Christmas Film Advent 2018- My rundown order

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  1. Scrooged
  2. It’s a Wonderful Life
  3. Fred Claus
  4. Christmas Carol (1951)
  5. We’re No Angels
  6. Trading Places
  7. Holiday affair
  8. Home Alone
  9. Elf
  10. Gremlins
  11. Surviving Christmas
  12. Krampus
  13. Rare Exports
  14. Arthur Christmas
  15. Just Friends
  16. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation
  17. Nightmare Before Christmas
  18. Love Actually
  19. Nativity
  20. Trapped in Paradise
  21. On Her Majesty’s Secret Service
  22. Scrooge (1970)
  23. The Polar Express
  24. A Christmas Story

This is not, by any means, the order for the best made films from the advent calendar. How I came to the order ranged on many questions. Some films, needed fewer questions than others.

  • Did I enjoy the film?
  • Was it uplifting or have a good message?
  • How much would I change?
  • What memories are attached to this film?
  • Would I be happy watching it again this Christmas?

The big question remains: in 2019, do I continue this list and reordered based on 24 new entries, or have a separate rundown?

Have a wonderful day

Han x

Christmas Film Advent- It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)

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Zuzu’s petals… You’ve been given a great gift, George: A chance to see what the world would be like without you.

Length: 2 Hr 15

Rating: U

About: George Bailey has so many problems he is thinking about ending it all – and it’s Christmas! As the angels discuss George, we see his life in flashback. As George is about to jump from a bridge, he ends up rescuing his guardian angel, Clarence – who then shows George what his town would have looked like if it hadn’t been for all his good deeds over the years.

First Thoughts

It’s not a film I’ve watched loads, but it is one I’ve adored with all my heart. I can’t remember the first time I watched it but it’s a significant one for some of my best Christmases. From having a class in school grumble that I’ve put it on to only go and fall in love with its charm, to a bittersweet watch in the cinema in Liverpool with my brother not long after our mum died.

It’s been a while since I’ve seen it, but my instincts tell me it’s still ageing very well.

Naughty List

  • Mr Potter is a bit of a nasty bastard and while he makes for a perfect foil to the Bailey family: I hate him. I want to punch him; so hard, in his vile fucking face. I hate what his actions do to the family; George, obviously. But mainly Uncle Billy. Darling, sweet and forgetful Uncle Billy. What I hate more than anything though?! People like Mr Potter exist in real life and will never lose sleep at the destruction they cause.

Nice List

  • Good ol’ Jimmy Stuwart. I couldn’t imagine anyone better in the role of George Bailey and if Hollywood dares to remake this; I’m done. He’s the charming and wholesome leading man who is also able to handle the darker sides of characters; Bailey being no exception to this. There’s buckets of emotions for George Bailey; from being able to relate to unrealised dreams to his frustration, hopelessness and desperation. That opening image of James Stewart is perfect; George showing the shop teller how big he wants his suitcase and it pauses for Clarence to have a good look at the man he’s to save.
  • Clarence. Beautiful, childlike and rabbit-IQ’d Clarence is a heartwarming addition to the narration plot and is a delight to see interact with George in the final act. If there’s anything that will reduce me to tears every time, it will be the fact that good Clarence gets his wings as a result of his time on Earth with George. On the note of the celestial narrators, I love the opening sequence with the angels appearing as stars. It’s simplicity makes it so incredibly beautiful and something that no amount of technological advances could ever improve upon.
  • The story is an epic that is well paced and jammed packed with George’s life; the highs and the lows. For a film to start and focus on such a dark note, speak so candidly about suicide and still leave the viewer uplifted and full of hope that a community can come together at a time of need is such a commendable feat and it should be on everyone’s viewing list at some point.
  • My favourite scene will always be George rescuing the Savings and Loans company on his wedding day and sacrificing his honeymoon to do so. Upon asking Ms Davies (The Walton’s Ellen Corby) how much she’d need until the bank reopens her reply is a humbled ‘seventeen fifty’. It’s a joyous and heartwarming interaction between herself and George and a stark contrast to the man who wants to clear out his account.

