If you’ve been reading Substream for a while, you may have seen our weekly Take Fivecolumn, where we highlight our five favorite songs from the previous week. For the month of December, we wanted to highlight of our love and appreciation of the holidays by doing something special for our readers. So for this month, we present you with a special variation of Take Five with the Holiday Five.
We’ve gotten together with some amazing artists and music industry people to chat about their five favorite holiday movies. This will be more than a weekly column, so be sure to check in every day to see who joined us to talk about their favorite holiday movies.
Our next next this month comes from The Ritualists‘ Christian Dryden— head below to see what their favorite holiday films are!
A Christmas Carol (1984) – When it comes to the holidays, I guess I’m a bit partial to older classics. I also think that some of the best holiday movies work equally well, (however, on distinctively separate levels), for both children & adults. This version of the Dickens tale is quite dark at times, but is also fun and inspiring. George C. Scott completely embodies Scrooge. He’s utterly convincing as both a wrestched old miser and in his transformation to a jolly, generous uncle/patron. Despite his epic moments of nastiness, he never loses the fragile humanity of the character and always conveys a degree of underlying melancholy, even during his most loathsome, bah humbug, moments. Tiny Tim is adorable and heart-breaking, and (rightfully) pulls strongly at the heart-strings. The “special effects,” while obviously dated, aren’t distracting and in their relatively primitive look, (by our modern standards), actually add to the lovely dreariness and murkiness that pervades the atmospherics of the film. I watch it every year…and cry happy tears.
A Christmas Story – “uhhhh Fra-gi-le, must be Italian” One of the flat-out funniest and most-quoted movies ever, holiday or not! “The Old Man,” played by Darren McGavin, is absolutely unhinged. I can basically quote every line from him, proudly and to the annoyance of many of my friends. Nearly every scene is iconic and drenched in humor and heart. This occurs because the film understands and successfully captures the emotional weight events, that often-times seem relatively insignificant to adults, carry for children, especially during the period leading to Christmas. The story of that one unforgettable Christmas gift, is one with which many can lovingly identify. And regardless of your views on gun ownership/violence, its central, very surface theme of a young boy pining for a bb gun in 1950’s suburban American provides such a fascinating time-capsule/idealized microcosm of those much maligned, “good old days.” In this respect, good or bad, it is so utterly American. And, while I’m sure this element could be somewhat of a turn-off to many modern viewers, I don’t think it is so pervasive as to distract from the brilliant comedic writing and the deeper heart-warming, universal underlying message and ending…which I won’t spoil!
Love, Actually – This ensemble, distinctly British tale of several intertwining stories of very different, yet fascinating individuals and how they are impacted by Christmas, is bloody brilliant! My favorite character is of course, self-professed “aging, ex-heroin addict” rocker-past -his-prime, Billy Mack. (played with panache Bill Nighy) I’ve always wanted to cover Mack’s hit “Christmas is all Around,” but the band has (wisely) vetoed me. Nighy isn’t the only big name, the film is loaded, check the imbd for full disclosure. In this respect, the acting is outlandishly good for a holiday film. Furthermore, the writing impressively takes uniquely disparate story arcs and seemingly finds a way to thematically unite them without exhausting the viewer. I highly recommend!
National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation – For most of my youth, I just assumed all vacations, all travel actually, ALWAYS involved lost luggage, hotel mix-ups, extreme aggravation-followed by meltdowns and exceptional drama. This was not only because of my fandom for Clark W. Griswald & Co., but also because that is what I witnessed my parents deal with every time we tried to go anywhere. We once arrived at Busch Gardens, VA, only to find it was closed for our stay. I’m NOT kidding. So, yes, these films were great comedy, but they also acted as some form of very public affirmation that YOUR FAMILY IS NORMAL. Same goes for Christmas, and same goes for this movie. Who doesn’t have the drunken aunt/uncle/in-law with questionable intellect and confused motivation, the ancient relative who is heavily medicated and without filter and that one new boyfriend/girlfriend/dinner guest who everyone is aware of, yet can’t help but find ways to insult? Again, holiday movie or not, this is flat-out one of the funniest movies I’ve ever seen. Special mention to Cousin Eddie, (played with understandable ease by Randy Quaid), who is one of my all-time favorite movie characters.
Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer – Of all the children’s holiday specials, this one always shined the brightest to me. The stop motion is very cute, and has become sort of synonymous with Christmas specials. The Bumble (Abominable Snowman), is particularly awesome! Cuteness aside though, watching Rudolph as an adult, it actually handles some relatively serious subject matters, many of which are still very relevant today, namely bullying and how to handle being different. Santa, in this film, is not so saintly. He only includes and respects poor Rudolph when it is determined that he desperately needs his services. This message is not subtle and even as a child, I never viewed Santa’s behavior as being positive. However sad as this may be, it is realistic behavior, and not uncommon. The heroes are Rudolph and Herman (the elf-dentist) because they are exceptional in that they are forgiving of their tormentors and get the best revenge possible, they take their perceived deficiencies and turn them into positives, becoming superstars, in the same way that some bloke bullied for his extremely bucked teeth used his irregularly shaped jaw and the voice it produced to create one of the most iconic voices in music history.