With the holiday season in full swing, Redbrick Film’s contributors each makes their case for the best Yuletide film
Alex McDonald: Digital Editor and secretly Supreme Leader Snoke
Only genuinely excellent films should be watched every year; The Godfather, Empire Strikes Back, Lilo & Stitch, I could go on. But there is no justification for watching the same “just fine” Christmas film every year, just because it’s Christmas (I’m looking at you Home Alone). So this year, why don’t you try something a little new? But leave your festive cheer behind boys and girls, it’s time for a bit of festive fear. Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale is the perfect horror-action thriller for anyone who likes a bit of coal in their stocking. This is a rip-roaring good time for anyone who’s just a little bit sick of watching Elf on Channel 4 year after year. The idea of an evil Santa isn’t exactly a new one, but barring Futurama, few incarnations have managed to balance the horror and the humour. Treat yourself to something a little new and far more unpredictable this Christmas. Or watch Lilo & Stitch, it’s a year-round classic.
Phoebe Christofi: Redbrick Film’s Critic of the Year
At first glance, While You Were Sleeping does not look as if it’s your conventional Christmas flick – but it’s an extremely pleasant surprise. The main character, played by Sandra Bullock, works at a train station and constantly sees the man she “loves” pass her by day after day without her ever saying a word to him. After a traumatic rescue and a whirlwind “romance”, she finds herself suddenly a part of a family that she doesn’t know, and experiencing a way of life she never has before – due to having no family of her own. Set over the Christmas period, this film portrays the stereotypical, comfy and cosy Christmas which we all love to have; complete with Christmas jumpers and stockings hanging off the fire place. It’s the perfect film to watch when you’re wanting to do absolutely nothing, so settle in with a blanket and hot chocolate while this film brings you the joys that Christmas has to offer, plus the trepidations of unrequited love and misperceived romance.
Tom Smith Wrinch: Wading through film mediocrity so you don’t have to
Home Alone is a work of pure psychotic genius. Nothing can truly get me into the festive spirit like watching an 8-year-old commit GBH on two comparatively innocent con men. Focusing on the abandonment of this estranged child (his family had the sense to leave for Paris) we are treated to the bundle of childhood capers of mischief and mayhem that is Kevin. This film is a delight for both families and psychologists who want to look into the disturbed minds of children. Ultimately, the film does capture the seasonal spirit in its own twisted way. One is treated to a story of friendship, family and above all, how-not-to-leave-your-
Ellen Macleod: Resident straight-shooter
Arthur Christmas is damn enjoyable film. It perfectly marries the two Christmas film tropes of stories about Santa Claus/Father Christmas and stories about family. The film follows Arthur, Santa’s second son, as he attempts to get a present to one girl whose gift Santa forgot. The film is well written, a wonderful feel-good blend of humour and familial warmth and interesting plot. The 2011 film stars James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Bill Nighy, Jim Broadbent and Imelda Staunton, who were cast impeccably. Arthur Christmas appeals to every generation, with wit, humour and plot. The film plays an interesting role in commenting on how the legend of Santa Clause fits into the modern world and its rapid technological progress. It inevitably ends, however, commenting on how when it comes to Christmas, it is tradition and family the trump efficiency and getting the job done. The film seamlessly bridges the gap between: the legend of Santa, and the very modern reality of its audience. It combines them in a family film that reiterates how wonderful a tradition like Christmas can be, even in the modern day. There are many classic Christmas films to set the bar high, but Arthur Christmas still shines, despite it’s release only six years ago.
Millie Gallagher: Film Editor and The Polar Express apologist
I will whole-heartedly argue that Carol is without a doubt a Christmas movie that should be on everybody’s ‘to watch’ list this year. It ticks all the boxes of a classic Christmas movie; there is snow, Christmas trees, thoughtful and lovingly gifted presents, and a heart warming ending that will definitely leave you feeling ‘christmassy’. Carol is quite simply a story about love, and all that comes with it. With a beautifully crafted 1950’s backdrop, an incredibly appropriate and emotionally compelling score, and a sparse script allowing for powerful moments to bask in all that can be said in silence, the film follows Carol and Therese stumbling through love, loss and forgiveness as they tentatively explore their relationship. Gently ground-breaking in its subtlety toward a widely unaccepted idea of love, Carol may possibly be the saddest movie you’ll ever see, but it will leave you feeling utterly satisfied and truly hopeful. This movie is simply perfection.