Final Thoughts

I love this film. A testament to it is the fact that it’s not something I want, or need, to watch every year and is actually something I will always try and bring new people to each time I watch. It’s bravery at approaching a topic like mental health and suicide was, and still is, ahead of its time. The religious aspect of the sanctity of life is subtle enough and sends the message of support, guidance and help rather than judgement, condemnation and isolation. In a world where those who suffer from issues beyond their physical control, it’s good to see a supportive view that George’s predicament is not a sign of weakness.

Han x

Christmas Film Advent- The Polar Express (2004)

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This bell is a wonderful symbol of the spirit of Christmas – as am I. Just remember, the true spirit of Christmas lies in your heart.

Length: 1 Hr 40

Rating: U

About: Tom Hanks and director Robert Zemeckis (“Forrest Gump”; “Cast Away”) reunite for “Polar Express,” an inspiring adventure based on the beloved children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg. When a doubting young boy takes an extraordinary train ride to the North Pole, he embarks on a journey of self-discovery that shows him that the wonder of life never fades for those who believe.

Nice List

  • It’s a wholesome story that has many layers; the journey is physical, philosophical and spiritual. What child at heart wouldn’t want to spend Christmas Eve onboard a steam train going to see Santa?
  • The protagonist’s journey from sceptic to believer is quite beautiful. He’s a logical child and the beginning shows him using his intellect to collect information so it’s understandable that he questions Santa’s existence. Following his journey and watching him experiencing the magic of Christmas is heartwarming.
  • The film has diversity without feeling forced; yes, the young boy is who we start and end with but it can be argued that the young girl makes up part of the ensemble. While it had the feeling of being set in the 50s, choosing not to root it in an era allows the film to focus on the spirit of Christmas without bogging itself down in social politics. Which makes a nice change.
  • The music is something that keeps the film progressing and much more of a traditional score that fits Zemeckis’ catalogue of films.

Naughty List

  • The animation style is just not for me. It comes across more as computer game play, especially in those scenes that look like the characters are on theme park rides; something which is done one too many times for my liking.
  • The stereotype of the Know-it-all Kid is like fingers on a chalkboard. So overkill annoying that I spent the film wanting to beat the shit out of him.
  • I’m not sold on the casting of Tom Hanks. He’s the modern answer to Jimmy Stewart and I’m not sold on him as the impatient and cranky train attendant. He’s perfect when insightful and kind, but anything else is just lost on me. This is one where I think Jim Carrey would be perfect for the role.
  • It feels way too long. Once the film had finished I was certain it had been on for a little over two hours. This could be due to certain scenes being style over substance.
  • The thing about trains… it doesn’t matter where they’re going. What matters is deciding to get on.” There’s just so much wrong with this statement! So, so, wrong. I’ve gotten on a train before and not paid attention to where it was going. It buggered up my day royally.

Final Thoughts

This film is not for me. I can’t get past the animation that pulls me out of the story. I’m sure there is an audience for it, and my nephew’s love of trains will see it part of my regular viewing for years to come.

Christmas Film Advent- Rare Exports A Christmas Story (2010)

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Watch your mouth! It’s Christmastime, so let’s act like it

Length: 1 hr 25

Rating: 15

About: A young boy named Pietari (Onni Tommila) and his friend Juuso (Ilmari Järvenpää) think a secret mountain drilling project near their home in northern Finland has uncovered the tomb of Santa Claus. However, this a monstrous, evil Santa, much unlike the cheery St. Nick of legend. When Pietari’s father (Jorma Tommila) captures a feral old man (Peeter Jakobi) in his wolf trap, the man may hold the key to why reindeer are being slaughtered and children are disappearing.

First Thoughts

Rare Exports first came on my radar when it appeared on YouTube as a self contained short. It was something rather different. The training of feral Santa’s was unsettling in a weirdly good way. It perhaps was one of my first explorations into Christmas horror and the film itself became a Christmas Eve watch for me and my brother once our dad had gone to bed. Which year is was, I’ll leave to my brother to inform me.

