There’s something about December – or, is it actually Christmas? – that gets me all melancholic and mellow inside. I don’t usually allow myself to indulge in these moods but somehow, come December, it just feels good to let myself sink in these moments. One of the best ways to feed these moods is watching my favourite Christmas movies. It has become some kind of a tradition for me to have my own little movie screening (with a bag of chips and a box of Kleenex ;p) on nights leading up to December 25th every year. I don’t actually have many favourites when it comes to Christmas movies though. In fact, I only have five and these are the ones that made it to my list so far (not in any particular order):
1. Joyeux Nöel (2005).
This movie embodied the true meaning of Christmas to me. This Academy Award-nominated drama follows the story of four individuals whose lives were forever changed when the First World War broke out in Europe in 1941. Set in a French countryside, as winter began to sweep through Europe, German, French and Scottish troops had to brace through death and freezing cold weather in the trenches, where the fate of a Scottish priest, a German opera singer and two military officers – a German and a French Lieutenant – were about to unfold. This movie is actually based on a true wartime event, where soldiers in the front lines put aside their hostility and reach out to the so-called enemies to share the simple, kind gestures with each other in the battlefield on one Christmas eve. The scenes where they slowly come closer and greet each other, exchanging chocolate bars and cigarettes and sitting down in one Christmas Mass together were among my favourite moments in the movie. It is always that little moments, where the camera focus on the expression on the soldiers’ faces as they listen to the Danish singer singing a Christmas song and the French soldier, Ponchell, talks about his morning routine of drinking coffee with his mother that gets to me. Regardless of how many times I’ve watched this movie, it never failed to find its way to that sacred place where my tears came from. I can’t remember a time when I watch this movie without shedding a few tears.
For me, this movie goes far beyond the re-enactment of the true event. It also shows one very important aspect of humanity that despite the conflicts, hatred and hostility that seemed to forever cloak the world with dark clouds, deep inside, all of us yearn for love, peace and a sense of brotherhood.
2. Love Actually (2003)
If there’s one Christmas movie that I can watch at any time of the year and feel all warm inside and so Christmassy afterwards, it’s Love Actually. This movie has been my Christmas staple since 2004. Set in London, four weeks leading up to Christmas, it’s about the many different aspects of love told through ten stories of different individuals which are shown to be interlinked with one another as the movie progresses. My favourite moments? Mark confessing his unrequited love for Juliet silently using word cards and Joanna singing ‘All I Want For Christmas’ of course!
Love Actually is a light, cliché-ridden but feel-good holiday movie that will leave you feeling all loved-up and warm inside (unless you’re a true Grinch at heart) that is slowly but surely making its way to the realm of Christmas classics.
3. Mixed Nuts (1994).
With a storyline that focuses on events which happen in one crazy Christmas eve around a crisis hotline office, Mixed Nuts is obviously not your typical holiday comedy. It is graced with characters like volunteers at the office of a hotline for depressed and suicidal people who are more depressed than the callers, lonely bachelorettes, a serial killer, a transvestite who just wants to be loved and a whole lot of ‘normal’ characters that are funnier than funny people. Although it is set during Christmas eve, this movie is, by no means, for everyone as it is infused with dark humour and jokes that, depending on your kind of humour, would take you a while before you get it.
This is the only film in this list that I actually watched for the first time with my sisters. That reason alone put Mixed Nuts in a special place in my heart. Years later, we still laugh about some scenes from the film and our little inside jokes that we came up with while watching the film on that very Christmas afternoon. It doesn’t matter at all that the film didn’t receive good critics nor was it a commercial success upon its release in the US, Nora Ephron’s adaptation of the French comedy film, Le Père Noël est une ordure (1982), was and still is a hit for my sisters and I.
4. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946).
One Christmas Eve, 1946, one man who has long saw himself as a failure is contemplating to end his life. George is a kind-hearted man who is facing a financial ruin and an arrest. He is at the lowest point in his life and wishes that he was never born. The bumbling guardian angel, Clarence Odbody is sent to help George and make him see the lives he saved and changed and how different Bedford Falls would be if he had never been born. In the end, despite feeling like a total failure and deprived of so many things that he thought he should have in his life, George finally realized that he truly had a wonderful life.
When it first came out, It’s A Wonderful Life, was considered a box office failure and a major disappointment. Capra was thought to be unable to produce profitable films anymore. It wasn’t until years later (in the 70s) that the film fell into the public domain and became a staple of Christmas television around the world. The movie eventually regarded as one the most inspirational American movies of all time.
5. Nightmare Before Christmas (1993).
Despite being directed by Henry Selick – who would later directed one of my faves stop-motion 3D film, Coraline (2009) – this film is often known, until today, as Tim Burton’s Nightmare Before Christmas. Originated from a poem written by Tim Burton in 1982, Disney considered developing the film into a short film but later produced it under Touchstone Pictures, thinking that the film was too dark and scary for children. The movie tells a story of The Pumpkin King of the Halloween Town, Jack Skellington, who feels bored of the same routine of organizing Halloween holiday every year and thinks that his life lacks meaning until he stumbles upon Christmas Town. Impressed by the style of Christmas, Jack decided to take over the celebration. What Jack doesn’t get is that Christmas isn’t a style or an event; it’s a spirit.
There was something avant-garde about the movie that watching it again now, years after the first time I watched it, I still feel like the movie is still in a class of its own. The morbid holiday fairy tale musical is made up of clever story, witty and visually delightful, it’s no surprise that Nightmare Before Christmas is one of the very few Christmas movies that I’d watch every year without fail.
What’s your favourite Christmas movies? Any movies recommendation to add to my list of must-watch this Christmas?
Take care & have a good day, lovelies!