So here we are again at this time of the year. Twelve months ago, when this blog was still at its infancy, I wrote about why I celebrate Christmas. Here it is. This time, however, I’ll speak about another curious ritual: Xmas Movies. It seems there are these films that for one reason or another, we end up watching again and again in late December. I’m sure you have a few favorites but I’ll focus on 5 that come to my mind, even though some of them you wouldn’t be able to drag me to watch again if you pulled a gun to my head. Still, these are movies you can see on TV every year, so prepare yourself. I hope you enjoy the list.
- HOME ALONE
Do you know that story about the boy who had a big family that inadvertently left him alone in a big house as they traveled for the holidays and then he defended it from burglars using his MacGyver-like skills and wits? You do? Well, it might surprise you that no-one did before 1990 when this Chris Colombus film featured an amazing Macaulay Culkin and a hilarious Joe Pesci. You have probably now watched it dozens of times or others like it. It’s still a fun movie to watch, actually – it’s funny, moving and tender – if you manage to convince yourself to watch it. You can revel on Culkin’s pseudo-Dirty Harry one-liners as: “Are you thirsty for more?”
- IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE
This is the last or one of the last movies Frank Capra ever made. It was a massive flop at the Box Office, but now it’s one of the classics everyone knows. I watched it for the first time when I was a young teen and promised myself never to watch it again as I wept like a little baby. I still weep like a little baby watching it, even though I only did it once or twice more. It’s another movie that lives of a tremendous performance by a tremendous actor – in this case Jimmy Stewart. It’s actually also a very dark movie before being positive. Capra had gone through life-changing experiences covering World War II and this movie has a strange kind of maturity to it, while still retaining his particular kind of naiveté.
- LOVE ACTUALLY
I’m always baffled that this Richard Curtis ensemble movie became such a success. I find it deeply flawed. It’s always difficult to make an ensemble-short-story-pastiche work and this movie seems to work for far too many people, in my view. It actually annoys me that it became a sorta-classic-Xmas-movie. Most of the too-many stories in the movie are very poor, in my view, but I have to say there are a few that I still enjoy taking a peek at. The central PM-Hugh Grant and the help-Martine McCutcheon plot actually seems funny and solid. It has nothing to it, but it’s well… nice. And it works. However, the better parts of the movie are, in my view, three other tender and clever plots. First, the delicious sorta-love-story between the rock star played by the brilliant Bill Nighy and his agent played by Gregor Fisher – it’s a story both surprising and improbable. Then, the short Martin Freeman and Joanna Page plot about two body-doubles that fall in love as they interact pretending to have sex in movies. And then, for me the most entertaining and intelligent story, the one where Liam Neeson runs to support his teenage son’s first love. That one I really like – with the background of the death of the characters’ wife and mother, it becomes such a good story about the bonding of father and son. It’s too bad I have to suffer through the whole lot to watch these bits. But that’s Christmas…
- DIE HARD
I watched this McTiernan movie in the theater as it came out in my teens. I loved it from the start and it’s still one of my favorite movies. It actually changed the paradigm on these kinds of action pictures for at least two reasons: 1) the good guy got hurt; 2) the bad guys had names and faces – they weren’t just some red-shirts dying a dime a dozen. Curiously enough, it also became a Xmas classic – how can you forget the McLane’s last kiss to the sound of Frank Sinatra (or was it Bing Crosby?) ‘Let it snow, let it snow, let it snow’? It also made Bruce Willis a movie star. The movie is very well built with realistic believable characters and very balanced emotional energy: it has the right amount of drama, the right amount of action and the right amount of humor. This movie is always a blast to watch and I try not to miss it at Christmas time.
- THE SOUND OF MUSIC
This Robert Wise picture is an incredible movie. It’s a classic by all accounts and a deserving classic too. Very well written and performed, I don’t believe there is a movie-goer in the planet that never watched this one. Rogers & Hammerstein’s quintessential songs are amazing and amazingly adequate to the story – based on the real story of the Von Trapp singer family that, as far as I know, fled the Nazi annexation of Austria in the 1930s. I know that many will be irritated by the regular screening of this movie at this time of the year, and many will perhaps hate it by now from sheer fatigue, but if you ever happen to watch it with a clear mind I think you will see how good it truly is. Each scene is a treat, and this is one of those movies I often talk about in screenwriting classes because of its classic and flawless format.
And so here it is. A small list of movies I happen to watch from time to time at Christmas. Tell me what you think and what you generally watch at this time. And meanwhile, Merry Christmas!! Enjoy your family and your friends, and rest, for a change. See you around, fellow warriors.