
Tim Burton’s follow up to his 1989 version of the caped crusader was an instant summer hit in 1992 and a premonition of what the June box office would look like in the decades to come. The comedic flair of Danny DeVito’s Penguin and the magnetism of Michelle Pfeiffer’s Catwoman meant that Batman (Michael Keaton) himself took something of a backseat in his own story. All these years later and the movie is still fondly remembered thanks mainly to Pfeiffer’s illustration of what many consider to be the ultimate version of Catwoman. But in recent times, Batman Returns has come to be recognized as a new holiday classic. More and more families tend to watch the film come every December, the movie is included in annual holiday watch lists from critics and Alamo Drafthouse here in Austin even offers up a drag queen-hosted screening complete with fake snow for the movie’s finale. While many prefer Nolan’s gloomy, self-important take on the legendary superhero, there’s very little that compares with watching Catwoman and Batman sharing a kiss under the mistletoe every year.
ALFRED HITCHCOCK PRESENTS (Peacock)
The Master of Suspense never made a Christmas film as a director, but this holiday episode of his eponymous TV series showed that even Alfred Hitchcock did have a sentimental side which he was happy to let out around Christmastime. In “Santa Claus and the Tenth Avenue Kid,” Barry Fitzgerald plays a felon out on parole who reluctantly takes a job as a department store Santa during the holidays as a condition of his release. When he spots a boy intent on shoplifting, he finds himself suddenly taken aback. Fitzgerald is positively poetic in this episode as someone who has no use for a society he feels has no use for him. The amount of callousness and apathy he gives off is matched by his attempts to save the young stranger he encounters from a future no one saved him from when he was younger. It may not feature the kind of twist and suspense Hitchcock’s show was known for, but “Santa Claus and the Tenth Avenue Kid” is a wonderful lesson in holiday redemption and atonement just the same.
NIGHT GALLERY (NBC)
Just like Alfred Hitchcock Presents, Night Gallery likewise offered up a Christmas episode of its own during the show’s all-too-brief run. “The Messiah on Mott Street” stars the great Edward G. Robinson as an elderly grandfather on his deathbed and Tony Roberts as the doctor trying to get him to face the fact of his impending death. At the center of the Rod Serling-penned teleplay is the young boy (Ricky Powell) who believes that a messiah will come in to their ghetto neighborhood and save his grandfather. While Night Gallery always had a dark playfulness mixed with a biting social commentary to it, the show rarely ventured into the emotional, which is where this episode heads straight towards. The idea of miracles occurring seems more out of place for a show from the 70s, even if that show was Night Gallery, but “The Messiah on Mott Street” unashamedly hones in on childhood innocence, faith, belief and how all such elements are at their most powerful during the holidays for one of the series’ most memorable episodes.
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? Tell us what we’re missing out on or what new services we should check out by leaving a comment below or emailing us.