12th Day of Christmas Movies – A Christmas Story

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Merry Christmas everyone! On this most joyous (or aggravating–however you’re spending it) day, I waited to discuss the pinnacle of all Christmas films. That is to say, I saved A Christmas Story just for today.

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Released in 1983, A Christmas Story made its way into mainstream popular culture immediately. The television station TBS shows it for 24 hours straight from Christmas Eve to Christmas Day, people pay heaps of money to stay in the “Christmas Story House” every year, and quotes from little Ralphie can be heard from nearly every mouth during the holiday season. While I still like Elf more, A Christmas Story is my husband’s favorite film, and since it is so ingrained in our culture, I knew I had to talk about it on Christmas Day!

A Christmas Story follows the story of Ralphie Parker, a little boy whose greatest wish is to get a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas. In the weeks leading up to the holiday, he drops subtle and not-so-subtle hints to his parents, Santa, and even his third grade teacher about his Christmas wish. The response every time? “You’ll shoot your eye out.” How deflating it is to hear that repeatedly (no matter how true it may be). Ralphie, his brother, his friends, and his parents encounter all sorts of adventures leading up to and on Christmas Day, all of which have become bastions of popular memory. All of this makes A Christmas Story that much more lovable and endearing, so make sure to turn on your TV and catch it before Christmas is over!

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11th Day of Christmas Movies – Eyes Wide Shut

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Merry Christmas Eve, all! I hope you all are having a wonderful time today. In honor of this most giving holiday, I present to you a film that continues to bear gifts with each subsequent viewing–Eyes Wide Shut.

Eyes Wide Shut

 

Eyes Wide Shut, released in 1999, was Stanley Kubrick’s last film before his death. He truly went out at the top of his game, if I do say so myself. This film is at once real and surreal, making the viewer ponder, evaluate, and reevaluate every single scene. It is purely brilliant, and it is also set during the Christmas season. Christmas lights provide a blinding luminosity or an eerie glow in the background of nearly every scene of the film, making everything have a dream-like feeling, which is perfect for a film based on the idea that one’s dreams and fantasies can haunt, even ruin, your everyday life.

Dr. William (Tom Cruise) and Mrs. Alice Harford (Nicole Kidman) live in Manhattan, enjoying their wealthy lifestyle and wealthy friends. They attend a Christmas party at the home of one of Bill’s patients, both of them flirting with other people, which leads to a somewhat-heated, half-naked discussion later that evening while smoking pot. Alice admits to Bill that she thought about cheating on him once during said discussion, creating a very tense moment of Tom Cruise staring…straight into your soul. Just when she’s done admitting her feelings, the phone rings. That happens a lot in this film. Whenever there is a pivotal moment, the phone rings. It distracts Bill from what he just heard or saw. At first, the calls seem to be a sort of saving grace–they get him out of uncomfortable or dangerous situations. Later, the phone calls turn into an all-out nuisance to him, but they are what moves the plot along throughout the entire movie. (Genius!) I won’t give away the entirety of what happens next, but Bill does end up at a cult-like orgy and considers cheating on his wife several times throughout the course of one evening. He doesn’t do it though. In the end, both he and Alice love each other too much to be unfaithful.

Eyes Wide Shut is a true roller coaster of a film that tells what most people call a “psycho-sexual” story of one man’s night out–a night that brings him face to face with his morals and the reality of his marriage. From a line like “Don’t you think one of the charms of marriage is that it makes deception a necessity for both parties?” to the discussion between Alice and Bill at the end of the film in the middle of a crowded toy store right before Christmas: “I do love you and you know there is something very important we need to do as soon as possible.” “What’s that?” “Fuck,” this film will take you on a journey that you don’t want to miss.

 

Every time I watch Eyes Wide Shut, I discover new things about it that I never noticed in previous viewings–something that Stanley Kubrick was very, very good at in his films. If you want a true cinematic adventure that will make you laugh, gasp, cringe, and say “WTF?”–you need to watch Eyes Wide Shut, a true “Christmas classic.”

10th Day of Christmas Movies – Step Brothers

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Today’s film is another one that does not appear to be very Christmas-y on its surface, but, to me, it is a perfect film to watch during the holiday season (that just so happens to have a key scene take place at Christmas!). This movie is none other than Step Brothers.

Step Brothers

 

Starring Will Ferrell as Brennan Duff and John C. Reilly as Dale Doback (along with a slew of many more talented comedians), Step Brothers focuses on the story of two 40-year-olds who still live with their parents, and those parents end up getting married. When Brennan and his mother move in with Dale and his father, the situation is very tense at first. However, the new stepbrothers quickly learn that they are, in fact, made for each other. They are both immature 12-year-olds stuck in older bodies, and they bond over Shark Week and a hatred for Brennan’s younger brother Derek (Adam Scott), along with many other key factors. Their antics put a strain on their parents’ marriage though, and by Christmastime, the couple decides to divorce. When they announce this at the dinner table, Dale and Brennan burst into tears and begin to blame each other for the separation. After spending some time apart actually acting like adults following the divorce, the entire family ends up reunited at “The Fucking Catalina Wine Mixer,” which is just as magical as it sounds. After some shenanigans, everyone ends up coming together and being happy again. The film ends one year later at the next family Christmas, which goes a lot better than the previous year to say the least.

