By Ross Hunter
The festive period truly is a time of wonder for the film buff: limited expectations, less judgement
for prolonged periods of lounging on the sofa, the opportunity to gorge on the abundance of snacks that fill the house. The screen offers an escape from the chaos that surrounds the festivities. Whether you’re a fan of the Hallmark Christmas movie, pining for the hapless local and city slicker to realise they’ve been in love the whole time, or you enjoy pushing the boundaries of what a Christmas film can be (Lord of the Rings has elves, so it must be a Christmas film, right?), then we have selected five films that simply must be a staple of your viewing pleasure. Enjoy!
The Festive Family Favourite: The Muppet Christmas Carol
This year is the 30th anniversary of The Muppet Christmas Carol and it’s a testament to the film that it manages to feel timeless and fresh at the same time. The charm, humour and enormous heart of the retelling of Dickens’ classic tale offers its audiences a cinematic cuddle with the warm, familiar characters banding together to thaw the icy heart of Michael Caine’s Ebeneezer Scrooge. The vivid colours, catchy songs and zippy one-liners will undoubtedly fill you with Christmas cheer. A must watch.
The Christmas Classic: Meet Me In St. Louis
The obvious, more traditional choice for a Christmas classic would be Frank Capra’s It’s A Wonderful Life but Judy Garland’s technicolour classic Meet Me In St. Louis offers a feel good alternative. Only 25 minutes of the film actually take place over Christmas, but what an excellent 25 minutes they are. Meet Me in St. Louis offers one of the most gorgeous holiday sequences in cinema history, including the first ever performance of the beautiful ‘Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas’. A dreamy, charming slice of nostalgia for the musical fan.
The Alternative Christmas Selection: Tangerine
Christmas isn’t an easy time for everyone and we seldom see characters on our screen that don’t fit into the idealised Christmas card image of a family. Tangerine looks at Christmas Eve through the eyes of Sin-Dee, a recently paroled transgender sex worker searching the city of Los Angeles for the pimp who broke her heart. The scorching LA sunshine inverts the expectations of the festive setting but the breakneck pace of the action slows down enough to offer the audience tender, honest and moving takes on the love, friendship and compassion associated with this time of year. If you’re looking for something different, Tangerine offers originality in abundance.
The Animated Advent-ure: The Snowman
We all remember the feeling. The first time we saw the snowman take young James by the hand, running at pace through the garden until they take off, soaring through the Christmas Eve sky towards endless possibilities, the known world but a scattering of lights and silhouetted landmarks. Sadly, the author Raymond Briggs passed this year, but he leaves us with an enduring moment of Christmas magic, brought to life by the faithful art direction of Dianne Jackson effortlessly combined with the evocative piano score of Howard Blake. Comfort food for the soul.
The Christmas Comedy: Trading Places
A drunk Dan Ackroyd, dressed as Santa, sitting at the back of a bus, trying to eat a side of salmon whilst unsuccessfully pulling his beard out of the way. This image typifies john Landis’ approach to the festive season. Trading Places is a screwball comedy that tells the story of Christmas from two opposing perspectives: the greed and preoccupation with wealth and commodities versus the generosity of spirit and the solace of family, no matter what that family looks like. Ackroyd, Jamie Lee Curtis and an up-and-coming Eddie Murphy cross paths via a series of hilarious encounters, hurtling towards
a most satisfying conclusion at the expense of the scheming millionaire Duke Brothers. A fun and fast paced comedy.
Bio – Ross Hunter is an Ayr-based filmmaker and exhibitor, having directed, produced, written and shot award-winning films over a 15-year career as well as programming, operating and devising innovative and exciting cinema screenings across the country. Ross is one of the directors of The Iris, an Ayrshire-based community arts organisation. He believes in the transformative power of film on communities in relation to having their voices heard.