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.
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.
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…
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.
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
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…
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.
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.
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
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.
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
– 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…
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…
Right. That's it. Pens down. Fuck all this rubbish. It's Thursday, and I'll be damned if I'm not bored of working and it not being Christmas. Christmas is still too far away to really excite me, but this week is just not ending. Worse still, the long nights and biting cold are really getting to me – why don't I remember how dark it gets! Time to watch one something to make me smile the widest I can, and remember why Christmas is so special. To do so, I am going to prescribe one of the funniest modern Christmas Classics – and one of Will Ferrel's funniest films to date.
This film could not have been better made for Will Ferrel if he had written it himself (which I'm not sure but I'm pretty sure he was part of it). For a while, on this side of the atlantic at least, it was found only by Anchorman devotees searching out for their fix of Ferrel, but it has since established itself as a family favourite – and it doesn't disappoint grown adults either. Not only do you have Will Ferrel doing what he does best, being ridiculously silly – and at christmas too – but you get a very early Zooey Deschanel keeping the kooky to a minimu
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m, but being desperately attractive without labouring the point. Not that she's the only reason to watch the film – but it adds a certain joy to proceedings. You perve. Stop looking at her and get ready – SANTA IS COMING
I don't want to say it out loud, but this film is coming up to being 10 years old. Cripes.
Against this, I want to highlight an alternative that show it's age.
Having never actually seen this myself, I am looking forward to checking out another film from an interesting time in film history. Clearly, mid second world war, concentrations weren't particularly focused on something full of spectacle, but instead focused on more subtle elements such as drama. This story sees a woman convicted of a crime on christmas eve – but with no courts
It's twenty days to go, and if I'm honest – it's time to get genuinely excited by the prospect of Christmas. Remembering traditions are all important at this time of the year, and it is worth preparing yourself now before Christmas gets on top of you. There is no other way to prepare then to let yourself become a child again and watch, what is for British audiences, a classic animation for this time of year.
The adaptation of Raymond Biggs wonderful story of The Snowman has been experienced by any number of school children and adults in the 30 years since it was first released. The shrill voice of Aled Jones – who know has reprieved a place in the heart of the UK once again as a radio DJ – is a wonderful addition to some beautiful animation that is now iconic with a classic family Christmas (although there is a thing about it not being his voice or something. Google it, I'm not getting into it now). And lo and behold, it's on YouTube in it's entirety. Few!
As it's only short, to make things extra special I thought I'd include a few other festive favourites from around the world.
qe2hGUN3wGzVqPjZQ0HIc7eQ&sig2=aoVri7KN2gCPtWdyk5T1Zg”>How the Grinch Stole Christmas (from 1966 would you believe!) – the original animation and not the remake – is a film I've never personally experienced except through other culture and cinema, but is one that is universally
adored by vast swathes of American society, and another adaptation of Dr Seuss that is beloved. Far less recognised, but no doubt inspiration for the superb festive episode of Community, a number of claymation online casino animations including Jack Frost (1979) make the perfect accompaniment for any Snowman animation binge.
But for those of you not in the mood for some shitty kids animation – and who would blame you, there is bloody 20 days til christmas! Can't it fuck off already? Check out this little
This dark Dutch film is a horror that will begin to feature more prominently in people's Christmas film canon. In it, the myth of Santa Claus takes on its implicit, dark story that makes many fear the very thing they are supposed to love – as religion returns to sour the fun of Christmas through the murderous bishop of St. Nicholas. Furthermore, it's set on December 5th, and so tonight is no better day to watch
This marks the first of several horror films that make it into the advent calendar – you'd better watch out for the rest…
Day four into the Christmas advent calendar of films, and already I can see the Christmas spirit wearing thin. Don't worry, it's a Tuesday night, we are going to watch something that is as fun as it is not about Christmas.
