Finally, the season to watch Christmas movies with warm sweaters, hot chocolate and holiday cookies is here.
Although not everyone is a fan of sappy films about finding love or good cheer, holiday movies have the ability to warm the icicles around even the bitterest person’s cynically entombed heart and make us forget all the politics, work and school that tend to put us in a less than pleasant mood.
“Love, Actually” (2003) has to be a favorite holiday movie. The British film features Academy Award-winner Colin Firth (“The King’s Speech,” 2010), and Academy Award nominees Liam Neeson (“Taken 2,” 2012), Keira Knightley (“Anna Karenina” 2012 ), and British heartthrob Hugh Grant (“Four Weddings and a Funeral,” 1994), among many others.
The movie incorporates several storylines involving different characters, which is a nice change from the usual single plots that tend to revolve around the same person and a cliché theme.
The beauty of this film — aside from the British accents and Hugh Grant — is that though it’s based on finding true love or reconciling with old ones, a common holiday motif, it’s not cheesy because the plotlines go beyond the sentimentality factor.
The screenwriter, Richard Curtis (“Pirate Radio” 2009), didn’t go out of his way to make grand, unrealistic finales that leave the audience thinking “Too bad that doesn’t happen in real life,” though there are plenty of those guilty-pleasure scenes as well. For example, Alan Rickman’s character (Snape, for all you “Harry Potter” fans out there) is a middle-aged man named Harry who is married to Karen, played by Emma Thompson (“Men In Black 3,” 2012), a quirky but loving woman. Despite his pleasant, though ordinary, life Harry has begun to respond to the heavy flirtations of his secretary Mia.
With eight other heartwarming and slightly eccentric subplots, this is one film that won’t leave the audience bored, bitter, or with unrealistic expectations, except for maybe Grant, who plays a Prime Minister besotted with his secretary.
Another holiday classic is “Scrooged” a 1988 modern telling of Charles Dickens’ “A Christmas Carol.” Bill Murray (“Moonrise Kingdom” 2012) plays Frank Cross, a fairly cross—pun intended — and disillusioned television marketing executive who has quite literally lost the spirit of Christmas.
Like the original Scrooge, he is a wealthy but cruel and cynical man whose single-minded attention to his career resulted in him losing the love of his life, Claire Phillips played by Karen Allen (“Raiders of the Lost Ark,” 1981). The film will give holiday-stuffed bellies good exercise, as audiences will be laughing all the way through.
Murray does an impeccable job of portraying the ruthless, disillusioned Scrooge, or “Lumpy,” as Claire calls him, by adding a humorous sadistic edge to the character.
You cannot help but laugh when the antisocial Cross tricks an old lady carrying a bunch of bags and boxes into thinking she dropped something just so he can steal her taxi. The scene is strangely hilarious, especially after the woman proceeds to shout out a few choice words as he makes faces at her.
Staying true to the novel, this scrooge is visited by the ghosts of Christmas past, present and Future. Though predictable, Murray’s performance, the comical twist, and the story of how Cross grew up to be such a disheartened grouch won’t leave you feeling scrooged.
Another fun film to consider over the holidays in none other than 1992’s “Home Alone 2: Lost in New York,” which is one of the funniest adolescent movies of all time.
In the film, 10-year-old Kevin McCallister (Macaulay Culkin “Richie Rich” 1994) utilizes his creativity and intelligence to outsmart the Wet Bandits, Harry Lyme (Joe Pesci “The Good Shepherd” 2006) and Marvin “Marv” Merchant (Daniel Stern “Whip It” 2009), who are out to get Kevin for getting them arrested when they broke into his home on Christmas in the first film. Once again, Kevin manages to get the best of the Wet Bandits with his clever booby traps and with the help of a mysterious pigeon lady.
When people think of Christmas entertainment, they think of 1946’s “It’s a Wonderful Life.” The film stars James Stewart as a frustrated businessman whose life is forever changed by an angel.
These movies are four must-watch Christmas classics. Fun and lighthearted, you won’t be left with sudden epiphanies about the mysteries of life, but you will be reminded to take it a little easy, something we tend to forget in the hustle and bustle of everyday life.
However, if you are feeling particularly restless or in the mood for something violent this Christmas, I suggest watching 1988’s “Die Hard.” It may not be a holiday film per se, but at least it takes place on Christmas Eve. Besides, what better way to brighten the holidays than to watch a trigger-happy Bruce Willis who still had hair?