The top 5 Christmas films

The Runner’s guide.

Rosaura Ojeda / The Runner

Rosaura Ojeda / The Runner

By Awais Mushtaq
[contributor]

It’s a Wonderful Life

“Remember George: no man is a failure who has friends.”
You certainly can’t keep those Baileys down. It’s a Wonderful Life is one of those films that deserves multiple viewings, because every time you see it, new interpretations always seem to surface. Its magic is in the fact that it’s not necessarily a film about Christmas, but rather an alternative to it which deals more often with difficult subject matter about the “American dream” when the only recourse to financial collapse is in the form of suicide. But that isn’t to say there aren’t lighter aspects to this film that make it a true classic. Even though it’s forever a film trapped inside the black and white landscape of the mid-twentieth century, it remains a moving, timeless tale about altruism and compassion in an age bent on big business and the despairing alienation that follows it. It has its wings, that’s for sure.

Miracle on 34th Street

“Oh, Christmas isn’t just a day, it’s a frame of mind . . . and that’s what’s been changing. That’s why I’m glad I’m here, maybe I can do something about it.”
The trial of the century, where not only Father Christmas himself is at the centre, but also everything he stands for. Something of a mixture between courtroom drama and family comedy, Miracle on 34th Street is a film which set the template for other specific Christmas-themed movies about the sentimental and the unexplainable. The movies begins with a realistic parental worldview and discusses its effects not just on the very impressionable, children, but also on the ability to overlook a soul unfulfilling belief system in the physical for a more intangible one. The film’s messages are noble, while also providing a conflicting social commentary of the times. With a nuanced examination of three-dimensional characters in a place of two-dimensional thinking, this film captures the spirit of Christmas without the hokum that is tapered by it.

Love Actually

“If you look for it, I’ve got a sneaky feeling you’ll find that love actually is all around.”
A film which after many years has developed a devoted Christmas cult following, Love Actually is one of those guilty pleasures that no one admits to enjoying, and yet at least to some degree everyone does. Characteristic of a Richard Curtis film, with its brand of English situational comedy, dry wit and subversive rom-com drama elements, the film carries with it a cast of characters that at times show deep complexity as they try their hand at finding “true” love, while others merely try to survive it during that time of year when everything that can go wrong most likely does. A clever title reaffirms the notions of what love in all its forms means for so many people: either romantic, familial, friendly, or in the case of wrinkled and alone Billy Mack, the love of the fans. the film contains a well balanced dose of 12 different stories, some connected and others not, achieving an overarching narrative with an ensemble cast about the pursuit of love as valuable gift to both yourself and to others.

Brazil

“Of course you want something, you must have hopes, wishes, dreams! No nothing, not even dreams!”
During this time of year, when it’s all about miracles and the fulfillment of dreams stored up but not yet realized, Brazil should be one of those stocking stuffers which everyone should receive. I know what you’re thinking: yes it’s a seditious alternative to the Christmas theme with its challenging and often disturbing ideas about the direction of “civilized” society, where an elitism is favoured over the egalitarian, chaotic terrorist attacks are routine and the value of human life measured in a mountain of paperwork, not to mention the cold and clinical aspects about governments as corporations led with a monotonous bureaucratic philosophy (currently not too far off). But hold on, because there’s also a lot of comedy, even in the most freighting of moments. Within the light and dark aspects, your humanity might be tested and laughter will ensue at the amazing absurdity of it all, but you’ll definitely come out humming along to its gloomy yet whimsical theme: pum pum pum, pum pum, pum pum pum. (Not to worry, there are facets of Christmas sprinkled throughout).

Arthur Christmas

“Okay, let’s show them people, operation Santa Claus is coming to town!”
Trying to live up to a successful father’s legacy is hard for anyone who has tried, but when that person is old Saint Nick himself, things, as you might say, get quite interesting. Arthur Christmas is a unique film for children but equally so for adults. It does a lot to subvert the expectations that come with trying to tell a realistic story about the man with the white beard and a belly like a bowlful of jelly, while still keeping the magic of myth alive. A narrative where Santa Claus is more of a figurehead is what makes this film so compelling. Keeping the spirit of Christmas burning is done by the work, support and unrestrained enthusiasm of those other than Kris Kringle. It’s not about the presents and the consumerism that is attached to them, but rather those feelings and experiences of inclusion towards something magical and miraculous, knowing that your existence matters, if only to someone who works in the mail department responding to letters with a glitter marker. After all, material gifts are only symbolic of love, not the real thing. It’s soon to be Christmas classic, which should be watched with an open mind but more importantly, an open heart.

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