Archive for the ‘Advent Calendar’ Category

CFAC – Day 16: National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation

Nanu Advent Day 16

With the possibility of going home so close, these films today I have chosen to enjoy that feeling of family at Christmas time, while seeing that artificial thing destroyed completely and be replaced by what Christmas is really about – making do when all us falls apart, and finding something much more special underneath it all. That and laughing at someone else’s misfortune.


National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)

Jeremiah S. Chechik, 97 mins

Perhaps my favourite of all the Chevy Chase based “Vacation” movies, I can vouch that this is one funny movie. In fact, there are few films that I have seen this many times – and fewer still that still make me laugh, especially around Christmas. If you’ve not seen a vacation movie, they are essentially spoofs of those films which conspire against the main protagonist while at the same time their originator, but unlike contemporary examples like “Meet the Parents” National Lampoon’s films are unashamedly full of real jokes, not the ironic distance of seeing a character’s misfortune, but slapstick and crass and with no other intention than to make you laugh. In this particular iteration, Chase plays Clark Griswald, a dad who wants to have the perfect Christmas, and goes as far as he can to make this dream a reality, even when that dream teases him by having the reality mere inches away. A Christmas classic.


But if you fancy something else with a little more substance, why not try today’s Alternative Film


I Will Be Seeing You (1944)

William Dieterle, 85 mins 

I’ll admit I’ve not actually seen this yet, but I have been recommended this by people who know a lot more about these sorts of things – and it sounds great… Ginger Rogers plays a convict given a few days leave for Christmas to spend with her family, meets a shell-shocked soldier without a family for Christmas. Both hide their pasts from each other but end up spending festivities in each other’s company. It’s from a time when stories had to be of value to themselves, and it’s originality and difference speak of a far simpler age.

CFAC – Day 15: Love, Actually

Nanu Advent Day 15

Ten days ’til Christmas, and the vigour of an exhausting day buying gifts with a loved one will make you want to hate them, and rip the bullshit from Christmas for good. Be reminded by what it is to love someone else with a film that can be agreed upon without any argument, and let peace reign in your household, for a shared, simple Saturday night.


Love, Actually (2003)

Richard Curtis, 135 mins

This will become Curtis’ most remembered film, for whatever reasons you’d like to imagine, but yes, it happened. It features about 15 different story lines, all surrounding different problems and types of love around the Christmas holidays,. Yes, it’s a bit of a mess, and would perhaps make a better tale as a series of short films, individual stories, rather than the almost Tarentino like quilt of stars and simply paved scenarios. But seeing Bill Nighy and Rowan Atkinson will guarantee to make you smile, where other stories will move you in other ways. It’s harmless Christmas fun, and reunites a cast of British treasures that should be working together more often please. Not for you? No significant other? Try this on for size…


Santa’s Slay (2005)

David Steiman, 78 mins

This could be your last chance to get someone you like, on a couch, sat next to you and needing your assistance to see them through this nightmare world. Or this could be a Saturday night in after a shocking day of Christmas shopping where nothing would make you happier than saying Santa Claus chop up a few people for a few screams. Make it worth it – make it Santa’s Slay.


CFAC – Day 14: Nativity

Nanu Advent Day 14

Friday night again, and if you are a parent, you will probably be heading into some sort of Children”s Christmas themed event at some point in the next few days. You can”t be sent out unprepared, so rather than laughing out loud as your own child stacks it on stage, pissing themselves live on stage, not only for the embarrassment of their peers, but permanently on the cameras of dozens of parents who should know better – watch something to make you laugh and get the giggles out of your system, that or be reminded of what it has taken for countless generations to experience and love Christmas today.

Nativity (2010)

Debbie Isit, 95 mins

With Martin Freeman on all our screens for his role as The Hobbit, you would perhaps do well to be reminded of his brilliance in a role perhaps more suited to his core qualities – underplayed, British

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worriers in a semi improvised comedy about the Nativity – which feels to me a very British tradition (or at least the way I think about it). It also features Marc Wooton – one of my favourite comic actors who turns up in all sorts of things, and was the genius behind Shirely Ghostman – and is a very open, friendly comedy for your Friday night. By the way, there”s a sequel coming, if not already out now. It”s got David Tennant instead. It can”t be bad, can it?


