24 Days of Christmas Films: Day 15-Miracle on 34th Street

111118064402-natalie-wood-05-horizontal-gallery

The words genuine and heart-warming has been thrown around a lot this month in regards to some of the films on this list, but believe me when I say that this is the iconic film that first inspired those feelings.

Although the 1994 version will always hold a special place in my heart as I was obsessed with Mara Wilson after Matilda, it’s the 1947 version that I think truly embodies Christmas spirit.

Doris Walker (Maureen O’Hara) is an event planner for Macy’s Department Store and after finding that her hired Father Christmas is drunk, a man named Kris Kringle (Edmund Gwenn) offers to take his place. He does so well that he ends up working as the store Santa but due to his continual insistence that he is the Father Christmas he ends up committed to a mental institution, and his only option is for the court to be convinced that his is the real deal once and for all. It sounds like a slightly depressing concept initially but the real joy in the film comes from Kris (spoiler alert) convincing everyone, in particular Doris’ sceptical young daughter Susan (Natalie Wood).

Watching both young children and adults fall under Kris Kringle’s spell and rediscover their belief in him is so uplifting and enjoyable to watch, and in the end I think that’s part of the success as I believe everyone would deep down still like to believe in Father Christmas. The performances are outstanding and the natural chemistry between the characters, especially between Susan and Kris Kringle is integral to the reason this film continues to inspire people over 50 years after its release.

“Faith is believing in something when common sense tells you not to.” It’s that optimism that runs throughout the film, and that’s why I had to include it on this list as I think that’s what people quintessentially love about Christmas, the idea that it feels like anything can happen, maybe even a miracle.

 

Advertisements

24 Days of Christmas Films: Day 14- Arthur Christmas

e09c2305ab4c5cddb22701ffc37a86e2

Another one of the more modern entries on this list but I couldn’t resist including it as I think it’s one of the smartest, most genuine Christmas films I’ve ever seen.

We’re introduced to Father Christmas (Hugh Bonneville) and his two sons Steve, the focused man on the ground in charge of running Christmas operations, and Arthur (James McAvoy) his good hearted but hopeless son who is in charge of the letter department. After a terrible mistake Arthur takes it upon himself to rectify it, and with his GrandSanta (Billy Nighy) and a wrapping elf named Bryony (Ashely Jensen) he sets off to ensure that no child will ever be without a gift on Christmas.

The thing I like most about this film is how it plays on the traditional Christmas myths such as making ‘Santa’ a title which is passed down, and the ingenious explanation as to how Father Christmas manages the incredible feat of delivering presents to all the children across the world in one night.

The recognisable voices add a sense of inherent likability to the characters, as although you might not be able to name the actor, you know the voice and relate to the character as a result. The family focus of the film and Arthur’s determination to deliver the forgotten present means it’s truly heartwarming to watch, but also manages to create genuine sentiment which is what makes it so enjoyable too. It’s such a witty and intelligent film that it makes it a perfect choice for both adults and children and is a sure fire way to keep everyone happy on Christmas day.

24 Days of Christmas:Day 13- Nativity

b19cd0_e614eead23484676be47169576e67773

It’s around this time every year that one of the most important parts of the run-up to Christmas takes place, and that is the Nativity.

For those of us in the UK it’s something we hold dear to our hearts, and usually with bittersweet memories of the terrible parts we got. Although kudos to you if you managed to bag the coveted Gabriel/Mary/Joseph roles, 6 year old me was quite put out being a narrator.

It’s a wonder that it took so long for someone to make a film about such a beloved right of passage, and as a result it’s no surprise that this is arguably one of the most successful Christmas films of recent years. We start with three friends at theatre school Paul Maddens (Martin Freeman),  his girlfriend Jennifer Love (Ashley Jensen) and their friend Gordon Shakespeare (Jason Watkins) as they’re about to perform a show. We then flick to a few years later and Paul and Jennifer have split up with her pursuing a career in Hollywood as a producer, whilst Gordon works for a prestigious school running their highly regarded Nativity every year. Paul works in a lesser performing school and by an act of misfortune is placed in charge of the Nativity this year,with the headmistress’s childish nephew Mr. Poppy (Marc Wootton) to help him. After hearing a chance encounter between Paul and Gordon, where Paul is goaded into bragging that a team of Hollywood producers are coming to see their show, Mr. Poppy spreads the exciting news until  the whole town knows. The only problem is that Paul was telling a big fat lie, and that he now has less that a month to contact and convince Hollywood bigwigs to come to see the show…

The success of the film is largely down to the stellar performances of the children who manage to be both incredibly cute and adorable without being sickly sweet, and give great overall performances. Of course the majority of the film is building up to the final performance and to see whether Hollywood does arrive, and boy is it worth the wait. The songs put ‘Away In A Manger’ to shame, and I defy anyone to not attempt to sing along so catchy are the songs, with ‘Nazarus’ and ‘Sparkle And Shine’ being my personal favourites.

