The local shopping centre looks like a less-enthusiastic recreation of Dawn of the Dead, Manchester is littered with wooden cabins selling oversized European sausages, Mariah Carey is swimming in royalties and I’m sat at my desk drenched in Olbas oil, tissues stuffed up my nose.
That’s right, the festive season is here daddio.
For this month’s Films and Things, we’re looking at certain cinematic treats that aren’t necessary 100% ‘Crimbo movies’, but have just enough things to do with Christmas to qualify as holiday films, sparing you from watching The Santa Clause for the 50th time come Christmas Day.
So throw a log on the fire, make sure grandma doesn’t have another glass of eggnog and bask in the warm Yuletide glow that only cinema can provide…
BILLY BOB THORNTON, BAD SANTA – 2003
Loved by Ebenezer Scrooges and edgy kids who can’t help reminding everyone Christmas is ‘commercialised’, Bad Santa might just be the ultimate Christmas movie for those who don’t like Christmas.
Bad Santa is the story of a miserable conman, Willie (Billy Bob) who poses as Santa in order to rob a department store on Christmas Eve. Things are complicated when Willie befriends a troubled kid and discovers he might not be as much of a curmudgeon as once thought.
Teetering dangerously on the verge of a Christmas film, Bad Santa deserves a spot on this list because of how unabashedly it revels in Yuletide misery. There’s deceit, there’s swears and there’s a scene where future Academy Award winner Ocatvia Spencer candidly discusses her sordid sexual liaisons with Billy Bob.
Maybe skip this one if the whole family is round…
DAVID BOWIE AND TOM CONTI, MERRY CHRISTMAS MR. LAWRENCE - 1983
Here we have a festive downer all the way from The Land of the Rising Sun.
Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence deals with the relationships among four men in a Japanese prisoner of war camp during the Second World War, each played by a host of famous faces – everyone’s favourite star child David Bowie, renowned composer Ryuichi Sakamoto (who also scored the film), Tom Conti and Takeshi Kitano (of Takeshi’s Castle fame), in his first dramatic role.
Despite the title, there’s only two references to Christmas in the whole movie – once comes when Conti and Bowie, imprisoned, talk about their respective regrets, abruptly bookended by Conti saying “My God, it’s Christmas already?” and Takeshi Kitano drunkenly yelling “Merry Christmas Mr. Lawrence!” at the pair later on. That’s all the festivities you can expect from this one.
There’s no scenes of trying to get Santa to restart his sled, no scenes of festive decorations being hung and no bucks fizz being drank. Not a very Merry Christmas for Mr. Lawrence.
BRENDAN GLEESON, IN BRUGES - 2008
Next up, we’ve got In Bruges, a cult film that more than makes up for its lack of festive cheer with copious amounts of Belgian wheat beer and violence.
In Bruges tells the blackly comic story of two hit men (Brendan Gleeson and Colin Farrell), hiding out in Bruges, waiting for instructions after the assassination of a priest has gone awry.
If you’ve ever found your Christmas Day boring, uneventful and severely lacking in jokes revolving around child murder, In Bruges should make your day more entertaining, satisfy your need for blacker-than-night humour and ostracise almost all of your relatives.
CATHERINE DENEUVE, THE UMBRELLAS OF CHERBOURG - 1964
Now we’ve got Catherine Deneuve in an extremely sleek fur coat, in the masterpiece The Umbrellas of Cherbourg.
The Umbrellas of Cherbourg is the musical story of two lovers, who can’t seem to catch a break, no matter how hard they try, or what’s known in the industry as a ‘Yuletide Weepie’.
Even though The Umbrellas of Cherbourg’s dialogue is sung as recitative (like an opera), it has more in common with the bleak, realistic films of the Italian Neorealism movement of the 40’s than your run-of-the-mill Hollywood sing-a-long, and is commonly categorised by critics as “a social-realist musical”.
If that sounds like nonsense to you, just think of this one as a Ken Loach film in A Minor, with added tinsel.
BRUCE WILLIS, DIE HARD - 1988
Lastly, we’ve got the certified big mack-daddy of ‘holiday films that aren’t about Christmas’, the film every self-respecting person wishes they were watching on Christmas Day instead of being tortured once again by that extremely irritating Elf movie, the one, the only – Die Hard.
Die Hard follows off-duty NYPD officer every-man extraordinaire John McClane (Bruce Willis) who gets caught in a Los Angeles skyscraper during a Christmas Eve heist led by the maniacal Hans Gruber. What follows is a glorious cavalcade of bullets, explosions and pitch-perfect one-liners.
Come to think of it, Die Hard is probably the most accurate portrayal of what it is like to have extended relatives round on Christmas Day – you’d rather them not be there, you have to do things you wouldn’t normally do if they weren’t there and you spend most of the day trying to avoid them entirely…
There you have it, a comprehensive list of some films to watch if you’re stricken by Yuletide fatigue. From everyone here at Oi Polloi, we wish you a happier Christmas than all the characters in the films mentioned up above.