A Christmas Tale (2008)

Arnold Desplechin, 150 mins

Set in the trench warfare of World War One, Un Conte De Noel, is a co-production of Germany, France and the United Kingdom, and features a stunningly well performed piece of Drama that is just heart breaking. It opens with children, each of their own national language, performing a poem about war. Distinguished by language, but united through their humanity, and just gets more and more poignant as the film unfolds. God it”s a heartbreaking tale – It may be long and hard going, but well worth the effort.

This will become a future Christmas Classic once it finds it”s audience, and when it does, remember to thank me for pointing it out, a mere 4 years after it was released. Don”t say I”m not on the ball.

CFAC – Day 13: Black Christmas

Nanu Advent Day 13

’twas december the 13th, and all through the house, not a creature was stirring, ‘cept a dead reanimated mouse = yes that’s right, it’s scary Thursday here on the Nanu-Nanu Christmas Advent Calendar of film. Sure, Christmas is about loving films, care and beauty – but there are some god damn brilliant Christmas themed Horror films out there, if you are prepared to suffer from some vile shit too. But I’ve watched some of the guff so you don’t have to bother


Black Christmas (1974)

Bob Clark, 98 mins

Often considerd one of the classic Christmas horror films, Black Christmas is one of the original slasher films and as important to the genre for this alone. It’s builds on the sort of campfire horror stories that make urban legends that much more scary – the fact that they aren’t particularly supernatural,

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just gruesome and real. Unlike yesterday, I am putting my foot down and telling you to ignore the 2006 remake – it didn’t need to be made, because it anaesthetizes the film from it’s raw, and natural 70’s- ness to be something of offence to film, as opposed to an offence to the mind. Indulge yourself, and get you in the giggly mood or Friday… or if that doesn’t suit you, today’s alternative film is…


Rare Exports: a Christmas Tale (2010)

Jalmari Helander, 84 mins

This Finnish masterpiece is a modern, foreign horror that plays with the Christmas myth in all it’s nasty glory. Much like a previous alternative choice Sint, Rare Exports exploits everything you’ve ever loved about Santa and rips it from shred to shred. The basic premise is that Santa is unearthed in an archaeological dig on Christmas eve, and Children start to go missing… It’s well made, and has some really hellish imagery which is fantastic.

Neither of these? A little harder to find, but why not Try…

Santa Claws (1996)

John A. Russo, 83 mins

This is a cheap, cheap b-movie. It isn’t great, by any traditional critical standards, but who needs theme – boy is this brilliant, you know?

Here’s a teaser for you, in the form of a music video…

CFAC – Day 12: Miracle on 34th Street

Nanu Advent Day 12

Now only 13 days left, this week is becoming a hassle. Yes, you”ve had some delightful fun watching the films recommended to you on this very blog, you need to remember the miracle of Christmas. And more importantly, you need to be reminded that miracles can happen – even

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if that miracle is surviving another handful of days before the rest that Christmas hopefully brings for you. Today”s choice is a miraculous Christmas Classic

Miracle on 34th Street (1947 or 1994)

George Seaton, 94 mins/Les Mayfield 114 mins

So, a confusing recommendation today, as I couldn”t choose which version of the two magnificent films to choose. Not because I don”t have a preference, but because I know too many people will prefer one over the other, but please boys and girls this is Christmas – there is no need to fight. So, take a chance with the version you”d like to enjoy, if that”s revisiting your fave, of experimenting with the original, and

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if you”ve seen neither give at least one of them a go. Little girl basically cutes the fuck out of Christmas and we”re left with a Santa Claus that actually exists. God bless er little casino jameshallison girls. Christmas and religion suddenly got a bit more confusing. If that doesn”t float our boat, then why not try today”s alternative film…


Rob VanAlkemade

So, this is a documentary with Morgan Spurlock involved at some point in it”s production about consumerism and Christmas. It isn”t as hard going as you”d imagine, focusing on the figure of Reverend Billy and his mission to remove the shopping from Christmas. Along with his all singing and all dancing Church of Stop Shopping Gospel Choir, Billy tries to get festive shoppers to realise the error of their ways, and apprehending shoppers in their natural

