An Alternative Christmas
Christmas is going to be a little different this year, and no doubt many will be looking for comfort in the form of Kevin McCallister assaulting a pair of burglars or Hugh Grant dancing badly around Downing Street. But if you’re feeling a little more adventurous and want to round off an unpredictable year with some less predictable films, then check out our alternative Christmas recommendations. You wouldn’t necessarily describe any of them as ‘Christmas films’, but they all fit perfectly into the festive season.
Terry Gilliam’s 1985 dystopia is very much a Christmas movie. Santa Claus is in it, for goodness sake! Yet the reason why nobody categorises it alongside It’s A Wonderful Life is pretty obvious from an early scene in which a mother is sat reading A Christmas Carol to her family, only to be interrupted by government stormtroopers breaking into their house and arresting the father for terrorist activities. Within Gilliam’s hopeless world, Christmas is used to distract depressed citizens from their empty existence, a time of love and giving co-opted and commercialised for cynical means. Hmmm… sounds familiar.
Streaming now to Amazon Prime subscribers. Also available on DVD and Blu-ray.
It’s not easy to find a Christmas movie that offers a humanist outlook without tripping over into schmaltz, but Satoshi Kon’s accomplished 2003 anime manages to walk that line perfectly. The tale of three homeless people who find an abandoned baby on the streets of Tokyo in the dead of winter, Tokyo Godfathers tackles some heavyweight topics, but always knows when to pull it back for a lighter moment. Kon passed away at the age of 46, but this warm-hearted story is perhaps his greatest legacy – a film tailor-made for cosy Christmas viewing without making you roll your eyes.
Available to buy from Amazon Prime. Also available on DVD and Blu-ray.
Christmas is a time for family, but family isn’t always about blood. That’s the message of Sean Baker’s iPhone-shot feature about two transgender women, Sin-Dee and Alex, getting into all kinds of scrapes on the darker edges of Tinseltown on Christmas Eve. The love and care Baker has for his characters shines through in every scene, and who can resist Alex’s melancholy performance of a song from saccharine Xmas movie Babes In Toyland? So keep your fingers crossed and maybe you’ll get Tangerine in your Christmas stocking this year.
Available to rent or buy from Amazon Prime, YouTube and Google Play.
A topless Timothy Olyphant in a Santa hat is surely enough to make anyone’s Christmas, but Doug Liman’s rave-injected Christmas-set comedy has plenty of other things to recommend it, not least a phenomenal cast that also includes Sarah Polley and William Fichtner. Go is essentially about what Christmas can morph into when you become a teenager/twentysomething – hedonistic nights where you meet random people and make bad decisions. In the final scene, as the exhausted characters consider the wild ride they’ve just been on, one casually asks about plans for New Year’s. The party never stops.
Available to rent or buy from Amazon Prime and Google Play.
Christmas can be a melancholy time for many, and Wong Kar-wai’s 2046 satisfies the urge that many have during the festive season to look back and consider the regrets they may have about the past year or beyond. A loose sequel to the sublime In The Mood For Love, 2046 jumps around in time as a writer (Tony Leung) considers his relationships with a number of different women, but Kar-wai constantly returns events to the date of 24th December, a seasonal linchpin for the film’s meandering storyline as audiences sit back and revel in Wong’s dreamy, elegiac style.
Available to rent or buy from Amazon Prime. Also available on DVD.
This one might be pushing the festive link a bit far, but it seems apt to finish off a disastrous 2020 with a choice pick from the New French Extremity genre. Set on Christmas Eve, Inside involves a child set to be born on Christmas Day, although in this case the pregnant woman in question (Alysson Paradis) is being stalked by a psychotic stranger with designs on her unborn child. A gory lesson in confined terror, we’re not saying that Inside is the story of the Nativity, but some wise men also turn up in the form of three police officers – who then, in the grand tradition of horror, actually turn out to be three very stupid men.
Streaming now to Shudder subscribers. Also available on DVD.
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