After being referred to as a Grinch by many of her friends, Gemma Pecorini Goodall continues her quest to Christmas spirit in her second week of festive film binging.
Monday, December 7th – The Santa Clause (1994)
When I was younger, I probably only watched The Santa Clause once or twice. Going to the cinema to see Christmas films wasn’t very high on my parents’ priority lists. When I saw that this Christmas classic was available on Netflix I kind of had to watch it since I’m already finding it difficult to find Christmas films I don’t already have a concrete opinion of. The Santa Clause was one of those films I could barely remember – the only lingering memory I had of it was that I didn’t much like it as a kid and that Tim Allen got (and still gets) on my tits.
Funnily enough, I enjoyed The Santa Clause more than I thought I would. Maybe it was because, even if the childish humour was terrible, I was old enough to get the more nuanced adult jokes. It may have been the fact that I was baking up a storm for the [smiths] bake sale and that the sugar had put me in a good mood, but I did enjoy the film quite a bit. The Santa Clause focuses on jerk father Scott Calvin (Allen) who accidentally accepts the position of Santa Claus after the ‘original’ Father Christmas falls off his roof and hurts himself. Along with his son Charlie, who resents spending the holiday with his father, Scott flies across the non-descript U.S. city where the film takes place delivering the last gifts. After delivery, the duo fly to the North Pole where Scott discovered that by putting on the Santa suit he has officially signed the Santa Clause (with an e, get it – like legal stuff!) Scott shrugs off the adventures of Christmas Eve as a dream but before the next year’s Christmas (yes, the films spans not one, but TWO holiday seasons) his hair starts to whiten and he gains weight uncontrollably. In retrospect, discussing this film makes me realise it’s a bit of a mess but it was enjoyable to watch nonetheless. If one thing is certain about this film it’s the fact that you will want to drink hot chocolate uncontrollably.
Tuesday, December 8th – Christmas with the Kranks (2004)
Why I tortured myself by watching two Tim Allen films (besides Toy Story) back to back is beyond me. Christmas with the Kranks was one of the few holiday films I actually saw in cinemas. I remember hating it and a second viewing did not change my mind on that matter whatsoever. The story is bizarre and weird and so full of plot holes I don’t even know where to begin. The only thing I can say is good about this film is the perfection and immaculate-ness that is Jamie Lee Curtis in a turtleneck and Christmas vest.
In wake of their daughter’s departure for Peru, Luther (Tim Allen) and Nora Krank (Curtis) decide to forego Christmas all together by taking a cruise around the Caribbean. For the first half of the film the Kranks try to stave off unwanted carolers, Christmas tree vendors and threats from the neighbourhood as they refuse to decorate their house in thousands of fairy lights or set a plastic snowman on their roof. The first half of the film pans out as a horror film, Nora and Luther hiding behind the curtains as charities come ask for donations and carolers serenade the house. Everyone in their neighbourhood seems personally offended by the fact that they refuse to put up any decorations or buy Christmas cards which forces the audience to ask: have they never met a Jew or a Muslim or anyone of any other religion for that matter? It seems that the Illinois suburb is completely Christian and almost entirely white, only about five people of colour present in the film. Towards the middle of the film the neighbourhood sets aside their differences as the Kranks (I see what you did there) discover their daughter is flying home for Christmas along with her new boyfriend. Immediately everyone lends the Kranks their trees and decorations and Frosty is finally freed from the basement and put on the roof. This film made me roll my eyes more times than I could count and hate Tim Allen more than I already did (which was already a lot). In my opinion, Christmas with the Kranks encapsulates almost everything that is wrong with the American Christmas film (except for the angel that is Jamie Lee Curtis).
Wednesday, December 9th – Love Actually (2003)
When I first decided to do this challenge there were a few films I was super excited to watch and Love Actually definitely topped that list. A yearly tradition in many households, Richard Curtis redefined the holiday film genre spawning many other festive rom-coms and copycats by American director Garry Marshall (Valentine’s Day, New Year’s Eve). But this is the OG romantic Christmas film and I’ll defend Love Actually‘s brilliance to my grave.
I thought that it would be kind of pointless to write any sort of review on Love Actually since I assumed everyone in the English speaking language had seen it, but I found out last night that one of my housemates; a LONDONER for that matter, has never ever seen it! So here goes it: following about a dozen stories about love, Love Actually is as inclusive as a noughties blockbuster gets. Watching Love Actually as an adult is a bit of a bitter task. I find that for most rom-coms that defined my childhood, I need to turn off the feminist/justice fighter part of my brain. For as much as I love Love Actually, it’s vastly whitewashed with only three characters of colour (who have very little screen time) and only follows hetero-normative relationships. However: if you can get over that little middle finger in your brain that is flipping off Richard Curtis for the duration of the film, you’ll thoroughly enjoy yourself. Featuring basically every British actor of international prominence, Love Actually is designed to make you laugh and cry like a fucking baby who has hit his head on the coffee table!!! It’s both heartwarming and heart wrenching; ecstatic and painful; perfect and utterly flawed. I can for sure say that this helped me get into the Christmas spirit probably better than anything I’ve seen so far since ‘Christmas is all around [it].’
P.S.: Trelawney and Snape are married! Weiiird right?