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environments – the bawdy and violently commercial stores that litter American streets. The sentiment is interesting, and don”t be put off by the religious undertones, there is something interesting going on here – but it doesn”t do enough as a documentary to be worth your time at some other time of year. It”s fine, and well put together, if not a little meh. You know? This might not be the miracle you need tonight, but it might make you feel better about the bah humbug inside you…

CFAC – Day 11: Home Alone

Nanu Advent Day 11

Two Weeks To Go – Just fourteen days until Christmas. Holy Crap, you are thinking to yourself, I remember waking on January the 1st 2012, bleary eyed like a new born child (admittedly if that new born child had been raised in its mothers” womb on a diet of a beer, rum and jaegerbombs). And now the proximity of Christmas is devastatingly

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near. This epic milestone deserves cracking open a holiday classic.

Home Alone (1990)

Chris Columbus, 103 mins

Having watched this film more times than perhaps any other in the history of cinema, seeing Home Alone again for the first time in 15 years or so was a humbling experience. So many questions were answered that I did even think to question. I knew every movement, line and expression as if it were my own skin – but only by tone and visuals alone. I knew next to nothing of whatever the hell was going on – the plot having barely registered in my tiny pre-school skull. Sure it made perfect sense now – why, for example, they had seemed to live in a massive house, yet still have to share some sort of bizarre commune with their extended family. A commune that spent hundreds of dollars on delivered pizza and holiday trips across the Atlantic to Paris in first class seats. What”s more, Culkin”s brattish character took on an extra dimension of annoyance that I had only heard uttered by parents disputing the film. I hardly imagine there is a soul reading this who hasn”t enjoyed at least this original edition of the Home Alone series – a series which it is apparent will be returning to our screens in the not too distant future – but take a moment to relive the moment, and revel in the new experience this film, and remember and appreciate in advance what family at Christmas time could mean, if you embrace the lonely child in all of us.

If you don”t want the sentimentality of Home Alone – or perhaps this is something you have to wait “til you are home to watch, a holy film that cannot simply be seen on a whim – then we of course have our alternative film to see you through the day…


Surviving Christmas (2004)

Mike Mitchell, 91 mins

I don”t think there is an alternative film in this series that stands in such stark contrast. This is no-one”s classic christmas film, and has little sentimental value to anyone. Ben Affleck”s christmas comedy sees him play a rich executive whose heartless lifestyle has seen him alienated from all that you hold dear in life – family and friends. Trying to fill this void, Afflect returns to his family home, only to find a different world to that which he remembered – and money lets Affleck hire the family that live there to fulfill his christmas desires. It doesn”t sit well as a film, and is more heavily flawed than even my mistake interpretation of Home Alone could ever be, but you know what – you might find something to treasure in this after all.


One that is harder to find…

Homeless for the Holidays (2009)

George A Johnson, 105 mins

This drama sees an executive lose his perfect life and have to find work in a fast food restaurant. If you can find it, you might be able to revel in something a little different, with a similar message of what christmas is really about – people. Check out this trailer of the independent film, and find something special.

CFAC – Day 10: Funny Farm

Nanu Advent Day 10

Monday has returned and it isn’t even the last week before Christmas. This week is perhaps the grimmest of all the weeks – knowing full well that the glorious Yule time is mere days away, yet still not the reward for the next five days of penance is a real killer. To get you through this Monday – fucking Monday of a week that isn’t even the one that gets you there – you are going to want something to make you laugh, but which isn’t the real deal, yet. Give this a shot tonight for those Christmassless December Blues…

Funny Farm (1988)

George Roy Hill, 101 mins

First off the bat – this is a Chevy Chase feature film. Regardless of

your opinions of him following various spats and rumours circling his involvement with Community – a show in which he returned to his brilliance, albeit briefly – there are few funnier films than this which feature Chase. Sure, he’s known for much significant works – and there are even Christmas themed Chase films that are more worth your time than this – but this will entertain you, I guarantee. It’s about a guy who gives up his job to go and become a writer in the hills. It’s silly. It’s slapstick. It kinda has some Christmas in it, but nothing to make you long for the real deal.

