And so, with the tedious inevitability of things that arrive earlier than you really want, like school reports, third party insurance bills, car registration, wrinkles, and Jehovah’s Witnesses, the festive season is well and truly upon us. I myself have a fully booked social life until well after Christmas (sorry Karl and all at Nine’s Today for having to decline your invitation to appear), and my employer has thrust the season of goodwill upon us to the haunting strains of 20 different but equally nauseating versions of “Jingle Bells”.
This borne in mind, I’m bring Christmas early to Ravings In Cinemascope. And what better way to celebrate the onset of gift-buying frenzies than a list format? Yes folks, it’s Ravings In Kringlescope today as we discover five movies in no particular order which you too can enjoy this Christmas.
Disclaimer: Despite evidence to the contrary, above, I actually love Christmas. Just ask my family. I get unrelentingly bouncy; even more so than usual. It’s like I’ve snorted the ashes of an unfortunately burned copy of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.
5. Lethal Weapon (1987)
A girl plunges to her from an apartment window, setting in motion events which will bring together Sergeants Roger Murtaugh and Martin Riggs, two Homicide detectives who couldn’t be more different. Together they discover the meaning of Christmas, and along the way almost die several times whilst blowing open a heroin smuggling racket.
I had forgotten until I watched it again recently that the original Lethal Weapon is set at Christmas, but upon reflection it makes perfect sense. At what other time of year can one legitimately set a gunfight in a Christmas tree farm? And of course, the film’s underlying theme of friendship and family goes hand in hand with Christmas togetherness.
Buddy-cop movies are such a standard of American cinema, and yet this film manages to top them all. Danny Glover and Mel Gibson as the straight laced Murtaugh and unhinged Riggs (respectively) bring a great chemistry to the screen, which helped make the series so successful it ran for another three movies! Over the course of the film, Riggs goes from being psychotic and suicidal to much more balanced and happy with life, which in a way is also seasonally appropriate considering the redemption aspects of Christmas. But we’re not watching it for that. It’s a competently directed and often gripping action thriller with great heart and great acting. Put this on after the under-12s are in bed.
Honorable Mention: Trading Places (1983)
4. Die Hard (1988)
NYPD Detective Lieutenant John McClane is heading to LA for Christmas to win back his estranged wife. Unfortunately he becomes embroiled in a terrorist plot to steal the considerable bearer bond reserves of the Nakatomi Company. Can John stop vile terrorist Hans Gruber and save his marriage?
You couldn’t have a list of Christmas movies without Die Hard! From the threatening 80s thriller music with overdubbed sleighbells to the deeply ironic juxtaposition of the joy of Christmas with terrorism, Die Hard well and truly has it all. This was the film which introduced me properly to Bruce Willis, and, of course, Alan Rickman (outside his role as Professor Snape in Harry Potter). Both of these men are fine actors, and like Gibson and Glover in Lethal Weapon, they have an easy relationship which lends some dry comedy to what would otherwise be a thoroughly mean affair.
The Christmas spirit again rears its head in the form of redemption – John McLane saves the lives of his wife and her colleagues and wins his way back into her heart, and then washed up non-shooting cop Al redeems himself by, well, shooting a terrorist in the head. But anyway; let’s not dwell on the glorification of bloodthirstiness in this film. It’s a rollicking good ride with a lot of fun to boot – and seriously, no one does ‘dry’ like Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber! Don’t watch this before your work Christmas party which is in a skyscraper.
Honorable Mention: Bad Santa (2003)
3. Jingle All The Way (1996)
Howard Langston, over-enthusiastic mattress salesman. A day like any other. What for Howard began as a perfectly normal Christmas Eve soon descended into a nightmare. Into insanity. Into danger. Into a place known as…The Jingle Zone.
This is potentially controversial, as Jingle All The Way is one of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s less successful attempts at his oft-derided family comedy turn. Personally, I discovered it thanks to this music video:
I had to see this movie. And, to be honest, it didn’t disappoint. Arnie comedies are very enjoyable, mainly because he puts his all into everything he does. Plus, it’s hilarious seeing such a huge muscular guy shouting about cookies in that voice. There’s more satirical humour about the commercialisation of Christmas than there is genuine seasonal schmaltz too, which adds a little bit of appeal for the cold-at-heart. But really, Jingle All The Way is just a classic farce – absolutely ridiculous situations continue to escalate until you genuinely wonder what will happen next. This is one for post-lunch Chrimbo food comas.
Honorable Mention: Home Alone (1990)
2. Love Actually (2003)
The heartstrings are pulled as several men and women cry on film. The Prime Minister of Great Britain enjoys The Pointer Sisters. Colin Firth does not speak Portuguese. Liam Neeson is more than just an action junkie. Love stinks. But also doesn’t. All these revelations and more can be found in Richard Curtis’s Christmas epic, Love Actually.
The favourite Christmas film of at least half the people I know, it’s also the movie which cured me of my unreasonable hatred of Hugh Grant. As one of director Richard Curtis’s trademark “every person in this movie is linked in some way, however spurious the connection” films, this one doesn’t disappoint. Packed fit to burst with Christmas cheese, it delights from beginning to end as relationships flourish, smiles are shared, and lessons are learned.
Indeed, the only sour note is that Alan Rickman plays an inconsiderate jerk; as the man with the most normal and delightful wife (Emma Thompson) it’s disheartening to see him be the one who can’t keep it in his pants. It’s also sad because this particular story isn’t resolved at the end of the film, though it’s likely because even Christmas can’t quickly heal the wound of infidelity. Still, all this is made up for by Rowan Atkinson being awesome. Watch this film this Christmas with your partner – or best friend, if you’re single – and enjoy the rollercoaster of emotion.
Honorable Mention: While You Were Sleeping (1995)
1. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Michael Caine and some felt glove puppets of renown join together to provide an iconic interpretation of a Christmas standard.
For years in this house, the only exposure we had to this film was this hilarious trailer at the beginning of the 1994 Snow White and the Seven Dwarfs VHS.
Yeah, remember videos? Classic times. Anyway, this is probably the best interpretation of Dickens’ corny Christmas classic. The comedy interpretations of Jacob Marley (Jacob and Robert in this one so they can be played by Statler and Waldorf, the hecklers), Charles “Gonzo” Dickens, Bob “Kermit” Cratchit, and of course the excellent Scrooge played by everyone’s favourite British actor Michael Caine, plus some very catchy songs, all go together to create a Christmas carol to remember. Chuck in a bit of trademark Muppet sarcasm…
And you have my favourite Christmas movie. It pours oodles of freshness into the hackneyed old story of Scrooge’s redemption, and it’s a joy to watch no matter how many times you’ve seen it. Watch it every day from now until Christmas and force your teenage siblings, who are much less in love with the Muppets than you, to do it too.
Honorable Mention: Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)