December 10, 2020

Holiday Films: The Joyful, Triumphant, and the Stink-Stank-Stunks

Released 42 years after the original Christmas special, "The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special" brings out your inner child: you’d be right to have a good feeling about this.

Courtesy of Lucasfilm

The best way to spread Christmas cheer may be singing aloud for all to hear, but this time around, maybe switch on over to the second-best way: staying healthy while binge-watching movies with your wholesome little pod. We hope that this holiday movie list, which we made and checked (twice!), gives our readers some ideas for their next Discord stream and which Hollywood disasters to strictly avoid. The Arts Editors wish everyone happy and safe holidays!  

The Nice List 

  1. The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special (2020): A fine addition to our holiday collection, the new LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special is all at once charming, chaotic, and nostalgic. Perhaps not the typical Christmas special, the Jedi Rey and friends celebrate the Wookie holiday Life Day in a wholesome spin-off of the sequel trilogy. Rey and droid BB-8 later time travel to learn Force lessons from past Jedi master-and-apprentice relationships. In classic LEGO production style, the special pokes fun at the Star Wars canon, from Episode III Anakin’s angsty behavior to Episode IV Luke’s naivete to Kylo Ren’s “Ben Swolo” meme. Released 42 years after the original Christmas special, The LEGO Star Wars Holiday Special brings out your inner child: you’d be right to have a good feeling about this.  

  2. Dash & Lily (2020): Let me preface this review by saying I thoroughly enjoyed watching Dash & Lily. The eight-episode miniseries was a three-hour binge on Netflix that I have no regrets about, and stands as a syrupy, hilarious testament to the commercialized spirit of Christmas. That said, Dash & Lily stars bargain bin Timothée “trying-to-be-deep-but-kinda-just-a-jerk” Chalamet (Austin Abrams) and discount Lara “not-like-other-girls-but-also-a-hopeless-romantic” Jean (Midori Francis) as two teenagers better than everyone else because they read. The two exchange pretentious, holier-than-thou references and cheesy dares as they embark on a mind-bogglingly unrealistic New York City romance reliant entirely on communication in a red notebook. It’s a rom-com reliant on the trappings of early 2010s YA fiction featuring a Jonas Brothers cameo. And it’s the perfect Christmas movie.   

  3. How the Grinch Stole Christmas! (1966 TV special): Ah, the classic 26-minute TV special every teacher used to play on the last day before winter break because they wanted to teach as much as us students wanted to learn. Great music, solid animation, superb voice-acting (thanks Boris Karloff) and wholesome enough that you forget how much you relate to the antisocial Grinch who lives in a cave and hates other people.  

  4. Batman Returns (1992): When the Most Wonderful Time of the Year arrives in the Most Emo City in Superhero Comic Existence, you get a fantastic juxtaposition of holiday festivity and villains’ futile attempts to find happiness. Tim Burton already has a knack for subverting the holiday genre: might as well add a film in which the villains explode out of a Christmas gift to attack the city hall. (Also, can’t forget the legendary “Kiss from a Rose” in the soundtrack!) 

  5. The Sound of Music (1965): I’m still not 100% sure why this is considered a Christmas movie, but my family watches it every December 25 so now I’m convinced it has to be one. Julie Andrews and Christopher Plummer are great, and the soundtrack is cheery and ridiculously uplifting for a movie that’s supposed to take place on the eve of WWII. Which I suppose is a good analogy for how Christmas music sounds in 2020. 

  6. Love Actually (2003): I’m putting this here largely because this is my roommate’s favorite Christmas movie. Yet the prescience of some of the (many) storylines in this Christmas classic cut too close to home. A philandering head of state? Juliet-Peter-Mark as a throuple concept? Britain standing up to America? Okay maybe I’m forcing it a little. If nothing else, watch this to see the crème de la crème of British acting, from Snape to Watson to Mr. Bean to Elizabeth Swann. A personal highlight of mine is prepubescent Thomas Brodie-Sangster before he swashes around with a cutlass and that earthworm mustache (god forbid!). What problematic storyline?   

  7. Elf (2003): A wholesome clash of fantastical childlike imagination against the constraints of a crushing, unenlightened corporate world? A cute story about family reconciliation after separation, awkward first romance, and random singing in the bustling New York environment? The most disgusting spaghetti you’ve ever seen Will Ferrell eat? This movie’s got it all. If you think this one should sit out for this holiday season, get off your throne of lies. 

The Naughty List 

  1. The Polar Express (2004): Sorry, Polar Express fans. I just can’t get past those glazed, lifeless eyes. The motion capture technology was impressive, but jarringly so in that it felt like watching possessed mannequins riding a train through a bitterly cold winter. Perhaps the most unsettling aspects of this movie were the namelessness of the characters—Hero Boy, Hero Girl, Lonely Boy, Know-It-All—and the idea of Christmas as materialistic mass production brought forth by the identical, “mob-mentality” geared elves and the robotic Polar Express waiters. Also, Santa Claus was sparkling so much he appeared radioactive. I will give credit to the hot chocolate (save those waiters), though: it looked delicious.  

  2. The Princess Switch (2018): If you want to know the plot of this movie, watch Barbie as The Princess and The Pauper. If you want to watch Vanessa Hudgens try her best to save a flat character and failing script, watch Gabriella Montez sing sad breakup songs three movies in a row in the High School Musical franchise. If the concept of having one actor play two characters seems zany and interesting and unique, watch The Parent Trap. There is literally no reason and no justification for this movie to exist. But it’s Christmas, you might say, and you would be wrong because The Princess Switch is not truly a Christmas movie, it is a marketing movie that relies on one sad gimmick young Lindsey Lohan was better at anyway.  

  3. The Princess Switch: Switched Again (2020): Someone actually thought it would be a good idea to make another one of these? 

  4. Every version of How the Grinch Stole Christmas that is not the 1966 TV special: Why are you watching these when you could be watching the 1966 TV special?  

  5. The Nightmare before Christmas (1993): Great movie, wrong season. Come back again in October.  

  6. Home Alone 3 (1997) & Beyond: No Culkin. No Chris Columbus. No John Williams. No Pesci. Where’s the trash can? Down the hall and to the left. 

  7. Love the Coopers (2015): Note to self: stop watching movies just because Amanda Seyfried and Timothée Chalamet are featured in the cast list. 

  8. Last Christmas (2019): If it’s not Wham!, I don’t want it.  

  9. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964): I don’t know what’s going on here and I’m too scared to find out. 

  10. The Year Without a Santa Claus (1974): I’m still not entirely sure which list this one belongs on. Fun fact: just because something is animated like Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (1964) doesn’t mean it’ll be as upbeat and feel-good.