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It’s the time of year where critically acclaimed dramas give way to time honoured cheese that we watch over and over again.
This, of course, is the holiday movie season, where there are no right answers to what you and your family watch. But there sure are wrong ones.
It’s the perfect subject for our latest editors draft. But first, a recap of last time around—gift stores!
Wow. An absolute thumping for Stacey as she cruises to an easy win. We definitely haven’t seen a victory margin that huge in any of these drafts. So we obviously had to bar her from a second Christmas-themed draft. (That or her schedule didn’t allow, one of the two.)
As always, we put our editors’ names into a random draft simulator (snake style, obviously) and off we went. Here are the results and the reasoning behind each pick.
And remember to vote at the end!
Getting the first pick in this Christmas draft is like getting the first pick in Connor McDavid’s draft year—the choice is so obvious that every sane human is in agreement. And why is it so great? Well for starters it really is uplifting and the lessons contained—presented quite subtly given its era—really do emphasize what we all want to aspire to at Christmas: Selflessness, community, humbleness, charity. What’s amazing is how seemingly all Americans love this film even though the Bailey Banking & Loan is the most socialist form of community building this side of Oslo. And the bad guy—Lionel Barrymore’s sinister Mr. Potter—represents everything that the modern Republican party (and big chunks of the Democratic Party) stands for: big business, progress at all costs, thinking that empathy is for suckers. I know some people (my wife for example) always found a sadness in the fact that George Bailey never did get out of small town Bedford Falls and that’s a fair point but given that we live in a city that’s essentially full of people who left their own Bedford Falls I think it gives our latent superiority some pause to reflect.
Oh, and the bar scenes are awesome too.
The Culkins are dominating my screen time lately it seems. After getting to the end of Kieran’s monumental performance in season 3 of Succession, I’m back to the holiday tradition of watching Macaulay pull some fast ones on Joe Pesci and Daniel Stern.
Everything about this movie brings in the warm, Christmassy nostalgia—even if you didn’t know who Catherine O’Hara was before Schitt’s Creek.
But Home Alone just rocks. Whenever you can have like five legitimate contenders for the best scene in a movie, you know it’s good. (It’s the fake party, btw.)
I was happy to get Elf, because it really is my favourite—no need to hang on to it strategy wise. I’ve watched it countless times, and yet I literally LOL every time Buddy the elf (Will Farrell) screams “Santa!” when he discovers his favourite person will be visiting his store the next day. Ditto his scenes with the excellent Peter Dinklage in his role as a self-impressed children’s author. And yes, I shed a tear when Zoey Deschanel’s Jovie starts singing at the end to help bring back much-needed Christmas spirit to the town, and get that damn sleigh in the air. I laughed, I cried, it became a part of me: and it pretty much defines the perfect Christmas movie for me.
I’m thrilled Anicka took Elf, because I cannot stand Will Ferrell (though I do think Elf is his most watchable performance besides The Lego Movie, in which you cannot see him). Now that I’ve alienated my audience, another surprise: I’m taking A Christmas Story, a film that came out before the year 2005. See, I’m cultured. I love the old-school vibe of this Christmas movie—the bundling tiny kids in massive snowsuits, the sticking tongues to ice-cold poles, and the iconic “You’ll shoot your eye out!” prophecy that nearly comes true. Keep in mind that I swiped this much-loved classic when you see my fourth pick.
I have a lot of love for the original animated film from 1966, but opted to go with the Jim Carrey version—partly because the first is only 25 minutes long, which actually makes it great for a Grinch-y double feature. This movie is awesome for the laughs and the heartfelt morals (though for a movie that’s supposed to be about beauty coming from within, there’s an awful lot of female objectification—see the obviously pirated Youtube video “Grinch Scream and Martha May’s Boobs“). But it’s also just really fun to look at—the artistry that is incorporated into everything from Carrey’s costume to the architecture of Whoville has me noticing something new every time I watch it. And I also love the tablecloth trick (it’s rumoured that Carrey was supposed to send the dishes flying but accidentally performed a pretty cool party trick, so he had to improvise his mess-making).
