It’s Christmas, as said by Slade. And we all know it just isn’t Christmas until you see Hans Gruber fall out of a window, Shane Black’s latest action film and Steve Martin drop the F-bomb so many times that a family expecting it to be in a similar vein to ‘Home Alone’ (given that both are written by John Hughes and feature John Candy, I may have gone on a tangent).
But do you notice a trend, all of those movies are from the 20th Century, what if you wanted something to represent modern cinema on behalf of the Christmas spirit? Well you are asking way too many unnecessary questions (really, do you have the attention span of a three year old to reject everything from the past). Who exactly I am addressing at this point I don’t know, but what I do know are five Christmas films from the 21st Century that are actually, quite good, in fact some of them are excellent. Such as;
5: Joyuex Noel
Better known as the feature length version of that Sainsbury’s advert from last year. In all seriousness though, tis German film does recreate that famous truce of 1914 and the film finds its strength from briefly capturing the bloodshed and violence of war in its first act, only to draw them into sharp contrast by the almost surreal event that is the famous football game between British and German troops. Not only that but the movie even captures some unknown and unfortunate consequences such as officers and priests that were punished for supporting and participating in the event. While it lacks the brutal punch of other war films it has an endearing message of peace and forgiveness that many forget at this time of year (look at that, I went all Charlie Brown on you).
4: Arthur Christmas
Some of you may not think much of this Aardman Animation before viewing it but that really is a tragedy as this is one of the funniest recent Christmas films as well as the only one to capture the spirit of Christmas in a completely impartial view. The son of Father Christmas (Arthur, played by James McAvoy) must race to return a present to a child that was missed, with the help of his grandfather and former Santa (Bill Nigh). But his older brother (Hugh Laurie) wiching to prove himself to their father (Jim Broadbent) also wants to deliver the present, as the current Santa also tries to do so to prove he still has what it takes to continue the job. As well as its thick and fast comedy the film also offers three generations’ perspectives on Christmas, tradition, efficiency and spectacle. It’s also immensely commendable for viewing the entire thing in a non-biased way, not branding anyone as a villain, just people with differing perspectives. The result is a film with a timeless message that is superbly crafted and immensely entertaining.
3: Tokyo Godfathers
Another animated movie that hardly anyone has heard of, but it is similarly underappreciated as ‘Tokyo Godfathers’ is fantastically innovative and intelligent. This story centres around three homeless people, who on Christmas Eve find a lost infant and set out to return it to its family. Japanese animation is of course renowned for often transcending the genre of children’s films and this one is no different, being both harrowing and heartfelt when it needs to be. To combine a sense of melodrama with hard boiled action so well, with the addition of some heavy themes is a remarkable achievement but by also including a truly unique animation style that somehow creates a sense of realism and surrealism simultaneously is frankly astounding. In short ‘Tokyo Godfathers’ is essentially a huge mashup of multiple juxtapositions, as we experience misery and merriment all at the same time.
Once again this film goes under a more common name, as ‘Tangerine’ is also widely known as ‘the movie that was filmed on an i-Phone’. Though that is true and represents a huge achievement in the indie film business there is still a lot more to this film than just its production. The film follows a duo of transgender prostitutes on Christmas Eve and although that sounds as cheerful as that long conversation with the uncle you haven’t seen in a year on Christmas Day, the comedy shines through in every scene, even in the most tragic ones. It explore themes that even the most outlandish filmmakers would be weary of touching, and characters that are compelling, first and foremost. While it sometimes verges on the tragic, don’t be mistaken by this films power to uplift through friendship and unity, even in the darkest of times.
1: Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang
If you know how much I love Neo-Noir, this should not come as a surprise. Shane Back has now crafted a reputation for buddy comedies at Christmas (even ‘Iron Man 3’ was a buddy movie disguised as a Marvel movie) and from the looks of his upcoming ‘The Nice Guys’ he is not stopping any time soon. One that stands out from the 21st Century is ‘Kiss Kiss, Bang Bang’. Following Robert Downey Jr and Val Kilmer as a method actor and amateur detective who find themselves embroiled in a plot of murder in movies, Black’s film manages to be a satire and homage to both the noir and buddy genres simultaneously with plenty of quick quitted, tongue in cheek humour that blends together so seamlessly, as comedy is derived from both situation and character. The benefit of it being set at Christmas is…. I honestly don’t know. Black has said that he thinks it helps bring a sense of unity to his characters and audience, I just think it makes for some rather amazing holiday viewing.