While I am trying to kid myself that it’s not actually December and Christmas isn’t approaching at the speed of a flying reindeer, alas I know I have to wake up and smell the mistletoe. So as I welcome December with a Grinch-like growl, here are my recommendations to put you in the Christmas spirit…
Is there a better festive feast than Scrooge? While in some ways it is now impossibly dated – Bill Murray’s hair! Bill Murray *with* that much hair! – in some it’s never been more topical, as our TV schedules are overtaken with the crass commercialism of The X Factor and the lowest denominator of reality TV, and in the wider world the gap between the haves and have nots is wider than ever. Plus, much as I love Bill Murray, how can you not enjoy a film where he gets smacked in the face with a toaster by a fairy? C’mon…
Muppet’s Christmas Carol
Surprisingly faithful to the Dickens novel (well, except for the singing chickens) this film is such a delight that even Michael Caine’s singing can’t put you off. It does make re-reading the book tricky though, as you tend to hear it narrated in Gonzo’s voice.
It’s a Wonderful Life
People can be divided into those who love this movie, and those who have no soul. Far more raw and desperate than its feel-good reputation would imply, this tale of a man with big dreams trapped in small town life could actually be a tragedy, but due to Jimmy Stewart’s stellar performance is one of the most uplifting Christmas films of all time. (Though if you watch the colourised version, you’re going straight on the Naughty List.)
A Very Supernatural Christmas
I must admit I’m a total sucker for Christmas TV specials – even of shows I don’t actually like, even if I’m watching them in August – but this hits all the buttons and then some. It’s remarkably gruesome (you can hear the bones breaking as ‘Santa’ drags his victims up the chimney), laugh out loud funny (the bits where the boys are mistaken for pervs at the Santaland, or bust in on Santa watching porn and have to escape by singing carols, for instance) but also a moving insight into harsh realities of being raised on the road. If you don’t have a lump in your throat at the ending, when the boys celebrate their last Christmas together before Dean is dragged off to hell – well, hell, I don’t even want to know you.
Blackadder’s Christmas Carol
Although the humour is patchier than the gold standard set by the series, this Christmas-Carol-in-Reverse is worth watching just to see the descendent of Edmund Blackadder realise his life would have been so much better if he had been a bit more of a bastard.
Miracle on 34th Street
Although there is plenty of merit to the black and white version, I’m sold by Richard Attenborough’s twinkly Kris Kringle and the modern day vision of world-weary New Yorkers proclaiming their belief in Father Christmas. Plus, while the central romantic couple are bland, there’s top notch support from the likes of JT Walsh, Joss Ackland and James Remar, plus a ‘blink and you’ll miss it’ turn from the wondrous Allison Janney.
If the standard festive fare leads you more Scrooged than singing, there is always this dateless delight, in which Bruce Willis’ New York cop finds himself in the wrong place at the wrong time and without the right pair of shoes. For all its patchy sequels and multitude of imitators, this remains one of the all-time classic action movies (and was once voted the best Christmas film of all time by Empire Magazine readers), and it’s nice to be able to console yourself, as you’re squabbling with your family over the remote control and who ate the last of the Quality Street, that at least John McClane is having a worse Christmas than you are…
I’ll be back in a fortnight for more Fangirl festivities, but in the meantime you can pop over to my blog Body of a Geek Goddess, or make my Christmas by buying my new short story, A Vampire Walks into a Bar. Or just sending me money, whichever works.