I used to look forward to Christmas for the presents and the presents alone. Nothing brought me more excitement than to wake up at about 4am on Christmas morning and irritate my parents until they agreed to get up and humour my festive abandon. Unfortunately for me, and fortunately for my parents, as I’ve gotten older the acquisition of a new bike, a new videogame, a new whatever has receded into somewhat of a secondary consideration. Personally, I’d rather stay in bed on most Christmas mornings, but if I must get up it is more likely to be the promise of above-standard food and some distracting TV than the acquisition of toys that arouses me from my slumber.
Once upon a snow-sprinkled Christmas of yesteryear, the festive TV listings were something to behold. RTE afforded the rare opportunity to see a movie you might not have seen a hundred times before with the extraordinary phenomenon of back to back feature-length movies, each of a slightly above-average quality than the usual Whatever-Hollywood-Flop-RTE-Could-Afford fare available on a normal Saturday evening. Reading back over some of my articles this year, I have noticed a general trend towards bemoaning the loss of some mystical age where film and tv was perpetually excellent. Although this is completely unintentional, it does apply rather aptly in the case of Christmas tv. Christmas time was one of the only opportunities to see bigger and better movies on tv and buying the RTE Guide to eagerly rummage through the pages was a family institution in many households. Although we still do all that, the rise of Netflix and other streaming sites means that much of what we might ever want to watch is available at the click of a couple of buttons for whenever you’ve got a couple of hours to spare. The Christmas schedule stops being so special if you’ve already seen all the films that are showing or, more significantly, if you have the knowledge that you could easily watch them whenever you want, whether you actually end up doing so or not being irrelevant. Nothing destroys the excitement of a can’t-be-missed Christmas special if you know you can catch up on it on BBC iPlayer a few days later.
Still, Christmas television isn’t a complete and utter waste of time, especially if you ignore everything I’ve just said, like I probably will, and embrace the joyous wonder that is online streaming. Or, alternatively, you might just turn on that ol’ box by the fire and watch some old-fashioned television. Whatever you decide to do, I have compiled an incredibly opinionated list of things to do, enjoy and not enjoy this Christmas:
Must Watch Christmas Movies:
Seeing as this is the last issue of the Express before Christmas, it’d probably make sense to start off by recommending some traditional Christmas movies so that’s what I’ll do:
Die Hard: I’m going to end the debate right now. Die Hard is a Christmas movie. It’s set at Christmas, there’s snow, there’s some Christmas music and it’s incredibly fun. I think that just about sums up Christmas in its entirety. In all seriousness, Die Hard is a brilliant movie and is referenced in multiple other TV shows (Friends and Brooklyn Nine-Nine) as being one of the best cop movies ever, which it is. Bruce Willis really cemented his image as the tough but charming hero in the first installment and Alan Rickman’s legendary bad-guy (in what was, amazingly, his first movie role) set the tempo for a hundred future blockbuster antagonists. I cannot genuinely believe that there exists a person who hasn’t watched it already, so I’ll just recommend strongly that you watch it again or risk missing out on what Christmas is all about: guns, explosions and Bruce Willis pushing people off buildings.
It’s A Wonderful Life: Probably the only movie my mom ever insisted I watch. It was somewhat of a Christmas institution in my house until the old VCR stopped working. First released in 1946, Frank Capra’s sweet and nostalgic Christmas story about a husband and father (played by James Stewart, the sort of fella your grandad would consider a “real man”), who wishes he had never been born, only to be shown by an adorable angel called Clarence quite how bad things would be without him, has been much copied and adapted over the years. The original remains the best, however, and is one of the few black and white movies I can truly claim to love unconditionally. If you’re the weepy sort, this movie will definitely get your tear ducts going: the scene where Stewart finds out that none of his family and friends know him is particularly heart-wrenching. But, in the tradition of a good Christmas movie, all is well at the end and many a moral lesson is learned.
The Santa Clause: Tim Allen’s first outing as the unwilling successor to the Santa he accidentally knocks off a roof is a brilliant, heart-warming movie in traditional Christmas spirit. Featuring elves, reindeer, family comedy (as well as several adult oriented jokes of genuine wit) and a lead performance from Allen at his lovable best, it’s the movie I watch when I finally accept that Christmas is here again. The protagonist’s dramatic change, both physically and mentally, from run-of-the-mill salesman to Papa Nöel is unmissable, as is his heart beating to the tune of Jingle Bells when he goes for a check-up. If you don’t want the goodwill feeling to be shattered into pieces, then please, for the love of God, do not watch the two sequels. They are truly awful and remind me why I stopped getting out of bed on Christmas Day.
Christmas With the Kranks: Tim Allen again, this time aided ably by Jamie-Lee Curtis as the neurotic wife to his grumpy and disenfranchised husband, whose plans to give Christmas a miss in favour of a Caribbean cruise are thrown into disarray, first by their Christmas-obsessed neighbours (led with patriarchal gusto by Dan Aykroyd) and then by the return of their equally Christmas-obsessed daughter from Peru. This movie is unashamedly silly, full of slapstick humour and Allen falling off things, but there is enough stupidly quirky humour to keep you giggling (hats off to a possessed snowman, botox injections and some particularly predatory carol singers). While it may not carry quite the same seasonal clout as It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street, it’ll certainly keep you distracted while you wait for something better to start on the next channel over.