Saturday, December 24, 2011

The 5 Other Movies to Watch Around Christmas

Although December 25th comes but once a year, there's only so many Christmases that one can stand watching Jimmy Stewart find the true meaning of life while yelling at random buildings (as much as we love it). And, although there will always be the fresh and wondrous A Christmas Story and glorious television specials such as The Blackadder Christmas Carol and MST3K's Santa Claus episode, sometimes you just need some more cinematic kindling with which to stoke up your holiday cheer. And, so, with a very merry Christmas and happy holidays to all our readers, I present 5 such films.

5. On Her Majesty's Secret Service
Leading the charge, we have one of the (if not THE) absolute best Bond films ever. Featuring snowy locales, a fantastic ski chase, and a dramatic closeup of a man in a bear suit, this wonderful movie is filled to the brim with winter wonderland goodness. Add to that George Lazenby, Telly Savalas, and the always lovely Diana Rigg, and you've got an endlessly entertaining movie (with some serious heart) to keep you warm on those cold December evenings.

4. Mr. Arkadin

Although there are quite a few flaws to overlook in Orson Welles 's most tumultuous production (and that's saying something!), they are most certainly worth overlooking, because Mr. Arkadin is a mad descent into post-WWII Europe that I just can't get enough of. With a complex narrative and imagery more at home in a dark fantasy than a crime thriller, the film technically takes place almost entirely on Christmas Eve, as our "hero" Guy Van Stratten recounts his misadventures in flashback. While this movie's a little sparse on yuletide merriment , we do get some very memorable holiday moments, including a very Wellesian Christmas party and the man himself dressed up as Santa Claus. So grab the wonderful 3 disc Criterion edition and enjoy!

3. Black Narcissus

Although only one scene of this incredible Powell and Pressburger film takes place around Christmas, the strength of that scene (especially the flashback) is very potent, at least to me. You can really feel the spirit of jollity and innocence, thanks not only to Jack Cardiff's incredible lighting (the glow of the fire and the moonlight's reflection in the new-fallen snow) but also to the stupendous score, full of melancholy nostalgia.

2. Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket

Well, here I go bending the rules again. While it is true that Gundam 0080: War in the Pocket is technically an OVA, it is feature length (clocking in around 150 minutes). Although this series does take place around Christmas time, it's nicely subtle about the whole thing (some Christmas parade balloons are put to good use in the finale, and seasonal decor lines the city streets). Whether you consider it a film or a series, it's one of my absolute favorites in either category, and it really tugs at the ole' heartstrings. Highly recommended, whether you like anime or not.

1. Brazil

Ah, yes. Although this film is very much tied to the 25th of December, full to the brim with Christmas shopping, lights, the fat guy that doesn't exist, and all that stuff, it's probably more of what I'd call the Anti-Christmas movie. Seriously, this movie's so bloody depressing that I'd say it's best to watch it in the dead of summer just to give you time to recover your seasonal spirits. But, if you're in the mood for a catatonic Christmas, give Terry Gilliam's dystopian nightmare a spin. It's an absolutely fantastic movie!

Ho, ho, ho

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