Monday, December 8th, 2008...4:02 pm

Christmas Movies: 5 Crackers & 5 Turkeys

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By Rassam Fakour-Zaker
Know Your Money Editor

Christmas traditionally brings us many things: socks and other tired gift clichés, a few hundred tons of wasted food, bulging credit card debts, crap songs, overflowing landfill sites, cirrhosis of the liver and, more relevantly, Hollywood’s annual attempts at making a few yuletide bucks.

As you may guess from the opening paragraph, I’m not Christmas’s biggest fan. Nevertheless, here are my five best and five worst festive movies (listed in order of release, not brilliance or direness). Feel free to agree, disagree or suggest your own.

5 Best Christmas Crackers

Gremlins (1984)
Released in 1984, Joe Dante’s Christmas horror-comedy was one of the most successful movies in a year packed with classic blockbusters. Although it could be argued that it isn’t an authentic Christmas movie (it got a summer release in the US), it is, nevertheless, a mischievously subversive picture packed full of dark humour that gleefully toys with cinematic yuletide conventions, marking it out as a festive classic in my book. And it’s got a cracking theme tune.
Ideal for: Anyone who receives a strange pet for Christmas.

Scrooged (1988)
A new adaptation of A Christmas Carol has become a staple fixture on the festive movie calendar. Despite spawning well over 30 adaptations, ranging from the respectful 1999 TV movie, to the glorified commercial that is Barbie in an Christmas Carol (2008), to the right-wing polemical debacle, An American Carol (2008); the top of the Christmas Carol pile belongs to Scrooged. It may not be the most festive incarnation of Dickens’ tale but Bill Murray’s cynical, deadpan sarcasm makes for the most entertaining Scrooge yet.
Ideal for: Those who don’t give a toss about Tiny Tim.

National Lampoons Christmas Vacation (1989)
The third Griswald movie sees Clark trying to recreate a perfect traditional Christmas for his family. It’s an amusingly irreverent film that will always be tinged with sadness because, not only was it the last funny National Lampoon movie, but also, alas, the last funny Chevy Chase movie.
Ideal for: Anyone too young to remember Chevy Chase’s glory days.

The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas, realised entirely with amazing stop-motion effects, follows the gangly, emo pumpkin-head, Jack Skellington, and his cohorts from Halloween Town in their engrossing attempts to hijack Christmas. It’s a slightly twisted festive tale that embraces elements of gothic horror to create a visually-striking and unique movie. Check out 2006’s 3D re-release to see it in all its glory.
Ideal for: Any budding young Goths.

Bad Santa (2003)
Murray’s character in Scrooged could be seen as a precursor to Billy Bob Thornton’s eponymous drunken, cynical, obscene, self-loathing, felonious, but very amusing shopping-centre Santa Clause anti-hero.

It’s not up their with the great non-festive comedies, but if, like some of us, you would rather gouge out your own eyeballs than struggle through another season of festive cheer, it is certainly a movie that will make you feel a damn sight better than the usual sentimental, sanctimonious, peace-on-earth celluloid Christmas drivel.
Ideal for: Your uncle Jim who just finished a 3-year stretch for B&E.

5 Worst Christmas Turkeys

The Santa Clause (1994)
This one has to go in because, not only is it dire, it spawned two increasingly dire sequels. Come to think of it – this entry could just be renamed: “Any Movie Featuring Tim Allen”. That’s ANY movie: not just the Christmas ones. (Actually, Galaxy Quest (1999) was pretty good).
Ideal for: Both of Tim Allen’s fans.

Jingle All The Way (1996)
All the clichéd nightmares of yuletide shopping were wrapped up in this clichéd nightmare of an Arnie comedy vehicle, as the LA governor tackles the arduous task of buying his son the season’s most sought-after toy on Christmas Eve. An interesting and depressingly accurate study of the increasingly rampant commercialism of the holiday it may be, but festive entertainment it is not.
Ideal for: The spoilt, ungrateful little shit who gets bored of their newly-acquired [insert name of this year’s must-have toy] come Boxing Day.

Jack Frost (1998)
This pile of schmaltzy crap features Michael Keaton as an absent father who dies in a car crash while racing back to his family on Christmas Eve only to be reincarnated a year later as his son’s snowman. I’ll leave the rest to your imagination since I’m sure you’ll be able to imagine a less trite, predictable and saccharine movie. And one without the baffling casting of Henry Rollins and Frank Zappa’s kids.
Ideal for: People who got it confused with the identically-titled 1996 slasher b-movie featuring a serial-killing snowman.

Christmas With The Kranks (2004)
OK, I had to include another Tim Allen one. His one-man cinematic war against Christmas continued apace with this dismal comedy in which a middle-aged suburban couple decide to skip Christmas in their daughters’ absence, circumventing the ritualised seasonal stresses with a relaxing cruise instead. A somewhat unsettling backlash from their entire local community ensues, resulting in some awkward slapstick, vomit-worthy sentimentality and an uncompromising reinforcement of traditional Christmas values. Particularly, conformity and consumerism.
Ideal for: Any relative who thought they could weasel out of Christmas this year.

Surviving Christmas (2004)
With the festive shitstorm of this and Christmas With The Kranks released at the same time, it seems that 2004 was the year that Hollywood officially killed Christmas. And Ben Affleck’s acting career. According to Wikipedia this stinker found itself languishing in just about every “Worst Movies of the Year” list. And now it’s in mine.
Ideal for: J-Lo. And anyone else you hate.

1 Comment

  • The Freelance Cartoonist
    December 10th, 2008 at 6:22 am

    I don’t agree with most of the movies on the list but I am very thankful that “The Nightmare Before Christmas” is included because it’s the movie I never miss to watch whenever Christmas season comes.

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