The Movie Man: Four Christmas movies worth seeing, or perhaps not
December 24, 2012, By Tim Fak, Well another Christmas is upon us, and while I sit here pondering the fact that we’re almost to the end of the year again, I’m also put in mind of how many of my personal Christmas memories are also Christmas Film memories. Christmas themed films are so numerous that they’re practically their own genre, and because there are so many, created over such a vast span of time, there’s bound to be a Christmas film that will resonate with you, no matter what your personal tastes. In that spirit, and as something of a Christmas gift to my readers (I sincerely appreciate each and every one of you), I thought I’d take a bit of time to discuss a handful of my favorite Christmas films.
"A Christmas Story"
In my book (or at least my film review column), any discussion of Christmas films simply has to begin and end with this one. Based on the comedic memoirs of Jean Shepherd, this film is the story of a working class family’s Christmas in the Midwest in the late 1940’s. Over the years this one has become engrained in the popular culture in a way that very few films ever achieve, most people can spout of a favorite scene or line on command.
What makes "A Christmas Story" special to me though is that it genuinely recreates a loving yet eccentric family that both my dad and my uncle swear up and down is practically their childhood put on film. I can’t testify to that, but as I write this I am remembering my grandma watching this one and laughing until she was red in the face so it’s probably true. Perhaps it will conjure up similar memories for some of you, but even if not, it’s still darn funny. It also contains the best performance of the late, great Darren McGavin as the curmudgeonly father. I know my family will be watching this one on Christmas.
"Santa Claus Conquers the Martians"
If you haven’t seen this Gem I highly recommend checking it out when it plays at the Lincoln Theater 4 this Monday (12/24). A true relic of the mid 1960’s atomic age, it delivers exactly what the title promises, namely Santa Claus locked in conflict with a group of Martians who kidnap him to distract their children from watching too much earth television (really!). There’s lots to love here, from the ridiculous premise, to the ridiculous Martian costumes and make up to well… a lot of other ridiculous things. My personal favorite touch is the “polar bear” with a fully exposed zipper on his costume. Frequently cited as one of the “worst films of all time”, this one is nonetheless really enjoyable.
"The Nativity Story"
This one kind of flew under the radar on its release a few years back, but I found it interesting. Released in part as an attempt to capitalize on the commercial success of "The Passion of the Christ", this film dramatizes the birth of Jesus in a similar historical tone. While it doesn’t reach the high artistic bar of the former film, it’s nonetheless a solid piece of work. Starring Keisha Castle-Hughes of Whale Rider fame, and directed by Catherine Hardwicke best known for her work on the Twilight series, this film has some formidable talent behind it. This one may not be particularly well known, but it’s worth seeing, particularly if you’re looking for something to watch this Christmas that’s a bit more serious and dramatic.
If, like me, you have a somewhat warped sense of humor, and are also willing to give something ruder (and frankly cruder) than the other comedies on this list a go, Bad Santa may be up your alley. The story of a robber impersonating a mall Santa in order to pull off a job, it is equal parts crass comedy, and parody of the plot of many other films. By having the “bad” Santa befriend a backwards little boy, gets to make a lot of jokes based around the traditional “Santa befriends a small child” genre. I won’t lie, the film is as I said extremely crude, but it’s also very funny, especially if you’re a bit cynical. Just take the R rating seriously on this one.
So there you have it, a few of my favorite Christmas films. These four films each appeal to wildly different tastes, so I hope at least one of them sounds appealing. I’ve had a really great time this past year writing these columns, and I hope you’ll join me for many more in the coming year.
Merry Christmas and Happy New year from The Movie Man.