After being referred to as a Grinch by many of her friends, Gemma Pecorini Goodall tries to see if she can watch her way into Christmas spirit. This is the first week of Gemmas twenty-five films of Christmas.
If there’s one thing that truly shocked me when I moved to the U.K. was the infinite amount of Christmas cheer. I don’t dislike Christmas but I’m contrary to the jubilation that surrounds the Holiday. I’m that one who rolls their eyes with every Christmas song in October and tree bauble in November. I’ve been defined as a Grinch and a Scrooge, including in my most recent article in the [smiths] Winter issue, and I’m sick of this reputation that follows me. So for the month of December I’m testing myself: I will try to watch a festive (not necessarily Christmas) film every day until Christmas eve in attempt to get myself into a festive mood.
I will write mini reviews for each film as well as my progress in the field of Yuletide merriment. I am definitely going to regret this decision but hey – there’s always candy canes with which I can gauge my eyes out with around this time of year.
Monday, November 30th – A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
Okay, okay – I know it isn’t December and this also isn’t a film but I felt I had to tip my toe in slowly so to not feel discouraged immediately. After having not seen A Charlie Brown Christmas in over ten years, I was deeply amazed at just how deep the film was and how self-aware Charlie Brown in particular was calling himself ‘depressed’ because Christmas doesn’t have any meaning. Immediately, a few minutes in I felt that this was a good place for me to start seeing as Charlie Brown’s sentiments mirrored mine, saying that Christmas doesn’t make him feel how he is supposed to feel.
A highly sophisticated 25 minutes dedicated to children, A Charlie Brown Christmas is deeply satirical, philosophical and educational complete with discussions of mental health and self-diagnosis and breaking of the fourth wall. The television special also pokes fun at its very essence with the characters complaining about Christmas’s commercialisation. Charlie Brown feels tormented by not knowing what the true meaning of Christmas is, searching for it throughout the special. When Linus speaks out about the religious meaning of Christmas, Charlie Brown decides that he is not going to let the commercialisation of Christmas ruin his holiday. As the whole gang decorates the limp tree, the film culminates with the beloved characters carolling and Charlie Brown finally getting into the Christmas spirit – great smile spread across his face. Drawn in the charming style, A Charlie Brown Christmas is everything a brief Christmas film can be.
Tuesday, December 1st – Harry Potter and the Philosopher’s Stone (2001)
Okay, it might actually be December now but this still isn’t really a Christmas film. I need to dive in slowly you guys! Seeing as I had to watch the first Harry Potter instalment for an essay I’m writing (and the fact that ‘obsessed’ doesn’t even begin to define my relationship with J.K. Rowling’s boy wonder) I decided to watch it anyway. The Harry Potter films, although they span a whole academic year, are considered by many to be festive favourites. The original films used to come out during the holiday season and almost always feature massive Christmas feasts and woolly jumpers hand knit by everyone’s favourite wizarding mother.
I’m guessing a review of Philosopher’s Stone is a bit irrelevant in 2015 seeing as everyone and their mother has seen the films but I can’t help myself. Chris Columbus (the director behind the good Home Alone films) spins a magical take which is all too faithful to the book. With John William’s grand music and the hauntingly beautiful sets the whole experience of watching a Harry Potter film is sheer perfection (at least in my opinion). The characters and story line only make it that much better and I’m not going to lie, I’m immediately feeling Christmassy-ier after watching Harry’s shenanigans.
Wednesday, December 2nd – The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
I’m still easing myself into this Christmas movie thing. As mentioned above, I’m terrified that I’ll want to gauge my eyes out with candy canes by the end of this so I felt like this holiday hybrid would be appropriate. For anyone who’s read my ‘10 films you must see this Halloween’ you’ll know I love this film too much.
The gorgeous stop motion animation always makes me feel nostalgic for a time where Saturday morning cartoons were the highlight of the week. Danny Elfman’s music is beautifully melancholic and the twisted love story at the core of the film becomes even more bittersweet with each viewing. I can’t say that re-watching this classic made me feel anymore affected by the spirit of Christmas seeing as it made me miss Halloween just as much as I do for the nine months of the year leading up to my favourite holiday.
Thursday, December 3rd – Eyes Wide Shut (1999)
I’m really bad at this aren’t I? It’s the fourth day and I’ve already only chosen one (and a half) actual Christmas themed films! I’m going to chalk this one up to deadlines and the fact I had to watch this Kubrick film for a class. Starring Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise Kubrick’s last film modernises an Austrian novella and sets it in New York at Christmas. The most festive part of the film is the litter of Christmas trees and holly spread around the various sets.
Visually stunning, I believe that the quality of the acting (or lack there of in my opinion) and the two and a half hour running time arguably desensitise the work. Having read the novella I can say that Kubrick twisted a very deep and nuanced story about commitment, love, sex and the psychological connection to relationships into a tawdry adaptation, losing a lot of the subtlety. The film pans out like a thriller, teasing the audience but never delivering with the shock value. Heavy with dialogue, the film’s script would suit theatre more than film. Watching this film was a bad decision on my part – but if you like seeing nipples surrounded with Christmas ornaments in a very saturated setting then by all means. But this film for sure didn’t inhibit me with any Christmas spirit.
Friday, December 4th – Elf (2003)
This is the first actual Christmas film I’ve seen so far. I’m terrible at this whole Christmas film thing. I don’t even know why I decided to watch this. Most people know I am not a fan of Elf. I think the main reason (unpopular opinion alert:) is that I reeeeeeeally don’t like Will Ferrell. Like he really, really bugs me. I can’t stand his face. Or his voice. Zooey Deschanel also irks me. Elf is for sure my least favourite Christmas film and even only a few minutes in I regretted my decision to watch it. Not feeling any more Christmassy after this one.
Saturday, December 5th – Home Alone (1990)
I hadn’t seen Home Alone since I was a kid and truly is a feel good film that every kid can relate to and it does perfectly represent every child’s innermost desires. Although I still enjoyed the film as much as I did as a kid, there are many little things that bothered re-watching as an adult like: what job does Kevin’s uncle have in Paris that allows him to pay for so many people to visit him? Also, how does Kevin know how to do laundry at the age of eight? And how come no one called social services?
Young Macaulay Culkin is always adorable as he screams, aftershave streaming down his hands. Adorably magical and beautifully produced, Home Alone is an all around fun film. The music is beautifully moving and watching Joe Pesci try not to swear is just as enjoyable as the rest of the film and the final scene between the neighbour and his granddaughter is guaranteed to bring a tear to anyone’s eye. If I hadn’t been sick I would have played the ever-popular Home Alone drinking game: drink every time a poinsettia is seen on screen. I do have to say I found myself humming along to the Christmas songs featured in the film and having an uncontrollable urge to go sledding. With the Home Alone franchise, you can also extend the Christmas cheer with their four (increasingly bad) sequels. I’m still waiting on the fifth sequel: Home Alone with the Psychiatrist.
Sunday, December 6th – Joy (2015)
After doing this right for two days I’ve fallen off the wagon again. In my defence I was able to snag tickets to the new David O. Russell film and was definitely not going to turn down the opportunity to see one of the year’s most anticipated films. The film is also set in a perpetual winter state of snow and Christmas wreaths so I guess it kind of fits into the category of yuletide festive films.
I’ll be posting a full review of the film in a few days time but I will say that it’s a beautiful film and it definitely put me in a happy mood.