Above: Photo via shockya.com
By Arts Editor Brendan Barlow
Well everyone, the semester is coming to a close and you’re presently sitting down and reading the last issue of The Navigator in 2016. Along with the year and the semester ending, it’s also treading closer and closer to that most wonderful (or terrible, or indifferent, depending on your view) time of year: Christmas. While the true meanings and origins of the holiday may have been warped, skewed, and more often ignored, there’s one thing (besides peppermint mochas) we can always count on the holidays for: a whole lot of time to do a whole lot of nothing. I thought I’d suggest a few of my favourite movies to watch during the holidays, compiling a list of the holiday best, based on my own nostalgia.
A Charlie Brown Christmas (1965)
If we’re being honest here, the big draw of this particular 25-minute long “movie” is the soundtrack. A Christmas doesn’t go by without its appearance, be it either from the special itself, or emanating from the beautiful green vinyl played on heavy rotation every year. So much about this special is ingrained in my consciousness of Christmas, from the saddest tree ever, to the amazing dancing on display at the pageant. A true and absolute classic.
Black Christmas (1974)
Guys, I reviewed 31 horror movies in October. You had to know that one on this list would be a horror movie. This 1974 Canadian slasher movie is essentially the beginning of almost every horror trope that has become cliched and eye-roll-inducing, including the ol’ “The call is coming from inside the house” and the idea of slasher movies as a whole. John Saxon’s performance alone is worth checking this one out, and everything else is just the icing on the cake.
Love, Actually (2003)
Yeah, it’s a romantic-comedy, yeah it’s loaded with seriously problematic elements; most significant the guy who takes signs to his best friend’s home to silently seduce his wife. You won’t hear me defend the problems (and there are lots). That said, there’s something so wonderful and charming about this movie and I really can’t be too mad. It’s a fun, sweet, and entertaining film starring every British actor ever. It’s a rare occasion that I recommend a rom-com, so watch this one if you haven’t.
It’s really easy to assume that everyone has seen this movie. It’s just one of those films that had a tremendous impact on my youth, and it’s also a great horror-comedy-Christmas movie that everyone needs in their lives. Director Joe Dante gave us both Piranha, and The Howling before this one, and it is easily one of the most iconic films of my generation. Even if you haven’t seen it, you’ve probably seen the adorable Furby-inspiration that is Gizmo. One of the best ones one this list by the way, if you’re trying to pare it down.
A Christmas Carol (1951)
This is obviously a tricky one, and a second adaptation ofthis movie will show up later on this list as well, but I’m specifically talking about the 1951 film starring Alastair Sim as the famous Ebenezer Scrooge. This is a version that I’ve grown up watching, and surely many of you have as well. I will always remember the moody, black-and-white ghost story that treads into the realm of being pretty damn scary more than once. Looking at you, Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come and Ghost of Christmas Present. It’s a fabulous version of the story, and one that I can’t recommend enough.
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946)
I mean, it’s a movie starring James Stewart. There really shouldn’t be a whole lot more needed to sell you on it, but it is sort of like an entire movie based on the final two ghosts from A Christmas Carol. It deals with some dark and emotional themes, and acknowledges that the holidays can be a pretty tough time of year for a lot of people. Another great one, and did I mention that it stars Jimmy Stewart? Seriously, watch this and then go screen Rear Window.
Die Hard (1988)
You’re damn right this is a Christmas movie, I know that it’s a bit of a cliché joke now to say that your favourite Christmas film is Die Hard, but cliché or not this movie kicks ass. I can appreciate a movie that gives something different and still sets it around the holidays. Like Gremlins and Black Christmas, this one makes the list because sometimes you really do need something to break up the Grinch re-runs that are inevitably going to be on TV for the next month.
A Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
The greatest adaptation of A Christmas Carol. This is an objective fact, and not up for dispute, so let’s just move on. Michael Caine stars as Scrooge, and it stars the Muppets. I can’t imagine what else you need to know. It’s a funny, charming take on the original and (of course) it’s a musical. A first feature directed by Jim Henson’s son, Brian shows a respect and reverence to his father’s work, and that the love of the Muppets runs in the family. This one is among my favourites on this list as well, and one that I watch every year.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation (1989)
Here’s another one that I usually just assume everyone watches, but the older I get the more I realize that this is simply not the case. Written by John Hughes (Pretty in Pink, The Breakfast Club), this is another one of those movies that hold a special place in my heart. I remember watching it more than once each Christmas with my family, particularly when I was younger, and one that I maintain a level of love for, even if I laugh a little less at it now than I used to. Plus, who doesn’t like to remember a time when Chevy Chase was pretty funny, and didn’t bum everyone out.
Brendan is a horror-loving, left-leaning, feminist presently studying at Vancouver Island University in the Bachelor of Social Work Program. He has been a lover of all things arts and entertainment for as long as he can remember, with a particular fondness for horror films and other spooky media. He lives in Nanaimo with his partner Melissa, and their cat Adler.