My dear wife has become vocal about our current Christmas marathon somehow squashing our festive spirit – and she is most definitely right. So please bear with us on these next five Christmas-related choices, and hang in there as I am sure we can rustle up movies with a much more jolly and jubilant nature. For now…
There’s a four-part miniseries of Fanny and Alexander, so don’t be mistaken – though the theatrical release is 3 hours plus, and does feel like a TV show binge at times. Intricately written and immaculately directed by Ingmar Bergman, the plot focuses much more on Alexander than Fanny, a boy who watches the changing family around him in turn-of-the-century Sweden. The Ekdahls are a flamboyant, well-to-do crew, their social affairs and entertainment is rather appealing to us, the audience, as we allow Bergman to slyly drag us through varying emotions. Early on the picture displays characters performing sexual acts and rather slapstick behavior, later the tone shifts slowly towards more intense, high drama. Regardless, Bergman remains consistent in his story-telling, if you just stomach the running time. Hey, if you have over 5 hours to spare, see the long version too why don’t you.
No, not the Robert Downey Jr and Holly Hunter film, the wife and I delved into the 1972 suspense thriller of the same name. Looks like we are still unable to completely shake the horror-theme of our film-watching extravaganza. “Looks like a TV movie” I said to The Greek not long into the movie, to which she confirmed it indeed was. This is not necessarily a flaw, in spite of some cheesy thrills and standard melodrama, Home for the Holidays satisfies on a casual-watching level. A rich father asks his four adult daughters (though Sally Field looks 12) to murder his wife, only for them to begin to fall prey to a killer themselves. Is it the stepmother? Has the plan backfired? Who does that yellow mac belong to exactly? You better watch and find out.
Dystopia and wacky antics and science fiction format, is hardly strange given the director Terry Gilliam, and his Monty Python background. 1985’s Brazil, though, was a step away from the crazed comedies, though this still does cause its fair share of chuckles and raised eyebrows. Jonathan Pryce plays a man on a literal search for the woman of his dreams, while being surrounded by the everyday hustle bustle of industrial machines and bureaucratic busy-bodies. Considered a cult classic for decades now, Brazil is an excitably executed, very dark adventure, drip-feeding some of Gilliam’s own views on the world around him.
On paper, a romantic comedy with Sarah Jessica Parker is not that appealing to me. However, I was pleasantly surprised. Not just by the large, familiar cast, the distinct subplots, and the warm, natural drama and comedy, but also Parker’s performance. She did not irritate me here – though Diane Keaton and Rachel McAdams also shone bright. By the time you have to sit through the overly sentimental closing sequence, you are already well invested it was has been a rather enjoyable family satire. See it with Mike Leigh’s Secrets and Lies for a truly schizophrenic festive double-bill.
What a bizarre, but funny little film this is. I say little, it is a 10 minute short. A Kitten for Hitler was directed by none other than Ken Russell, about a Jewish boy who sees Hitler being booed and decides to head off to Germany to give him a kitten as a Christmas present. Perhaps the funniest moment in this surreal short is when Hitler appears to be genuinely touched by the gift. Only, when he discovers the boy to be Jewish, Hitler, well, let’s just say that the lampshade made of child skin later appears to lose its swastika as it turns into a Star of David. I never said this was coherent. Russell set out to piss people off with this, one of the reasons a dwarf actor appears as the child – this farcical episode was not his plan.
I promise the next selections with jingle with Christmas spirit. Here are the first three parts:
Follow the marathon on Twitter: #50FilmsChristmas
See the full list on Letterboxd: 50 Films for Christmas