Non-Christmas Christmas films
I keep having a bit of banter with the two blokes on the Filmstalker Audiocast, Mark and Steven, about Christmas films and what truly makes one. For me Christmas has to be at the core of the film, not just something that appears at the beginning and the end, for them that's not the case. They think that the mere setting or location in Christmas is enough to make a Christmas film.
Christmas films are It's a Wonderful Life, Miracle on 34th Street and Scrooged. These are films that are not only set in Christmas, but about Christmas and about the true spirit of what the time is all about. Not just snow at the start and a tree and some presents at the end, they carry the message of what it should all be about, of being nice to each other, turning a new leaf, of doing the right thing.
So when Ade, a work colleague and film fan, started talking about what makes and doesn't make a Christmas film I sparked on the idea of finding out just what Christmas films aren't really about Christmas.
I think there are two types of these non-Christmas films, one where we see Christmas portrayed in the setting, and the other where we associate the films with Christmas for some reason, probably because they're on every single year.
In the latter there are two clear winners, The Great Escape and The Wizard of Oz, just about every year they're on at Christmas, and while they are nothing to do with the time of year I just can't help but associate them with the time of year. What about you? I'm sure there are tons of films that fit this category, films that are nothing to do with Christmas what so ever and yet you can't help but associate them with that time of year, what films fit that category for you?
However it's the other category that I find more interesting, films that touch on Christmas but aren't really about it. I can think of one film straight off that really does define this perfectly, Die Hard.
The film sees John McClane arrive with some presents to meet his wife and family for Christmas, the office are having their Christmas party at the time, and that's about it as the rest of the film takes over, that is until the end when we see the end of the film, a Christmas tune comes on and there's the faintest smattering of snow in places in the background. Christmas film? Come on.
Home Alone. There's another one that fits the same bill for you. The family are off on their holidays, which happen to be Christmas, and there's snow about and presents and a tree in the living room. That's it. Slightly more than Die Hard, but still.
Remember Trading Places? It's a fantastic film, and again the background setting has Christmas and snow, although to be fair we do see one of the main characters dressed up as Santa at one stage, but it's not about Christmas, even if the reconciliation theme is there and it ends with that nice warm fuzzy feeling. Actually it even ends in a nice warm location, nothing Christmas about the ending.
Okay, you getting the idea now? Jingle All the Way is one that is fully set in the heart of Christmas holidays with a father racing around the shops trying to get the present his son wants. All the elements are in this one from Santa to snow to presents and trees, but is it really about Christmas? Well it captures the whole commercialisation of the season and how it makes people really behave, nothing like the intentions at the heart of the holiday, and I don't mean anything about religion. Christmas film though? Not really.
I'm going for one more and I'm handing it over to you. Planes, Trains and Automobiles. Now there's a film that is closer to the Christmas film than any of the others. The lead is trying to get home for Thanksgiving and everything stands in his way, and over time the hatred and annoyance for his fellow traveller turns to a friendship broken by the spirit of the holidays. The setting is there, and a smidgen of the feeling, but is it really a Christmas film? No, it's a travelling comedy with a few orals of forgiveness and acceptance at the heart.
There are a few examples of Christmas films that aren't really Christmas films. Can you think of more? Come on, there are bound to be more than the few I've picked out.