Wednesday, November 27, 2013

Christmas Movie List

With December fast approaching I thought it appropriate to share a list of some of the films I like to watch. I'm not religious, and more importantly not Christian, so Christmas has always been about something different for me. Snow, family, Santa Claus, and a sprinkle of melancholy are some of the things that I think of. It's also the time for Chanukah, the Festival of Lights, and here in Scandinavia where the winter months get dark and cold, I'll take all the light I can get.

This list is by no means exhaustive, but just some suggestions. Feel free to write your personal favorites in the comments section below.

This is the film that kicks off the Christmas movie period for me. Even though it's a Thanksgiving film, which of course is an American holiday, it has all the things connected with Christmas. There's snow, a dysfunctional family, and then there is love. Jodie Foster directs the film with astounding ease and it tugs at the heartstrings every time I see it. A classic.

The Steven Spielberg film that everybody hates, but I love. I saw it at the cinema and fell in love with it. Since then it's been a regular watch in December. Robin Williams as the grown-up Peter who's forgotten the magic of his past, and must rediscover his identity in Neverland, has all the makings of a classic, and to this day I'm baffled by the intense hatred the film receives.

This was probably inspired by the inclusion of the flying sequence in the Disney Christmas Special shown here in Denmark every single year. The animation is gorgeous, the songs are wonderful, and the magic of the story makes it a must-see.

Everybody should know this as a classic action film by now. To me and fellow podcaster David this is also a great Christmas film. The whole thing takes place during an office Christmas party, and a ton of yuletide references in dialogue, as well as the soundtrack, make this the perfect unorthodox Christmas film.

Though not quite as good as the first film, this is nevertheless a great film. It manages to incorporate many things from the first film without ever feeling stale. This might just be Renny Harlin's finest hour as director, and the action sequences are still great and wonderfully over-the-top.

From the opening credits this film manages to scream Christmas even though there's no snow. Taking place in the warmer L.A. climate we still get Christmas trees and decorations. There are also some great family scenes. As an added bonus this film reminds me why Mel Gibson became a star. He's on fire and Danny Glover is a great counterpart for his slightly psychotic performance. Not only a Holiday favorite, but one of the films I've seen countless times throughout my life.

I saw this with my dad at the cinema. I remember laughing my head off, and thinking that it was an amazing film. This is one of the titles I can't miss. It is a tiny bit of perfect John Hughes magic that Christopher Columbus directs with insane flourish and a great Tom & Jerry feel to the scenes with Marv (Daniel Stern) and Harry (Joe Pesci). Culkin has instant star quality and manages to be cute and obnoxious at the same time. Has some quite melancholy sequences and a fantastic score by John Williams.

Though in many ways a copy of the first film, the story plays out on a broader canvas, and both the Pigeon Lady, played with great sadness by Brenda Fricker, and the Duncan’s toy store parts of the story are moving and funny. New York is used to great effect. Tim Curry is at his maniacal best, and once again the melancholy side of Christmas shows up.

A Chanukah movie, this is a funny Jewish take on the Shaft character. Filled to the brim with inside jokes, and below the belt humor. Andy Dick as Santa’s evil son who wants to destroy Chanukah is great. I doubt if any gentile will get more than 1/3 of the jokes.

Not really a film, but one of the three original Peanuts Holiday specials. Produced and aired in 1965 it feels completely fresh. The characters are lovable and Vince Guaraldi's score is nothing short of magical. Shown every year since its original broadcast it doesn’t get more classic than this.

The Henry Selick directed stop-motion animated film is a wonderfully dark Christmas film. The idea of the ghoulish people of the Halloweentown wanting to throw Christmas without understanding the concept is hilarious and Danny Elfman's songs are catchy. Jack Skellington is a great melancholic character. A must every year.

Though not exactly a blockbuster at the time, this Schwarzenegger vehicle, that stands next to his turns in Kindergarten Cop, Twins and Junior, has gained somewhat of a cult status. Everything is exaggerated in the film, the humor is dark and at times wildly inappropriate, and Arnold hams it up in every scene. I love every second of it.

Though a classic in the states now, Bob Clark's love letter to Christmas is mostly unknown here in Denmark. This is one of the few Christmas films that actually revolves around what the time feels like for a child. Nothing supernatural. Just the story of a family. The grown-up narrator looking back is a great touch and the film is unlike anything else. The yearning for the BB gun, the bullies waiting on the way home from school, the slightly crazy parents, the little brother who doesn't want to eat, the leg lamp, listening to Little Orphan Annie on the radio, and many other pop culture references from the 50's, combine to make something magical. A coming of age story with Christmas as an underlying theme.   

Tears my heart out every time. A classic.

This Finnish film puts a new spin on how Santa Claus came to be. A dark and in many ways sad story. You've never seen Santa like this before. A heartbreaking story.

This Will Ferrell vehicle came before he was hit and miss. Zooey Deschanel looks awfully cute with blonde hair, and the story of an orphan human growing up amongst Santa's elves is quite funny.

Although the film tells the story that’s the basis for Passover it premiered on december 25th and that was enough to turn it into a Christmas film. A beautifully animated story with great songs and a wonderful way of showing the story of Moses.

Nazi zombies coming out of the snow-covered mountains in Norway. What's not to like?

Another Finnish film on the list. This is scary, funny, moody and utter madness. A Christmas horror story.

I hate the motion capture technique and the faces are stuck in uncanny valley. Nevertheless the story in this film is so good that I'm willing to forgive Zemeckis for not using traditional animation techniques. A magical tale with all the elements of a classic.

This version is the one with George C. Scott as Scrooge. He does a wonderful job and the film captures the spirit of Dickens' story.

Bill Murray portrays an updated version of Scrooge and the film is insane and fast-paced.

One of Disney's Direct-To-Video Pooh titles. The friendship between Pooh and Piglet is the backdrop for a wonderful Christmas tale in the 100 Acre Wood.

Michael Caine is a great Scrooge and the addition of Muppets to the story only makes it funnier. Still manages to break my heart with the Tiny Tim bit.

By no means a Christmas film. The scope and length of the film makes it perfect for holiday viewing. Funny, beautiful, sad, disturbing and absolutely wonderful. The songs are fantastic. Topol is a great Tevye. And it has snow....

The following titles I plan to see this year. They are all first viewings, and I hope some of them will become part of the must-watch list.

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