First of all, I may have psychologically denied it for years but Christmas is my favourite time of the year. Maybe it’s the sentimentally of the holiday, seeing friends you haven’t seen in a while, eating good food and drinking and being off work for a good period of time are certainly good reasons. Trekking down Central London in search of last minute presents? Probably not lol. Jingle All the Way had it spot on!
But with Christmas TV this year again looking uninspiring, full of repeats, films dressed up as “movie premieres” when they debuted over two years ago – going through my DVD/Blu-ray collection has now become an annual tradition itself – that and playing games on my PS3 and now PS4. I don’t hate Christmas movies, some are clearly better than others and even made it into this list, but trying to force the holiday spirit doesn’t always work well. In other words you need a balance. So when I came up with this list and invited Zoe and Dan along for the trip, I specifically said it doesn’t have to be a Christmas movie. Because when you watch a good movie at this time of year, a good movie lasts with you no matter what. You create your own sentimentality without it being force-fed by someone clearly trying to cash in.
So here are the Geek’s top 5 films I watch at Christmas without fail. Enjoy!
#5 – Singin’ in the Rain (1952)
I love The Wizard of Oz but lately, Singin’ in the Rain has got to be my favourite musical of all time. The reason why is because it’s a great reminder of how films used to be made! Seriously, they don’t make films like this anymore. The talent, the positivity, the feel good spirit, the singing and the dancing are something else. Every time I watch this film, it’s mesmerising. The songs are catchy and for cinema lovers like me, it’s a great, fun way to be educated on the transitional period when silent films moved over to the talkies. It pays homage to the era and gives it respect of the challenges and difficulties actors faced during that time. Plus it has a great cast that will either move you emotionally or make you laugh, especially Jean Hagen as Lina Lamont. It’s beautiful and colourful and while The Wizard of Oz is a great family film, Singin’ in the Rain competes at an entirely different level. If you don’t smile whilst watching this film, then there is something wrong with you!
“What do they think I am? Dumb or something? Why, I make more money than – than – than Calvin Coolidge! Put together!” – Lina Lamont
#4 – Trading Places (1983)
Nothing like a bit of racism during the holidays! Thank God for Eddie Murphy and Dan Ackroyd for this brilliant comedy. It’s become a tradition in the geek’s household to watch this film. Some of the scenes are so cringe worthy that it is funny. I always have tears in my eyes. But why Trading Places makes the list is because it’s a great comeuppance story. With the two leads, it breaks down the barriers of stereotyping, classism and racism and makes it looks stupid. Winthorpe (Ackroyd), a stuck up rich broker at a commodities firm and Valentine (Murphy), a street hustler swap their lifestyles because of two rich millionaires conducting a bet – for a measly $1. So when Winthorpe and Valentine team up to teach the old millionaires a lesson by stealing every penny that they were worth, these geniuses of comedy showed us that embracing differences in others regardless of how you were brought up, where you are from or what colour your skin is, can be a beautiful thing! For me this is Eddie Murphy’s best film – it’s a bit of a shame it gets overlooked by the easy popular choices of Beverly Hills Cop and Coming to America (although both are great films btw).
“That’s called the “quart of blood” technique. You do that, a quart of blood will drop out of a man’s body.” – Billy Ray Valentine
#3 – Home Alone (1990)
My first actual Christmas movie in the list and it’s highly recommended. I can’t be the only one when they were a kid growing up and wished they were Kevin McCallister and dreamed up brilliant (and yet sadistic) ways to get even against two burglars! Home Alone is a great kids/family film that doesn’t treat you like a kid. It doesn’t dumb down everything with some kid films/cartoons today. It does however question the parenting skills of the McCallister family (seriously forgetting your child is one thing, but to do it twice in the sequel – kinda unforgivable). Home Alone works because it sums up the chaos of the holidays and trying to get things prepared, it sums up the vulnerabilities of home security especially around time of the year but most importantly, it’s essentially the protection of a household from one brave, smart kid who had to grow up quicker than expected. There’s always something to admire from the character of Kevin McCallister – he may have had fun being alone, doing anything he wanted and felt unappreciated by his family but ultimately, he craved for his family. It’s sentiment that hits all the right places and John Williams’s soundtrack and John Hughes’s script are just brilliant highlighting those moments. And who can forget the stunts – seriously, Joe Pesci, Daniel Stern and their stunt doubles must have got PAID because every one of Kevin’s traps just hurt from watching it. Whether you are young or old, Home Alone is a film you can appreciate.
