Posted by: Sally Ingraham | January 3, 2012

Movie Mayhem: Christmas Movie edition

There are lots of things about Christmas that I am not a fan of – sometimes I feel downright Grinchy about the whole thing. I remain a fan of film though, and at this time of year my movie selections get rather more into the spirit of things than the rest of me does.


While I feel no need to see Christmas With the Kranks ever again, or Deck the Halls, or even Jingle All the Way (although Schwarzenegger’s battle to get his kid THE toy of the 1996 holiday season is certainly epic…), there are a few movies that I like to watch on a yearly basis. As a kid, our family Christmas movies were The Santa Clause, Borrowed Hearts, The Little Match Girl, and A Christmas Carol. These days I like to watch, at the very least, Love Actually, The Holiday, and The Nightmare Before Christmas.

This year I went a little bit overboard. I saw a delightful stage production of The Christmas Story, and this inspired a “bad Christmas movie party”, the intention of which was to watch frightful things like Thomas Kinkade’s Christmas Cottage, or The Twelve Dogs of Christmas. In the end my friends and I couldn’t really stomach wasting 4 or 5 hours of our lives watching such seasonal fluff, so instead we knocked off two out of my three favorites listed above. The third I watched with my four sisters on Christmas Day. Check those off the list.

love actually

I actually became mildly obsessed with Christmas movies this holiday season. I was spending a lot of time making my presents and avoiding packing or organizing or planning for my coming move by doing craft projects. A natural multi-task was to rack up a collection of less-than-usual Christmas movies. I don’t ask for much more than a bit of seasonally appropriate music, a tree, pretty lights, a Santa costume, or a mention of Christmas dinner. And I far prefer a bit of action and daring-do over excess tinsel or (god-help-me) the SAD Christmas movies (avoid The Family Stone unless you enjoy sniffling into your cocoa!). Therefore, my list includes:

die hardDie Hard (A “Yippee ki yay” to all, and to all a good night!)
Lethal Weapon (You’re never too old for this Christmasy sh*t.)
The Long Kiss Goodnight (Don’t mess with Mrs. Santa!)
Red (Retired Extremely Dangerous and not very good at decorating for Christmas – yet.)
Trading Places (Getting rich, getting even, and getting merry.)
Grumpy Old Men (And a Merry Christmas from Moron and Putz!)

gremlinsA few that I didn’t get to this year that shouldn’t be forgotten:

Gremlins (Don’t EVER give someone one of these for Christmas!)
Bad Santa (Taking the Grinch to a whole new level…)

And finally a couple of movies that were new to me that I liked a lot:


Hogfather (Writ. & Dir. Vadim Jean. Based on the novel by Terry Pratchett. Stars Michelle Dockery, Ian Richardson, David Jason, and Marc Warren. UK, 2006)
This excellent adaptation of the Pratchett novel by director Vadim Jean brings to life Hogswatch (the Discworld equivalent to Christmas). On this particular Hogswatch things are not going well. The Hogfather has gone missing. Death and his trusty servant Albert attempt to stave off disaster by impersonating the Hogfather while Susan, Death’s granddaughter, tries to figure out what is going on. Meanwhile, the nefarious and utterly creepy Mr. Teatime is plotting an elaborate assassination, and the Tooth Fairy’s castle is under attack. If this all sounds ridiculous, you are making the right assumption – but that is beside the point. Susan is a perfectly prim and proper governess-heroine, and Death in the Hogfather’s outfit is something worth seeing. There are witty asides and adult jokes to keep you snickering, and as with most things Pratchett, it’s not all silliness. There is an interesting underlying thought about the importance of myth and belief, and their influence on a person’s comprehension of right and wrong. But mostly Hogfather is a vaguely Victorian Gothic tale populated by Death of Rats, monsters in the basement, bumbling wizards, and quite a bit of festive jolliness. I’ll be watching this again next year. (Thanks to L for pointing out Vadim Jean’s Discworld movies.)

arthur christmas

Arthur Christmas (Dir. Sarah Smith and Barry Cook. Writ. Peter Baynham and Sarah Smith. Stars James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie, Jim Broadbent, Bill Nighy, and Ashley Jensen. UK, 2011)
How could a Christmas movie from Aardman Animations be anything but awesome? Running operation Christmas with the precision of a moon landing from Mission Control at the North Pole, Santa’s oldest son Steve fully expects his father to resign after his 70th Christmas and turn the whole thing over into his capable hands. Arthur, poor bumbling enthusiastic horrible-Christmas-sweater-wearing Arthur, the younger son, shuffled over into the Letters office where he can cause the least amount of havoc, just wants to have a pleasant dinner on Christmas Eve with his family. Both sons end up disappointed. With Santa snoring in bed and Steve furiously jabbing away at his communication thing-a-ma-jig, it falls to Arthur to discover that one child has been skipped, missed, lost in the margin for error so small as to be insignificant. Full of Christmasy spirit, Arthur takes it upon himself to deliver her present, enlisting the help of Grandsanta, the old low-tech sleigh, and an elf from the wrapping department. He must overcome his long list of paranoias, battle off lions and the air force and bad directions, and remind everyone what being Santa is really about. Not the most original story, but wonderfully, hilariously told. Warm fuzzies all round.

I might watch at least one more before Epiphany (Jan. 6th) and the official last day of the holiday season. I’ve been meaning to watch Joyeux Noel ever since Caroline reviewed it last year, so maybe I’ll finally get to that. Or there is Scrooged, or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, neither of which I’ve seen. So many Christmas movies, such a short holiday season… (yeah, right!)

What are your favorite Christmas movies? Do you have any to recommend? (If you recommend I’ll Be Home for Christmas I will puke on your shoe though, promise!)


  1. I’ve forgotten those action flicks you pointed out, that they take place during the season. Arthur Christmas does look warm and fuzzy, we’ll have to remember it next year. Love–Love Actually, and it alarms me we didn’t watch it this year’s holiday season; we have ’til the 6th you say?

    • I watch Love Actually several times a year. I love every bit of it, and I take a great deal of pleasure in introducing it to people who haven’t seen it. Bill Nighy’s character is a favorite.

      I remembered Die Hard, but I had completely forgotten that Lethal Weapon was set during the season until I watched it by accident. And my friend CP came up with The Long Kiss Goodnight, which I would never have thought of. 🙂

  2. Funny that. I’m not much into Christmas but I do like the movies. Last year I watched and reviewed 3 Christmas war movies. Joyeux Noël is by far the best.
    You got a few on your list that I enjoy. Hehe… I didn’t know it before I watched it that Die Hard is a Christmas movie. I liked Grumpy Old Men as well.
    It’s a Wondeful Life is also a Christmas movie, right? That didn’t do it for me.
    I’ve never seen Lethal Weapon… Next Christmas then. Arthur Christmas and Hogfather go on the list as well.

    • Even when I had a mad crush on Jimmy Stewart when I was 13, It’s a Wonderful Life didn’t do it for me. Not a favorite! I think you would enjoy Lethal Weapon – the back and forth exchanges between Riggs and Roger are great and there are some very funny lines. The 3 movies that followed in the series are all pretty good too.

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