I don’t remember the inclusion of what I would come to call Krampus (Joulupukki in Rare Exports) in the short and I’m definitely certain this was my introduction to the anti Santa.

The Naughty List

  • It’s length is a doubled edged sword. While a short film, it’s pacing is rather slow compared to the film short that preceded it. You feel every minute of celluloid. Some minutes even feel doubled. Watching it this time, I was able to appreciate how this creates atmosphere and comments upon a different lifestyle than the one I’m used to living, but when I watched it the first time; it felt like Rosemary’s Baby all over again.
  • It won’t feel very Christmassy to some when you consider that the profession of the main family is to kill Rudolph for its meat. The film could risk dampening your Christmas spirit, depending on your outlook. Me? I’d eat Rudolph for Christmas dinner if he tasted good.

The Nice List

  • It’s a short film at 82 minutes and if I was well versed in the original language it would feel even shorter than it already does.
  • Subtitles aren’t for everyone. Even I sometimes veto a film on original language alone, the only thing I hate more being a poor dub. Original language films get my attention better when I’m in a cinema and free of all distractions. That said, I would never want to see this film given a Hollywood treatment; it’s more about the culture and mythology than anything else.
  • The kid (Onni Tommila) holds his own in the film and it’s quite refreshing to have a young lead in this type of film.
  • I know this is stupid thing to pick up on, but I loved seeing Pietari using nails in a candle as an alarm clock. It’s such a vivid image that immediately came to mind before I started my rewatch.

Final Thoughts

It’s not one for the whole family and certainly one that would make very few people’s regular festive viewing. That said, with the lifestyle Swedish and Finnish becoming popular within the UK, this should be on everyone’s list to ensure they’re of an understanding that life isn’t all about hygge hipster bullshit that’s now bordering on a stereotype.

Christmas Film Advent- Surviving Christmas (2004)

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“Some things cannot be unseen.”

Length: 1 hr 31
Age: 12
About: A wealthy executive, Drew Latham (Ben Affleck) has no close relationships and becomes nostalgic for his childhood home as Christmas approaches. When he visits the house and finds another family living there, he offers the residents, Tom Valco (James Gandolfini) and his wife, Christine (Catherine O’Hara), a large sum of money to pretend they are his parents. Soon Drew tests the couple’s patience, and, when their daughter, Alicia (Christina Applegate), arrives, things get increasingly tense.

The Naughty List

  • Little heavy on the incest and porn jokes. Which is funny, for the first one or five. For such an uplifting film, it just seems unnecessary to lay it on so thick. Either it needs to be toned down, or diversely amped up in order to earn a 15 rating.
  • Thank god Jennifer Morrison realised these dipstick princess were not how she wanted to spend her acting career and landed two plump roles on prime time TV. She’s just not believable as the pampered Legally Blonde wannabe and is nothing more than fingernails on a blackboard the entire time she’s on screen.

The Nice List

  • James Gandolfini is a grumpy delight in this comedy. He’s the perfect chalk to Ben Affleck’s cheese. He’s downright perfect and, in all honesty, I’d happily have had more of him in the film.
  • Catherine O’Hara is the Queen of Christmas. I couldn’t think of anyone better in the role of the mother. She is able to roll with the unusual scenario and sass everyone while doing so.
  •  The plot has a heart underneath its strangeness. At the root of the plot is family and while playing pretend, something real came home. Working with what could perhaps be considered a clique, Surviving Christmas manages to make something new and charming. Even with Ben Affleck circa twat in the lead.
  • Its really funny and the chuckles don’t come from the ruder portions of the film. 

Checking it Twice

I’m still not sold on Ben Affleck in the lead. He works well with the cast and there’s a nice chemistry with Christina Applegate, however I want to punch him in the face most of the time he’s on the screen. I think I would have enjoyed it better had someone like Adam Sandler or Jason Bateman. That said, Affleck handles the heartfelt reveal really well and does show potential that’ll recognised fully in 2012 with an Oscar nod for his role in Argo.

Final Thoughts

It’s a fun film that is a little flawed, but will always be charming enough to stay on the festive watch list.

Han x

Christmas Film Advent- Santa Claws (2014)

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“I’m old enough to decide if I celebrate Christmas or not.”