Neal and Nate objected to this pick, entirely because they found the pairing of Jack Black and Kate Winslet as a romantic duo far fetched. But most women I know will go for humour over looks (so long as there’s kindness in the mix), and that’s obviously the case here. The set up—two unhappy-in-love women swap homes for the holidays—isn’t exactly original, but it’s so charmingly played by both Winslet and Cameron Diaz, with a little Jude Law in the mix, I eat up every minute, and also fantasize about renting that adorable English cottage myself. And The Holiday has become a go-to for my sister and I every year, sometimes several times in a season. So back off, Neal and Nate.
Nothing like transitioning from Anicka’s pick of a truly horrid movie about Christmas (the Jack Black-Kate Winslet pairing set Hollywood’s representation of male-female relationships back about 10 years) (from Anicka: because he’s not handsome enough? IS THAT REALLY THE GOAL NATE?) to a great one that is sorta-kinda about Christmas.
I don’t really care to have the “Is Die Hard a Christmas movie???” debate. It was brought up before the draft and the consensus was that yes, it is a Christmas movie. So I of course was going to target it, because it’s unquestionably great, to the point that most action movies that came out immediately after it were charitably described as “Die Hard on a _____”.
Yippee ki yay is basically Auld Lang Syne if you listen close enough.
The Holiday is not good, Anicka. The look on Jack Black’s face above—which he wears the entire movie—sums up the ick factor and the two solo dance scenes: Cameron Diaz to the Killers and Kate Winslet to Jet are among the most cringe inducing since Hugh Grant dancing in Love, Actually. I’m with Nathan on Die Hard—even though the final scene has Bonnie Bedelia doing the right thing and changing her name back to McClane (Holly Gennaro? Puh-lease) even though she’s a high powered executive and her husband’s a NY Cop with some pretty backward views on female empowerment. The producers had the good sense to see the writing on the wall and by Die Hard 3 she’s divorced him. Wait, where was I? Ah, Scrooged. Scrooged on the other hand is solid: Bill Murray is right before the Just Playing Bill Murray in Every Movie era, Buster Pointdexter is charming, Carol Kane is hilarious and it has Robert Mitchum.
Ok, I don’t know why I picked this. I wanted to trying to mug some of The Holiday and Love, Actually votes with my dignity intact so I chose this movie because when I first saw it ages ago I remember thinking it didn’t suck nearly as much as I thought. But now, I’m not so sure. Dermot Mulroney looks like he’s suffering from traumatic brain injury for the entire film. Rachel McAdams is not nice at all. But Luke Wilson is sweet, as are Diane Keaton and Craig T. Nelson. Still, trying to reacquaint myself with this film via youtube clips has me wondering what the hell I was thinking. And the one scene I remember fondly—a drunken Sarah Jessica Parker belting out Maxine Nightingale’s Right Back Where We Started From—is nowhere to be found online. Also, I really like Sly and the Family Stone, who are very very different than this movie.
My god, I keep following the absolute worst picks on the board. Neal is completely, pathetically pandering with this pick. The Family Stone is… not good, and it features one of the more lacksadisical performances of Dermot Mulroney’s career (really saying something).
You know what is good though? The freakin’ Nightmare Before Christmas. Sure, many watch it on Halloween, but I don’t think there’s a doubt that it’s also a Christmas movie, if one that skews a little differently.
Before Pixar started the whole trend of throwing very adult themes on movies that were ostensibly for kids and before The Sopranos pioneered the anti-hero, Nightmare Before Christmas did both to great effect. Somehow, the animation, the themes and the brilliant songs still hold up today.
I’m old enough that I (cough) saw this in the theatre when it was first released. As a kid who grew up on the Muppets, shouting at the geezers’ in the stands and singing along with Kermit and Miss Piggy, the fact that they were back with a Christmas movie when I’d just come home from first-year university—well, it hit all the serotonin triggers of a big hug. I remember well that every time one of our old favourites appeared on screen, the audience would shout and cheer (Fozzy getting the biggest). And really, A Christmas Carol might be told a thousand different ways, but it’s always a great story. (Unless it’s Ghosts of Girlfriends Past. Then it’s just bad.)
