Sunday, 15 December 2013

A little film guide for the festive season

9 more days to go till Christmas Eve and two more weeks of 2013. I guess that most people are at this point either in full Christmas spirit, baking cookies and listening to Christmas songs 24/7 or running around around with a grim face, because of all the stress. Personally, I love the Christmas season and one of my favourite parts about December is that I finally get to watch my Christmas films again. I love films in general, but there is this special feeling about Christmas films that I love – this wonderful warmth in your belly.

This time I want to present to you my favourite films to watch this season. Not all of them are Christmas related, but I still think they are appropriate for this cosy time of the year. 

1) The Muppets Christmas Carol (1992)

Who does not know the Charles Dickens' classic Christmas tale about grumpy Ebenezer Scrooge? Countless attempts have been made to turn this story into a film, but this one is by far the most entertaining one. First of all, Michael Caine embodies Ebenezer Scrooge perfectly, but my favourite part about the film have to be the great Gonzo as Charles Dickens and Rizzo the rat as... well, as himself. The two of them are a great duo which makes this film very lighthearted and humorous.

It is my favourite film to watch with my mum. We love singing along to the songs and the humour is just perfect for our taste.

2) Little Women (1994)

„Little Women“ is based on Louisa May Alcott's novel from 1868/1869 and it follows the story of four sisters and their way to adulthood. It is one of those films which is heartbreaking, but at the same time heartwarming as well and to my mind, this is what makes a very good Christmas movie. Winona Ryder plays the boyish, but passionate Jo March so nicely and you also get to see a young Christian Bale as her best friend „Teddy“ who falls in love with her.
Set around the time of the American Civil War there are wonderful costumes to look at and together with the amazing sountrack and the historic setting, this film has a good frame for this classic story. 

On a side note: There is also a version from 1933 with Katharine Hepburn as Jo which is a warm recommendation to you as well.

3) The Family Stone (2005)

This has to be probably my favourite Christmas movie out of all the ones I mention in this blog. At this point some people might ask: „Why not Elf?“ (Which apparently a lot of people like) or „Why not film XY?“ also, this films' critics are not the best ones out of the bunch (52% on Rotten Tomatoes), but I still love it to pieces and I will tell you why.

It is Christmas at the Stones' residence and the whole family comes together to celebrate. All of them are quite liberal and „free thinkers“ if you want to call it like that. The trouble starts, when Everett (Dermot Mulroney) arrives with his girlfriend Meredith (Sarah Jessica Parker) who is very uptight and so has a very difficult position in the family from the very beginning.
When Meredith calls for her sister Julie (Claire Danes) to come and help her, the trouble really starts. Moreover a more serious shadow is cast over this Christmas season, but I do not want to spoil too much.
Just like „Little Women“ this film is heartbreaking, very very heartbreaking, but there are a lot of romantic and funny moments as well. I love the members of the huge Stones family, especially the stubborn Amy (Rachel McAdams). I love their house and the snow. I love the music. I love the atmosphere within the family itself full of love and acceptance. This film just screams „American Christmas kitsch“ and this is probably the most important fact for me. 

If you want a lovely film to watch, when you just want to snuggle up on the couch, drink a hot chocolate and cry a few tears of sadness and joy, this is for you!

4) Meet me in St. Louis (1944)

This Hollywood musical with Judy Garland in the leading role is one of my more recent favourites. I have known the song "Have yourself a merry little Christmas" for years, but I never got the chance to watch the actual film until last year on the plane (where I curled up and cried like a child while listening to this song). Then, this summer, I finally found the DVD at a flea market in London. 
The film itself is set in St. Louis at the beginning of the 20th century and contains (of course) a love story. However the film reaches its' climax, when the father reveals to his family that they will leave St. Louis to go to New York and they spend their last winter in their beloved hometown. The last ball on Christmas Eve, when Esther (Judy Garland) dances with her grandfather (Harry Davenport) to "Auld Lang Syne" is so sweet and sad to watch. After her return home Judy Garland sings her famous rendition of "Have Yourself a merry little Christmas". It gives me goosebumps every time I listen to it. It might be one of the more das Christmas songs, but I adore it nonetheless. 

Not being entirely a Christmas film, I still do not think I could watch "Meet me in St. Louis" at any other time of the year, due to the strong effect of this scene I described above. It would just feel awfully wrong to me to watch this during spring or summer, but maybe that is just me again.

5) Downton Abbey (2010- )

I am not a very good series-watcher, but the British TV series „Downton Abbey“ got me completely hooked. It starts in 1912 with the sinking of the Titanic and follows the fate of the Crawley family from then on through the First World War, the roaring twenties and is still going on. It focuses not only on the characters of the Crawley family itself, but also the servants working in the house. Critics say, that the series tends to be very melodramatic and I agree with them and sometimes it is a bit predictable, but in the end I enjoy following the development of the characters as individuals and their relationships with others.
Apart from the fact, that I could steal every single dress from Lady Mary, Edith, Lady Sybil, or Cora, their mother, the whole series lives from the melancholic, slightly aristocratic - well British – atmosphere. It is just a perfect watch for the cold season.

A few Christmas specials have been released as well, however I only own the one from 2011. 

I have to admit, that I was a bit disappointed with it. I bought it last year after Christmas when I was in London and did not watch it until recently, because when it comes to Christmas related films, I am very strict: no watching until the first of December!

It was not as christmassy, I had liked it to be, but it is still enjoyable. However I highly recommend the overall series to everyone, who likes England, drama and the historic setting.

6) The Beauty and the Beast (1991)

Maybe one of THE classic Disney films of all times. It has always been one my Disney favourites and I think everybody knows it. But since I enjoy it the most when it is cold outside, but warm in the house, I thought I would still mention it in here. Maybe it is just me, but the atmosphere is a bit darker than in most Disney films and there are also many romantic and wintery elements (which again, to me are the most enjoyable during this time of the year). 

Basically this is just a reminder to everyone to watch this timeless classic again.

At this point I will wrap up my little film guide. Of course there are many other great Chrismas films out there like "It's a wonderful life" or "Christmas Vacation", but these ones are especially close to my heart.
I think between all this Christmas stress with buying presents and preparing everything for Christmas Eve, we should take an evening in between to just sit down and actually enjoy what this season has to offer. 

What are your favourite Christmas films?

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