Due to the subject matter and performances it’s truly a heartwarming film and the perfect choice for reigniting the nostalgia of childhood, and what you used to love about Christmas. It’s the perfect time to watch it to get you into the Christmassy mood, as even if you’re too old to have your own Nativity this is one you can enjoy again and again. Plus if you’re going to be brutally honest with yourself, you know your Nativity was never this good.

24 Days of Christmas Films: Day 12-A Charlie Brown Christmas

28122-13007-cb-in-text

This is an oldie but a goodie. While my sister and I never really watched the Peanut cartoons when we were little (I preferred the comics), my mother used to love them and it was a love she used to try to pass on by encouraging us to watch this every year.

With imaginative, relatable characters and iconic music it’s not surprising that A Charlie Brown Christmas is something that still manages to compel children, long after they’ve transitioned into adulthood. It’s surprising re-watching it as an adult how profound the message is behind this short film, as when I was little all I noticed was the Charlie Brown was sad about Christmas. But as an adult I realised that it’s actually the widespread of commercialism that’s got Charlie down, and is the cause as to why he throws himself into directing the Christmas play, although alas to no avail. As Charlie’s friends come together and we see Charlie realise that there is still more to Christmas than shopping and presents, it’s not just Charlie’s spirits who are raised. Whilst Linus’ recitation of Luke 2:8-14 highlights the simple intentions of what Christmas should really be about, peace and goodwill to all men.  Whether you’re religious or not it’ll have a different impact for you, but as someone who is the latter I love this reference as it brings me back to my childhood performing the Nativity, and the genuine joy and promise that Christmas would bring every year.

At its core that is what a Charlie Brown Christmas is all about, characters coming together in a touching and sentimental way to remind us what should be most important at Christmastime, and that is something that I think we sometimes need to be reminded of.

 

24 Days of Christmas Film: Day 11- Scrooged

620full-scrooged-screenshot

There have been over 20 film adaptations of Charles Dickens’ famous novella which would allow me to fill this list rating those alone. Unlike most popular subject matter that spawns countless adaptations, a majority of these adaptations are actually very deserving of a place on this list. So I gave it my absolute best to whittle them all down to the versions that I thought had the most to give, and with that we start with Scrooged.

It’s a kooky, kitsch version of the traditional tale with a dash of consumerism too as Bill Murray plays Frank Cross, a selfish television executive whom on the premise of his live TV version of A Christmas Carol is visited by three ghosts of his own to teach him a lesson. But these aren’t like any Christmas ghosts you’ve seen before as Frank is visited by a manic taxi driver, a verging psychopathic fairy, and a version of death who’s genuinely still scares me at 23 years of age.

As a result the first two thirds of the film are incredibly funny, and due to great performances from the whole cast make the Ghost of Christmas Future’s predictions all the more heart-breaking. It says a lot about the quality of the film that it manages to deliver great, consistent comedy, but also has the emotional pull to make the visions of the Ghost of Christmas Future truly horrifying to the audience. In my opinion it’s often this believability of the character’s relationships that drives the success of any Christmas Carol adaptation, as without it it makes the celebratory ending feel flat and false, and most importantly a lot less festive!

Scrooged is essentially A Christmas Carol and you’re not going to get much more Christmassy than that, plus it has the bonus of being a genuinely fantastic film. It’s perfect for the family members who are sick of the typical Christmas films and fancy a great laugh. Plus did I mention Billy Murray’s in it?!

24 Days of Christmas Films: Day 10-The Night Before

Joseph Gordon Levitt;Seth Rogen;Anthony Mackie

Gather round children there’s a tale to be told, of an orphan and his friends and holidays old. The boy was so sad his dear friends did think, I know what’ll fix it, a damn great big drink! From that Christmas Eve On, they’d have high-jinks and drink, un-til their friendship did near reach it’s brink.

