Family Film Night At Christmas
Every Christmas we set aside a day to gather together as a family, lounge about in our pajamas and enjoy Christmas films together. We might engage in some Christmas card writing or gift wrapping, but mostly, we’re all broccoli on the sofa, with the fire roaring, enjoying being together.
When my sister, and later my brother had small children, and I had no money, the biggest gift they wanted from me was to entertain the children for a while so that they could shop, cook or just have a shower in peace and quiet without the children around. When the kids were old enough that turned into our annual trip to the cinema to see the biggest Christmas film each year.
We’d pick a family-friendly, age appropriate movie to go see, we’d eat unhealthily, then drive around town looking at the Christmas lights and decorations, picking our favorites to report back to Mom and Dad when they’d had the opportunity of a few hours off ostensibly to wrap gifts or have a date night, but usually just for a few hours extra sleep.
Now that’s morphed into each family enjoying a film day at home, choosing DVDs to watch together.
A Christmas Story
A Christmas Story is a treat of a Christmas film. If you’ve ever been a kid you’ll understand our hero’s absolute and desperate need to have the “Official Red Rider carbine-action 200-shot range model BB rifle with a compass in the stock”, and if you’ve ever been a parent you’ll know that that’s not going to be your perfect choice for an accident prone child.
A Christmas Story is the most delightful family film about a family at Christmas. There’s the excitement of waiting for Christmas, the joy of dressing the house, the stress of preparing the food. If your family is anything like mine then there’s also the inevitable catalog of disasters that conspire to ruin Christmas, where everything that can go wrong does go wrong, but hey, it’s Christmas, it’s all going to be fine.This is a great family comedy with a 50’s feel that really does appeal to all ages.
Home Alone is a total Christmas treat. It’s one that the kids have quoted endlessly at every Christmas, and now it feels almost part of the family.
Who hasn’t accidentally forgotten to pack a child with all the excitement and hassle of taking a trip at Christmas? OK, so I’ve never actually done that, but it could so easily happen. Home Alone takes that scenario and runs with it. What would a kid left Home Alone at Christmas get up to?
What could be a nasty turn of bad guys trying to rob the house they think will be empty turns into a really fun slapstick with our hero creating increasingly absurd Heath Robinson/MacGuyver (delete according to cultural norms) type contraptions to keep them out.
The complete set gives you the first two great Christmas films, and an amusing third, but don’t bother with the straight-to-video Home Alone 4 (sold separately).
I took a group of nieces and nephews to see Elf at the cinema when it was first released. They’ve watched it on DVD every year since. Ten years on they’re all at college or working, but they do still let each other know what day they’re going to be watching Elf, then the quotes start flying around. It’s an unexpected new family tradition.
Elf tells the simple story of a man who thinks he’s an elf coming to terms with the fact that he is in fact human, and returning from the North Pole to New York to meet his father.The film has all the standard Christmas themes about the importance of family, how spending time with people you love and having fun is what will be remembered, not how much you spent on Christmas.Despite what could be a formulaic approach, Elf is hilarious. It’s tightly written and Will Ferrell totally owns the elf-man concept.
I’d long been a fan of The Grinch cartoon short. It would always be on TV in the run up to Christmas and I’d look out for it in the TV guide, “booking the TV” for the time slot it was on. In our house that was important. You only had a few booking rights and whilst I could have waited to see if a sibling used up theirs on something I wanted to watch anyway, I’d never run the risk of losing The Grinch to a Champion the Wonder Horse, even though that was great too.
When the movie came out in 2000, I grabbed some kids under the guise of doing their parents a favor and took them for a movie treat. It was a treat. Jim Carey hammed it up all the way to spam. The kids came home with a range of Grinch-like phrases they enjoyed using, and as an added bonus, actually wanted the book for Christmas.
It’s A Wonderful Life
This is a must watch for everyone in the family at Christmas. I have to assume you’ve already seen it, if not, stop what you’re doing right now and watch it immediately, your heart may be two sizes too small.
Back during the financial crisis this was a tough watch for some people in the family, but the heart warming tale shone through. It’s impossible not to feel good about humanity after a Frank Capra has manipulated your emotions.
Nativity is the hometown choice for me. Set in Coventry, where I grew up, the film showcases the old Cathedral, bombed out of use during WWII, but left standing as a symbol of reconciliation – perfect for a Christmas tale.
The film doesn’t dwell on that though, it’s a delightful story about a downtrodden teacher at a downtrodden school teaching downtrodden kids. In an attempt to cheer everyone up, our teacher implies that he knows a Hollywood producer who is coming to see the play with a view to making it in to a movie.
A series of embarrassing misunderstandings later and the show is on and we’re singing along, cheering for the underdogs.It’s a British treat.
Sometimes all that Christmas schmaltz, heartwarming, milk of human kindness nonsense can get you down. For those times, there’s Die Hard. There’s action, there’s fighting, there’s witty dialogue and smart insults. This is Christmas man-style.
I love the early Die Hard movies and couldn’t believe it when the latest movie came out without a Christmas theme. That’s just wrong.
Settle down with just Die Hard, or get the complete Die Hard set with extras from Bruce Willis himself. Break up the sweetness of Christmas candy movies with the pretzels of Die Hard, it’s good for your health.
An updated take on Dickens’ Christmas Carol, Bill Murray brings the story to full 1980’s excess with Scrooged! Inexplicably this became a family favorite, mostly I think because when we saw it at the movies we actually left the theater singing.
Muppets’ Christmas Carol
Another rendition of Dickens’ classic, this time with puppets. It works surprisingly well, perhaps because the Muppets do all have such unique personalities.Michael Caine puts in an impressive performance, perfectly happy to be upstaged by his puppet co-stars.Sing along and enjoy one of the real Christmas Classics, told in a modern classic way.