This film is probably one of Val Kilmer's finest moments, and oddly enough creeped under a lot of people's radar's when it came out in 2005. Playing around with LA and the acting culture, Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a kind of reboot of the noir genre, as a criminal escaping a robbery is asked to audition for the role of a detective in a movie. Again, it's not the most “Christmassy” of films – our momentum for festive fun will build as the month gathers pace – but being set around Christmas it's a good solid film that is ideal for a Tuesday night – and has it's charms that won't disappoint you.
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While it's funny, it's also loud and a bit tongue in cheek. And if you aren't in the mood for that, then I need to find something equally charming, but which is quiet, subdued, and entirely unamerican. Enter then my alternative film recommendation:
This short film follows the the life of a man struggling to fill his role as a young father. At only 23, he already has 7 children, and is awaiting his 8th while the family prepares for an usual Christmas. It's a short British documentary that highlights British film making talent, and at only 12 minutes long is worth a few moments of your time,
So, it's back to work on Monday, and so begins one of the longest stretches of work you will ever encounter. Coming up to Christmas, time changes, as excitement is replaced by tedium. You work all week, and it doesn't seem to come closer. What's more, in every waking moment. You become alienated from the world – where the fuck is family and Christmas? Why am I working so much to pay for things I don't need? Why is the world so weird? What the fuck have trees got to do with Christ? You need a film to help you feel lost, and alienated. You need some good cinema. You need…
The incredible film sees Stanley Kubrick work with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman, exposing love and ritual in the most bizarre way. As with most Kubrick films, the cinematography is incredible, but at nearly 3 hours long it's a film that will test your patience, as much as the world tests Cruise's character. But it is everything odd and unusual in one package. If you've never seen it, then you must – take the time out of your day to at least see it once. If you have seen it before, then go onto the IMDB trivia section, and look at how much got changed before having another watch, and think to yourself – where are they now? It isn't a Christmas film in the strictest sense of the word, but the oddness of Christmas and community are exposed in a wonderful – and I guaran
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tee some of the sequences will make you feel cold. If you can, grab a copy in high definition, and watch this before Christmas really sets in, and you end up being too tied up to give this film the viewing it deserves.
Honestly though, it's a tough watch and may not be to everyone's tastes. Furthermore, it won't
be the film that Kubrick wanted you to see, which adds to the mystery of it all. But if you don't fancy watching this – and this is only an excuse for those of you who have seen it before, as I urge you to watch it the once in your life – then the alternative film is another kind of oddness.
This documentary looks at the life of Mr. Vig, and very elderly bachelor who bought up a castle with the explicit aim of turning it into a monastery. Realising his ambitions, as the last pieces fall into place, this documentary explores the complexities of realising your dreams. The fact that Mr Vig looks kind of like Santa Claus makes this one of the loosest possible Christmas films, but you should watch it anyway to explore Christmas in a different kind of way. Once again, this will be difficult to find but worth the effort if you can get your hands on a copy.
So the first Sunday of the month, and you are a bit Christmassed out from the . After all, it's only really getting started, and you don't want to blow your load to soon. It's too early to go Christmas shopping, but you still wanna watch a good, solid Sunday night film. I have the perfect thing for you.
Unlike yesterday's effort, this title creeps into the top ten of Christmas film lists for other reasons. Sure, it's a great film. It's a film you can watch any Sunday, of any year. It won't age. It's a timeless action flick that defined Bruce Willis' career for 20 years, and cemented his role as the action star of our hearts – and what's more, it's the best time he's played that role. But it's in every list as the Christmas film that people always remember being a Christmas film when people say what's your favourite Christmas film, but actually really isn't a Christmas film. You know? That's why I wanted to get it out of the way early, so people would stop chatting about Die Hard being the greatest Christmas film – it isn't, but it's ideal for this time of the year. Watch it now so that when people talk about it as the best Christmas film for the rest of December, it'll be fresh in your mind and you'll sound the expert.