As this film opens with a holiday rhyme I thought I’d give my hand to attempting one, so please bear with me. This is the most modern film on this list and I tell you know, is definitely one for fans of Seth Rogen’s stoner movies, and those who like their Christmas films with drugs, parties, the odd song and dance number and a lot of inappropriate humour.

We meet Joseph Gordon Levitt’s Ethan on Christmas Eve just after his parents have died and his friends Isaac (Seth Rogen) and Chris (Antony Mackie) decide to take him out to cheer him up, and so a Christmas tradition is born. But years later as Chris is a rising major league football star and Isaac is about to have his first child, they decide that this year is to be their final hurrah. As luck(or a Christmas miracle) would have it, Ethan finds three tickets to The Nutcracker Ball, a party they heard about that first Christmas Eve but is so exclusive they’ve been unable to track it down or get hold of an invite, until now.

It has an amazing cast for comedy fans from Ilana Glazer, Mindy Kaling, Michael Shannon, Lizzy Caplan, and of course in true Seth Rogen fashion, James Franco. I kind of can’t help but think of it as a millennials version of a Christmas film, but that shouldn’t be seen as a bad thing. It’s pretty funny and the three leading men have enough chemistry between them to convincingly carry the film, but it does lack the convincing sentiment and good-cheer of other classic Christmas films.

Overall the younger members of your family and your friends will enjoy the final party and the sometimes extremely random cameos (here’s looking at you Miley), but this is not one for the parents and extended family. It has it’s highs and lows, but overall I think it’s a great change from the typical Christmas film and one that’s well worth watching this holiday season.

 

24 Days of Christmas: Day 9- Bad Santa

BAD SANTA

Warning: today’s choice is most definitely not one to watch with the family, not unless they are very liberal.

If you’re looking for a conventional film full of holiday cheer and good-will this is not the one for you. Whereas if you like your Santa with a touch of alcoholism and swearing then step this way!

My mother is a self confessed ‘Grinch’ at Christmas and as a result she loves this film. Billy Bob Thornton plays the aforementioned Bad Santa who with his partner in crime elf Marcus (Tony Cox), use their positions as an store Santa and his helper to rob a different department store every year. I won’t say anything else except there’s plenty of interesting characters including a barmaid with a Santa fetish, a child who’s a few chocolates short of a full advent calendar and a wise cracking security guard.

It’s a lewd, outrageous and weird film, but the reason behind the film’s success is that it’s just really bloody funny. The humour is darker than a lump of coal but it is endlessly quotable, and still manages to deliver on the Christmassy feels without any cheesiness.

It’s ideal for people like my mum who find the idea of any cheese or sentiment at Christmas intolerable, or for those who fancy something different than a typical Christmas film, or just a really good laugh.

24 Days of Christmas Films: Day 4-Edward Scissorhands

7cc5f751-dac6-4394-8125-d80ba9a27240

“Before he came down here, it never snowed.” When people think of Edward Scissorhands it’s often the iconic scene of Winona Ryder’s Kim dancing in the snow that comes to mind, and it’s largely because of that magical winter imagery that I chose it for Day 4.

Romance has played a large part in the previous three films on this list and this film is no exception. It takes the age old tale of the social outcast falling for the beautiful popular girl, but thanks to the incredible Danny Elfman score and the real life chemistry between the two leads, Edward and Kim’s romance transcends the norm to a coupling that has been described as nothing short of iconic. Plus I defy anyone to not feel Christmassy as they watch Kim dance in the snow that Edward creates from his sculptures, as he shows his affection the only way he knows how.

It is in the third act of the film, as the Christmas festivities near its peak that Burton chooses for the climax of his narrative, as Edward moves from a novelty to a threat in the eyes of the neighbourhood. Burton uses this festive setting to emphasise Edward’s role as social outcast, a theme which is common in Christmas films to align him with those who in real life feel at odds with Christmas and the forced family festivity it induces.

As the hysteria in the town reaches fever pitch, Edward retreats back to his secluded, solitary existence and his castle to attempt to repair the damage he’s done, and in doing so sacrifices his only hope at love and companionship. It’s a bittersweet ending as although there is no typical happy ending for the couple, in contrast to the other films on this list, we are sated by learning at the end of the film that even after many years have passed, Edward still continues to craft ice sculptures in his castle purely so his beloved Kim may continue to dance in the snow. Now I don’t know about you, but as far as romantic, festive endings go I think that’s a pretty good one.