“You guys give up yet? Or are you thirsty for more?” – Kevin McCallister
#2 – The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (2001-2003)
OK – I’ve cheated here. Technically, these films are three but just like Zoe’s list, I view them as one movie/journey and I’m glad I’m not the only one who likes to venture into the world of Middle Earth at Christmas. The Lord of the Rings trilogy is probably the greatest film trilogy ever committed to celluloid and cinema history. These films should have won more Oscars – period. The word “epic” gets used very frequently in reviews and other mediums but with The Lord of the Rings, epic really does justify it. Beautifully made, adventurous, exciting, emotional and can move me to tears (damn you Annie Lennox end song! lol) – these films have the lot. I don’t care if people joke about the amount of endings Return of the King has, you will be completely hooked from start to finish. Watching scenes from the film brings out the chills in me – not many films that I have seen have done that. Howard Shore’s music – I can listen to the soundtrack for days! The Lord of the Rings trilogy works perfectly at this time of year because you can absolutely lose yourself in another world of love, mystery, sacrifice and friendship in a huge battle between good and evil. I don’t think anyone can be disappointed watching these films and I can’t wait for The Hobbit trilogy to finish so I can watch that and The Lord of the Rings trilogy back to back – and it will be totally worth it!
Frodo: “I can’t do this, Sam.”
Sam: “I know. It’s all wrong. By rights we shouldn’t even be here. But we are. It’s like in the great stories, Mr. Frodo. The ones that really mattered. Full of darkness and danger, they were. And sometimes you didn’t want to know the end. Because how could the end be happy? How could the world go back to the way it was when so much bad had happened? But in the end, it’s only a passing thing, this shadow. Even darkness must pass. A new day will come. And when the sun shines it will shine out the clearer. Those were the stories that stayed with you. That meant something, even if you were too small to understand why. But I think, Mr. Frodo, I do understand. I know now. Folk in those stories had lots of chances of turning back, only they didn’t. They kept going. Because they were holding on to something.”
Frodo: “What are we holding onto, Sam?”
Sam: “That there’s some good in this world, Mr. Frodo… and it’s worth fighting for.”
#1 – Die Hard (1988)
Predictable choice but not watching Die Hard at Christmas would just feel wrong! Die Hard is just a kick-ass ride of action movies and what’s not to like? It’s wise cracking, hard to kill John McClane vs. a bunch of terrorists. It’s an everyman hero who struggles, battles and feels pain after each encounter to save the hostages and his wife. The everyman aspect makes the situation believable. It’s a pity that the following Die Hard films (with exception of Die Hard with a Vengeance) which seems to forget that essence of an everyman hero and have turn McClane into an indestructible superhero, in particular A Good Day to Die Hard. Seriously I can watch Die Hard a thousand times over just to erase the crap (A Good Day to Die Hard) that I witnessed this year. I could review that film but it would require unleashing my full pissed off, angry mode to describe how bad that film was. Shockingly bad – like worse movie of the year bad. Seriously I would rather stare at Robert De Niro holding this cat then watch another frame of that awful movie.
Seriously folks, if you want an action movie in its essence, watch the original – not only will you have a blast but you will always realise that Die Hard is not just for Christmas…it’s for life 🙂
Hans Gruber: Do you really think you have a chance against us, Mr. Cowboy?
John McClane: Yippee-ki-yay, motherf*cker.
Other notable mentions that just missed out
- Planes, Trains and Automobiles
- Edward Scissorhands
Thanks again to Zoe and Dan for their contributions! It probably won’t be the last time I say it but to every one who follows the blog, the silent readers and my twitter followers, I wish you a Merry Christmas and a Happy New Year (or Merry New Year as Nenge from Trading Places would say!)