Another nostalgic pick for you. I have a very soft spot in my heart for comics, and I love that this adaptation of Charles Shulz’s cartoons stays very true to the original art (you can actually distinguish each individual panel if you pay close attention). And if you’re not a newspaper comic nerd like me, it’s still adorable. Charlie Brown’s eternal patheticness is something that I never tire of, and I’m a sucker for kids spouting adult wisdom and that classic Snoopy charm. There’s also I Want a Dog for Christmas, Charlie Brown, which often runs immediately after if you’re watching on TV. Equally good, with extra Snoopy.
If you’ve been following along with these drafts, you know I can’t make it through without at least one pick that is inarguably stupid. (Did I totally understand how the game worked when I picked Uncle Fatih’s first in the pizza draft? Obviously not.) But I think I get a pass on this one since Christmas movies are always a little bit corny. And it’s hard to get cornier than this story of a small town baker switching places with her identical (no relation, though) royal doppelganger. Vanessa Hudgens is a treasure, as always, and I don’t think I should be made fun of for loving someone who became famous because of high school musical. HSM alumni are a big deal.
I knew I was going to take this one, because I’ll admit it’s likely never going to be a classic. But, but, BUT: it’s a love letter to George Michael’s music, and as a die-hard fan of the man, I’m one-thousand percent the audience. It’s written by Emma Thompson, who also plays lead Emilia Clarke’s mom. And maybe it’s awkward to have a Brit playing a Yugoslavian immigrant, but as someone who grew up with my Slovak relatives singing those same dour songs that Thompson sings, I was literally crying with nostalgia at the end. George Michael tunes throughout, plus a great (if bittersweet) romance between ridiculously charming Henry Goulding and the always charismatic Clarke? I mean c’mon. It basically opened with “You’re welcome, Anicka.”
One of the newest movies on this list is also, I think, criminally underrated. The Seth Rogen vehicle chronicles the (mis)adventures of three friends who meet up on Christmas Eve every year. It’s a star-studded, absolutely hilarious romp through New York on Christmas Eve that includes many iterations of Jesus Christ, drunk Santas and Miley Cyrus.
Oh, and an all-time scene-stealing performance from Michael Shannon. Do yourself a favour and watch this one if you haven’t. I have no idea why it’s not appreciated more.
Well, this caused a bit of a donnybrook. Initially me fellow eds said—a first for these drafts—No, you can’t take it as it’s not a Christmas movie. I said, the finale takes place on Christmas Eve. They were unmoved. They then said Trading Places wasn’t a Christmas movie even when faced with the evidence of hammered Dan Ackroyd eating a smoked salmon through a Santa beard. So I chose Bad Santa. But to hell with that. You, the electorate, can be the arbiters of whether In Bruges is a Christmas movie. And even if you say no, you’ll admit it’s a wonderful film: Colin Farrell has never been better, Brendan Gleason is a wonder, Ralph Fiennes is the perfect prick and it’s all tied together by Martin McDonagh’s amazing script.
I feel we need to speak about the misogynistic elephant in the room—where’s Love, Actually? Well, to be truthful, two of us (Nathan and Alyssa) aren’t fans, and the other two (Anicka and Neal) hate it. Why? Is it that Rick from Walking Dead is an actual stalker? And that trying to steal your buddy’s girl is so very not cool? Especially when your buddy is Chiwetel Ejiofor. Is it that two of the relationships—Colin Firth and his maid who can’t speak English and the literal PM of Britain and a junior staffer, are not OK even under the discrimination laws in place at the time? Still, Emma Thompson is great and it was nice to see that odd little kid (who shouldn’t be encouraged in pursuing a romantic relationship at his tender age) show up in Game of Thrones all those years later. But still not enough to get it on the list. Sorry, not sorry.
Neal: It’s a Wonderful Life, Scrooged, The Family Stone, In Bruges
Nathan: Home Alone, Die Hard, Nightmare Before Christmas, The Night Before
Anicka: Elf, The Holiday, Muppet’s Christmas Carol, Last Christmas
Alyssa: A Christmas Story, How The Grinch Stole Christmas, A Charlie Brown’ Christmas, The Princess Switch
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