From Bad Santa to Black Christmas: Our fave holiday films, naughty and nice.
Reel Guys, Metro Canada by Richard Crouse and Mark Breslin
Synopsis: “Well, it’s Christmas time, pretty baby” … and the Reel Guys are watching films… With our apologies to Jerry Leiber and Mike Stoller, who wrote those lyrics to Elvis Presley’s Santa Claus is Back in Town — that song pretty much sums up what the holiday season means for us. Next week we’ll be back to reviewing the big releases of the year, but before we get to that we thought we’d have a look at movies to get us in the Christmas spirit. They may not all be on Santa’s nice list.
Richard: James Stewart stars in one of the movies that always puts me in the mood for Christmas, but its not the one you think. Sure, It’s A Wonderful Life is a classic and yuletastic, but I also enjoy The Shop Around The Corner. It’s a Christmassy romance that sees shop co-workers Stewart and Margaret Sullivan at one another’s throats at work, unaware that they are also anonymously courting one another as pen pals. All becomes clear on Christmas Eve and they unwrap a big ol’ gift basket of love. It’s almost as heartwarming as a giant mug of hot chocolate.
Mark: Richard, as I’m Jewish, the Christmas holiday doesn’t have quite the emotional pull on me that it might have on you. So, come Christmas Eve our family gathers around the TV, where we watch Bad Santa until we fall asleep from convulsive laughter. The story of an alcoholic, womanizing, foul-mouthed Santa is a delightful antidote to all that icky cheer I’m supposed to feel. Then, when the novelty dies down, I get with the program and watch Elf. But I wear my Grinch mask just in case a tear is shed.
RC: That green synthetic fur is great for soaking up tears! But an antidote to the icky cheer you describe are two films set during the holidays without an ounce of tinsel treacle between them. In The Long Kiss Goodnight an amnesiac played by Geena Davis is outed as a former hired killer when she is recognized playing Mrs. Claus in a Christmas parade. The title A Christmas Tale sounds traditional enough, but the story focuses on the bitter rather than the sweet. The English title of this Catherine Deneuve dramedy could easily have been Cancer for Christmas, but despite the downer topic it’s complex, funny and touching.
MB: I’ve never seen A Christmas Tale, Richard, thanks for the tip. But if it’s holiday downers we’re looking for, consider Black Christmas, a 1974 slasher flick starring Olivia Hussey. I guess you could double-bill this one with the 2006 remake, but that might be, ahem, overkill.
RC: Many years ago, on the first Christmas the PMC — my Preferred Movie Companion — and I spent together, I screened Black Christmas for her, which almost stopped the relationship before it had a chance to really get going. I love the slaying slasher story. Her, not so much. I quickly rebounded with National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation, which made the yuletide bright once again. Thanks, Chevy Chase, for saving Christmas and my relationship!
MB: Well, for a Jewish guy like me, I’ll just have to be content with Adam Sandler’s Hanukkah animation classic, Eight Crazy Nights, and a glass of Manischewitz!