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Marleen Apodaca, Writing Team Member
Edward Scissorhands (1990):
Edward Scissorhands is one of my favorite Tim Burton films. I felt like there was definitely a three-way tie between Home Alone, Nightmare Before Christmas and Edward Scissorhands being my favorite movie. As a 90’s baby I was exposed to films that Johnny Depp starred in and I always thought it was interesting to live in a sort of dark Christmas fairytale with a person that had scissors for hands. Still to this day I wonder how different Edward’s character development would have been if his creator was still present in his life and if he was a “completed” human experiment.
Edward Scissorhands may be an unconventional Christmas movie, but I have always admired Edward’s talent for making ice/plant sculptures. Edward is a very misunderstood character and artist that is true to his craft. Winona Ryder also shined as Kim and I loved that Ryder’s character narrated the story. Recently I found an Edward shirt at the store and I am so stoked to wear it for the holidays!
Bobby Thornson, Writing Team Member
Jagten (The Hunt) (2012):
One of the most unconventional holiday movies that could end up on a listicle such as this is Thomas Vinterberg’s Jagten (The Hunt), which is my choice as my favorite Christmas film. While today the film could easily be misconstrued or appropriated as a sort of ‘anti-cancel culture’ piece by those who oppose consequences facing those they ideologically align with, the film is an extremely thoughtful and complex piece. It carries a potent socio-political relevance to the contemporary moment due to how it deals with the spread of rumors and misinformation that leads an entire town to dedicate to wronged groupthink, which is quite reminiscent to films about those who refuse to stand up against fascist, right-wing oppression in order to protect themselves in place of those around them.
Jagten carries an intricate performance from the amazing Mads Mikkelsen, who also happens to be a regular collaborator of Vinterberg. It is a fascinating and complex holiday gift of a film that garnered extreme critical acclaim and accolades, given to the world by one of the greatest working Danish film directors. Vinterberg is not just one of the creators of the Dogme95 movement, but arguably the most important to the movement as he kicked it off with the deeply moving and extremely innovative film Festen (The Celebration), and continues to gift us amazing films such as the also acclaimed Druk (Another Round).
Penny Folger, Writing Team Member
Christmas Evil (aka You Better Watch Out or Terror in Toyland) (1980):
I was introduced to this movie as “the Taxi Driver of Christmas movies” and if that’s the case then Brandon Maggart (incidentally Fiona Apple’s father) is Robert De Niro. Maggart plays a man who caught his mother getting fresh with “Santa” under the Christmas tree as a child and seems to be taking out his ensuing childhood trauma on the rest of society. Now an adult, he dresses as Santa while trying to right the wrongs of children and society as a whole, however unhinged and misguided his judgment becomes. Maggart gives a terrific underrated performance and there is lots of 1970s Christmas party ambience (the film was released in 1980) and dark humor as he hums Christmas tunes in an apartment filled with Santa decor and keeps tallies of “good” and “bad” children in the neighborhood. Drawing in and repelling citizens in equal measure, he runs through the night in full Santa gear creating mayhem in his wake. It’s an amazing character study and an especially fun film if you like non-traditional holiday fare.
I guess I often veer towards darker holiday films, because I would also recommend The Apartment (infidelity and broken hearts for Christmas), The Silent Partner (bank robbing Santa!), and Christmas Holiday (the film noir with the misleading title) as other fun stand-ins for holiday cheer!
Liam Kilby, Writing Team Member
Home Alone (1990) & A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965):
Home Alone is so loved and appreciated for its comical and cynical representation of a Christmas alone where a kid has to end up defending themselves against two burglars. Watching Harry (Joe Pesci) and Marv (Daniel Stern) act as these vainglorious robbers always makes me smile as they haphazardly attempt to rob the McCallister house. Kevin has a truly masterful way of making these traps, like a Matisse of Rube Goldberg machines. With a score by John Williams and an atmosphere of joy, this movie is a timeless classic for many stay-in Christmas holidays.
My all time favorite Christmas movie, A Charlie Brown Christmas will forever be the movie that creates the atmosphere of holiday joy. It is the joy of community, biological or not, the ones we call family are people we hold closest to us. Being a little tree means to celebrate the imperfections of difference and the holiday time is to celebrate this spirit. It is unfortunate when that wishfulness of love for those we hold closest around this time feels forgotten for the consumerist nature of grandiose gift giving. At the end of the day, we all just need a little love to get through this time of year.
“It’s not bad at all, really.”
