Friday, December 23, 2011

jingle all the way! or not...

I used to totally love Christmas, but it gets harder each year as life speeds up- it's difficult to let go of those nagging worries of work and everyday life.  It really means trying to let it go and embrace the season.  Christmas being what it is, the desire to please also leads to new stresses.  I hit my rock bottom yesterday.  Like the endless search for the elusive Turbo Man in Jingle All The Way, I found myself trudging through freezing rain across miles of icy parking lots in the hunt for this year's hard-to-find must-have, a Nerf Vulcan machine gun for a couple of eager boys (yeah, that's right, this mo'fo shoots 30 foam pellets in under a minute....)  Actually, I think I'm still too traumatized to talk about it!  But I feel remarkably cheerful now- I can't possibly break down again, right?

Um, so yes I find comfort in the cozy familiarity of It's a Wonderful Life, Rudolph, A Christmas Story, and A Christmas Carol (Alistair Sim version, of course).  But sometimes you just want something different!  So over the years I've been 'collecting' a list of alternate Christmas movies. I guess you could could say most of these are characterized by focusing on the darker, more melancholy side of Christmas, contrasting the upbeat cheer of the season with depression, murder, and attacks by ferocious furry beasties (but hmmm, aren't these an integral part of Christmas movies anyway?  See It's a Wonderful Life, Rudolph, and Home Alone...)


The Thin Man, 1934
The original 'delightful pair' I'm sure-  Myrna Loy and William Powell are the most charming drunks ever.  Probably the first and last time someone could be the 'charming drunk' on film!  Anyway, it's Christmas and amidst the hillarious repartee and non-stop drinking of these sometime finder-outers, a bumbling inventor has gone missing and a couple of scheming platinum blondes, a scarred villain and a sweetly inquisitive daughter are involved. Besides, the real reason we watch movies is for sartorial inspiration, and this one's a doozy.  I could and should devote a whole post to the study of collars that the costumer evidently intended this to be!  Not to mention Myrna Loy's adorable striped frothy chiffon dress!

The Apartment, 1960
Jack Lemmon is a sad sack office drone, eager to please his bosses by loaning out his apartment for their extramarital affairs, while Shirley MacLaine is the luminous elevator operator he secretly loves. Oh, and she's sleeping with the boss. Over the Christmas season, the status quo has got to change...

Die Hard, 1988
"Yippeekayay, motherf*cker!"  'nuff said?  Maybe you need a little action in your sweetness? A no-nonsense New York cop deals with a hostage situation involving his family, the office Christmas party and some crazy German terrorists.  I haven't seen this in years, actually...maybe this year!

Gremlins, 1984
Ooh...here's where the cute and scary beasties come in.  I remember thinking the gremlins were horrifyingly creepy as a kid, now they're just as adorable to me as Gizmo the mogwai.  Though I'm still secretly unsure if I should feed the cats after midnight...  This is a total Christmas movie, with all the heartwarming terror it requires!

Blast of Silence, 1961
I love the terse simplicity of the IMDB description on this one: "A hired killer from Cleveland has a job to do on a second-string mob boss in New York. But a special girl from his past, and a fat gun dealer with pet rats, each gets in his way." Did I mention it's also Christmas?  If I remember correctly, the action happens entirely over the course of Christmas Eve to Christmas day...And it's very noir.

Batman Returns, 1992
Apparently Tim Burton's films are all full of Christmas references, and if you've watched The Nightmare Before Christmas too many times since Halloween and are looking for another fix...well, it's Christmas-time in Gotham and the Penguin and Catwoman are on the prowl.  Note: can penguins really prowl? I guess they march...

Brazil, 1985
I hadn't realized it until it was pointed out to me recently, but throughout this dark and dystopic vision of corporate dronery it is most definitely Christmas!  I love Terry Gilliam's movies, and this is one of his best. I will definitely be rewatching this one soon!

All That Heaven Allows, 1955
Oh my, I find Douglas Sirk films tough to watch.  They are Melodramas that fully deserve the capital M.  Oh the drama!  But Jane Wyman is a wealthy widow who has fallen in love with the hunky and much younger Rock Hudson to the general dismay of her family. Can they be together at Christmas when everyone disapproves?  Lots of awesome plaid flannel in this one!


movies I plan on watching now:

8 Femmes (8 women), 2002
This recent French ode to the fifties and musical romps could be too much, but I think I want the adorable vintage-meets-Kate Spade wardrobe of every woman in the film!  The male head of the household is found murdered and all the ladies are potential suspects, stuck together in the house over the holidays until the identity of the murderer is uncovered.  It looks like a remake of the madcap Clue (1985) actually!  With singing!


Lady in the Lake, 1947
Another Film Noir, this adaptation of a Raymond Chandler novel is shot entirely in first person, so we see it all with the eyes of our detective Marlowe.  He is hired on Christmas Eve to find the missing wife of a publishing magnate.  I believe another office Christmas party is also involved! And check out that hat!

So that's what I'll be watching, alongside all the classics.  What about you- what are your seasonal essentials?

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