Length: 1 Hr 26
About: 
Santa is allergic to cats, but Tommy has been so good this year he decides to bring him a kitten for Christmas. When Santa has an allergic attack, the kitties have to take over the sleigh to deliver all the presents.

It’s 3am, I can’t sleep and I’m not quite ready to put on a ‘proper’ film. Now my cat is sat glued to the TV watching this kitten focused festive offering. For that alone, it’s worth the watch.

It’s hard to not watch this with a different mindset; its clear from the outset that it is not of the same quality as other films I’ve watched. However, this is not the sort of film that is wanting reviews comparing it to the countless Scrooge incarnations.

What it comes down to, is not how dire the plot might be or how many times I cringed. It doesn’t even matter if  special effects are ropy or the acting is top notch. What matters is if the target audience will love it. Parent’s, I give you warning; don’t show this film to your little ones without being prepared for it being the only thing you watch.

For a kid, its fun, cute and the plot doesn’t matter. The three kittens running about and causing mischief will entertain and engage. For the fury felines, just pop it on as your leaving the house. When you return, you’ll discover that your kitten hasn’t moved anything other than its head. Cassius’ head followed the kittens from start to finish.

Christmas Film Advent- Krampus (2015)

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“It’s like Martha Stewart threw up in here.”

Length: 1Hr 38
About: 
A boy who has a bad Christmas ends up accidentally summoning a festive demon to his family home.

First Thoughts

I missed this in the cinema and I was gutted. I’d tried to get a few people together to watch it but I quickly discovered my friends aren’t horror people. I watched it late night one evening the following Christmas and wasn’t too impressed. However, to quote a much loved podcast, I’ve just looked at it with fresh eyes and I’m pleasantly surprised to discover I’ve had a change of heart.

On the Naughty List

  • I don’t like Adam Scott. It’s a personal thing and I put my first viewing misery down to putting up with his face. However, I will say he does a good job as a put down grown up boy scout made to step it up and protect his sheep. crew
  • The second act shifts the tone, and while I love how it brings the horror with the journey of the daughter, I do feel as if the film missed a trick with how it used its music. I found it a little too loud to invoke any sort of atmosphere. I perhaps would have preferred for the snow to bring an absence of sound rather than an excess. However, I love the use Christmas bells and later the film does explain why there was wind.
  • Aside from the creepy as Christmas cookies, I found the Krampus crew a little on the wrong side of silly. While the helpers bring with them a punchy action sequence, it reminded me that sometimes horror works best when they leave some things to the imagination.

On the Nice List 

  • I love the opening and the whole first act. From that icy themed Universal logo and the music fitting of a festive family comedy to the ‘Christmas time’ tropes and the offset tone of the movie. It sets me on edge knowing that this is a dark and twisted horror.
  • Most of the cast are on the approved list. I love Toni Collette; she’s a versatile actress but her strength is certainly horror and Krampus is no exception. There’s also the added surprise of Two and a Half Men’s Conchata Ferrell as Aunt Dot; her dry humour is a welcome addition to the proceedings, even if she wasn’t welcome at the Christmas home.
  • Emjay Anthony plays the protagonist and catalyst for the narrative. He’s a delightful young actor who seems beyond his years. While I welcomed other familiar facing, I don’t doubt he could have carried the film without them.
  • The German grandma and her animated back story are something I’m not certain I caught in my first watch and they are quite magical. I spent the film, both times, waiting for the lovely lady to become a type of demon and it really did keep me on edge.

That ending

I’m still not certain of what I feel about the ending.
Part of me wishes it ended with Max being left alone and the narration from Omi’s tale, reminding the audience that Krampus spares one as a reminder. Another was proud of Max for fighting for his family and was curious to how it would resolve.
Then it all goes tits up and we get a ‘it was all a dream sequence’. Yes, it’s a double bluff, but it goes on too long for me which is a shame as I’d be all up for it with the right execution. 

Final Thoughts

Better than I remembered and I’ll watch it again, but there’s some tweaks I’d need to make for it to be a regular watch.