Huge Honarable Mentions: Tangerine, Jack Frost (1998), Eyes Wide Shut, Gremlins, Elf, Black Mirror: White Christmas (2014), Batman Returns
Justina Bonilla, Writing Team Member
Bachelor Mother (1939) & Christmas Holiday (1944):
Among the various movies I look forward to watching every Christmas season, two Christmas films that I absolutely adore are the comedy Bachelor Mother and the crime noir Christmas Holiday.
In Bachelor Mother, Ginger Rogers is a retail worker who is unexpectedly mistaken for the mother of an orphaned baby. While her simple single life is turned upside down, she full heartedly becomes the baby’s mother, with help from an unexpected friend. Christmas Holiday Affair follows Deanna Durbin, a heartsick nightclub singer with a tragic past, befriends a heartbroken lieutenant stranded during Christmas. As their unlikely friendship grows, Durbin’s dark past come back to haunt her.
Every time I watch these films, I find something new to appreciate. The tone of each of these films brings a drastically different yet beautiful perspective about how Christmas can bring sudden change but also much needed redemption.
Honorable mentions: The Muppets Christmas Carol, Remember the Night, Gremlins, Christmas in Connecticut, The Great Rupert, Santa Claus vs the Devil, O. Henry’s Full House, and Babes in Toyland (1934, 1961, and 1986).
Anthony McKelroy, Writing Team Member
Frances Ha (2012):
Ten years on, is it safe to call Frances Ha a Christmas movie yet? As a film about time lost and dreams deferred, Noah Baumbauch’s episodic portrait of a twenty-something dancer is perfectly suited for the end of the year, when we are most anxious about time’s passage. At its core, Frances Ha is propelled by the true meaning of Christmas: capitalism. Frances’ employment hinges on the big end-of-year Christmas dance show, the income from which will allow her to continue living in her apartment. Christmas as entertainment, Christmas as security.
The monochrome black and white photography by Sam Levy further casts a wintry mood across every frame that coalesces into a vibrant sequence of Frances returning home to Sacramento for Christmas. In just under four minutes, Baumbach and Gerwig gracefully capture the essential essence – the joy and the awkwardness – of spending the holidays in your hometown. Featuring Gerwig’s real parents and shot partially at the same Unitarian Church she attended growing up, the sequence’s authenticity is predicated on Baumbach’s tendency to mix fact with fiction to create wholly unique characters in delightfully familiar situations. Move over, Die Hard.
Josh Green, Writing Team Member
The Family Man (2000):
I’m surprised with all the work that’s under Nic Cage’s belt that he has only done two Christmas-themed movies, one being Trapped in Paradise and the other being The Family Man. I’ve only seen one of these, which makes for a sad realization that as far into his career as he is now, we may not get another Cage Christmas movie.
Putting that aside though, my fascination and love for childhood costalgia always brings me back to my love for The Family Man. It’s a strange little movie where rich, posh, and pompous Nic Cage gets a rude wake up call of what life would have been like if he had became a family man instead of a rich, selfish businessman. The movie spoke to me as a young child in the same vein as movies like Big or 13 Going On 30 where you’re presented with a “What If….?” Marvel kind of story. The ending gives me so much hope especially when I think about situations I’ve been in and how maybe just thinking and acting upon taking another chance may lead you down the road you’ve always wanted to go down. The Family Man is a movie that keeps getting better every time I watch it as well as the hopeful pick-me-up I need to get through what can sometimes feel like the most depressing part of the year.
Reggie Peralta, Content Editor
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000):
Like many who are old enough to have seen the trailer for Universal’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas when it first hit theaters, I was absolutely terrified when I watched it. The weirdly intense pacing, the always creepy “In the Hall of the Mountain King” that accompanied it, and that final, snarled “the GRINCH!” all conspired to create a most frightening experience for sensitive 9-year-olds like myself. In hindsight, it’s actually pretty funny that they put together such a scary trailer for a “family” film, and it suits the playfully mean-spirited sense of humor that the movie exudes exquisitely.
Much of this mean-spirited humor, as you probably guessed, comes from Jim Carrey, who is in top mugging, madcap form as The Grinch. Caked in Rick Baker’s make-up and mining every moment for every last possible laugh, I’d go as far to say that this is Carrey’s funniest performance ever. But just like our green-haired anti-hero, there’s a kind heart beneath the movie’s barbed veneer. A tragic backstory of bullying and rejection makes us understand why the Grinch hates Christmas, and Taylor Momsen brings some good-natured childhood innocence to counterbalance his comical misanthropy as Cindy Lou Who. Heartwarming and hilarious, How the Grinch Stole Christmas is the perfect answer to Cindy’s question “Where are you, Christmas?”