During the holiday season, you can only see “It’s a Wonderful Life,” “A Christmas Story” and “Miracle on 34th Street” so many times.
That’s where quirkiness, creativity and an open mind come into play. You know well there are many flicks that don’t fall into the traditional “Christmas” or holiday film category.
Yet, these are Christmas movies. They are set during the holiday season. Some may even have redeeming quality or two.
So, get some wassail or “special” hot cocoa (you may need plenty of it to really enjoy these holiday classics), relax and let all this cinematic awesomeness take you over.
If you think about it, Warner Bros., Steven Spielberg, Chris Columbus and Joe Dante were geniuses. Imagine it’s 1984 (I was, umm, youngish). Over the summer, you see this crazy semi-horror comedy about the cutish creature who, in a sense, births nasty little havoc-creating monsters.
The gremlins take over a small town close to Christmas. You laugh, you cringe, you throw up your hands and say “What in the heck?”
You’re a kid back then. All you want is Gizmo, the mogwai. Darn, he doesn’t actually exist (as far as we know), but you can get him for…wait for it…Christmas! From Ward’s or JC Penney or Sears. Or Toys R’Us. Genius marketing.
On the face of it, Die Hard launched the modern action movie genre. There have been many imitators…a one-person army against a bunch of baddies. But nothing tops the original Die Hard, for its sheer thrills, drama, dazzling action, and some humor with one-liners thrown in for good measure.
But more than that, it’s a Christmas movie. I mean, c’mon, terrorists take over a Los Angeles office high-rise during a company’s holiday party? Everyone is in the giving spirit. The world is introduced to the great Alan Rickman (rest in peace, sir). We get Bruce Willis, action movie hero. We get Run-DMC’s Christmas song to start, Sammy Cahn singing “Let It Snow” before the end credits roll. What more do you want?
Honorable mention: Die Hard 2 (also set during Christmas in DC. )
Once again, imagine yourself in 1984. George Orwell’s “1984” has been made into a movie, which - frankly speaking - was boring. Then imagine you’re Terry Gilliam and want to envision a futuristic totalitarian society in a wild way.
“Brazil” is it. Don’t ask about the title. Just. Don’t. Instead, just watch a movie with such amazing, daring vision. The plot? Well, it’s a little hard to explain, but it is set during Christmas. Or what’s left of it in this society.
It plays like a bleak drama, but it’s chock full of dark humor and socio-political satire. You’ll never think of an imagined dictatorship in the same way again.
Night of the Comet
I honestly can’t call Night of the Comet a straight-up horror/sci-fi flick. Sure, it starts with the return of a comet that apparently contributed to the dinosaurs’ demise. But the comet is returning to pass Earth - in one night before Christmas. And mankind is pretty much finished.
All you have left are survivors played by the likes of Kelli Maroney, Catherine Mary Stewart and Robert Beltran, wondering what may come next.
(Confession: I had the hots for Maroney and Stewart in the 80s. Ok, back to the blog.)
Anyways, it’s a fun lower budget flick that so fits its time and setting: mid-1980s L.A. Like my other mentioned movies, “Night of the Comet has its share of dark humor and satire. For me at this point, it’s all about the 80s nostalgia.
Before he tackled a somewhat more anti-traditional Christmas movie, “Scrooged,” Richard Donner directed Mel Gibson and Danny Glover in this action-errr, comedy franchise starter. But it has nice blend of action, humor and drama…all set before CHRISTMAS.
John Landis has been one of my favorite directors, mainly for his use of dark humor in a film that may not be seen as strictly slapstick comedy. “The Blues Brothers” was such an example. So is “Trading Places.” Eddie Murphy’s movie career was beginning. Dan Ackroyd was taking off. It was, simply, a perfect comedy SET DURING THE HOLIDAY SEASON.
More honorable mention: Black Christmas; Silent Night, Deadly Night, Bad Santa, Krampus, All Through the House
I didn’t mention Nightmare Before Christmas, Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns, Home Alone, etc., because it’s naturally assumed these are Christmas-y flicks. Anyways, check these out if you haven’t already. With plenty of wassail.