Once again it's the holiday season. It's a Wonderful Life is celebrating it's 75th anniversary this year. There is no shortage of holiday themed movies set around this festive season. I decided to take a look at some movies that do not necessarily and readily come to mind this time of year. There have been numerous pieces about Shane Black movies and Die Hard. I wanted to revisit some other films. Once you turn off the Christmas lights the darkness once again emerges. The following films explore some dark natures of the human condition.
GO (1999) Directed by Doug Liman
"You know what I like best about Christmas? The surprises. It's like you get this box, and you're sure you know what's inside. You know, you shake it, you weigh it. You're totally convinced you have it pegged. No doubt in your mind. But then you open it up, and it's completely different. You know. Wow, bang, surprise. I mean, it's kind of like you and me here, you know? And I'm not saying it's anything it's not. Come on, this time yesterday, who would have thunk it?" Are the opening lines spoken by Claire (Katie Holmes) GO written by John August (Big Fish, Corpse Bride) and directed by Doug Liman fresh off of Swingers and would later helm Edge of Tomorrow aka Live, Die, Repeat is a movie involving multiple stories around the holiday season. The trio of friends who work at a grocery store who wind up in a drug deal gone bad. A pair of actors who are about to have a horrible night. And a group of friends who head in sin city. Vegas baby! When I first saw film years ago it had me hooked when the Columbia studio logo was inter-cut with rave party footage. The film features a great ensemble cast with pretty much every actor moving onto many other film projects. A personal favorite film I revisit from time to time. Working in a grocery store sucks, especially around the holidays.
JOHNS (1996) Directed by Scott Silver
"A john once told me that the only one true friend you really have is the money in your pocket. That I know is complete bullshit. All the following hustler stories however are true. My tale begins and ends with shoes." Donner (Lukas Haas) Several years ago I was watching Sean Baker's exquisite film Tangerine. Another film that takes place on Christmas Eve. As I watching the movie another movie kept popping into my head. I could not remember the title. I did remember that David Arquette was one of the actors and I vividly recall watching it on the Canadian channel Showcase and the film was introduced by now C.E.O. of the Toronto International Film Festival, Cameron Bailey. After searching I found the title of the movie, Johns. The film is directed and written by Scott Silver who would go onto write Joker (2019) The Fighter (2010). Johns begins on Christmas eve. The story focuses on a couple of L.A. street hustlers navigating their world on Christmas Eve. John (David Arquette) and Donner (Lukas Haas). This is another film that features a great ensemble cast. The story features the absurdity, fear, sadness of people operating on the fringes of society.
SILENT NIGHT (2021) Directed by Camille Griffen
My favorite movie that I watched the 2021 edition of the Toronto International Film Festival was a....Keira Knightley....Christmas movie.... The less said about this movie the better. I urge you to watch it. The couple of folks I recommended it to really dug it. Another great ensemble cast. The stand out actor for me is Roman Griffin Davis (Jojo Rabbit) who is going to have a great acting career. Camille Griffin is his mother. Here is what I wrote about it. Review Here
EYES WIDE SHUT (1999) Directed by Stanley Kubrick
A film that was written about a crazy amount when it was being filmed. From the aspect that Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman were married at the time, to Stanley Kubrick's obsession to details and multiple takes to the how long the shoot was, 400 days. Eyes Wide Shut still holds the record for longest continuations film shoot. Kubrick died days after presenting the film to Warner Brother executives.
In the opening moments of the movie the Harford couple are at Christmas party Alice (Nicole Kidman) asks William (Tom Cruise), "Do you know anyone here?" He responds, "Not a soul." The season social gatherings are only going to get more awkward as the night progresses.
A Hungarian stranger by the name of Sandor Szavost that Alice is dancing with asks, "Don't you think one of the charms of marriage is that it makes deception a necessity for both parties." She laughs the fake kind of laugh that only a former SOHO gallery owner can laugh. He is quite insistent on questioning Alice's marriage. Bill is walking around the party with two gorgeous women on either arm. Ah, to be rich and beautiful."Don't you want to go where the rainbow ends?" One of the women asks Bill. Than he is cock blocked. Seems the host of the party is up to his own infidelity transgressions. A woman has overdosed on a speed ball. Dr. Bill gets the woman to open her eyes. It's a Christmas miracle.
Alice keeps dancing away. The festive lights are oh so beautiful and bright. She is visibly getting tipsy. Sandor is still quite insistent. Alice cuts him off and says they will never see each other again because she is married. The late 1990s really kick into high gear when the Chris Isaak song "Baby Did A Bad Thing." kicks off. It's back to the practice and taking care of the child. Preparing for Christmas. A little weed to take the edge off. Alice than asks Bill if he pursued extramarital relations at the party last night when he disappeared. Bill asks about the Hungarian stranger. The conversation then turns to Bill saying it was only natural that the Hungarian wanted to fuck Alice because she was a beautiful woman. She takes umbrage to this statement. Alice turns it around on Bill that he did indeed want to fuck the two models because they were also beautiful woman. He says he did not. Alice follows up with asking him, "What makes him an exception?" Bill responds, "What makes me an exception is that I happen to be in love with you. And because we're married..." and continues, "and because I would never lie to you..." with his EYES WIDE SHUT! Kubrick the cinematic master left us with the gift of this perennial holiday favorite as his last fully realized work.
A L’INTÉRIEUR aka INSIDE (2007) Directed by Julien Maury and Alexandre Bustillo
A L’intérieur is a story of loss. It is also about motherhood and providing shelter and safety. The film features two exceptional performances from Béatice Dalle and Alysson Paradis.
Sarah (Alysson Paradis) is in a car accident with her husband. He passes away. She survives as well as the five-month-old baby she is pregnant with. Four months later it is Christmas Eve. Sarah is at the a doctor’s appointment. She is due to give birth the following morning. Christmas morning. The doctor says to Sarah, “Enjoy your last night of peace and quiet.” Unfortunately for her Christmas Eve will be the exact opposite of peace and quiet.
Red being a predominate color of the festival season. You will not find another film, which displays this much red in it. A giant pair of scissors is not only for cutting wrapping paper. This movie has for me one of the most terrifying and haunting shots when a face appears from the darkness in a doorway. A L’intérieur arrived at the height of the French new wave of horror cinema.There is so, so, so, much blood. It is not for the faint of heart.
I wish you all a happy holiday season and happy new year. Thanks for reading.