The 12 films of Christmas, Part One:The Build Up

Posted on December 2, 2009. Filed under: Ramblings | Tags: , , , , , , , , , , , , , |

Once again, I’m being entirely unoriginal here, but what kind of blogger would I be if I didn’t have some kind of Christmas post on here?  Everyone has their Christmas traditions, and among mine are a certain set of films which absolutely must be watched before the big day.  Some start to get you in the mood in the early days of December, others are the full on Tinsel and Fairy lights, perfect for Christmas Eve.  Over the next few weeks I’ll be posting my festive favourites, split into three groups depending on when I reckon is the best time to watch them, starting with the ones which aren’t necessarily all about Christmas, but have just enough jingle bells to remind you it’s getting close.

So it’s December. The shops have been playing carols since August but you’re still not quite there with the Christmas spirit yet.  Now is the time for the build up films, the ones that don’t hit you over the head with festive cheer, but start to remind you why it’s “the most wonderful time of the year.”

To start you off: The Nightmare Before Christmas.

I’m never quite sure when to watch this film.  Too Christmassy to watch at Halloween, a bit too cynical to watch at Christmas.  In the end I’ve decided it fits nicely into the end of November and beginning of December; the perfect film to remind you that the season has begun.

I’ve written about Nightmare before, but for those of you who don’t know it’s a cult classic Burton film telling the story of Jack Skellington the King of Halloween town.  By accident he stumbles into Christmasland, where “absolutely no one’s dead” leading him to try and recreate the magic back home.  Poor Jack gets it a bit wrong though, and it’s up to Frankenstein monster Sally to show him what Christmas is all about.

The film is full of Christmas spirit, but it’s also full of goblins and ghouls meaning it’s not the DVD you’ll be reaching for on Christmas Eve.  Whatever the time of year however, it’s a brilliant movie, so if you haven’t seen it yet and are still waiting to be caught up in the yuletide fun, this is definitely the place to start.

Die Hard (no, really)

You might be wondering what I’m getting at here, but I refer you to the quote: “Now I have a machine gun. Ho Ho Ho.”  Any excuse to watch this wicked film is fine by me, and in my book a film which takes place on Christmas Eve is a Christmas film.  OK, so it might not exactly be brimming with the joys of the season, but at its heart it’s a film about a guy trying to get home to see his kids for Christmas.  There’s just the issue of a few German terrorists to get past first.  Not you’re typical seasonal fun granted, but a brilliant film in it’s own right with just enough holiday spirit to get you on your way.

Back to Burton for: Edward Scissorhands

It’s the story of where snow comes from. What could be more Christmassy than that?  The film documents roughly a year of Edward’s life, but the final showdown takes place at Christmas and it’s those scenes which stick in most people’s memories.  Another sensational film, this tells the tale of Edward; a boy made by an inventor who died before he could finish, leaving Edward alone in an empty mansion with metal shards instead of hands.  Both hilarious and tragic, Edward is a beautiful film with an equally gorgeous soundtrack that will start to stir up warm fuzzy feelings you never knew were there.

And finally, the first of the real Christmas films: Love Actually

Stop rolling your eyes like that.

For some reason a lot of people don’t like this film, but as far as I’m, concerned Richard Curtis can do no wrong, especially when you’re looking for some festive schmaltz.  This film was made for the build up, as that’s exactly what it’s about! Travelling from mid November to Christmas Eve, it juxtaposes the stories of a great ensemble cast, whose lives all intertwine as they try and make it to the big day.  Stand out performances include Emma Thompson’s perfectly British “Joni Mitchell” moment and, of course, Bill Nighy singing “Christmas is all around.”

If you’re looking for your Christmas spirit, look no further than Love Actually.  It’s got everything you need to get you in the mood, with enough different types of character to be sure of having someone there you identify with.  Of the four on this page, it’s the one film you can be absolutely certain I will watch before Christmas. It just has to be that way.

(Yes, it's blurry. But I couldn't resist a screenshot of that moment.)

Hope that starts to get you in the mood. Part two coming soon.

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10 Responses to “The 12 films of Christmas, Part One:The Build Up”

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What, no “Bad Santa”? That is my go-to holiday film. I recommend it to everyone, and inevitably when my friends return it they give me weird looks.

I figure any movie that has a wasted Billy Bob Thornton beating the tar out of some department-store reindeer can’t be all bad.

Seriously? The trailer was enough to put me off for life!

I saw Bill Nighy the other day on the street. At least I think it was him. Good to have you back Katie.
good call on Nightmare – the perfect November/December movie

Very respectable list. The Tim Burton love reminds me I should soon put in Batman Returns. There’s something beguiling about gothic Christmas renderings.

If you like your dark comedies black hole deep, Bad Santa is a blast.

Just rewatched the LotR trilogy with the family this past weekend as we always try to this time of year. And anyway, it now hits me: that’s the inspiration behind your blog’s title! (Or am I stupidly off the mark?)

Looking forward to part two. 🙂

….aaaand now I see it on your About page. Ha. Guess that answers that.

Ross: Now I’m jealous.

David: Tim Burton has this brilliant way of telling sweet stories through a gothic screen, always keeps you on your toes.
ha ha well done for catching up on the blog title. I would happily watch LOTR all year round but the fact that the movies all came out in December gets me thinking about them at this time of year.

Part two will be coming at the beginning of the school Christmas holidays. So somewhere in the late teens of December.

I Love, Love Actually – especially Bill Nighy!!!! I am going to watch it very soon 🙂

A couple more Christmas movies from leftfield for you: Trading Places and Eyes Wide Shut.

I have seen neither, but I’ll take your word for it.

Nice selection of Xmas films – I definitely recommend Eyes Wide Shut and Trading Places. You’re right about Tim Burton, he’s a brilliant visual storyteller. Love Actually is good in parts but not my cup of tea – although I have to watch it every year when my girlfriend puts it on! Take a look at our alternative Xmas movies top 10 for more recommendations:

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