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Stop watching the same Christmas movies every year, try these instead

| Thursday, December 2, 2021

Claire Kirner | The Observer

It has been brought to my attention that many of you have been watching the wrong Christmas movies for the majority of your lives. Fear not, dear reader! It is not too late to change your festive film viewing habits. Here are a handful of my favorite Christmas movies that I think don’t get nearly enough attention. While I would love to include “Die Hard” on this list, it is a canonical Yuletide favorite which unfortunately disqualifies it from this list.

‘Fanny and Alexander’ (1982)

This one is a commitment to watch, I’ll admit, but nothing compares to immersing yourself in the world the Ingmar Bergman built for “Fanny and Alexander.” Featuring cinematography by the incomparable Sven Nykvist, this film is a feast for the eyes unlike any other. The plot follows a brother and sister as they navigate growing up, grief and an abusive stepfather. It’s not the most cheerful film, but it is one of the greatest films ever made. That being said, the first 90 minutes of the film are pure cinematic joy, perfectly capturing the feeling of being a child on Christmas Day.

‘Eyes Wide Shut’ (1999)

Stanley Kubrick’s final film is not only a brilliant psychological drama, it’s also a Christmas movie! This film follows a man and a woman, played by Tom Cruise and Nichole Kidman, as they deal with marriage issues, infidelity and a masked sex cult. Beautifully shot, brilliantly acted, thought-provoking and disturbing film about the complex intersection between marriage and sexuality. It takes place on Christmas and there’s a Christmas tree in nearly every shot. It counts.

‘Meet Me in St. Louis’ (1944)

This classic musical follows a year in the life of Esther (Judy Garland) who is in love with John (Tom Drake), the boy next door who hardly notices her. Over the course of the film’s runtime, Esther’s attempts at courting John eventually lead up to the two attending a Christmas ball together. If nothing else convinces you to watch this film, watch it for Garland’s rendition of “Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas.”

‘Carol’ (2015)

“Carol” is one of the most beautiful films of the past 10 years. The film follows Therese (Rooney Mara) and Carol (Cate Blanchett) as they navigate their feelings for one another and try to keep their affair a secret over the course of the 1952 Christmas season. “Carol” is an intimate glimpse into a side of Eisenhower-era America that is seldom, if ever, represented on screen. The winner of numerous awards, “Carol” is a masterclass in all aspects of filmmaking and stands as one of the most visually and emotionally impactful films I have ever seen.

‘Tangerine’ (2015)

Perhaps the most nontraditional Christmas film on this list, “Tangerine” follows a transgender sex worker who discovers that her boyfriend (who is also her pimp) is cheating on her. A film about family set against the backdrop of Los Angeles’ Tinseltown on Christmas Eve, this is a Christmas movie through and through. “Tangerine” is the directorial debut of Sean Baker and was independently produced and shot on iPhone 5S, which is absolutely amazing to consider when watching the film due to the ravishing cinematography on display in this film.

‘Black Christmas’ (1974)

Did you really think I’d make a list without a horror film? Nine years before Bob Clark made “A Christmas Story,” he planted the seeds of the seasonal slasher genre with “Black Christmas.” The film follows a group of sorority sisters who start to receive mysterious phone calls. After a local girl is murdered and one of the girls in their sorority disappears, the sorority begins to suspect that a serial killer is on the loose. Smart, stylish and thrilling, “Black Christmas” is a perennial favorite for fans of the genre.

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