Does the “bumbumbum” of Bing Crosby send shivers of fear down your spine? Do you secretly hope that when the little girl pulls Santa’s beard that it will come off and expose him as a fake? Maybe you even hope that Ralphie really will shoot his eye out with that BB gun. You, my friend, have Christmas movie fatigue. What hides under the guise of tradition mostly means getting stuck watching the same five movies every single holiday season, year after year after year. Apparently some people find comfort in this, but few movies are good enough to warrant such reverence – or repeated viewings. So here are a few truly alternative alternatives, most of which can be ordered from Amazon, or found online for download if you’re into that sort of thing.
If it’s just not Christmas without Jimmy Stewart stuttering away on your boobtube, pass over It’s a Wonderful Life this year and instead check out the lovely film The Shop Around the Corner. Set in 1940s Budapest, and based on the stage play The Parfumerie (returning to Toronto’s SoulPepper Theatre in November 2013) this is the story of two co-workers who despise one another but turn out to actually be secret penpals. Directed by the inimitable Ernst Lubitsch, there are one or two culturally insensitive references (Hey, it’s in Hungary in 1940), but the film is otherwise charming.
If you pretend to hate Christmas but secretly have a soft spot for it, then Bad(der) Santa is probably for you. Billy Bob Thornton plays an alcoholic department store Santa who ends up taking care of a troubled kid. Notable for the “fuck me Santa!” sex scene with Lauren Graham, and in the x-rated version, some fun in the department store change rooms.
My favourite holiday movie is hard to track down, but should be a Canadian classic. In Dinner at Fred’s Gil Bellows stars as a Toronto businessman whose car breaks down in a small town just before Christmas. He takes a local named Fred (Kevin MacDonald) up on his offer to spend the night, only to discover he is trapped in Fred’s house forever because of the curse of a turkey that roams Fred’s yard. Parker Posey is brilliant as Fred’s sister who dreams of breaking the spell and moving to the big city. Plus great scenes with Christopher Lloyd and the turkey.
Christmas is about getting drunk and doing drugs with your family. That’s all you need to know. Thankfully, the Trailer Park Boys Christmas special is not really representative of my Nova Scotian Christmases, but the sentiment is right on. Plus, you know, rum and Coke.
I can’t find a YouTube clip of Black Adder’s Christmas Carol, but it’s readily available on DVD. A remake of the Dickens classic, this is Rowan Atkinson et al at their finest.
If you like your Christmas vaguely creepy The League of Gentlemen Christmas Special might be up your alley. While it helps to have seen the whole series (so you understand that the black face, woman-abducting character of Papa Lazarou is not really intended to be a racial stereotype [wow, I make him sound sooo charming, don’t I?]), this is a show that stands alone in its uniqueness and its creepiness. And if you haven’t seen the rest of the series, you’ll want to after viewing the holiday special.
Arm yourself with tissue before sitting down to the 3-part series This is England ’88. The This Is England series follows a group of skinheads in northern England throughout the 80s (starting with a movie, then a second series This Is England 86). It helps to have seen the previous series’ to know the background of the characters, but again, it works fine on its own as a Christmas special. Full of 80s holiday kitsch (including some seriously ugly holiday sweaters), but also a pervading sadness that culminates in the finale, I guarantee you’ll be bawling your face off by the end. (Woody and LOL 4ever!)
And finally, if the holidays just make you grumpy, the Christmas special for the UK show Grumpy Old Men will make you smile. Or at least, you’ll have someone to commiserate with. The Grumpy Old Men at Christmas (2003) was followed by Grumpy Old Women at Christmas (2004) and most of it is available on YouTube for your viewing pleasure. Featuring interviews with British comedians, writers, satirists and others, you can watch Germaine Greer talk about how she’ll never cook a turkey, or Janet Street-Porter’s problems decorating her Christmas tree. If you really don’t like Christmas, this is the Christmas show for you!