Whether you love this film for its social commentary or simply for the beautiful Tim Burton imagery and Danny Elfman score, this film truly has something for everyone and I think provides the perfect dose of escapism for those cold Wintery evenings.

 

24 Days of Christmas Films

tv

Over the years it seems that escaping from the cold and getting cosy in front of a Christmas film has become an integral part of the holiday season, and I think it’s often the easiest way to get yourself into the festive spirit. It’s certainly one of the things I look most forward to in the run up to Christmas, so I thought what better way to mark the run up to December 25th on this blog than to compile a list of what I think are some of the top Christmas movies to get you in the mood .

From tomorrow I’ll be sharing my favourites starting with the ones that give you a sprinkling of Christmas for those who are wanting to dip their toe before diving fully into the festive season, slowly building in festivity until we reach the full force Christmas favourites we all know and love. Hopefully it’ll help build the excitement for you guys and as there’ll be a few more adult choices as well, I’ve tried my best to incorporate alternatives in those cases so whatever your taste you’ll never have to miss a day!

So starting from tomorrow I hope you guys will be following along and as always I’d love to know if you guys have any particular favourites that you love to watch or hope to see on the list!

Why I Will Forever Be A Gilmore Girl

gilmoreOn October 5th 2000 the world was introduced to the fast talking world of the Gilmore Girls and their little New England town of Stars Hollow. They were welcomed with critical acclaim as the world fell in love with these two extraordinary women, and the colourful characters who inhabited their lives. The show was a pop culture  junkie’s dream (with 454 Film and TV references alone), but as the show developed it was the depth and heart of the characters that was responsible for its mass appeal, and over the course of seven seasons audiences watched enraptured as the Gilmore Girls dealt with issues of class, family, money, love, education and friendship.

The series was cancelled in 2007 after a troubled final season, but it wasn’t until 2008 that I stumbled across it when my mother by off chance started recording the series after she seen the advert on E4, and thought it might be something that would appeal to the both of us. Now most 15 year old girls and their mothers have troubled relationships at the best of times and we were no exception, so the irony is still not lost after all these years that it would be Gilmore Girls that would be the show that would help remedy our relationship.

gilmore4

Everyday I’d come home from school and we’d watch it together, and soon enough as we moved through the seasons it felt as though as the show began to bookmark some of the most important moments in my life as well. The parallels of attending a highly competitive all girls school whilst struggling with exams and boys was impossible to ignore, and the show became my guiding light proving that it was fine to make mistakes whilst reassuring me that it would all be alright in the end. While Rory struggled with Dean and Jess I had my first serious relationship, and while none of my blow outs with my mother were quite as bad as that in Season 5, it emphasised to me that no matter what, family is there regardless and even the worst fights can be resolved. Gossip Girl was the other show that vied for my affection at this time, but while that show portrayed the unattainable high life of luxury, fashion and wealth, Gilmore Girls assured me that some of the best times could be spent home at the weekend with movies and pizza and crucially for a teenage girl, that you didn’t need to be invited to all the coolest parties.

gilmore-girls-season-3-07

The heart-felt nature of the show is something that stayed with me as I went to university, and although the show had long since ended it continued to act as a comfort blanket for me through stressful times. I would watch it every year during my exams, and being able to watch Rory navigate her way through college and beyond cemented its place in my heart and provided with the guidance to aid me in my final stages of transition to adulthood. Still to this day I am able to identify new ways in which the show has affected me, and even the timing of the revival being announced as I was (and still am) at somewhat of a crossroads in life, to watch the trailer and see the characters I’ve grown up with feel the same way makes me feel that maybe there’s a little more guidance to be given.

gilmore-jpg2

I think ultimately that’s largely the reason behind the show’s continued success and the reason why the following has continuously increased in the run up to the release of the new Netflix miniseries, everyone has their own connection to the show and can see something of themselves in the citizens of Stars Hollow. The show allows us to see the best in ourselves as well as allowing us to relish in our mistakes, but ultimately emphasising that it’s our family that is most important in whatever form that takes.

ent_gilmoregirls1_1102

One thing’s for sure, no matter what happens this Friday when the miniseries is released I know I’ll be sat right next to the woman who started it all for me and although everything and nothing has changed I know I still and will forever be a Gilmore Girl.