The tryptophan has barely worn off and the seasonal decorations are already shopworn. Well, they have been exhorting us to buy, buy, buy since before Halloween. And now that time of year has officially befallen us when seemingly every movie ends with snowy epiphanies, knowing smiles and a sleigh-like shape retreating in the distance.
But if all these cinematic sweets are giving you a toothache, mull that whine! Here are some anti-Christmas Christmas movies:
Start by drawing a syringe full of “Bad Santa” (2003). This grubby tale of an addicted, debauched thief (Billy Bob Thornton) posing as a department-store Santa with his accomplice elf is rude and crude and vicious in just the eggnoggiest manner. It features possibly John Ritter’s finest moment onscreen, as he writhes to Bernie Mac’s prodding litany of Bad Santa’s naughtinesses.
Keep in mind that director (and Bay Arean) Terry Zwigoff disowns the so-called “Badder Santa” home-video version in favor of his sanctioned director’s cut (look for the 2006 release). Two tidbits: The script received an uncredited rewrite by Joel and Ethan Coen, and both Jack Nicholson and Bill Murray were reportedly linked to the lead role before being aced out by scheduling conflicts.
Speaking of Murray, “Scrooged” (1988) actually has a soft, sweet center under its alum-sour and plate-glass brittle exterior. Still, it’s never going to receive the “It’s a Wonderful Life” seal of approval, with its cynicism and actually disturbing Ghost of Christmas Future. Everybody’s great in the movie, but especially Carol Kane as, essentially, a sadistic fairy who beats the Dickens out of Murray.
Some day, director Richard Donner is going to get the credit he deserves. This guy has made some great popcorn movies – the “Lethal Weapon” series, “The Omen” and the one true “Superman” (“… the Movie”). And “Inside Moves” is pretty good, too.
Speaking of Donner, “Lethal Weapon” (1987) enjoys a veritable cornucopia of Christmas references. Well, a tiny, perhaps bullet-size cornucopia, but it definitely takes place over the holiday. And speaking of “Lethal Weapon,” its scribe, Shane Black, loves Christmas settings – “The Last Boy Scout,” “The Long Kiss Goodnight,” “Kiss Kiss Bang Bang” and “Iron Man 3” all have loads of fun in the snow.
Along the lines of crime movies in Christmas settings, there’s pseudo-noir “The Ice Harvest” (2005). It’s probably most memorable for its totally failed last-call pickup scene in which Oliver Platt really, really, really doesn’t score. And “Trading Places” (1983) gives us the gift of Dan Aykroyd in wasted Santa drag, which is enough to land it on this list.
“The Nightmare Before Christmas” (1993), the Tim Burton-shepherded, Henry Selick-directed (“Coraline”) stop-motion tale of a Halloween spirit hijacking the holiday, seems a pretty obvious choice for the alt crowd and, frankly, its hipster cred almost obviates a spot on this list. But what the heck, we’re in a giving mood.
Many will cry, “What about ‘Black Christmas’ and ‘Silent Night, Deadly Night’? Or ‘Gremlins’?” Instead of those nuggets, how about “Home for the Holidays” (1995)? And to add insult to the injuries suffered by fans of the above horror flicks, “Home” is actually a Thanksgiving movie! But it’s really good, so it makes the cut anyway.
Jodie Foster’s best directorial effort features a dysfunctional family (is there any other kind in Thanksgiving movies?) including Holly Hunter, Charles Durning, Anne Bancroft, Claire Danes and, in what was his best performance in years, Robert Downey Jr.
Making that brood seem like the Cleavers on Quaaludes, “The Ref” (1994) feels like one very long argument between Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis’ really-shouldn’t-be-married couple (inflicted on poor cat burglar Denis Leary). In other words, it’s a familiar family experience from many a holiday. It ends with a Christmas miracle of the whaaa kind.
Then there’s “Go” (1999), because Sarah Polley is the greatest and because the holidays, botched drug deals and raves go hand-in-hand-in-glove. And because it features the line, “They can’t evict you on Christmas … you’d be ho-ho-homeless!”
And don’t forget “Die Hard” (1988) – because if you’re reading this, you might be the type for whom the season sets visions a-dancin’ of Bruce Willis’ bloody feet, Alexander Godunov’s murderous rages and the words “Now I have a machine gun ho ho ho” scrawled on a dead German terrorist.
Happy holidays to us, every one!
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