Artzray presents our list of offbeat holiday movies that artists will love.
Film has the power to transport you worlds away from the aggravations and absurdities of Black Friday, Cyber Monday or grandma getting run over by a reindeer. Film can also hold your eyes open and make you think, “I guess I don’t have it so bad this Christmas. (Or Hannukah. Or New Year’s.) As winter approaches, it’s up to you to decide which cinema prescription will help either temper or enhance your holiday experience. Below are a few suggestions that go beyond the traditions of “It’s A Wonderful Life” and “How The Grinch Stole Christmas”. Because sometimes it’s good to start NEW traditions.
1. Comfort and Joy (1984)
An affable radio DJ in Glasgow, Scotland, is drawn into a turf war waged between two competing ice cream truck companies over the Christmas holiday. Writer-Director Bill Forsyth gleefully meshes the kooky with the realistic: he based this film on stuff that actually happened in Glasgow in the 80’s. The opening Christmas shopping / shoplifting scene offers a sweet twist. Later, when the main character’s sleek BMW is vandalized by an angry ice cream truck crew, and he takes it into the shop for repair, a philosophical Scottish mechanic queries, “Is it really the ultimate driving machine?” Plus, a great score by Mark Knopfler.
2. Fanny & Alexander (1982)
Regarded as one of Swedish director Ingmar Bergman’s best films, Fanny and Alexander isn’t for beginners: it clocks in over 3 hours (and that’s the abridged edition). But this exquisitely photographed (thank you, Sven Nyqvist) saga set in turn-of-the-last-century Sweden immerses the audience in an iconic, glorious version of a Swedish Christmas, only to contrast it with a grim and scary aftermath, when the patriarch of the family passes away and everything changes. Don’t worry, though, 11-year-old Alexander and his little sister Fanny triumph in the end, with the help of their family friend (a Jewish puppeteer) and some magical realism… or is it just realism?
3. Tokyo Godfathers (2003)
Sweet and funny with delirious action… the perfect holiday anime (say that three times fast). Director Satoshi Kon delivers a cheeky story about three homeless friends: an alcoholic ex-biker, a teenaged runaway and a castoff transvestite, who find an abandoned baby on Christmas eve and embark on a quest to track down the child’s parents. It’s easy to be so thoroughly entertained that you don’t even notice this movie is about non-traditional families, homelessness and the role of fate in our lives.
4. Metropolitan (1990)
When a bunch of Ivy League college freshman converge on the Upper East Side of Manhattan during their winter break, you’d think the tsunami of white privilege and pseudo-intellectualism these characters display would have the audience stomping to the exits. But just like Jane Austen (to whom he frequently refers), writer-director Whit Stillman deftly, unexpectedly coaxes us to unfold our affections for this initially unlikable lot. They’re just a bunch of insecure, dopey kids trying to figure out life and love… using their extensive vocabularies. Come for the good-looking, sleekly costumed cast, stay for the banter: “Snobbery is looked down upon.”
5. Friday After Next (2002)
In this third Friday movie, Day-Day (Mike Epps) and Craig (Ice Cube) finally get a place of their own, only to have a criminal Santa rob them of rent money and Christmas presents on Christmas Eve. Galvanized by the imagined skills their unarmed security guard jobs have given them, the duo are determined to bring the bad Santa to justice… and get their stuff back. Directed by Marcus Raboy and written by Ice Cube and DJ Pooh, this romp in the ‘hood is watchable, wacky and full of profanity.
6. About A Boy (2002)
“Santa’s Super Sleigh” is the much-despised yet perennially played Christmas pop song that generates the tidy royalties which fund main character Will’s (Hugh Grant) self-indulgent lifestyle. And he didn’t even write the song: his long-dead father did. So Will fills up his days and nights amusing himself with video games, new shoes, take-out food and easy conquests. He says, “Me, I didn’t mean anything. About anything, to anyone. And I knew that guaranteed me a long, depression-free life.” In a shallow attempt to bed one pretty single mom, he finds himself reluctantly befriending another mom’s boy (Nicholas Hoult, before he was Nux in this summer’s Mad Max Fury Road). Chris & Paul Weitz, who together with Peter Hedges adapted Nick Hornby’s book and directed the movie, pull off this confection by wrapping it in cynicism… which melts away by the end.
7. A Christmas Tale (2008)
French matriarch Junon (played by the ever-luminescent Catherine Deneuve) calls her fractured family together for the holidays: she needs a bone marrow transplant and one of them might be a match. The syncopated timeline director and screenwriter Arnaud Desplechin (with Emmanuel Bourdieu) devises whips us between comedy and tragedy and back again. This is a sophisticated look at members of a dysfunctional family who all behave badly, but with Gallic aplomb, manage to do so in a civilized fashion. It’ll make you feel like your family is fantastic in comparison.
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