Monday, 10 December 2012

A movie christmas

It's that time of year again, put up the lights, set the table and dust off your ultimate Christmas DVD, because the merry month of December is here. Whilst we're amidst the buzz of Oscar season, we cannot forget that this holiday period is a time strictly dedicated to the viewings of multiple Christmas classics. With the inevitable family debate of personal cinematic Christmas favourites just around the corner, a definitive guide to your Christmas viewing is compulsory.

Which is why in the true spirit of Christmas, here is THE Christmas guide.

For the family friendly, festive night in

The very first pick of the best family Christmas films is one that delivers the classic tale of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, through the use of our furry cinematic friends, The Muppets. A Muppets Christmas Carol remains to be the best adaptations of the classic novel to date, despite the relatively recent attempt from Jim Carrey and his motion capture technology. It combines clever, familiar Muppet wit that we all know and love with the already excellent tale of kindness and happiness. It also gives a touch of magic through it's musical numbers which will have you grinning uncontrollably as two elderly men sing 'we're marley and marley'. This is a true Christmas classic that shouldn't be snubbed because of it's childish use of puppetry, this is not just one for the kids, this is a fun and festive family film.

The second is the most recent on the list, produced by the increasingly impressive stop-motion animation studio Aardman, Arthur Christmas is a truly excellent tale that encapsulates the true meaning of Christmas. What with the boom in technological advancements, tradition has partially gone out of the window with the new 'easier way', such a complex idea would surely be unheard of in kids animation. Well not exactly. Whilst kids may not fully understand the moral message behind the film, the message remains prominent for every loving adult who sits with their child to watch this modern classic. Alike the previous film in the list, this film is truly one for the whole family, it's surprisingly hilarious as well as lovingly heartwarming not to mention so elegantly gentle in it's storytelling. This is an ease to watch on a cold, tired winters evening give it a watch and remind yourself of 'the true magic of Christmas'.

Perhaps the most popular Christmas film amongst kids and early teenagers on the list is the comedy sensation Elf starring the excellent Will Ferrell. Following the story of an overgrown elf living in the north pole as he ventures into New York city to find his true identity. Alike many films on the list this one is also a harmless comedy that has jokes for both young and old, making way for a truly hilarious 90 minutes of fun. Contrary to most however, Elf finds the perfect balance of drama and comedy, displaying a consistent even tone that will flow fluidly throughout it's running time. This is an elegantly hilarious film for the whole family, a true modern Christmas classic.

 The concluding, and debatably best, addition to this category of the list follows the story of Kevin Mcallister when he's left Home Alone at Christmas. Proving to be one of Macaulay Culkin's first and notably best roles, Home Alone delves deep on the reality of loneliness as well as the true meanings of Christmas. It may do this in a cheesy and sadistically violent manner however it mostly remains within it's childish narrative, proving that a brick to the head is a minor injury when using slap-stick comedy. It's a lovingly innocent look at a child's alluring immaturity and seemingly ingenious 'trap-setting' skills that never prove to become old. Christmas would be lacking without a dose of Home Alone!

For the days of anticipation

An unlikely yet certainly deserved reservation for the one and only Christmas documentary on the list appears here in the form of 2011's Becoming Santa. This film takes an in depth forage into the stressful yet rewarding lives of the USA's 'commercial santas', dedicating their lives to brighten the hearts of children around the country. We follow Jack as he takes upon the decision to 'become a santa' after the late death of his Christmas loving father, throughout his journey we see his physical transformation as well as his emotional one. With this one singular story proving to be fairly linear this documentary does an excellent job in breaking the film into enjoyable chunks, separated by a study into the history of the Christmas icon. These pieces of historical information initially proved to be drawn out as near useless information about his origins were thrown effortlessly at the screen, however as the film progresses these scenes became increasingly more interesting providing more relevant and interesting information. The films 'other half' of the story of Jack takes a similar route proving to procrastinate towards the beginning, but picks up towards the end until it's heart warming finale. The conclusion of this film is it's most poignant and memorable scene, showing the magic of Christmas that we see regularly in animation but very rarely in reality. This lovingly realistic climax to this film is truly beautiful and shouldn't be missed.   (For all you UK 'netflixers' this is available to stream)

For the elders

Almost certainly, the most dark and eerily uncomfortable film on this guide is Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale, set in the mountains of Finland where the much loved Christmas icon Santa Claus proves to be a sinister creature. Although this may be dark and at some points extremely dreary, it does provide a refreshing twist on the familiar tale of Santa. With it's bizarre tones running wild throughout the film, this is not for everyone, earning it's place in the 'anticipation' category simply because if it's disliked it will cast a creepy shadow over your Christmas viewing. With it's '15' certificate, this is most definitely not suitable for kids encouraging them to discard all loving memories of Santa in place for new deeply intimidating ones! Never the less it's a hilarious romp for adults allowing for a breath of fresh air after multiple cheesy viewings of family favorites, give it a go.

A raunchy Christmas comedy is almost taboo in a genre dominated by family films however one has found a niche space and has wriggled perfectly in it, Bad Santa fulfills the needs of any comedy craving festive individual. Opposing the Christmas conventions with magnificent style Bad Santa 'bad mouths' tradition in place for it's new unashamed immaturity. The true star of this film comes in the adorable package of Brett Kelly, playing 'the kid' with near perfect comedy timing, no matter how many times he offers sandwiches he never fails to produce a flurry of laughter from the audience. The cohesion between him and Billy Bob Thornton also works to brilliant comedy effect, similar to the banter between two beloved comedians its easy to forget your witnessing a conversation between a naive boy and an alcoholic santa. Surprised at just how well this film holds together with it's thin narrative, Bad Santa proves to be the raunchy Christmas comedy alternative to the family friendly 'Elf'.

A quick taste of Christmas

Too busy for a lazy afternoon in front of your favorite festive movie? Then why not watch the beautifully heartwarming tale of The Snowman as he prances through the air.  This animated adventure follows the story of a young child when he makes a snowman come to life of Christmas eve, based on the beloved children's novel this wordless animation perfectly captures the child-like wonder of Christmas. Aided handsomely by it's exhilarating score of 'Walking in the air' this 30 minute short will leave you speechless, craving that innocence once again. The whole film is available on 'YouTube' so there is simply no excuse to discard this spectacle, it's short, sweet and succinct  (Here's a handy link to take you straight to the film at hand-

'But where is the Christmas classic It's a wonderful life, not to mention a Miracle on 34th street' these are simply films on the must see list, and since it's Christmas time they will be watched in a matter of days, to most probably be marked on the list next year. These films will most likely fill the heart with joy and Christmas spirit, like the films on the list will also do.It's the best genre, we all know it, Christmas wouldn't be Christmas without the films.

Merry Christmas one and all!

Calum Russell

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