The Santa Clause 2 (2002)

Micheal Lembeck, 104 mins

This is the unnecessary but inevitable sequel to the original and often well loved original “The Santa Clause” which stars Tim Allen as a guy who struggles with the fantasy and joy of Christmas. Some of you might be saying to yourself – “well if after the first one *spoiler* he’s kind of okay with being the whole Santa thing *spoiler end* then how can they make an entire film

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that follows on from that?” You know what, fuck you. Who the fuck cares? How are you even buying the premise of the first you bizarre bastard? This isn’t Godfather 2 by any stretch of the imagination, and as a sequel it fits in perfectly with the soppy sentiment and humour. Just sit the hell down and relax, there’s a pale imitation of a Christmas film to get you through this dire day. Christmas isn’t about perfection – it’s about being thankful for what you’ve got. At least for people outside of America – those inside have a day to do that about a month in advance so I guess Christmas is then about Jesus or something? NOW GO AWAY.

CFAC – Day 9: Gremlins

Nanu Advent Day 9

Following on from Friday”s theme, tonight happens to be the X-Factor final. Now for many I can understand that the X-factor is thoroughly entertaining television programme – and that opinion is absolutely fine, to a certain extent. However, what Cowell”s series has done for the British institution of the Christmas No. 1 borders on

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hateful (View the source of this page if you want to see what I really think about it – it”s a bit grim).

Cowell has ripped music, soul from it”s pure heart, cut off the head and instead fucked its bleeding stump with a commercial efficiency and monotonous anger that would make Genghis
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Kahn blush. There is more imagination and joy to be found in a rectal examination from your granny then there is any successful offshoot from that vulgour, and contemptible show.

If Simon Cowell could have his way with narrative storytelling, then art as we know it would be for the chop – and the death of all culture would be a noble end. As such, tonight I though we should celebrate Christmas in all it”s commercial vulgarity, and exploit that to watch something playful and fun – and an adequate kid”s film to boot if you think you”re child is up to it.

Gremlins (1984)

Joe Dante, 105 mins They say a dog isn”t just for Christmas, but for life. Giving anything live, you have to treat your pet with care and attention. In the world of Gremlins, the new pet has three simple rules to abide by if you wan”t to look pokies online after them: don”t give them water, don”t feed them after midnight, and keep them away from bright light. I”d quite enjoy a version of this film where these rules weren”t broken in any way, as Gremlins would make a killer pet. As it is though, the world of cute animals turns to horror in this delightful faux-horror from the 80s. One thing you have to admire about the 1980s, is their use of special effects. Despite age not looking fondly on the technique, the care and attention that working on these effects with a reality – as

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– gives them a bodily presence that just works. Made today, this would be a waste of your time, but with what”s used this film is a delightful relic of when movies were something truly special. But if you aren”t up for a horror film, maybe take a look at our alternative film

Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

Satoshi Kon & Shôgo Furuya, 92 mins It may not feature horror, but Tokyo Godfather is a gem of a film that could not be further from the dire glitz and zombie-esque glamour that is the re-animated corpse of popular music intrinsic with the X-Factor. Set in Tokyo, as much in the animated tradition of the east as it is in its capital, Tokyo Godfathers follows a homeless community in their festive struggles. This has heart in buckets where X-Factor is even running low on coal, and is unfortunately lost from most people”s radar; if you get a chance, please watch this and share it as it is a film which deserves to be seen. And if you”ve yet to experience anime, prepare to sink some hours in watching some quality films…

CFAC – Day 8: Christmas Story

Nanu Advent Day 8

Saturday night coming up to Christmas, you want something everyone can watch on a couch, maybe with a loved one, or maybe stroking your favourite pet dog, and just laugh like it’s nearly bloody Christmas (it really truly honestly is nearly bloody Christmas folks). Why not give these two light hearted holiday films a go – both are very mainstream and easily accessible for a Saturday night that doesn’t need a single thought.

