Sunday, December 21, 2008

Amanda's Favorite Christmas Movies

By no means an exhaustive or all-inclusive list... but here are some of my faves:

This movie never gets old! You've got an impossibly cute kid, hilarious bumbling criminals, great music, etc. etc. etc. It has heartwarming themes of the true meaning of Christmas...yet it's also pretty damn funny. But I think what makes this one of my favorites is the fact that it's FUN. There's imagination. Wish fulfillment. Details. Minor characters with fun quirks - the polka dudes, the tarantula, the pizza guy who knocks over the statue, the Santa with tic tacs. When you're brainstorming for your next pilot, or spec, or movie - don't forget to have some fun.

I absolutely love this book AND movie. I suppose it's not entirely a Christmas movie, but with the reindeer jumper and all the snow, it's enough for me. Whenever I am thinking about writing a romantic comedy, I always use BJD is always my model because it manages to be unpredictable, and predictability is why I'm often underwhelmed by the romcoms I watch and read. It always seems that you're on page 10, you've met your guy and your girl, and you have to drudge through another 90 pages before they just hook up already. But BJD uses the love triangle, and it works because over the course of the movie you realize that Daniel (Hugh Grant) is an asshole who just seemed like a nice guy, and Mark (Colin Firth) is a nice guy who just seemed like an asshole. And there are so many great little details that complicate things; one of my favorite scenes is the one where they're all in boats on the lake, and Mark jealously watches as Daniel and Bridget let loose and have fun. Mark is stuffy. Daniel and Bridget are more like kindred spirits. Similarly, at the book party, Daniel and Bridget both ask people where the toilets are instead of making intelligent conversation. But Bridget wants more, and the unreliable Daniel will never be able to provide it. Anyway, I love this movie for a zillion reasons...Christmas, attractive Englishmen, the prospect of being eaten by wild dogs... and the fact that it's Bridget's movie, her journey to realizing it's perfectly okay to be her bumbling self.

I think the most impressive thing about this movie is that it pulls of the whole "intersecting lives" structure. I've had to read a bunch of them, and they rarely work...but in LOVE ACTUALLY, each of the many characters have some depth to them, and the stories never become too simple or too complicated. It also offers a lot of different perspectives on love, and manages to be feel-good without everyone living happily-ever-after. And again, it's FUN: the kid in the giant green costume for the Christmas play, Hugh's flamboyant dance down the stairs, Bill Mack the dirty old pop star, the sandwich delivery guy who flies to Wisconsin in search of American ass.

Bookmark and Share


Greg M said...

Home Alone? No, Amanda! You have clearly been abducted and replaced by an evil twin! Home Alone? Even at the age of 12, I avoided that movie, sensing some great evil emanating from it, the way Frodo & Sam sensed a great evil emanating from Mordor. In my teen years, I saw it for free, because my sister rented it, and I shuddered. Repulsively sentimental, manufactured and dishonest. It commits the great sin of movies, in my view: it's hypocritical. It is crassly commercial while pretending to criticize crass commercialism.

I actually haven't seen your other two faves, but I approve of both of them, Bridget Jones for the unconventionalness of the pick, and Love Actually because of Bill Nighy & Laura Linney. My two faves: "The Nightmare Before Christmas" and the BBC animated half-hour film "The Snowman," which is to my mind the most perfect Christmas movie ever made.

Sorry to come on so strong about Home Alone--then again, everything's material (cue: Amanda picking up her Oscar five years from now for Best Original Screenplay, which includes a now-famous rant from her arch-villain about how much he hates dogs, little kids, mom, apple pie, and Home Alone.)

Monsterbeard said...

I can't get behind BJD because I never liked either of the guys. Hugh Grant was the asshole, but Colin Firth wasn't worth choosing just because he wasn't an asshole. I felt like there was never any appeal for her to be with him.

Love Actually- I absolutely love the Portuguese woman story. So perfect. So, it's not a bias against Colin Firth. My only real gripe with that movie is when Liam Neison's character talks about meeting Claudia Schiffer and then does, but she's not playing herself, she's playing someone else. Why wasn't she just Claudia Schiffer. It's such a weird issue, I know.

My picks? The Family Stone is so well played and every character feels whole and developed. Mostly though, it just feels like where you'd want to be for Christmas.

And Die Hard. A cop saves his wife and her coworkers from terrorists on Christmas Eve. Heartwarming, funny, and Alan Rickman's first film, which he excels in as one of the best bad guys in movie history.

Amanda said...

omg, I haaaaated THE FAMILY STONE, haha. just not enjoyable, and I hate how they glossed over the cancer so quickly.

Ryan said...

Wait a second, wait a second.

How is 'A Christmas Story' NOT on this list?

Monsterbeard said...

Glossed over???? It's called subtlety! You don't insult Diane Keaton in front of me, I'm sorry.

Reasons for loving The Family Stone that you might have missed:
1. Diane Keaton (see above)
2. Rachel McAdams is delightfully sinister. You can't help but loving her despite her cruelty.
3. Craig T. Nelson! I never watched Coach, but the man is a tough cookie with a warm inside.
4. The dinner table conversation, about being gay. It feels perfectly real and awkward and frustrating.
5. Luke Wilson is a pothead I could totally fall in love with.

So, now try again and form a new opinion based on my opinion. It will help ENORMOUSLY both now and in the future.

Monsterbeard said...

Oh, and Ryan, the reason A Christmas Story isn't on the list is because its stupid and TBS makes it even worse by playing it for a whole day every year.

I've tried seeing that movie about 10 times and every time I get tired of it and turn it off.

APM said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
APM said...

No Ernest Saves Christmas? How DARE you all!

Ryan said...

My, the hostility! I'm sorry the endearing coming-of-age tale of a boy and his most cherished holiday gift aggravates you so.

Sofluid said...

I think everyone is missing a crucial factor here in the decision making. Yes, we are screenwriters and we look at films critically, but surely our all-time favourite Xmas movies would come from the child within us, not just the critic of today?

In that sense, my all-time favourite Xmas movies are Home Alone (the song "Carol of The Bell" sends shivers down my spine! Another favourite is "Santa Clause The Movie". Dudley more is great!

These were the films I loved to watch each Christmas as a child. They'll forever encompass the Christmas spirit for me and I'll enjoy watching them for years to come :)

Merry Christmas, everyone!

Jane said...

I love watching "The Sound of Music" at Christmas. Even though it's not a Christmas movie, it's the movie our family watched every year.

And though it's not a movie, I can't have Christmas without watching "How the Grinch Stole Christmas" (animated version, no thank you, Jim Carrey).

Finally, totally with you on Bridget. Maybe this year I'll finally buy it in the Christmas sales.

Hollie Nell said...

Can I just say that Love Actually is literally one of my all time favorite holiday movies! It's so romantic and funny and heartbreaking too. I think my favorite scene is when Laura Linney brings hom the hottie Brazilian but still chooses family over him. I'll probably be watching it in a matter of days.

Monsterbeard said...

Ryan- You're right, I am overly hostile toward A Christmas Story. And I have no right to be. Maybe it's because I was denied a BB gun in my youth.

I can't get through it, and that's my fault, but I hope you enjoy it all the same. Merry Christmas indeed!

Andrea Janes said...

I'll see Jane with the Grinch and SoM, and raise her a Scrooged.

Katie said...

although your comments seem quite thought out, FAMILY STONE obviously sucks. I have to agree with amanda