The holidays are often a stressful time for so many people, and sometimes it’s good to just blow off steam and have a good laugh at some old fashioned family dysfunction. That is exactly what Step Brothers does, and that is exactly why I’ve already watched it this season!

9th Day of Christmas Movies – Edward Scissorhands

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Today I’d like to talk about a movie that, while not always thought of as a “Christmas” movie, fits in perfectly with the season (and has a climatic scene that takes place on Christmas!). That movie is Edward Scissorhands.

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Edward (Johnny Depp) is a creation of a mad scientist who died before he could properly fit his experiment with a set of hands. In their place are large, sharp scissors. Edward lives alone until one day he is visited by a kind Avon saleslady named Peg (Dianne West), who decides to take Edward to her home. Peg’s daughter Kim (Winona Ryder) and Edward eventually fall in love after some initial hesitation.

Throughout the film, we learn that the silent Edward is quite adept at trimming hedges, cutting hair, and being kind to no end. Edward becomes very popular around town until one fateful night (Christmas) when that all changes. Edward ends up killing Kim’s ex-boyfriend Jim in a fight after Edward was chased back to his mansion on the hill, and Kim tells everyone that Edward died as well so that he can live in peace once again. Kim never saw Edward again after that, but every year, Edward carves ice sculptures on his hill to create snow at Christmas for her.

Edward Scissorhands is touching, heartbreaking, and thought-provoking all at once. That makes for a great film to watch during the holiday season, when we’re all supposed to be a little more thoughtful and kind.

8th Day of Christmas Movies – Elf

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The week of Christmas is upon us, and as such, it is time to get into the most Christmas-y of Christmas films. That’s right, we’re going to talk about Elf!

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Elf, released in 2003, immediately stole my heart with the story of Buddy (Will Ferrell), a human raised with the elves who work in Santa’s workshop at the North Pole. When Buddy discovers that he was “adopted” so to speak and that his father is not only still alive but is on the naughty list, he is determined to make it to New York City to find him. This results in hilarity and pure Christmas fun that includes a love story with Jovie (Zooey Deschanel), family bonding, and quotes upon quotes that I repeat on a regular basis all year long:

“So, good news – I saw a dog today!”

“First we’ll make snow angels for two hours, then we’ll go ice skating, then we’ll eat a whole roll of Tollhouse cookie dough as fast as we can, and then we’ll snuggle.”

“The best way to spread Christmas cheer is singing loud for all to hear.”

Though my husband does not agree, Elf is, by far, my favorite Christmas movie. It’s cute, funny, and uplifting all throughout. Though I’m a big advocate for realism and being smacked in the face with skepticism and sadness in film, sometimes I need something that’s just fun and silly. What a perfect combination for a Christmas film!

7th Day of Christmas Movies – The Nightmare Before Christmas

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Today, I bring forward one of my absolute favorite Christmas movies…or is it a Halloween movie? Maybe that ambiguity between holidays is my favorite part of it–The Nightmare Before Christmas.

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In The Nightmare Before Christmas, Jack Skellington (The “Pumpkin King” of Halloween) feels like something is missing from his life. Halloween just doesn’t give him the same high that it did in years past. He takes a walk in the woods to clear his mind and runs across a circle of trees representing each major holiday. He opens the “door” to the Christmas tree, and he is transported to a magical land of snow, presents, and colorful lights. Jack decides that he wants to take on this holiday himself, with the help of his friends from Halloween, of course. After an entertaining set of mishaps and misunderstandings, this does not work out at all.

The Nightmare Before Christmas is full of touching moments, a love story (between Jack and Sally, the stitched-together creation of an evil scientist), and a lesson about taking things into your own hands when you really shouldn’t. This movie also brings a certain creepiness to Christmas that the holiday was missing, and I do love a good dose of creepy! Be sure to get your fix before Christmas is over!

6th Day of Christmas Movies – The Santa Clause

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In 1994, the world was graced with that most beloved gift–a Tim Allen Christmas movie. Seriously though, The Santa Clause is probably one of the most ridiculous Christmas films ever (based on casting and story premise), but that doesn’t mean we can’t love it all the same.

The Santa Clause

Isn’t it a dad’s worst nightmare–killing Santa Claus in front of his own child? Well, that’s what Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) does when he yells at who he thought was an intruder on his roof on Christmas Eve. Santa falls to his death, and then his body magically disappears, leaving just his suit. Instructions appear saying to put on the suit if there is an accident, and Scott does just that. At this point, he has agreed to the Santa “Clause.” He’s now Santa! Of course, he doesn’t believe it for the longest time, but he eventually comes around. His family eventually does too, and the movie ends with Scott and his son riding in Santa’s sleigh, under the good graces of Scott’s ex-wife.

As I said, this film is pretty ridiculous, but it is a modern Christmas staple. The season isn’t complete until you watch it (and maybe some of the myriad of sequels).