Posted by G. Raymond Leavold
18. Dec, 2012
Not exactly getting into Christmas this year? Don’t feel like watching another bad made-for-TV movie Christmas night? Looking for something that’ll leave more than just a sickening vomit-taste in your mouth? Me too. So here’s my list of alternative Christmas films to help you through this holiday season.
Though by no means obscure, this list is made up of Christmas films that are actually fun and enjoyable to watch, and while some contain that awful thing known as ‘Christmas Spirit’ and are a little schmaltzy in places, they make up for it by being cool-as-hell films!
In compiling this list I’ve tried to include films that are not just about Christmas, but that use Christmas as a setting, which opens the flood-gates to a lot of great genre films. There’s action, comedy, horror, animation, hell; even sci-fi, so there’s enough here to please everyone. If everyone has the same taste in films that I do, that is.
Preceding the quintessential slasher movie Halloween by no less than 4 years, Black Christmas has a maniac running around a college campus hacking up the students before they can make it home for the holidays. With an energetic cast including Margot Kidder, Olivia Hussey and horror stalwart John Saxon, Black Christmas sure does make you appreciate the finer things, like locks on your goddamn doors.
A Not-so-Christmassy Quote: “These broads would hump the Leaning Tower of Pisa if they could get up there!”
It’s pretty cool that a film can both send up the sappy Americana envisioned by Frank Capra whilst also reinforcing it, but the greatest thing about Gremlins is that it’s about little monsters wreaking havoc in a small town on Christmas, and down-on-his-luck nice guy Billy Peltzer has to stop them. Capra would’ve been proud.
A Not-so-Christmassy Quote: “Goddamn foreign cars.”
What better way to enjoy Christmas and be grateful for what we have than watching Det. John McClane protect our freedom from foreign invaders at the Nakatomi Towers? Barefoot and armed with only his razor-sharp one-liners (as well as heaps of guns), McClane comes up against the scariest terrorist of all: a British guy with a German accent. Guess who wins?
A Not-so-Christmassy Quote: “That was Gary Cooper, asshole.”
NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION
I guess the only ‘true’ Christmas film on this list, Christmas Vacation makes it because it’s funny enough to watch all year round, which is what I did as a kid. Watching Chevy Chase before he gave up being funny, and Randy Quaid when he wasn’t a nut-bar criminal, it’s got the right amount of schmaltz and mean-spiritedness to be the type of film I like to see at Christmas.
A Not-so-Christmassy Quote: “Oh, the silent majesty of a winter’s morn, the clean, cool chill of the holiday air, an asshole in his bathrobe, emptying a chemical toilet into my sewer.”
THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS
About 15 years ago, stop-motion director Henry Selick teamed up with Tim Burton to make one of the liveliest and entertaining stop-motion animation films ever. The tale of Jack Skellington—The Pumpkin King and greatest scare-master of them all—discovering Christmas and misinterpreting it is a hell of a lot of fun and, with Danny Elfman’s catchy songs, is ever re-watchable.
A Not-so-Christmassy Quote: “Forgive me, Mr. Claus. I’ve made a terrible mess of your holiday.”
HOME ALONE 1 & 2
Movies of my childhood aren’t always worth revisiting, but Home Alone 1 & 2 most assuredly are. Though both films are very similar, once you get past the idea that a family can neglect their only likeable child two years in a row on Christmas, you can settle in and enjoy the hijinks and tom-foolery. And a lot of really awful injuries inflicted on Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern. Seriously, when I was a kid I was completely cool with this little kid torturing these bad guys, but now when I watch it, I kind of feel sorry for them. Does that mean I’ve become a better person over the years? Or was the child-me just a sadistic little bastard?
A Not-so-Christmassy Quote: “I’m gonna give you to the count of 10 to get your ugly, yellow, no good keister off my property, before I pump your guts full of lead.”
Titled Trancers in the U.S., Future Cop is kind of a rip-off/cross between The Terminator and Blade Runner. Jack Deth, a cool bounty-hunter from the future, must travel back in time to present day California (1985) to inhabit the body of his ancestor—that looks remarkably like him—in order to stop bad guy Whistler and his Trancers, a group of zombie-like minions that threaten the past and future. What does this have to do with Christmas? Well, not much, apart from the fact that the events of the film are set in late December. But there is an unforgettable fight scene in which Deth beats up a Mall-Santa. Doubt worry, turns out Santa’s a Trancer.
A Not-so-Christmassy Quote: “Dry hair’s for squids.”
MONTY PYTHON’S THE MEANING OF LIFE
Not strictly a Christmas film (I’m positive its played on TV more than once Christmas night, though), The Meaning of Life deserves to be on the list solely for Graham Chapman’s finest hour singing ‘Christmas In Heaven’ at the close on the film. The rest of the film is quite good too.
A Not-so-Christmassy Quote: “I can go down the road any time I want and walk into Harry’s and hold my head up high and say in a loud, steady voice, ‘Harry, I want you to sell me a condom. In fact, today, I think I’ll have a French Tickler, for I am a Protestant’.”
THE JUNKY’S CHRISTMAS
Though only a short film, The Junky’s Christmas truly does capture the Christmas Spirit in the most unlikely of ways. Based on a short story by William S. Burroughs and narrated by the man himself, this stop-motion animated film about a junky that learns the true meaning of Christmas sure is something special, anomalous and deserving of being on this list. A film for the kiddies, no doubt.
A Not-so-Christmassy Quote: “For Christ sake, Danny thought, I must have scored for the immaculate fix.”
Rather than including one of the numerous versions of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, I decided to include the only funny one, apart from The Muppet Christmas Carol, which is actually hilarious. Bill Murray plays a ruthless TV executive who has forgotten the true meaning of Christmas and, when visited by the Ghosts of Christmas past, present and future, has a change of heart. Murray is a great modern day Scrooge, the perfect asshole and, though the ending is definitely the most sentimental of anything on this list, Murray makes it work.
A Not-so-Christmassy Quote: “I never liked a girl well enough to give her twelve sharp knives.”
CHRISTMAS FILMS TO AVOID THIS HOLIDAY SEASON
Along with the films you should see, I would be remiss if I weren’t to point out the films that you guys should steer clear of this Christmas.
Santa with Muscles – Starring Hulk Hogan. ’Nuff said?
Jingle All the Way – I saw this Schwarzenegger film at the cinema when it came out. After years and years of counseling, I was finally able to move on…
Turbo Man – Looks like it’s back to therapy for me.
Curly Sue – Was this a Christmas film? I remember snow. Anyway, Jim Belushi and an obnoxious little girl are bums that you couldn’t care less about.
Jack Frost – Michael Keaton dies and is reincarnated as a creepy-as-hell snowman to teach his son the true meaning of Christmas, and teaches us all that death is a much better alternative in most cases.
Santa Claus Conquers the Martians – Need I go on?
Photographer James Voller continues his exploration of the intersection between installation, photography and documentary media in his latest exhibition.
Mental illness and the power of friendship gives this production by The Melbourne Theatre Company real heart.
The third of the Astor’s Wes Anderson retrospectives will consist of a double header featuring The Darjeeling Limited and Fantastic Mr. Fox.