Christmas is a time for family and fun, but not everyone, including myself, really subscribes to the “It’s a Wonderful Life” or “Miracle on 34th Street” style of festive film. As such we at PixelBedlam have come up with the Top 5 Alternative Christmas Films for you to watch, feel festive with and on the most part watch people get blown seven ways from advent.
It’s a classic all year round, but Die Hard is a film that really should be watched at Christmas. At my previous work Christmas party I witnessed hate, affairs and the usually horrible bitchiness that comes with colleagues drinking and being outside of the office. “Oh isn’t X so annoying, and did you hear what Y said to Z?” the monotony and back stabbing at such a nice time of year rises from staff drinking and feeling like its “downtime”. Obviously all that is because you don’t usually hang out with colleagues outside of work and would never want to drink with them normally. Whilst watching this two faced routine play out one phrase always comes to me, at least I’m not at Nakotami Plaza. Bruce Willis is involved in one of the worst Christmas Parties known to man when the evil, yet amazing, Alan Rickman holds a number of workers hostage with the aim of breaking into the vault at the base of the building. This film has Christmas, guns and F-Bombs dropped left right and centre.
Do you remember when Mel Gibson wasn’t, you know, weird? Before the “Sugar Tits” comment to police women and saying disparaging things about people of a Jewish persuasion. Well for the younger readers there was a time when Mel Gibson was a bad ass. Lethal Weapon is the peak of his career in my mind. Mel Gibson is a cop, Riggs, who is trying to get over the death of his wife. He is reluctantly partnered with Danny Glover, Murtaugh, and together they try to take down a gang of dealers and douches. This film isn’t exclusively set at Christmas but one scene makes it a great film. To explain the scene I first have to details Riggs’ “issue”, he’s insane. Things have gone so low for him since his wife died he’s lost a few marbles, in later films in the series this is played as he’s a bit wacky like a character from Police Academy, but in the first film he is actually ill and people are worried about him. In one scene he comes close to killing himself with a hollow point bullet, and this is the first, and probably only time I’ve ever really thought to myself “Wow, Mel Gibson can act”. This film ends with Murtaugh and Riggs being good friends and dealing with their individual issues and when Riggs is at the Murtaugh family Christmas he gives Danny Glover’s character the bullet he saved for suicide as a present to show he’s OK. The rest of the films in the series head more towards action and silliness but this first in the series is a classic and a great Christmas flick.
I think at this stage the main point of the list isn’t necessarily the idea of a Christmas film, but more about the juxtaposition of the content of the film against the usually festive and happy time of year. Gremlins uses the juxtaposition for comedic affect unlike Lethal Weapon’s sentiment or Die Hard’s hyper violence.
The film sees a crappy father happening upon a mystic shop in China-town where he hopes to find a very last minute present for his son, Billy. He comes away not with an ornament that is forgotten about within two months, but instead a Mogwai, which is name later as Gizmo. Gizmo is a cute little bastard, almost annoyingly so. As I’m sure everyone is aware there are simple rules, don’t get it wet, sun light will kill it and finally don’t feed it after midnight. When rules get broken all of the town goes to hell as from this cute Mogwai spawn a load of Gremlins who seem intent on making as many of the town’s inhabitant corpses as possible. With scenes like Phoebe Cate’s description of why she hates Christmas, her father died whilst trying to deliver presents down a chimney, and the great use of Christmas as not a plot point but just as a time and setting it mixes the pseudo horror and black comedy in such a clever way that this film has been seen by various generations now. Sure it is now relatively tame enough to be show on TV in the afternoon with just a couple of edits but it still stands up as a great piece of cinema today.
4.Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is not only an underrated Christmas film it’s also an underrated film full stop. Robert Downey Jr. plays Harry, a conman thief who accidentally falls into an acting job. To fulfil his new found career the charlatan follows around Val Kilmer who plays Gay Perry, a gay private investigator, to pick up the tips of the trade for his role. The two happen upon a murder, and then another, and other the course of the film the bodies pile up. This is a film noir and a buddy cop film with all the wit and fun you would expect the perfect Robert Downey Jr film to have. This film is set at Christmas and like many of the other films on the list it could have been set at any time of the year quite easily but for some reason the adding of a Christmas timing makes it feel more real and gives some opportunities for great situations for the characters. Out of al the films on the list this is a film I would heartily recommend everyone watch, it’s subtle and brutal with its humour and shows yet another reason that they should have paid attention to Downey pre Iron-Man and Sherlock Holmes.
I don’t really like Tim Burton, there I said it, I like his style sometimes, I like his art work, I can’t stand the fact he lives his life like a wacky nut job, “Oh I’m so kooky I wear a small top hat” No Mr Burton, just No! If he worked in your office you would slap him silly then be fired for inappropriate workplace behaviour, but you would justify it in your disciplinary with four little words “Just look at him!” and then you would be escorted from the building.
Most people would expect The Nightmare Before Christmas to be on this list, but I stand by the fact that isn’t an alternative film, sure Jack has been taken as a symbol of the alternative masses but when the film is shown on BBC 2 in the afternoon on Christmas day that says to me it’s mainstream. Not a bad film in the slightest, it’s one of the few Burton films I truly enjoy, though it’s not his really, he didn’t write, direct or really do anything other than wrote a poem which inspired it and he produced it, the script and directing were done by other people.
Batman Returns was probably the first Batman film I saw and it scared me I was probably about 7 when I saw it and I have had more pleasant experiences in my life. I had grown up watching the Adam West series and thanks to my elder brothers singing the theme music my first word was genuinely “Batman”. To jump from that camp fun to this Gothic horror was a shock to the system but even I, someone who is a heretic to the Burton name enjoy this film. With the Gotham under snow feel, Danny DeVito playing Penguin, a role he was born to play, I just love this film. Looking for a fantastical Christmas film that’s dark but isn’t all about Mel Gibson shooting people? This is the one for you.