The Christmas Movie List
‘It’s A Wonderful Life’? Too schmaltzy.
‘Elf’? Even the stills make me feel physically ill.
‘The Grinch’? That isn’t a movie, it’s waterboarding.
Okay, maybe I’m not a Christmas person. Christmas is a gradual declension of spirit, from when you were six and unable to sleep for excitement, to when you’re fifty and eating nuggets in the KFC on Old Kent Road on Christmas Day because you spent the whole day driving to see your querulous mother in a care home and it was the only place still open where you could get anything at all to eat.
True unreconstructed Scrooges favour yuletide fables in a darker vein than the above movies. Me, I’d start with the Alistair Sim’s ‘A Christmas Carol’, in which Scrooge’s transformation feels like a tacked-on fake-happy dream sequence, and ‘A Christmas Story’, in which the department store Santa actually grinds a boot into poor Ralphie’s face.
How about ‘Saint Nicholas’, the Dutch Santa-as-avenging-demon movie, with its terrific sequence wherein St Nick gallops across the rooftops chased by police? Or ‘Rare Exports: A Christmas Story’, in which a boy and his father capture Santa and fend off elves so they can sell him back to the corporation that sponsored the dig? We could add the Nordic ‘Troll Hunter’ to make a nice double bill. Maybe chuck in the three excellently chilly ‘Cold Prey’ movies for an all-nighter.
But we need something sentimental. ‘White Christmas’ is so plastic that it appears to be set in the windows of Macy’s (no bad thing) and ‘A Nightmare Before Christmas’ just gets better with age. But if I had to pick one absolute favourite, it would be ‘Joyeux Noel’, about the Christmas Day armistice. How they manage to squeeze a beautiful opera singer performing ‘Silent Night’ at the Front Line and make it almost believable is a joy to behold. The film was a Europudding of a production (it seems to be German, Spanish, French and Scottish) and no-one seems to have ever seen it except me.
What about the current year’s best? They would include, in no particular order, ‘Three Billboards’, ‘Dunkirk’, ‘The Shape Of Water’, ‘Blade Runner 2049’, ‘Detroit’ and ‘Lady Bird’. I’d like to vote for ‘Get Out’ except that it falls apart at the end, and ‘Valerian and the Thousand Planets’ for sheer audacity of ambition, but the male lead is awful. Something for the kids? ‘Paddington 2’ seems a good alternative to the divisive ‘Star Wars’.
European films had a weak year, although I enjoyed ‘El Bar’, ‘BPM’ and ‘The Square’, and am looking forward to ‘Perfect Strangers’. Netflix caused controversy with its purchase of major films like ‘Okja’, which removed them from theatrical distribution. Fox and Disney’s plan to unite brings the majors down to five and starts a process of entrenchment as they square off against rising online stars. Amazon and Netflix dwarf the old studios, and this may hail the end of the current system, which has been in place for more than a century. The shake-up may prove good for everyone except smaller carriage companies, who’ll be pushed out.
Stories still have to be told, though. Which means that for now, I have a job. Add your favourite film for Christmas here; it doesn’t need to have a Christmas setting – let’s get a definitive alt.list going….