As Christmas quickly closes in on us, Gemma Pecorini Goodall completes her final binge in her quest for Christmas spirit.
Monday, December 21st – Hook (1991)
Hook holds a very, very special place in my heart. Often screened on T.V. over the holiday season in many countries (shout out to Italy for always screening it on Sky Movies), Hook is, in many ways, the ideal holiday film.
Although Hook doesn’t have much directly to do with Christmas, besides it being the season in which the film takes place, it undoubtedly reminds people of the holiday season. The plot centres on Peter Banning (Robin Williams), a workaholic dad who finds little time for his children. As Peter and his family travel to London to visit his wife Moira’s (Caroline Goodall) grandmother Wendy (Maggie Smith) we learn that Peter is in fact Peter Pan, the lost boy who decided to grow up. When Peter’s son Jack (Charlie Korsmo) and daughter Maggie (Amber Scott) are kidnapped by his old rival Captain Hook (Dustin Hoffman), Peter must return to Neverland in order to save his children. Once in Neverland Peter discovers that he is the only thing that has changed: the Lost Boys still wait for him and refuse to believe that he has grown up – abandoning the philosophy he had always held them to. Hook is a wonderfully family-friendly film filled with magic and answering the many questions you had about Peter Pan after the story’s ending. Although the sets are obviously sound stages and the shapeless costumes scream early 1990’s, Hook is a charming film about family, magic and the goodness that comes out of maintaining a childhood gaze on the world. Although I’ve heard many a negative comment about Steven Spielberg’s magical film, I can’t help but love it and feel invigorated by the joy it brings me with every viewing.
Tuesday, December 22nd – Die Hard (1988)
When I first started discussing 25 Days of Christmas Films and taking down notes on everyone’s favourite films so I could add them to my list, Die Hard was one that most people mentioned. Considered a Christmas favourite by man die hard film fanatics (sorry, that joke is appalling), Die Hard is generally the go to Holiday film for the macho or the generally grouchy Christmas lover. Because of its high demand and even higher suggestion I decided that if I was going to do this right, Die Hard would have to feature on my list.
Launching Bruce Willis’ career as a mega-super-awesome-badass-action star, Die Hard takes place on Christmas Eve in Los Angeles. Willis plays John McClane, an NYPD officer who flies to Los Angeles to try and recuperate his marriage. When John shows up at his wife’s office’s Christmas party, the last thing he expects is to be a pawn in a terrorist attack. As Hans Gruber (portrayed by Alan Rickman who further proves he’s the best villain out there) takes the office party’s guests hostage, John must find a way to save everyone and reunite his family for Christmas. Those who know me know that my action movie syllabus stops and starts with Harry Potter but I must say that Die Hard deeply entertained me and only once did I roll my eyes at macho film-producers everywhere. Perhaps the fact the film takes place in one location over a very short time frame helped make this film feel less pew-pew to me, but I feel I now have a new outlook on action films as well as Bruce Willis. Ridiculously late ‘80s with big hair, gaudy costumes, and pink champagne I’m still slightly baffled as to why Die Hard is considered by many to be the best Christmas film around. Similar to some other films I’ve reviewed, Christmas proves to be a very small, unnecessary plot point and the film could have very easily been set during Labour Day, the Fourth of July or even take your daughter to work day (that would have made a very different yet altogether enjoyable film!) Seeing as Christmas is a very minimal part of Die Hard, I can’t say it really got me into a Christmas spirit but I did greatly appreciate the comedic use of Christmas music juxtaposed with blood, gore and terror.
Wednesday, December 23rd – A Christmas Story (1983)
Set in a simpler time where afternoons were spent listening to the radio and triple-dog-daring your friends to stick their tongue to a frozen pole, Bob Clark’s A Christmas Story tells the story of little Ralphie’s (Peter Billingsy) family’s Christmas as he reminisces on the year he was nine.
After deciding what exactly he wants for Christmas, Ralphie sets out to subconsciously manipulate his parents (Melinda Dillion and Darren McGavin) into getting him a BB gun for Christmas. As the older Ralphie tells the viewer of his childhood Christmases, the narrator’s voice takes on the very definitive childhood view which blows things out of proportion and prioritises the tedious, childhood “problems.” With a wonderful cast of talented child actors, A Christmas Story is full of charming anecdotes and heart. The family at the centre of the film is as loving as dysfunctional as the average family and the film is therefore very relatable. Besides the last scene, which is so rife with blatant racism, A Christmas Story was sweet and filled with childhood glee which can’t not remind everyone of Christmases past. Overall, A Christmas Story did restore some childhood, yuletide glee as it reminded me of the joys of Santa and willingly waking up before nine am.
