It was almost like I was living a blog post, because I was standing around talking to my friends at work and they started listing off their favorite Christmas movies, and I was all “How convenient!” because I didn’t feel like reviewing This is 40 in the first place.
Of course, all the ones you just thought of were discussed: Miracle on 34th Street and It’s a Wonderful Life and A Christmas Story. The prerequisite quote-off was turned up to 11 because everyone has seen those like a billion time.The only thing less funny than listening to a middle-aged, overweight coworker with a monstrous case of halitosis say “You’ll shoot your eye out.” is ACTUALLY shooting your eye out.
But as we went around, that weird pressure started to build, where you feel like you can’t say Scrooged or Mixed Nuts is one of your favorites, because Bill from Accounting already said HE like Scrooged , and everyone knows he’s an idiot…and besides…he already said it. So everyone starts thinking of weirder and weirder movies that might peripherally be called “Christmas Movies” in that, the action in them take place during Christmas time.
Bear with me here… I’m trying to do you a solid.
SO, if and when this happens to you, here is a short list of great-to-mediocre movies that take place during Christmas. These are the oddballs that are less likely to draw unwanted comparisons between you and Mr. Pressed-a-whole-jelly-sandwich-into-the-vents-of-his-external-backup-hard-drive-that-one-time. And NO, I’m not talking about Die Hard. Die Hard is the Christmas movie that one annoying guy thinks is weird enough to be forgotten as a Christmas movie, but EVERYONE remembers it’s a Christmas movie and that guy is a tool.
That guy is also me.
I listed these in best-to-worst order because I’m in charge and the concept gets progressively weaker as it goes on. Really, it just falls right off after the first three. Don’t say I didn’t warn you.
1) In Bruges – This fantastic film by Martin McDonough, who just got done directing Seven Psychopaths, follows the lives of two hitmen played by Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell during their fateful visit to the storybook-esque city in Belgium. There are racist dwarves, sissy skinheads, fat Americans, and furious Ralph Fiennes all over the place. Awesome. It does take place during Christmas, earning it the distinction of being the only “Christmas” movie I am aware of that refers to kids as “A bunch of [c-word]s”. Great for the whole family. My favorite on this list by a lot.
2) Kiss Kiss Bang Bang – This largely unappreciated movie was directed by Shane Black, the same guy who wrote Lethal Weapon and The Last Boy Scout, and stars a pre-Iron Man, Robert Downey Jr. along with Val Kilmer, as the greatest gay detective in movie history and that one hot girl from Gone Baby Gone who was Casey Affleck’s way-too-hot-for-him wife. It’s funny, quick-paced and takes place in Los Angeles so you totally forget it’s Christmas time unless you have a photographic memory or something.
3) The Ref - This one, of any on this list, if remembered, is probably remembered as a Christmas movie. Denis Leary at the height of Denis Leary mania (yes, such a thing existed) plays a burglar who breaks into the wrong house and is forced to kidnap the worst, most annoying couple in the history of hyperbole, played by Kevin Spacey’s forehead and the uber-milf Judy Davis. This one builds beautifully to an insane crescendo and is better than about 85% of every Christmas that’s been made since except Bad Santa.
4) Brazil - Director Terry Gilliam’s critique on commercialism could only take place at Christmas time. This movie is so weird that it has slipped the surly bonds of nostalgia to become an out-right cult classic. It’s bleak and cynical and classifying it as a Christmas movie is probably going to get my non-existent movie critic card revoked. But I care not a whit. It’s brilliant.
5) Eyes Wide Shut - Stanley Kubrick’s final convoluted mess of a film that did more damage to his legacy that Tom Cruise did to the springs on Oprah’s couch that one time when Scientology made him proclaim his love for Katie Holmes in the weirdest way ever. (That was easily the least topical reference I’ve ever made. What the hell was I thinking?) Anyway … Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman star in this overtly sexualized bizarro tale that I thought sucked the bag. Go see Gremlins with your kids instead and a whole new generation of kids came be traumatized by cute little talking monkey-dogs that turn into monsters.
What movies did I forget?