When a Christmas film is not really a Christmas film
By Daniel J. McLaughlin
The Internet has been alight with debate, once again, over Die Hard's status as a Christmas film.
It is set during the festive period, yes, but with violence and explosions, it is hardly befitting of the season of goodwill - then again, EastEnders manages to get away it every year. Before our Twitter is clogged up with a torrent of abuse, and we are subjected to all sorts of personal attacks, this will be not be a case of determining whether it is Yippee-Ki-Yay or Yippee-Ki-Nay as a festive flick. Instead, we will be examining when Christmas films do not exactly play to type, and the most wonderful time of the year becomes otherwise.
NME weighs in on the debate over what constitutes as a Yuletide movie. They note that if we apply the rules against Die Hard, other movies could not be classified as a Christmas film. Home Alone, for instance, other than the Christmas setting would be "actually just about a kid with neglectful parents and sociopathic tendencies".
Love, Actually is another example. Ignore that it takes place in December, and "it’s just a fantasy film about a load of men getting what they want despite being privileged assholes with entitlement issues". We respectfully disagree with this assessment of the Richard Curtis film, however, and even used our guilty pleasure as the basis for a piece about Donald Trump!
The British Film Institute (BFI) also observes that a Christmas title or setting does not necessarily mean it will be a fun festive viewing. Christmas Holiday (1944), for example, turns out to be a "deliriously feel-bad film noir", where a nightclub hostess is dragged into a life of misery after her unstable husband is arrested for murder.
While 1969's My Night with Maud has all of the seasonal trappings, including snow and Midnight Mass, the Eric Rohmer film features lengthy discussions on Catholicism, Marxism and the philosophy of Blaise Pascal.
The key to a great Christmas film, the Guardian's Jack Bernhardt argues, is "misery and mayhem". Even the more stereotypical Yuletide yarns, such as The Santa Clause and Miracle on 34th Street, "contain more than their fair share of murder, suicide and doomed relationships". Whether it is attempted suicide in the classic 'It's A Wonderful Life' or accidental manslaughter in the Tim Allen family comedy, the bleak midwinter does live up to its name.
Christmas films conjure up the image of family fun, musical comedies, and mushy romance, but the best festive flicks may actually be PG as they explore the darker elements of humanity as the nights draw in. You will be more likely to hear "Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal" and "Yippee-Ki-Yay, motherf--ker" as season greetings rather than "Happy Holidays". Joy to the world and goodwill to all men, eh?