Here we see some critical analysis of the film, back when it was released on vhs:
I don't know why you are still reading this, you know already from the moment I said Die Hard that you want to go see it, so treat yourself – I guarantee you've not seen it nearly recently enough, even if the last time you saw it was last night. It's
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cold outside – do yourself a favour and go watch this film. It's over two hours long and it never feels like it for a second.
Okay, so you've already seen Die Hard, literally this morning, twice, and you don't fancy watching it for the third time today. I can understand entirely – but you still need the kind of Sunday night film that everyone can enjoy? Fine, give this alternative film a try…
John Cusack as you've not seen him before. Look out for him later in the month
John Cusack turns up later in our advent calendar for perhaps one of my favourite Christmas films, but this one is often forgotten – and in many minds, completely unknown.
Set on Christmas eve, it's about a crime on the night before the big day, and it is debatable if this has more right to be a Christmas film, but at least it doesn't skimp on strippers, violence or fun. It's no Die Hard – but then what is? Die Hard. Watch Die Hard already. Even Die Hard 2 struggles to come close to Die Hard. Watch Mother Fucking Die Hard – then watch this. You done that yet? Yes. Good.
Editor's Note: It just so happens that the excellent Cry Baby Comedy will be hosting a Die Hard event for Christmas this coming Friday 7th December at the Banshee Labyrinth. Comedy and Die Hard on a big screen with an audience too – cracking night, go check it out!
First of all, welcome to CFAC – the Christmas Film Advent Calendar to end all advent calendars – a guide to the best Christmas films that you may or may not have seen, with one a day to get you excited for Christmas. The guide will be simple – every day, behind every window, a new film will be posted – these films won't be in any particular order, they do not start at the worst and get better, they have been crafted to adapt to the mood of that time of the month. But more than this, a separate alternative film will be offered if you fancy something different – or are just plain not up for the movie on offer! So, without further ado, let us begin…
Day 1: Let's Get Christmassy!
So, it's December 1st, and out of nowhere, November is over. The year 2012, which we had anticipated for years as the year of the future, has come and is almost over. All that excitement gone to nothing. All that is left is that long hard slog 'til Christmas – work is almost over, and school is nearing , all the while, days are getting longer, and the worst of the winter weather is yet to hit. So what better way to start the month then with a massive dose of Christmas!
Creeping into the top five of most Christmas film lists, The Muppet Christmas Carol does everything that the Muppets did so well, back when they were still doing it with some sense of regularity – it's brilliantly funny no matter your age, cleverly written and vibrant in colour and sound. Although not the only Dickens' featured in this list, The Muppet take is probably my favourite and does the original text justice, keeping the essence and then stuffing it through the minds of adults who never grew up. I imagine few won't have seen this, so dust off your copy and whack it in while you put up some decorations – this is guaranteed to kick off the month with a smile – the perfect film to get anyone in the Christmas mood, and so light that you can have it on in the background while you work on g
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etting things festive without missing a beat. Here's a clip of one of the songs:
Is it Michael Caine's greatest film role? No. Not even close. But then again, it's probably the role he'd most like to be remembered for, around this time of year. By children. Who haven't seen him do Batman.
Going along with the Kids Christmas vibe, a modern film that will no doubt find it's way into the christmas canon soon enough is Aardman's 3D adventure Arthur Christmas. Questions of Santa Claus' apparent limited abilities are tested to their limits by this animated tour de force that exposes the incredibly technical world of Santa and his Elves. It's a star studded film with an incredible cast, and with Peter Baynham helping out in the writing department, it has an humorous charm that will not disappoint, and echoes the bright and brilliant sparkle of the Muppets that may be wearing thin to some who have watched their Christmas Carol to death – or worry that the songs won't match up to the brilliant “Man or a Muppet”.
This short documentary traces the journey of a tree from its home in Norway, to it's place in the streets of London. It might be quite hard to track down, but if you can find it, this short film about the journey of the hallowed christmas tree, will help anchor your christmas spirits into the magnitude and role of winter, life and nature. You can catch some of the film here, or else see extracts from the Zagreb Film Festival.