Thursday, December 24th – While You Were Sleeping (1995)
Starring my all-time favourite rom-com queen Sandra Bullock, While You Were Sleeping is one of those classic romantic comedies that, for some reason, I had never before seen. When my housemate told me that I just had to watch Bullock’s ‘90’s tour de force seeing as it is set during Christmas and all, I just couldn’t refuse.
Set in Chicago around Christmas, While You Were Sleeping tells the love story between Lucy (Bullock), a Chicago Transit Authority token collector and desperately single romantic. When Lucy lays eyes on Peter (Peter Gallagher), a daily commuter to her station, she falls hopelessly in love despite never muttering a word to the handsome man. On Christmas, when Lucy depressingly still has to work her shift, Peter falls onto the train tracks and Lucy manages to save his life. In the hospital chaos, Lucy is mistaken for Peter’s (now in a coma) fiancée and, in the family confusion, is unable to find a way to tell his family that they are mistaken. As Lucy falls in love with Peter’s family, his brother Jack (Bill Pullman) also enters her life and hilarity, in true Bullock rom-com fashion, ensues. The guiding light of While You Were Sleeping is not only Bullock but also the amazing ensemble cast that makes up Peter’s awkward but lovable family. Although ridiculously rife with moments and scenarios that would never be acceptable in any real setting, While You Were Sleeping is a charmingly sweet movie that perfectly encompasses everything we miss about the ‘90’s simplicity. Christmas plays a loose theme in the film so I can therefore say that While You Were Sleeping didn’t exactly put me in a Christmas spirit but I was still thoroughly entertained from start to finish.
Friday, December 25th – Miracle on 34th Street (1994)
Miracle on 34th Street is one of those Christmas classics that was so popular it warranted a reboot. Having never seen either the original or the remake, I set out to Google which of the two was more worthy of my last film slot. After finding many a contradictive article and review I decided to settle on the 1994 version of Miracle on 34th Street mainly for David Attenborough and Mara Wilson.
Kris Kringle (Attenborough) is hired by Cole’s executive Dorey (Elizabeth Perkins) to play Santa Claus for the department store’s holiday season. Little does Dorey know that Kringle is the real life Santa. Threatened to be taken over by discount stores in New York City, Cole’s is surprised and elated when Kringle manages to bring in more customers and sales for simply playing every kid’s favourite holiday figure. When Kringle is wrongfully arrested he employs the help of attorney Bryan Bedford (Dylan McDermott), close friend to Dorey and her daughter Susan (Wilson). Bryan and Kringle set out to convince the people of New York City that Santa exists. Delightful and charming, Miracle on 34th Street is everything I had hoped it would be. Garishly overdressed in Christmas décor, heart wrenchingly melancholy and very America circa 1990-whatever, Miracle on 34th Street quickly became one of my favourite holiday films. The moral and emotional growth of certain characters is highly sophisticated and the treatment of the relationship between belief and fact is handled wisely and with a lot of heart. Miracle on 34th Street definitely uplifted my spirits and, whether because I watched it on Christmas day or not, I definitely was filled with yuletide glee by the credits.
Overall I don’t know how much I have been changed by this movie watching process. I do admit to having discovered some hidden gems within the greater canon of Christmas films but I don’t know if my increasing yuletide joy was brought on by the overdose of festive films or the encroaching of the holiday itself. I strangely thought that after this week I’d never ever ever want to see a Christmas film again but there are definitely some selections in here that you would find me watching during the rest of the year as well. Overall I regret choosing 25 Christmas films and am seriously kicking myself for not doing 12 Days of Christmas Films instead. I don’t think I’ll ever try to cram so many holiday themed films into a month again but watch me binge 31 days of Halloween films at one point or 14 days of rom-coms in the lead up to Valentine’s day.
Kids, I don’t suggest you try this; there were some days all I wanted to do was crawl into bed with The Good Wife but my head kept nagging me to watch a Christmas film. Although I’m glad to say I’ve done it, and it’s a useless accomplishment I will continue bragging about forever, I don’t think it really affected my view on Christmas at all.