Matt Dawson: TV Editor and recent defector to Film
It’s not often that Christmas films can be watched at other times of the year, and arguably The Nightmare Before Christmas is the best of these, as well as being one of the best Christmas movies in its own right. Because that what it is, first and foremost, regardless of how many people try saying that it is more of a film for Halloween. But what gives it its charm is the blending of these two distinct aesthetics, which is hardly surprising given that it was produced by and marketed as a Tim Burton product (although it is in fact directed by Henry Sellick). Sublime stop-motion animation brings Jack Skellington and his friends from Halloween Town to life as they embark on a deliciously dark plot to kidnap “Sandy Claws” and take over Christmas for themselves. The film is also a musical, with a spectacularly seasonal score from Danny Elfman, who also composed some of the unforgettable tracks such as ‘This is Halloween’, ‘What’s This?’ and ‘Oogie Boogie’s Song’. The Nightmare Before Christmas is the perfect antidote for the plethora of saccharine, sentimental flicks that will saturate our screens at this time of year, while retaining the whimsical charm of the Holiday Season.
Todd Waugh Ambridge: Redbrick Film’s resident bad-boy
I never knew that Jingle All The Way was generally considered a bad Christmas film. I remember seeing it as a kid and thinking it was one of the smartest representations of Christmas in film. And it still is. Put away your wholesome tripe, Arnold Schwarzenegger is here as a workaholic dad, who – on Christmas Eve – has to brave dodgy Santas, annoying kids, a ferocious reindeer and a particularly sinister mailman (Sinbad) in order to get his son the year’s hottest, sold-out Christmas toy: ‘Turbo Man’. Where other Christmas movies celebrate family and companionship through the lens of a saturated, overly-commercialised mess of a holiday, Jingle All The Way is actually a clever satire of the whole thing. Perhaps it’s a little too heavy-handed, but it’s not trying to be subtle and there’s nothing wrong with that. The late, great Phil Hartman is the true villain of the movie: a seemingly-kind-and-loving father whose son gets everything he asks for. But this isn’t the point: Arnie may be a bit of a rubbish dad, but he understands his son and truly loves him, instead of just spoiling him. Isn’t that nice? Towards the end, the film’s cynical caricature of Christmas is abruptly switched up for some slapstick mania. Perhaps this is why the film is generally considered terrible, but the change is perfect and only further proves the film as a work of satirical genius. Christmas is too wacky for what it is, but maybe that’s weirdly the point in the end. Maybe I’m looking in to it too much, but Jingle All The Way will always be my go-to Christmas Eve movie.
Luis Freijo: Cultural Attaché
Christmas is coming. That time of the year dedicated to love, friends, family, religion and, of course, watching films that exalt all of the above through nice, good-hearted characters, meaningful conversions and moral endings. Or is it? If one is, like yours truly, a godless heathen who itches at Christmas, there are only two words that can help: Monty Python. Among their cinematic endeavours, the British comic assemble produced what can be considered as the most anti-religious film, appropriate for both Christmas and Easter Week: Life of Brian (1979). Arguably the best film comedy ever, Life of Brian twisted every topic within the life of Jesus to mock churches, believers, the structures of power built around religion and, overall, non-reflecting people. The Monty Pyhton corrosive humour was at its best in the dialogues and in the many characters encountered by Brian, a boy from Palestina that faces lapidations, a very masculine mother, an alien trip, political jewish factions, a twangy roman commander, a mob of believers, and, finally crucifixion. The result of Brian’s adventures is just hilarious, but also intelligent and brave. Therefore, if you are looking for a different Christmas with your family this year, don’t play Love Actually, It’s a Wonderful Life, not even Die Hard; suggest Life of Brian and prepare for laughter. And remember: Always look on the bright side of life.
Matt Taylor: Recent Film recruit and current unknown quantity
Michael Dougherty’s Krampus isn’t exactly a traditional Christmas film. A sort of horror-comedy hybrid, it centres on a family who, as you do, can’t get along over Christmas, especially when the in-laws come to stay. As a result, youngest son Max rips up his letter to Santa in despair, inadvertently summoning the titular demon. The characters, of which there are a lot, lead by Adam Scott, Toni Collette and David Koechner, aren’t exactly revolutionary. There’s the gun-toting uncle, the dad, who’s a bit of a wimp in comparison to the uncle, the rebellious daughter, and that one relative that no one really likes. It’s all fairly standard stuff, but that doesn’t mean it isn’t an enjoyable affair. Once we move past the set-up, things really kick into gear. It’s tense, with some solid scares, and once the monsters start coming, the pace doesn’t let up. Thankfully, any CGI effects are ditched in favour of practical ones, and it’s all the better for it, as they look incredible. Everything feels so tangible and real, and it’s scarier as a result. What’s really great though, is that there’s a knowing smile from Dougherty and his team – they play with our expectations so well, resulting in (among others) a delightful sequence where Koechner fights off evil gingerbread men with a shotgun, and a gut-wrenching, sucker-punch of an ending. A great alternative if you’re bored of all those Christmas romance films.