Tomorrow will be the annual Velocityprime Christmas bash, and with a bash a fun holiday movie needs to come along with it. For the past five years I’ve usually screened the classic (and the film I’ve seen the most in my life) Home Alone 2: Lost in New York. But last year I decided to move away from that track and start showing one of my favorite genres of film, the non-Christmas Christmas movie. I love the setting because it brings such ambivalent emotions from the audience, strong senses of warmth and nostalgia mixed with isolation and despair. These conflicting feelings serve as wonderful backdrops for a myriad of genres including action, horror, and comedy.
My favorite non-Christmas Christmas movies are as follows.
Gremlins (1984) Dir. Joe Dante: The film equivalent of a razorblade wrapped in chocolate. Gremlins is equally sweet and biting making it the perfect holiday treat. Simultaneously a riotous take down of It’s a Wonderful Life and a exhilarating send up of Merrie Melodies shorts. The movie looks a snow globe filled with oozing gloop spurted out by an alien creature. Its satire is sharp, its filmmaking on point, and has one of the most delirious monologues ever committed to film (that is amazingly parodied in the film’s own sequel). There are some unfortunate moments of Orientalism that is a plague upon 80’s cinema, but it still all worthwhile for the manic moments like Phoebe Cates serving the Gremlins in the bar, or meeting Chuck Jones.
Batman Returns (1992) Dir. Tim Burton: I don’t know if this a superhero movie or an excuse for Burton to indulge in his leather fetish, but whatever it is this is most definitely the most demented Batman flick ever cemented to celluloid. Most of the action in the film takes place in an art-deco/Dickensian metropolis that throws most of what people like about Batman in favor of extreme stylistic flourishes. All of the lead actors ham it up to the nth degree, and all of it done in front of Christmas trees and snow swept streets. Pfeiffer is still one of my top 3 superhero performances, even now in our comic dominated age. The plot here is really clunky, but honestly I’m just here for the exploding penguin army.
Kiss, Kiss, Bang, Bang (2005) Dir. Shane Black: Black loves Christmas. Almost every one of his films is set during that time (Lethal Weapon, Long Kiss Goodnight, Iron Man 3, hopefully the new Predator) and it brings out the best of his screenwriting. KKBB is a wonderfully goofy neo-noir that throws withering barbs and severed fingers with glee. Robert Downey Jr. is excellent here, and it paved the road for his comeback. Some of the most fun you’ll have with the non-Christmas time flicks.
So what are your favorite non-holiday holiday films?