Thursday, December 10th – The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Besides not being raised on a diet of Yuletide glee, I never watched the Muppets as a kid. I don’t know why my brother and I never saw them, but I’m pretty sure I was oblivious to the Muppets until I was about eight years old. Tonight, I celebrated Christmas with my housemates. We did that whole university Christmas thing where we all cook and exchange secret Santa gifts and then sit down to watch a Christmas film. This year’s menu included Brian Henson’s The Muppet Christmas Carol.
Besides not being able to hear the first few minutes because my housemates were trying to assign characters to each of the people living under our roof (something that occurs every time we watch a film of television show together,) I shortly came to realise that The Muppets Christmas Carol is your standard adaptation of Dickens with a splash of puppets and an educational twist. Gonzo plays author Charles Dickens who not only narrates the story but also includes little tid-bits so that kids learn about Dickens as the film goes on. The infamous Ebenezer Scrooge is played by the marvelous Michael Caine who I’m sure gave parents quite a shock when he first appeared in this children’s film back when it was released. Filled with catchy songs (that my housemates all sang along to) and cinematography that I’m sure would be spectacular if the frame encompassed humans rather than puppets, The Muppets Christmas Carol is a smart take on possibly the most adapted Christmas story.
I’ve also come to realise that by Christmas, I probably will have watched a dozen Dicken’s adaptations.
Friday, December 11th – Home Alone 2: Lost in New York (1992)
I think I’d only ever seen the second Home Alone film once before. Like many of the films from my childhood, I see so many errors arise in Home Alone 2: Lost in New York upon a more mature viewing. The biggest issue I saw with the Home Alone sequel was why a family, who accidentally abandoned their son at home as they left for Christmas, would celebrate their holidays away from home ONLY A YEAR AFTER!
The film’s beginning almost identically mimics the first film with Kevin still being mentally and emotionally abused by his family. Although the initial plot may not be entirely original, the beautiful music and cinematography that made the original film so great are still present in the sequel. John William’s music is as magical as ever and the added cast members (Tim Curry, Rob Schneider) make the film unique and up the humour. When Kevin accidentally gets on the wrong plane and ends up alone in New York, his sociopathic tendencies come out once again as he tries to fool a good natured hotel manager (Curry) into letting him stay in one of the Plaza’s most expensive hotel rooms. As Kevin’s whacky adventures continues, we discover that the Wet Bandits, the villains of the first film, have escaped to New York and once they see Kevin, decide they must finally finish him. Why Chris Columbus thought it would be smart to make the core conflict of a film the attempted murder of a child, I do not know, but the original and creative antics make the film entirely entertaining.
Saturday, December 12th – A Christmas Carol (2009)
I knew I’d have to watch three million adaptations of Charles Dickens’ beloved Christmas novel. Although I’d heard how wonderful Disney’s adaptation of the Christmas favourite was, I’d never actually seen it. So as a reward for finishing the first term of my final year of university, I spent the afternoon in bed, opened up Netflix and watched Disney’s A Christmas Carol.
It may be an unpopular opinion, but Jim Carrey is a comedic genius in my eyes. Besides voicing Scrooge, Carrey’s appearance is also lent to the physicality of the character, the two not only sharing similar features but also the same gait and mannerisms. This adaptation of Dickens’ novel is very true to the original source material (more so at least than The Muppet Christmas Carol) often including lines directly from the novel itself. Wonderful actors, many of whom have very recognizable voices including Gary Oldman and Colin Firth, voice the film’s characters and the animation is unique and truly beautiful. Overall, I think Disney’s A Christmas Carol was one of the best adaptations of Dickens’ work that I have seen thus far (although I’m sure I’ll have to see far too many more before this experiment comes to a close.) Although I feel the film’s imagery might be frightening to smaller children (either that or I’m a huge baby) it definitely put me in a Christmas mood.
Sunday, December 13th – Happy Christmas (2014)
Like any sane person, I am a fan of Anna Kendrick. She’s funny, witty and undeniably talented so when I saw that Netflix had a holiday themed film starring her I couldn’t resist. I nestled into bed to watch Happy Christmas with zero expectations (seeing as I hadn’t previously watched the trailer or even heard of the film) and was somehow disappointed based solely on my expectations of Kendrick and her previous films.
For a film entitled Happy Christmas, Christmas as a holiday plays a very loose theme simply being the glue that holds the plot together and gives each character an added reason to act the way they do. When Jenny (Kendrick) dumps her boyfriend, she moves in with her brother Jeff (director Joe Swanberg; Drinking Buddies), his wife Kelly (Melanie Lynskey) and their two-year-old son. As the couple tries to raise a baby, they’re suddenly catapulted into needing to also care for Jenny who, in classic movie post-breakup fashion, spirals and becomes a drunk, slobbering mess. The film features a mountain of very shaky cam and very loose direction, Swanberg’s preferred style of adlib and improvisation very obvious throughout the film. Lena Dunham also makes an appearance as Carson, Jenny’s childhood best friend, and delivers a performance similar to her Girls‘ protagonist but less lewd which somehow diminishes the actress’ charm. The sets are a hipster dream, a mixture of the interior of both New Cross’ Birdie Num Nums and Chinwag. Although all of the cast’s performances are good, the film is saved by the acting abilities of Swanberg’s own son who, at the age of two, has already mastered slapstick comedy. Stereotypically independent in its aesthetic, Happy Christmas is definitely one of those films I will forget in a few days and watch again a year or two down the line having forgotten how bland it left me feeling after it had concluded.