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Arthur Christmas (2011). Sony Pictures / Aardman Animation.
Film Journeys

Festive Films 2 (2015)

By on January 13, 2016

It is that time of year again; the kids have broken up for Christmas, the tree is up and decorated, the egg is nogged, the tide is yuled and the ‘ols’ are ‘caro’d’! So it’s time for a pick of festive films to watch. We did this last year and had such a great response I thought we should do it again, just, you know, with a different choice of films!

Last year our choices were ELF, WHITE CHRISTMAS and the ‘alternative’ Christmas movie: DIE HARD!

So what is our first festive film this year then?

Our first festive film this year is ARTHUR CHRISTMAS (2011). I love this film for a number of reasons: first off there is a great cast at work here – Jim Broadbent as Santa, James MacAvoy as Arthur (his youngest son), Hugh Laurie as Stephen (Santa’s oldest son), Imelda Staunton as Mrs Clause, and Bill Nighy as the fantastic Grandsanta.

 

Arthur Christmas (2011). Sony Pictures  / Aardman Animation.

Arthur Christmas (2011). Sony Pictures / Aardman Animation.

I mentioned I love this film for a number of reasons – the first being the cast. Well add to that great list, who are all on fine form, the fact that this film was written and produced by British firm Aardman (the outfit behind the WALLACE & GROMIT films) and you know you have a film with a brilliant sense of humour; one that is sentimental enough to rightfully be a ‘Christmas movie’ but also a film that is laced with just enough irony to keep it from getting too schmaltzy.

Finally, it’s funny. It’s very funny. Whilst it’s fair to say that it’s a family film with bits in for the adults – that phrases usually worries me – but here those ‘adult bits’ really aren’t naughty, just references to things the kids are too young to remember or too naive to see the absurdity of.

So what’s next?

Our second festive film is LETHAL WEAPON (1987). In the spirit of the Alternative Queens’ Speech, I included an ‘alternative festive film’ in last year’s Festive Film Journey; and I rather liked the idea – so here we are again; this time with LETHAL WEAPON, the original in the series from 1987.

The idea of including an alternative festive film is to have something in the selection for those who won’t have little feet pattering around in the background this Christmas; so, for those that might not know – LETHAL WEAPON is definitely not a family-friendly film.

True enough – but is it a Christmas film?

Unequivocally, yes. The premise is simple and delightfully absurd: A veteran cop, is partnered with a young suicidal cop, Riggs. Both having one thing in common; hating working in pairs. Now they must learn to work with one another to stop a gang of drug smugglers.

It sounds clichéd now, but at the time, this was the film that really kicked-off the buddy-cop style of films. The film stars Danny Glover as Detective Murtagh, (a cop nearing retirement) and Mel Gibson as Dective Riggs, (the ‘lethal weapon’ of the title). Here is a clip of dialogue exchanged between the two not long after they’ve first met and the conversation has focused around what type of guns they both carry. Essentially the two new partners are sizing each other up … in more ways than one!

A still from LETHAL WEAPON (1987). Danny Glover and Mel Gibson star. Warner Bros.

A still from LETHAL WEAPON (1987). Danny Glover and Mel Gibson star. Warner Bros.

So, just as DIE HARD is a Christmas movie – so too is LETHAL WEAPON; it’s not just the fact that it’s set at Christmas time, but it deals with some themes that often crop up around this time of year; some happy, like families and inclusiveness and others much darker like loneliness and suicide. The film was quite bold for the time and the subsequent sequel took on equally contentious issues of race, political corruption and dolphin friendly fishing.

What’s our final festive film this year?

Our final festive film this year is THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993). This is a stop-motion, family-friendly festive film and it has that thing which children love most – a slightly spooky feel to it. The film, which was produced by Tim Burton, has a very ‘Burton-esque’ feel to it, but is actually a very simple tale that can be distilled down into a single sentence: Jack Skellington, king of Halloween Town, discovers Christmas Town, but doesn’t quite understand the concept.

 

'Jack Skellington' in THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993). Touchstone Pictures.

‘Jack Skellington’ in THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS (1993). Touchstone Pictures.

A lot of people don’t realise that the film contains original songs despite the promotional items used in the lead up to its release were very careful to always include snippets of songs. The most well-known song is “What’s This?”, which was written and performed by Danny Elfman, (who has scored many movies and is also responsible for THE SIMPSONS theme). The score is so good, in fact, that Elfman won the Saturn Award for Best Music and also Golden Globe Award for Best Original Score.

Whilst the film is often overlooked by families because of the visual aesthetic, the American Film Institute actually nominated THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS for it’s Top 10 Animated Films list.

 

HONOURABLE MENTIONS:

  • White Christmas – I know I said it already, but it really is magical at the end
  • It’s A Wonderful Life – a ridiculously downbeat film, until the last few minutes

Merry Christmas everyone.

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November 20, 2015

January 13, 2016

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