Celebrating Cultures, Promoting Integration
As the festive season draws closer many of us will have started preparing. There’s a lot of work to be done, such as taking boxes down from the attic, turning the house into an elven grotto, writing cards or the many fiddly tasks that crop up. We can forget sometimes that Christmas is supposed to be fun, relaxing and a much needed period of frivolity with friends and family. Though this year will undoubtedly be different, many of our favourite traditions remain the same. Personally I am a movie fanatic and will take any excuse to watch a film or new tv show and Christmas films, more than any other, provide a foil to the worries and concerns of real life. And let’s be honest, who doesn’t need that this year? Here are nine more movies you should not miss this Christmas.
How the Grinch Stole Christmas is a staple of the festive season. Directed by Ron Howard and released in 2000, the cast is made up of a number of high-profile individuals such as Christine Baranski, Anthony Hopkins and Jim Carrey, as the titular Grinch. It follows the story of the Grinch, whose experiences of cruel bullying and abandonment have left him unable to love or express kindness. That is until little Mary Lou Who forces him to remember how. It is a beautifully nuanced story that resonates with children and adults alike, making us laugh and cry in equal measure, with the ever-cheery Christmas background, to keep us in the festive spirit. The film was a huge success, holding the Christmas themed opening weekend record for over 18 years, only being knocked from its perch by an animated version of The Grinch in 2018. It is a film my family and I watch every year and it still has the power to make us smile.
Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol has inspired the creation of dozens of films, tv shows and plays since it was first written in 1843. Some of the more popular adaptations include Jim Carrey’s 2009 version of the same name, the 1994 Alan Menken musical and of course Brian Henson’s The Muppet Christmas Carol. But it is the 2004 made-for-television A Christmas Carol, directed by Arthur Allan Seidelman, that, in my opinion, stands above the crowd. It stars Kelsey Grammer, Jennifer Love-Hewitt, Jesse L. Martin, Jason Alexander and Ruthie Henshall, who also provided powerful vocals set to Alan Menken’s original soundtrack. It follows the typical structure of Ebenezer Scrooge’s journey of self-exploration and redemption, set to a fun and innovative musical theatre style. The actors are beautifully cast, with Grammer in particular giving a deeply moving and humorous portrayal of the famed miser. Child actors too, namely Steven Miller and Emily Deamer, are old souls, standing strong against the talents of older, more experienced actors. A Christmas Carol is another film that I watch every single year and it never fails to pull at my heartstrings and get its catchy melodies stuck in my head. Fun side note, when my sister and I were children we would re-enact and video musical numbers from films and this particular scene was a personal favourite of ours.
I recently joked with a co-worker that deep down I am secretly a 65-year-old woman, indicated by a deep and abiding love for The Waltons, Murder She Wrote, Diagnosis Murder, Little House on the Prarie and pretty much anything developed by Hallmark. This film falls into the Hallmark category and is a hidden gem that I wish more people knew about. It follows the story of Matt, a 15-year-old boy, in desperate need of a heart transplant, but turbulent winter weather is preventing the organ from being delivered on time. In typical Hallmark fashion the small community bands together to help save Matt’s life and in turn their struggle reminds us all about what Christmas is really about. Friends, family and community. The film stars Teri Polo, Ty Wood and Paul Essiembre and though it isn’t rocking the boat in terms of originality, it is a beautifully shot, well-crafted film, that deserves far more recognition than it got.
Now this 2001 Disney film is not just for kids but also for the young at heart. It is a raucous, fun, festive romp, that sees Bryan Cranston and Josh Zuckerman, trying to save Christmas after knocking out Santa Claus. Unbeknownst to Josh’ character Danny, his uncle Nick has an ulterior motive for “helping” and he has to decide whether he wants to be cool like Uncle Nick, or do the right thing. It is goofy, silly and childish, but in all the best ways, that leaves you feeling sentimental. Like all good Christmas films it has a moral message, but it doesn’t ram it down your throat. Rather it plays out across 87 minutes and lets you come to your own conclusions.
Much like A Christmas Carol, Hans Christian Andersen’s The Snow Queen has been widely adapted for the screen and stage. It is the age-old story of the vicious battle between good and evil, centered around several main characters including Kai, Gerda and the Snow Queen. Also produced by Hallmark, David Wu’s 2002 adaptation stars Bridget Fonda as the Queen, Jeremy Guilbaut as Kai and Chelsea Hobbs as Gerda. Unlike previous versions it merges several figures, creating a spectacular tapestry of characters and backstory. Guilbaut in particular brings life to Kai, expertly capturing the duality of his nature. I first saw this film on television over 15 years ago and since then have found it impossible to find, either on DVD or on tv, but there is a fairly high quality copy of it on Youtube if you’re interested. I recommend watching The Snow Queen, it is sweet, funny, sad, romantic and dark in places, breaking the cliches of a typical festive film, without losing the pathos.
Naughty or Nice
This 2004 NBC film is a personal favourite and unfortunately also impossible to find, so much so that I couldn’t even find a trailer for it online. Starring George Lopez as Henry and James Kirk as Michael, it is another spin on A Christmas Carol. Henry is a Scrooge-like shock jock, who insults a dying teenage boy on his aggressive radio show. To avoid a scandal Henry agrees to Michael’s Christmas wish, for Henry to be nice for one day. His experience of spending time with the kind, brave teenager, inspires him to change his wicked ways, culminating in an ending I never saw coming. It is an original, heartbreaking, beautiful take on an old story.
Angela’s Christmas is a 2017 animated prequel to Frank McCourt’s wildly popular Angela’s Ashes. It introduces Angela, an impoverished child living in Limerick during the early part of the 20th century and is a poignant portrayal of a pre-war, pre-social reform Ireland. The project cast Oscar nominee Ruth Negga as the mother and Lucy O’ Connell as the titular Angela, with Frank McCourt’s brother Malachy narrating and music by the late Dolores O’ Riordan. The animation style is a mix of dark, wide frames and brighter, more intimate settings, but it is the innocent, delightful Angela that brings you into her world and shows how different life was for Irish people in the early 1900’s. The film was Emmy nominated and a sequel, Angela’s Christmas Wish, is scheduled for a December 1st Netflix release.
This Christmas comedy stars Vince Vaughn, Reese Witherspoon, Robert Duvall and Mary Steenburgen and was released in 2008 to a positive critical and box-office response. It follows Brad and Kate as they get shanghaied into Christmas dinner in four different houses and is absurd and sardonic in the way only Vince Vaughn can pull off. As some of the other movies on this list have sombre elements and real-life comparisons, it is refreshing to have an out and out comedy to keep you laughing. This one will get the whole family in high-spirits but definitely is not one for the kids.
That scene of the Gremlins sitting in a movie theatre, singing along to Hi Ho from Snow White and the Seven Dwarves, is perhaps the cutest scene in movie history. It made miniature, evil, goblin-like creatures oddly relatable and I could definitely see myself hanging out with them in my time off. The 1984 comedy-horror directed by Joe Dante follows the journey of Gizmo, a Mogwii whose temperament depends on a very strict set of rules. Don’t feed him after midnight, don’t expose him to sunlight and never let him get wet. Needless to say Billy, played by Zach Galligan, almost immediately breaks the rules. It is a kooky, jumpy, altogether mad cult classic. It also lends itself to another impossibly cute scene found here. I won’t spoil it, just watch it, you won’t regret it. The film even spawned multiple sequels and netted over $212 million.
So there you have it, nine films that you should make the time for this Christmas.