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Six Christmas Films That Don't Suck

1000px-IceprincessIt's December, which means my Tumblr dashboard is flooding with Love, Actually gifs. And you know what Christmas film I hate? Love, Actually. I mean, I hate it in general. But I especially hate it as a Christmas movie. It's stupid, cheesy, sparkly, superficially sincere, manipulative, squishy and entirely lacking in explosions.

Blood, guts, and shit blowing up: that's what makes a good Christmas movie. How else will you learn to appreciate what you have?

With that in mind, then, Pornokitsch is proud to present a list of films you may have forgotten are, legitimately, Christmas films. And therefore well worth watching on Christmas day, after you've torn open all the presents and stuffed yourself with cheese and wine and mince pies and tofurkey or goose or ham or whatever. And, as a special bonus, these are Christmas films that non-Christmas celebrators can enjoy because, oh my god, not everyone fucking celebrates Christmas, for fuck's sake. 

So pour yourself a glass of mulled wine and settle in.

1. Batman Returns (1992). It's easy to forget that this movie takes place during the holidays, considering the fact that it features Michelle Pfeiffer at her peak hotness, in the best performance of her career. (No shit; her Catwoman is an extraordinary, complicated, powerful, shattering achievement). But, yes. Christmas plays a big role in Batman Returns. And I don't just mean the exploding ornaments or (spoiler!) dead Ice Princess. There's thematic resonance and stuff. Timeless seasonal message: Christmas is a really lovely time of year to have a psychotic break and unleash your inner chaotic-neutral hero/villain/spandex-clad weirdo, if you're planning on doing any of that. Make it a double feature: Ed Wood. Let's all just start crying right now.


2. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993). This, the family friendliest film on our list, is kind of a gimmie, although the debate rages whether it's really a Christmas film or a Halloween film. Let's just call it both. Nightmare is a sweet film about being true to oneself, and also a breathtaking example of stop-motion animation at its finest. It's no surprise that Tim Burton's films should show up on this list; he (like another writer/director we'll cover) sets many of his movies during Christmas, because Christmas is photogenic, and because it's a really good way to explore themes as diverse as generosity, identity and family. Timeless seasonal message: Follow your dreams, but don't trust a dude made of bugs. Make it a double feature: How the Grinch Stole Christmas, (1966), Chuck Jones' wonderful, sprightly adaptation of the Doctor Seuss classic. It's like 20 minutes long and you have no excuse not to park youself in front of it.


3. Die Hard (1988). What better time for an estranged couple to make up than during the holiday season? Bonus points if their reconcilliation includes terrorists, one-liners, multiple explosions, and Alan Rickman in a career-defining performance. "Ho Ho Ho, now I have a machine gun" is poetry, man. Poetry. Timeless seasonal message: Never trust a well-groomed man you find wandering aimlessly around the periphery of a hostage situation. Also, don't take off your shoes. Make it a double feature: Die Hard 2, obviously.


4. Lethal Weapon (1987). Our second Christmas-obsessed writer/director appears with Lethal Weapon, the work of Hollywood wunderkind Shane Black, who sold the script when he was 22 and has gone on to write, direct and produce a number of other noir-inflected action films. All set at Christmas. Also, he got killed by the alien in Predator, so there's that. Black likes to set his Christmas films in the snow-free wasteland of Los Angeles, which is as beautiful at Christmas as any city. And, as a one-time resident of the city in question, let me assure you that you do not miss the scarves, coats, hats, lingering colds and ridiculous heating bills that Christmas in, say, Chicago brings.Timeless seasonal message: Family is important, even if your definition of family must extend to include mulleted, trigger-happy cops. Make it a double feature: Lethal Weapon 2. I mean, really.


5. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005). Another Shane Black film, and one I keep telling you all to watch (have you watched it yet?) because it's dark, complicated, features spectacular performances from Robert Downey Jr. and Val Kilmer and (if you'll permit me a really superficial moment) may be Kilmer's last, erm, hot role. Also, it has a lot of blood and guts and is very, very funny. It's action-inflected noir (rather than Lethal Weapon's noir-inflected action) and really, sincerely, superb. Make it a double feature: Iron Man 3, also by Black, which he claims is a retelling of 'A Christmas Carol.'


6. The Ref (1993). Motormouthed comedian Denis Leary's first feature film, The Ref is the movie that proves the truth of Mark Twain's adage "in certain trying circumstances, urgent circumstances, desperate circumstances, profanity furnishes a relief denied even to prayer." Although the film is notable for featuring a pre-annoying Kevin Spacey, and the mom from Mary Poppins as the grandma from hell, The Ref's standout performance Leary and his inimitable ability to swear with blinding speed and boundless creativity. Timeless seasonal message: If grandma's making the holidays hell, tie her up and gag her. Make it a double feature: Pair this one with Bad Santa (2003), and spend the rest of your holiday cursing as inventively as possible.

The Ref


My to-watch list is almost full this year, but what'd I forget? Suggestions in the comments, please!