In the first of two Christmas themed articles, HeadStuff’s talented writers discuss the movies they must watch every festive season.
‘A Christmassy Ted’ – Father Ted – Stephen Porzio
“It’s Ireland’s biggest lingerie section, I understand”, “Fr. Peewee Stairmaster”, “Maybe I like the misery”, “Ruud Gullit sitting on a fence” – these are just some of the endlessly gas quotes from probably the most enjoyable and utterly deranged sitcom Christmas special ever.
While searching for a Christmas gift for their loyal housekeeper and tea-maker Ms. *cough* Doyle, Fr. Ted and his ‘strange idiot boy’ sidekick Fr. Dougal become trapped in Ireland’s largest lingerie section. It just so happens a whole other gang of priests are in the same situation. Taking control with the skill of an army sergeant, Ted guides them to escape undetected. Thus, the Vatican reward him with best priest award ‘The Golden Cleric’. However, this attracts the attention of the mysterious, sinister Fr. Todd Unctious (a phenomenal Gerard McSorley playing the material 100 per cent straight).
Everything about the episode is delightfully absurd with my personal favourite moments including the Ballykissangel-themed opening dream, the war movie parody of the mall sequence, Priest Chatback of course and Todd asking Ted if he still has a hairy arse. Thinking about whether Father Ted is actually a lovable depiction of priests or a critique literally keeps me up at night. That said, it’s indisputable: the series is a joke machine and ‘A Christmassy Ted’ is it at it’s best.
Arthur Christmas – Daniel Troy
Arthur Christmas may be less than a decade old, but it’s young age shouldn’t compromise the fact that it is a Christmas classic. Starring James McAvoy, Hugh Laurie and Jim Broadbent, the animation follows Santa’s son Arthur and his hapless, old fashioned grandfather in a frantic chase to deliver a present to a child who’s been missed in Santa’s delivery.
The film’s Christmas spirit blends tradition and modernity. It’s genius doesn’t come from presenting a definitive side of the two as correct. They are both good and bad in their own ways but compromise is important. There’s no villain in the film, just familial conflict getting in the way of the magic of Christmas (and who has not been there in real life).
Arthur Christmas is Christmas wholesomeness without cringe. It’s a genuinely lovely film that will surely win over even the stingiest Scrooge.
Elf – Scout Mitchell
Ever wondered what it would be like to travel from the North Pole to the Big Apple by foot? Say no more. Join Buddy the Elf (Will Ferrell) as he makes the arduous journey through the “seven levels of the Candy Cane forest, past the sea of swirly-twirly gum drops” and through the Lincoln Tunnel.
Fifteen years after its release, Elf is still an absolute gem. The film tells the story of Buddy an adopted “elf” with a newly developed identity crisis: he’s actually human! Although he has towered over his fellow elves since infancy the penny just never dropped. Determined to find his biological father, he heads off to New York to track down Walter Hobbs (James Caan), a grumpy workaholic who until this point in his life was blissfully unaware of Buddy’s existence.
Throughout the film we watch Buddy attempt to navigate the world as a New Yorker. It’s culture shock on a whole other level. Highlights include Buddy’s diabetes inducing diet (maple syrup spaghetti anyone?), his attempts at dating a coworker (Zooey Deschanel), exposing a fake mall Santa and of course his effortless ability to spread Christmas cheer. If this film doesn’t make your cut, then you’re a cotton headed ninny muggins.
The Holiday – Scout Mitchell
Ah, the Christmas rom-com. The perfect reminder of what’s most important during this festive time of year: nabbing yourself a boyfriend. If you like watching beautiful, funny people uttering cringeworthy dialogue and frequently crying — you are in for a treat!
When our story starts two women—Iris (Kate Winslet) in London and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) in Los Angeles—have just come out of relationships. Needing a change of scene, they agree to do a house swap for the holiday season. While their lifestyles are worlds apart—Amanda works in the film business and owns a mouth dropping condo while Iris, a journalist resides in a tiny, quaint, quintessentially British home—their situations are not. Could Amanda’s witty best friend Miles (Jack Black) be a great fit for the bashful Iris? Is Iris’ devastatingly handsome brother, Graham (Jude Law) the perfect rebound for workaholic Amanda? You probably know the answer.
You’ll love to look at Law and Diaz and laugh at Winslet and Black, the latter pair who’s banter is enthralling. Highlights of the film include Diaz’s drunken solo dance party to The Killers ‘Mr. Brightside’. Lowlights are Law, an emotional character being emotional all too often in a manner that goes over the limit for endearing. Fans of the equally mushy Love Actually will surely enjoy this. Snuggle up and prepare to gush.
Jingle All the Way – Rob Ó Conchúir
As a wide-eyed eight year old I hadn’t seen any of Arnold Schwarzenegger’s actual action films (unless you count Batman & Robin) and he seemed more identifiable to me as the cuddly, wide-eyed dork from family hits such as Twins, Kindergarten Cop and this unforgettable gem.
Jingle is by no means a good film – its message of always living up to your promises (in this case by hunting down an elusive action figure which is sold out everywhere) is almost toxic in its embrace of commercialism (although to be fair, the kid does choose his Dad over the toy at the end). Plus, with the exception of the late, great Phil Hartman the comic beats fall totally flat every time.
What makes the film an unmissable Christmas classic is how it crosses the threshold into so-bad-it’s-good. Arnie’s constant shocked expressions are golden, as are the enthusiastic ramblings of the tragically precocious Jake Lloyd (poor kid never had a chance) and the overzealousness of the villainous Sinbad (who in one scene has a Falling Down-esque breakdown amidst a crowd of shoppers).
The highlight of the film is when it goes completely batshit. Arnie literally becomes the hero his son looks up to, complete with 1990s rubber superhero armour and a working jetpack (?!) leading to an honest to God superhero showdown between Turbo Man and Dementor. Eet’s chairbo taim.
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – Daniel Troy
The third entry in the National Lampoon’s Vacation series, though it can be enjoyed independently, the film is widely considered the franchise’s best.
Chevy Chase plays lovable jerk and loving family man Clark Griswold, attempting to give his family the perfect Christmas. However, of course family antics, hijinks and mishaps get in the way leading to one of the best seasonal comedies there is.
Christmas Vacation strikes the perfect combo of comedy and heart. It provides plenty of laughs big and small while still presenting little details of the holiday we can all relate to. Scenes like Cousin Eddie’s arrival and Clark’s hilarious rant about his boss are warmly contrasted with scenes of Clark watching home movies in the attic and basking in the glory of his lit up house.
Christmas Vacation captures the feeling and spirit of Christmas like no other comedy and still brings the laughs every single year.
Trading Places – Paddy O’Leary
There are few more quintessential festive moments of cinema than a drunken Dan Aykroyd dressed up in a filthy Santa outfit, munching on an entire cooked salmon, riding the subway.
On the lead up to Christmas a “scientific experiment”, by billionaire Duke brothers, results in the dismantling of one man’s life (Aykroyd) and literal enriching of another (Eddie Murphy). As we witness the simultaneous rise and fall of our two protagonists over the Christmas period we are gifted to great moments from two stalwarts of 80’s comedy. The privilege is cringeful, the racism apparent and the token nudity totally Eighties.
Trading Places does two things incredibly well; it makes you hate rich white men and it makes you appreciate Jamie Lee Curtis more than ever before.