Friday, December 23, 2011

Movies that take place at Christmas time are not necessarily Christmas movies

I have blogged about my favorite holiday films before
. This year, I feel the need to clear something up. Something that may be confusing to some.

Just because a movie happens to take place in December and/or reference Christmas in some oblique way doesn't make it a Christmas movie. For example, David Fincher's The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, which I saw yesterday. The film begins on Christmas Eve and ends right around Christmas one year later. It's set in Sweden so there's lots of snow. BUT MAKE NO MISTAKE -- it's NOT a Christmas movie. Murder and rape cannot be in a Christmas movie. Santa would not approve.

Now, my cable provider, Comcast, would like me to believe that any movie with any sort of minor holiday/December tie-in counts as a Christmas movie. Let's take a look at some of the films they recommend under their Holiday category (which is subdivided into Yuletide Comedies, Christmas Classics, Festive Family Faves, Holiday Romance and Holiday Action):

Batman Returns

Ok, I haven't seen this since it came out in the early 90s, but its genre is obviously superhero/action. Does Batman save Christmas in Gotham City? No.

Die Hard

Yes, it's set at Christmas. Yes, there is some Christmas music in it. And this famous shot, of course:

Still, it's violent and people get killed. I'm pretty sure that takes it out of holiday film contention.

Trading Places

I love this movie; it's one of my favorites. Eddie Murphy as con artist Billy Ray Valentine is pure comedy gold. But I don't think Christmas affects the plot much -- yes, seeing Dan Ackroyd drunkenly crash his former company's Christmas party dressed up Santa and stuffing an entire salmon down his suit is funny, but the movie doesn't demand to be viewed at Christmas. If you wanted to watch Trading Places over the summer, it would be fine. If you suggested watching Miracle on 34th Street or A Christmas Story in a month other than December, it would be very, very weird.


Seriously? A man's body gets stuffed into a wood chipper.

Little Women

It's a heartwarming movie, but it spans many years and months. If this counts as a Christmas movie, Gone With the Wind might as well be considered one as well since Christmas, you know, happens over the course of the film.

Basically, for a movie to be a Christmas movie, it can't really be watched any other time. Christmas has to feature prominently in the plot -- the central conflict or source of comedy must be related to Christmas (Will Ferrell thinks he's an elf! The Griswolds' horrible in-laws are all staying at their house over Christmas and Clark's Christmas bonus hasn't arrived! etc).

Oh, and no one can be brutally murdered, unless they are killed by a serial killer who dresses up like Santa, like in Christmas Evil (which was originally titled You Better Watch Out):

Ho Ho...Homicide?

Happy holidays, everyone!


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J.A.G. said...

Um, Christmas Evil is hells to the yes a Christmas movie. Nothing says the holidays like a mob chasing evil Santa with torches.

Anonymous said...

I can't help but disagree about "Die Hard" - it's not only set at Christmas, but it's framed around an estranged husband returning to his family to be 'home' for Christmas, includes a Christmas party scene, and has a happy (if not entirely fairy-tale) ending. And I think there's a moral in there somewhere.

If, however, you're in the mood for a violent movie that is absolutely 100% a Christmas film, you should try to find a copy of the Finnish film "Rare Exports". ( It's my new Xmas tradition...right next to "Die Hard". =)

M-D November said...

Nuts - that was me in the last comment - apparently OpenID doesn't work as well as I'd thought on Blogger.