Tuesday, December 19, 2017

Movies I Like to Watch Around Christmas Time That Aren't Die Hard

It's less than a week until Christmas so obviously it's time to talk about movies. Specifically, movies that I like to watch in December that make me feel Christmassy but aren't explicitly Christmas movies. And also aren't Die Hard.

I've noticed several tweets in the last few weeks that express essentially the same sentiment - which is please stop talking about Die Hard - and I'm jumping on that bandwagon because that's a cool thing to do. Before I get myself too deep in this heresy, I want to express that I don't actually have anything against the movie Die Hard. It's okay if you love that movie - it's okay if it's your favourite movie, and it's okay if it's your favourite Christmas movie. What's not okay is going on about Die Hard as though people somehow don't know that it's a Christmas action movie. Everybody knows that. It doesn't make you cool and interesting.

So without any further ado, marvel at how cool and interesting I am when I tell you that my favourite Christmas movies are....

Conan the Barbarian

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I'm starting out with the most difficult movie on my Christmas list to defend because there's nothing explicitly festive about 1982's right-wing wet dream Conan the Barbarian in which Arnold Schwarzenegger infiltrates a snake cult to save a princess and also punches a camel at one point.

I didn't even realize that I thought of this as a Christmas movie until I watched it on Netflix a week or two ago and thought "damn, I am in the motherfucking Christmas spirit right now". Apart from the opening scene taking place somewhere snowy, there's nothing even winter-themed about the movie, but it has a certain festive quality to it. Maybe it's the bell-laden soundtrack, which I guarantee I could put on in the background at a Christmas party and nobody would bat an eyelash. Maybe it's because everybody born after 1991 sees Arnold Schwarzenegger as a surrogate father-figure and he fills the dad-shaped hole in my holiday. Or maybe, just maybe, it's because the movie is rife with weird pagan imagery, just like Christmas.

Evil Dead 2
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Admittedly, this is also a weird choice for a Christmas favourite. Nothing about Bruce Campbell fighting off demons in gratuitously gory fashion says "Christmas", but I can explain!

When my brother and I were little, after my parents had sent us to bed on Christmas eve they would gather around the television and watch the Evil Dead trilogy while doing last minute gift wrapping. I don't know how this tradition got started but I assume it was because they really liked watching Evil Dead and were not ordinarily free to do so because my brother or I could pop up at any moment and see somebody lopping off their own hand with a chainsaw, or somebody else getting raped by a tree. Later in life I learned about this time honoured custom, and my parents' weirdness became my weirdness. So, no, it doesn't make any kind of sense but it's just so heartwarming.

There's no real special significance to Evil Dead 2, it's just my favourite one.


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The subject matter of Fargo - which is actually incredibly difficult to summarize in a single sentence but let's say it's about... crime... gone... wrong? - is not brimming with holiday cheer. It's an hour and a half of people fucking up and fucking each other over, which hopefully does not describe your Christmas, but it is set in the desolate, snowbound wasteland of Minnesota and North Dakota, which probably does describe your holiday season if you live far enough above the equator.

Although, to be fair, I live in Nova Scotia and with climate change I usually don't see snow until Christmas eve if not later. Where I once watched this movie with a sense of sickening familiarity at the vast expanse of white stuff which strikes a profound isolation and claustrophobia into the hearts of most Canadians, I now view it with a wistful remembrance of the days when I was young and the world was sensible and I could flop around in the snow through December. Either way, it's not Christmas until I see Steve Buscemi go in the wood chipper.

Storm of the Century

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My boyfriend introduced me to this Steven King miniseries (which, contradictory to the poster I stole off wikipedia, is based on no book) fairly recently in my life. It's his favourite movie to watch when the first winter storm hits, and it resonated with me. It's about an entire island of people, probably in Maine, who get isolated from the mainland by an extreme winter storm, and also there's a guy on the island who is basically, or actually, Satan.

If this doesn't already jump out at you as a Christmas movie, I'll break it down a little further. Really there's only two important parts. People trapped in a place by winter weather, and person who may or may not be the devil. I think every person who celebrates a winter holiday has experienced a situation where they felt trapped between either listening to another uncomfortable (or at the very least annoying) story from a relative, or taking off and possibly freezing to death in the snow. Fuck, I have that experience every single Christmas despite my family being really left wing and getting along with each other almost abnormally well. It's just something that happens during holidays, no one can escape it. Storm of the Century captures the inexorable doom of the holidays better than any other film I can think of.

Honourable mentions: The Shining and Misery for exactly the same reasons.

Twelve Monkeys

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If I asked you to name a movie that wasn't reeeeally a Christmas movie but was still set at Christmas, and sent kind of a Christmas message, also starred Bruce Willis you would probably say 12 Monkeys because I just said so and I also put the poster right there. That's right, Bruce Willis (in, arguably, his best performance) plays a time travelling convict trying to stop the release of a virus that wiped out a whole lot of people, and at least some of it takes place around Christmas time. I know it sounds terrible when I say it like that, but you're going to have to trust me on this one.

It's dark, it's weird science fiction, it features a person sacrificing themselves in an attempt to make the world a better place. The first two things don't have anything to do with the holiday spirit, they're just things I really enjoy in a movie. The third thing is what the holidays are all about - doing something that inconveniences you because it brings joy and light to the people you care about, even if that attempt goes horribly wrong because the future is all predestined to be awful. At least you tried, god damnit.

Die Hard

Alright, yes, I know, it's a movie about good defeating evil on the holidays and also probably the greatest action movie ever made and I'm going to watch it at some point in the next week. You got me, internet. You got me.

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