So, I have been waiting until December to unleash my favourite Christmas films on you all. And today being the first of December means that I can jolly well crack on with it. What fun!
I’ve narrowed it down to my top five, which means you should at least get a chance to feast your eyes on one or two of them over the festive season, no? I shall be disappointed if I bump in to you at a cocktail party (of no more than six people, obviously), and you have not seen at least one! You have been warned.
I feel I have to start with ‘It’s a Wonderful Life”. I confess that a large portion of this film portrays a life not so wonderful at all. James Stewart plays an out of luck bank clerk on the brink of suicide. Not very Christmassy or jolly I hear you shout. But wait, a trainee angel appears and takes him back through his life and shows him all the terrible things that would have happened had he not been born at all. Emotionally draining at times, but its warmth and humour make it a life-affirming Christmas classic. Black and white and made in 1947, maybe not one for the children.
Moving swiftly on to something the children will definitely love if they have not already seen it. ‘Home Alone’. Every young boy’s fantasy. Kevin is accidentally left at home by his parents as they go on their Christmas holidays. Initially, he has the time of his life. Until two evil burglars turn up ready to wreak havoc. Although they had not bargained on this child having the imagination and the courage to outwit even the most hardened of criminals. Joe Pesci in particular has probably killed more people on screen than any other actor. Marvellous family fun that had repeated viewing amongst my nieces and nephews growing up. In fact, I almost know the script word for word!
Now, for those of you who like something a bit more cerebral, I would like to introduce you to ‘Carol’. The marvel that is Todd Haynes, one of my all-time favourite directors, invites us back to the nineteen fifties where a female department store worker falls in love with an older female customer in the run-up to Christmas. Beautifully shot, beautifully acted and adapted from a novel by the sublime Patrica Highsmith. What is there not to love?
Now, one for the lads. There has always been intense debate as to whether or not ‘Die Hard’ is even a Christmas film. One of the main actors, Bruce Willis, declares not. But who is he to decide! I for one but it up there with my favourite Christmas films. The action takes place on Christmas Eve for goodness sakes! The plot is as simple as thus: An NYPD officer tries to save his wife and several others taken hostage by German terrorists during a Christmas party at the Nakatomi Plaza in Los Angeles. Alan Rickman excels as the baddie in this action-packed alternative to all the saccharine slush you may be forced to watch over the festive period.
Now, on to my all the favourite Christmas film. Drum roll, please. Have you guessed yet? ‘Gremlins’. Based on a term used by pilots in the Second World War, Gremlins are mythological creatures that played havoc with aircraft engines. This Christmas classic is a cautionary tale. Listen to your elders, they know what they are talking about. Given a beautiful singing creature a bit like a small furry owl called a ‘Mogwai’, Billy Peltzer is given three simple rules: don’t expose it to the light, don’t get it wet, and never feed it after midnight. As one can imagine, mishaps follow that ensure these rules are broken and a veritable Hieronymus Bosch painting comes to life. Hugely enjoyable, fairly graphic, and a real-time machine back to the nineteen-eighties. Mild warning though, maybe let the youngest children go to bed before popping it on your television box. There are a few scenes not suitable for the very young. My nephew Tarquin had many a nightmare for a few months afterwards!
Whatever your cinematic preferences, may you have a wonderful Christmas settling down on the sofa with your loved ones enjoying your chosen celluloid treasures. I know hubby and I cannot wait to curl up on a sofa near the fire, with all of our pets snuggled up with blankets. And a huge box of Quality Street. Well, it just would not be Christmas without chocolate now, would it?
God Save the Queen. Lord bless you all. Same time next week fellow film lovers.