The wife and I are really getting through these Christmas-related films in a real hurry. A real mixed sack of film presents here, one best left under the tree, while others you’ll be playing with all day. We’re going right back to the 1930s to kick things off here.
The Thin Man is celluloid proof that you can go back 80 years and find yourself laughing out loud at sarcastic, fly-by writing more than much of today’s comedy attempts. A kind of mystery movie with all the relevant components, the film serves well as a grounded crime flick, the characters retorting and quipping their through the complications – essentially William Powell, Myrna Loy and company wise-crack their way through a smart, slick screenplay. How many times have you heard an innuendo used from the word tabloids? Or responding to the serious question “Can’t you tell us anything about the case?” with “Yes, it’s putting me way behind in my drinking.”. Well executed, and super-entertaining throughout. The murderer dinner party reveal is a perfect close. There’s even a classic little dog thrown into the mix. A delight.
I appalled myself including this in the 50 Films for Christmas. Not even “but it’s Star Wars” can save it. A ridiculous sci-fi mess, premised with the family of Chewbacca, harder to watch than any offensive family-based ad from the 60s. The notion of celebrating Life Day is puke-some, and the awful movie throws in all manner of misplaced, ludicrous music and dance numbers- even Carrie Fisher lends her vocals here. While Han Solo and Chewbacca’s scenes feel like worthless cutting room floor edits from Episode IV, Mark Hamill’s strange appearance is far more out of place, his rather feminine make-up seems to have been applied by a child. Too many cringe-worthy and shameful moments, this is best left floating in a galaxy far, far, far away.
When the father of the family literally driving into the aptly referenced dead end loses his shit, you can’t help be reminded of Ray Wise’s more famous misunderstood father Leland from Twin Peaks. The similarities end there. Dead End is a road movie with unpleasantries and fatalities just around the corner – or rather just down the road. What is meant to be a typical family trip at Christmas time turns into a claustrophobic bloody nightmare, as the members are picked off one by one. More intriguing that all out scary perhaps, the film does close with a thought-provoking twist.
Family fever is rarely so high, fraught with old sibling wounds that don’t seem to heal, and tragic losses that can’t be forgotten. Christmas or not, the tensions run through the blood of this particular family. A long, drawn out affair, A Christmas Tale gives plenty of valuable time to the members of the family, sub-plots spring up and are compelling enough. The cast is très bien right across the board, with veteran Catherine Deneuve as the mother, and Jean-Paul Roussillon as the father, Mathieu Amalric and Laurent Capelluto also drive the emotional force, with a fine turn too by Anne Consigny as the aggrieved daughter.
Christmas is a perfect time for a joyful end of the world. Yeah right. The Day of the Beast blends some dark humor, instantaneous violence, and a thoroughly engaging plot, as a Roman Catholic priest takes on the devilish task to multi-sin in an attempt stop the Antichrist ending it all. Plucky and smart, this is always watchable, throwing in plenty of that playful Spanish sense of humor without making a mockery of the eerie seriousness of the narrative. The unlikely, but formidable, trio of the priest, a death metal-head, and a seemingly-phony host of a TV show actually fits the bill.
Be sure to return for further festivities soon. Part 1 is here. And comment below why don’t you.
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See the full list on Letterboxd: 50 Films for Christmas