A Christmas Story (1983)

Bob Clark, 94 mins To many, “A Christmas Story” is a classic that has to be seen but until now it had resolutely been off my radar. This is a comedy by former Porky’s director Bob Clark, and plays around the story of a child living in America in the 1940s. All he wants for Christmas is a red bb gun. Hilarity ensues, and rediscover the true meaning of Christmas… an American Christmas. The film is probably more suited to children than it is adults, but it tries to present comedy on two levels – on one, the very physical and visible level for children, and the other the knowing voice of Christmas seen with experience in hindsight – with the protagonist’s voice-over revealing like an aside, the truth and conspiracy of what is going on.

Bad Santa (2003)

Terry Zwigoff, 91 mins Yes, it really has been that long since this bizarre piece of holiday nastiness was released, and maybe time to reconsider how you felt about it. Billy Bob Thornton plays a conman out to swindle various shops and establishment’s using a Christmas themed scheme that works like a charm, until his ability and determination fade with the onset of alcoholism and exhaustion. His life slowly declines into a ceasepool of his own foils, until he accidentally falls into the company of an eight year old child – fat and bullied without a father figure in his life. As with every film about Christmas, the characters learn “the true meaning” of Christmas, disguised in a comedy film that deserves more affection than has been given it previously – but don’t expect these revelations to be as finely tuned as one might expect. There is 2/3 of a good film in there, tangled between a christmas plot, a frustratingly juxtaposition

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of rudeness and sweet sentiment, and vulgour attempts to be crude that aren’t nearly as funny as you’d imagine, which with a good edit or a rewrite could have been saved. As it is, the late Bernie Mac’s character in the film adequately expresses the frustrations inherent in the film – he is utterly irrelevant to the plot, and confusingly inconsistent, but still hilarious in small doses.

CFAC – Day 7: The Santa Clause/Brazil

Nanu Advent Day 7

Having made it through the first week of December you are looking for one of two things. Either, you want Christmas to be injected directly into your eyeballs. Or you want to kick Christmas in the balls. Assuming that you stay inside tonight – with Song By Toad's inevitably brilliant Christmas do happening ce soir, and no doubt being a very popular night for work Christmas parties in general – then it's a split double bill being recommended today.

The Santa Clause (1994)

John Pasquin, 97 mins

A film in which Tim Allen becomes Santa Claus, you've seen it and it's great – very funny if you are in the right mood. But rather than bore you with me saying that you should see this, I'd prefer to take a moment of your time to consider how I would describe this film if I was to write for TV Times or equivalent:

The Santa Clause:

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and no – that isn't a typo! The Santa “Clause” sees Tim Allen face an hilarious legal conundrum, as his world is turned upside down thanks to a litigious mishap which sees him kill Santa, and have to become him. This is a classic Christmas film about a murderous man struggling with an identity crisis and a magical onset of diabetes.

If you are reading Radio Times or whatever, hire me. Now.

Brazil (1985)

Terry Gilliam, 132 mins

Set in Brazil (lie), Terry Gilliam's joyous won

derland (not true) sees an entirely formulaic portrayal of the future (unbelievably wrong) in which everyone lives and rich and fulfilling life (kill me now). It's a happy-go-lucky festival of unquestioned

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consumerism and delight (not at all) that casino online will definitely make you feel a warm fuzzy feeling in celebrating the birth of Christ our lord (this bit might be true).

I'm not sure why I begun my analysis of Brazil like that, but I've kept it in regardless. If you've not seen Brazil, I don't want to speak to you until you have. As usual for a Terry Gilliam film, there is more invention in a single frame than most films will display in an entire, box office record smashing, trilogy. Next to Twelve Monkeys, this is probably Gilliam's real masterpiece, exploring a dystopian world borrowed heavily from the sentiment of Orwell's classic text 1984 – and tells a story that Gilliam was destined to direct. If, like me, the first week of December has made you want to see the death of Santa by decapitation this will honestly warm the cockles – and even if Christmas is still your cup of tea (extra cinnamon), please watch this film and celebrate the pure imagination and creativity which makes Christmas what it needs to be: childlike and beautiful, filtered through the despair of winter. Watch this:

Plus, I think this is the only film to feature Robert De Niro in this series, but I could be wrong. Get your fill now, just in case.