Who decided Christmas starts on November 1st? John Lewis? With that bear who, until that fucking rabbit has his way, rightfully hates watching all the other animals opening their presents almost two months too early. Personally, I don't even know how a rabbit got served in a John Lewis.
Last Christmas Day I woke up with the norovirus. I spent two days shitting and vomiting. It was genuinely the best Christmas I've ever had. I didn't have to get out of bed, or go downstairs and socialise with my cousin who I'm convinced is autistic. I just stayed in bed watching movies.
So here's the ultimate Christmas list of Christmas movies that aren't Christmas movies for when you've watched all the Christmas movies in the two-month run up to the day three wise men gave a virgin's baby some presents in a barn because SOMEONE didn't think ahead and book a hotel room.
(By the way, if I were a woman sleeping around 2000 years ago, I'd definitely try to convince my husband that I was pregnant because a ghost told me God made me preggers. Probably the most genius way of getting away with infidelity ever.)
(Also, do you think the two wise men that brought frankincense and myrrh were annoyed the third wise man brought gold? They should've set a price limit.)
Die Hard is set at Christmas, so technically it is a Christmas film. But you’ll never see it topping any polls in place of A Miracle On Creepy Cute Girl With A Lisp Street or Home Alone. In fact, when you break them down, Home Alone and Die Hard are essentially the exact same film.
What sets Die Hard apart from its peers is claustrophobia. John McClane is not trying to save the world. He’s just a man with a hangover trying to save his wife. A man in a vest. With no shoes.
It’s romance, action, and fantastically timed black comedy. The real class is in the character writing. Every character, no matter how minimal, gets a moment to shine: the limo driver, the Asian terrorist who wants a chocolate bar, Special Agent Johnson (no, the other Johnson), the SWAT team in the rose bushes. And obviously, Alan Rickman plays the greatest, most likeable and charming villain of all time. The bad guys aren’t all Russians (like all other 80s action films) or some-sort-of-I-think-he-might-be-Afghan-cos-he-has-a-beard (like every post 9/11 movie terrorist). They’re a beautiful, cosmopolitan melting pot of gun wielding angry men from all over the world. Die Hard is the United Colors Of Benetton of bad guys. It’s pre 9/11 terrorism, where the need to rob a safe brought all nationalities, creeds and colours together.
If I die tomorrow the one thing I am truly proud of is that Die Hard has inspired me to sign for every postal delivery I’ve ever received as Hans Gruber.
Richard Pryor – Live In Concert
This is definitely not a Christmas movie. But he is wearing red. It goes without saying that Live In Concert is considered the greatest stand up show ever made. Pryor’s gift was taking every single tragedy from his life (prostitute mother, alcohol and drug addiction, heart attacks, 6 divorces, monkeys dying from gas poisoning, multiple sclerosis and setting himself on fire, naturally) and weaving it into the most beautiful, poetic comedy. Nothing was off limits. When everyone goes to bed on Christmas Day after Alan Carr interviews Jack Whitehall, bang this on, get really close to the screen, and watch the master have a heart attack on stage.
Talking Heads – Stop Making Sense
A man walks onto a completely empty undecorated stage with a guitar. With each song a different band member comes out. Eight songs later they’re ready to explode. Directed by Jonathan Demme (Silence Of The Lambs, Philadelphia) Stop Making Sense is, even with all its completely matte-grey props and amplifiers, beaming with colour. And David Byrne dancing with that lamp will get you feeling more Christmassy than any number of fairy-lit Coca Cola trucks driving through a town that STILL hasn’t built a bypass.
Dirty Rotten Scoundrels
Michael Caine and Steve Martin together. Why they didn’t make more films together I don’t know. Why this film isn’t considered a comedy classic I don’t know. A perfectly written screenplay with two men at the top of their game. One, a suave playboy conman praying on imminently corruptible millionaire socialites, the other a ten dollar conman taking whoever he can for whatever they’ll give. Michael Caine agrees to train Steve Martin in the ways of informed debauchery, and they team up to ‘extract’ money from wealthy fools.
Directed by Frank Oz (Blues Brothers, An American Werewolf In Paris, and the original voice of Miss Piggy) you can watch Dirty Rotten Scoundrels with the family and, if your brother complains because a bus didn’t explode within the first 30 seconds, or your uncle falls asleep because there’s no boobies, you can quietly revel in the sophisticated glory that you’re discovering an uncelebrated stroke of comedic genius.
When Harry Met Sally
The best Woody Allen film that Woody Allen never made. Nora Ephron took the main element of Allen’s best comedies: the neuroses of two people with well-paid jobs who can’t be together, not because there’s a real problem like a hurricane or an alien invasion, but because they’re both too fucked up in the head to realise they love each other, and walks away with a movie that every rom-com since has been trying to rip off. There’s no love at first sight. There’s no ‘average-looking protagonist who gets hot at the end of the movie’. There’s no flash mob. There’s no Justin Timberlake trying to act/not seduce Mila Kunis.
Watch this film with the family, but do yourself a favour and go to the toilet during the deli scene. Or you can just sit in awkward silence sat next to your mum with a pig in a blanket in your face while Meg Ryan fakes an orgasm. According to this film, statistically speaking your mum has probably faked an orgasm.
Alfred Hitchcock’s The 39 Steps
You know that moment in a relationship when you realise it’s not going to work? The moment when, after you break up, you can trace the entire downfall back to one specific moment where your brain went “oh shit I’m with the wrong person”. This moment happened three years ago when I watched this film on Boxing Day with an ex-girlfriend. She complained for the first 10 minutes because ‘all black and white films are boring’. Then she said my mum’s roast dinner was average. Well, yes, my mum’s roast may be average but you’re supposed to lie about these things.
She was wrong about The 39 Steps. It’s a slice of murder-mystery, wrongly-accused-man-on-the-run,-almost-80-years-old brilliance. It’s suave, it’s sexy, it’s a man handcuffed to a woman for half the film AND it’s a thriller set not on the mean streets of New York, but in the Scottish Highlands. Much like John McClane in Die Hard, Robert Hannay is an ordinary man thrown into extraordinary circumstances. They both start to crack under the pressure and a wonderfully brilliant thick, tar black humour surfaces from both of them.
I watch this film every Christmas and think about my ex-girlfriend and how much of an idiot she was, then I hug my mother and tell her it was the best roast I’ve ever had.
Merry Christmas ya filthy animal. And a happy new year.