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The Lucky 13: Favorite [Unconventional] Christmas/Holiday Films

December 3, 2011

When the Holidays roll around, you know you’re always hogging the TV to watch some kind of Christmas movie or special. For me, instead of the traditional Holiday films like “A Christmas Story”, “The Grinch”, or “It’s A Wonderful Life”, I’m partial to the unconventional, the unorthodox holiday fares. This is my Lucky 13 favorite Unconventional Christmas/Holiday Films.


ERNEST SAVES CHRISTMAS – Call it childhood nostalgia, but I love me a good old fashion Ernest movie. Before Ernest scared us stupid, he had to save Christmas. Returning Santa’s magical bag, lost in the city of Orlando, Ernest gets caught up, as usual, more than he bargains for. Santa must find a new Santa to fill the shoes & red suit, before Christmas day. While the movie takes traditional Santa-lore routes, in the end it’s an Ernest vehicle, and you can expect him to plunder into his crazy antics; costumed disguises for one.


BATMAN RETURNS – Batman? Christmas? Is that possible to be in the same sentence? Apparently so, Tim Burton directs the second installment in the Batman series, bringing us a darker gloomier Batman/Bruce Wayne. It’s odd to see how the movies darkness juxtaposes over the Christmas setting. For some, it doesn’t mash quite well, but others will enjoy the strange combination Burton has fashioned here. I find that this movies ages well with time. It’s amazing art direction stands out as the best out of all the Batman movies. Plus you cannot go wrong with Danny DeVito as Penguin.


THE ICE HARVEST – Harold Ramis is a great comedy director & writer. Entering into the genre of crime-comedy with “Analyze This” turned out to be quite the crowd pleaser. Later on he came out with the 2005 dark crime-comedy “The Ice Harvest”. It was a mixed bag for critics & viewers alike. After seeing the movie in theaters, I myself was a little puzzled by the movies intentions. Over time I find myself watching this movie every December, and no matter how cruel & heartless it may get, it still has that tiny touch of Ramis’ humor. John Cusack gives a great snarky performance, and Oliver Platt is a riot in his supporting role.


THE NIGHTMARE BEFORE CHRISTMAS – Perhaps this is considered a traditional holiday film, but much to your dismay, many viewers like to watch this movie during Halloween, I’m partial to watching this the week before Christmas.  Two holidays (Christmas & Halloween) are mashed into one holiday movie that you can watch on either holiday, how many movies do you know of that can do that? Jack Skellington, the King of Halloween, wants to run Christmas…his way. With the help of Henry Selicks sleek direction in stop motion animation, and memorable music by Danny Elfman, this is one of those rare treats where mature humor and childlike wonder work hand in hand.


BAD SANTA – The Coen Brothers, masters of dark/sly humor producer this dark/sly holiday mizner film, bringing us one of the best and more memorable performances by Billy Bob Thornton. As Thornton plays a grinchy mall Santa, along with his black midget sidekick, as an elf, the two crooks rob a mall they work every year blind. Soon enough a fat young loser of a kid gets mixed up with the duo. It’s a movie not for the faint of heart, but the ugliness gives the movie it’s comedic charm.


PLANES, TRAINS, AND AUTOMOBILES – John Candy & Steve Martin, C’MON! How can you go wrong there? Before “Home Alone”, John Hughes wrote this holiday road comedy, about two average Joes who are polar opposites trying to make their way to Chicago in time for Thanksgiving. There are countless memorable scenes in this movie, thanks to the brilliant pairing of Martin & Candy. Hughes is never afraid to take his comedies into emotional turns around the third act. Maybe that’s not unconventional, but it’s certainly unconventional to have two grown men spooning in bed feeling up someone ‘pillows’.


THE MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL – Charles Dickens immortal Christmas classic has taken some odd turns in the adaptation route. If memory serves, the Smurfs did it, the Flintstones, and even Dr. Seuss. However Jim Henson’s Muppets did the best unconventional take on “A Christmas Carol”. All your favorite characters you’d imagine they’d play in the book turn out to play those characters. Except, you needed a human Scrooge. Sure, Sam the Eagle seems like the ideal choice, but you need a caliber actor leading these bunch of weirdos, and the casting of Michael Caine, as Ebenezer Scrooge, was a perfect one at best.


THE REF – Seems like when the holiday’s roll around couples will go at each other’s throats more so than usual. The holidays bring out the most stress than any other time of the year. In the Ted Demme dark comedy, Kevin Spacey & Judy Davis play that type of couple, but it takes the likes of cat burglar, played by Dennis Leary, to wedge between their antics. Like “The Ice Harvest” or “Bad Santa”, the movie may be too dark for some, but the movie is nonetheless boasts strong turns from its leads, as well as a sharply funny script by Richard LaGravenese & Marie Weiss.


GO – A drug deal, set over Christmas, goes terribly wrong, and the story shows different vantage points leading to an unlikely resolution. Doug Liman directs this high-octane crime caper, with witty characters, some who’re sharp as nails, and others utterly ridiculous. Katie Holmes, Sarah Polley, Scott Wolf, Jay Mohr, Robert Peters, Desmond Askew, and Timothy Olyphant all lead as a band of color character seen on Christmas lights, dangling from the crack houses of L.A.



TRADING PLACES – The most memorable image I can automatically remember when someone mentions this movie is a drunk Dan Aykroyd rampaging a Christmas party in a scummy Santa outfit, that and a topless Jamie Lee Curtis (c’mon). Eddie Murphy teaming with original SNL alum Dan Aykroyd is such a blessing for comedy lovers, and it couldn’t have been possible without the help of director John Landis. Murphy plays a homeless bum, Dan as a rich stock market type. After a vicious bet is made by two old rich brothers (Don Ameche & Ralph Bellamy) betting if they can make a bum into a successful type or not. Things get a little zany over the holidays, leading to a hilarious New Years Eve climax set on a train, which in some ways pays homage to “North by Northwest”.


NATIONAL LAMPOON’S CHRISTMAS VACATION – The Griswolds are staying home for Christmas! You would think that would save them any embarrassments, instead of going on another cross-country trip, but nope. Whether you’ll admit it or not, we all loath having ALL our families under one roof for the holidays, it just leads to chaos. John Hughes scripted“Christmas Vacation”, he’s no stranger for bringing out the foolishness the Holidays give us. Chevy Chase is still the best at what he does. I find myself watching this movie every Christmas eve. Squirrels attacking, turkeys deflating, sewage from ones camper being dumped into the neighborhood sewers, doesn’t that scream unconventional or what?


SCROOGED – Much to what I’ve said about “The Muppet Christmas Carol”, Dickens novel has been adapted so many times, but with “Scrooged” the movie is in it’s own ballpark. Bill Murray as the Scrooge-type TV executive is gold. The tree ghosts are the traditional Past, Present, and Future, but each is more unique than the next regarding how they’re presented to us. Carol Kane’s Ghost of Christmas Present is by far the most unforgettable. A darkly comic and surreal contemporization of Charles Dickens’s book, this movies cult status relies on Bill Murray as holiday vehicle.


DIE HARD – COME ON! You think I’d forget “Die Hard” on this list?!?! I save the best for last my babies! It’s the greatest action movie of all time. Many action movies of today’s generation try to copy the genius of this movie. And yes, it’s set on fuckin’ Christmas Eve! Without a doubt that qualifies it as a Christmas movie! The movie that proved to us all that some nobody from the 80’s TV series “Moonlighting”, would turn out to be one of the greatest action stars of all time. Yippe ky ya motha’ fucka’ & a Happy New Year!


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