Photo by Ash Fuentes
Whether you’re spending Christmas with friends and family or having some alone time, it’s never a bad idea to put on a holiday movie to lighten your spirits. If you are simply looking for something other than a repetitive Christmas playlist to play in the background of your activities, movies are the perfect fill to that void!
Yet, sometimes just trying to choose a movie can take forever before you can even begin watching. Instead of spending hours scrolling through odd trailers on Netflix, you need just the right amount of information to make your decision. This year I tried my share of rewatches, new releases, and releases that I missed from previous years since there was a lack of 2020 releases due to COVID. So, here are some Festive Film Favorites (and Fuglies…) for December 2020 reviewed by me with as little information as possible so you can surprise yourself with the film you end up with!
How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000) dir. by Ron Howard
This is not at all what I remembered it to be, but somehow it’s even better? The humor is far too advanced and ahead of its time… or maybe I’m just saying that because the last time I watched this was in fifth grade. It’s just so clever that I had my jaw dropped in shock the entire time. Jim Carrey is outstanding as the Grinch. I don’t think his change of heart should be because all of Whoville was singing carols together because it felt too out of place that way, but I’m grateful he turned friendly enough to say, “the sun is bright and the powder’s bitchin’!” in a sleigh ride with Cindy Lou.
Barbie in the Nutcracker (2001) dir. by Owen Hurley
Hello to this absolute banger. There are so many variations of the Nutcracker but with this Barbie version, there is no need to watch any other retelling of the story for the rest of your life. This is the funniest version out there. There is Barbie, sugar plum fairies, ballet, magic, break dancing, and Captain Candy. I think the perfect man does exist and it is Captain Candy. Now you have to watch it because you’re curious about this Captain Candy guy.
The Polar Express (2004) dir. by Robert Zemeckis
A true classic! The animation is definitely traumatizing at any age, but that makes it a good Christmas horror film. If you can get past the hollow animation, you’ll see how stupid the children are and how rude adults can be. The film’s intention was definitely to not be so flat out sensible, but there are other ways to emphasize how important believing can be. Santa is not real, though. If you get bored by the movie, at least watch until you get to the Hot Chocolate sequence. Nothing else really matters, yet somehow it’s a must-watch for every Christmas.
A Christmas Carol (2009) dir. by Robert Zemeckis
This is the same director as The Polar Express (2004) and has the same animation style, but I liked it so much better because now it was meant to be traumatizing. The animation fits the story properly and should be ingrained in every viewer’s brain to emphasize the moral of the story. I really am in love with the ways Scrooge was shown watching events unfold, too. Everybody knows the story of Scrooge, but no movie tells it like this one. Although I hate to say it, I’m unconvinced that Scrooge had a change of heart that quickly… there is just no way…
Rise of the Guardians (2012) dir. by Peter Ramsey
You could imagine my surprise to find out that this was not a Christmas movie, but had other important dates to focus on. I had always thought it was a Christmas movie for some reason, but no, it was just a Christian movie because of Christmas and Easter being the only holidays with Guardians. This is one of the only stories where children being the cause of a bitter person’s change of heart actually made sense and there is great writing for all ages. It’s the animated Avengers: Endgame (2019).
It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) dir. by Frank Capra
What a waste of time… I don’t think I can spoil this movie for anyone because it came out 74 years ago so you had enough time to hear about it from elsewhere, but I truly thought it was going to be better than it actually was. The only reason this was 2 hours long was that it took George Bailey nearly 1,000+ attempts at scaring the townspeople before finally realizing he no longer existed in the world. Doesn’t this make 0 sense? If you tried talking to someone and they couldn’t remember who you were, wouldn’t you just shut up and pretend it didn’t happen instead of drawing attention to yourself? Although, the best quote had to have been when George said “Why do we have to have all these kids?” to his wife about their own four children.
Last Christmas (2019) dir. by Paul Feig
Trash! I wish I could stomp on this movie! These were the worst main characters I’ve ever seen on screen. Neither were likable, the writing was too corny (not in a cute-cheesy way), the love interests had no chemistry, and the background stories could’ve been written so much better but it just falls short. Other than the resolution, burn it!
Let It Snow (2019) dir. by Luke Snellin
I know I KNOW this is based on a book, but the writing was so cringe and uncomfortable to watch so maybe just read the book instead. Teenagers do not talk like this at all and everyone is so rude other than about 3 characters with the least amount of screentime. It was difficult to keep watching because even after following multiple stories, every character was so frustrating. The ending was predictable, but with the way each situation was handled, it felt hard to believe there was a proper resolution at all. It also included another botched LGBT+ love story that had the potential to be written so much better.
Noelle (2019) dir. by Marc Lawrence
If you like to have fun and can ignore the sort of cheap-looking green screen jobs, this is the movie for you! Anna Kendrick and Bill Hader bring the typical sibling relationship to life as the children of Kris Kringle. The concept is interesting, and the writing tries to bring attention to issues with sexism despite missing in a few places. Overall, the movie does its job at being an entertaining family holiday movie with universal humor and a good story for all ages to enjoy.
Happiest Season (2020) dir. by Clea DuVall
I know too many LGBT+ movies focus on their main characters having a coming out story with many struggles, but this one at least made the main character out while her girlfriend was still closeted. The writers could’ve at least made the main character’s girlfriend have more rooting interest instead of making her inconsiderate and overall a terrible girlfriend. I’m glad this movie felt comfortable at times, rather than triggering or painful. I would actually watch this again for characters like Jane, not so much the plot.
Holidate (2020) dir. by John Whitesell
There was barely anything about Christmas in this, but it was advertised as a Christmas movie so… anyway! The humor is too dependent on stereotypes about how men and women differ from each other rather than actually being funny so it would ruin your festive mood if you watched it during the holidays. The main characters struggle with dating, but to the audience, it is incredibly clear why nobody enjoys being with them: they both are dry, rude, and unlikable. The concept of a fake-dating-turned-real romance can be done well, but this failed from the moment they had a failed meet-cute. Their relationship was cursed from the beginning, and there was hardly any real character development since they both basically remained exactly the same and just weren’t single anymore because they had each other.
Shorts That Deserve Some Love Too:
From Our Family to Yours (2020) dir. by Angela Affinita
I was a bit uncomfortable because the grandmother actually did look like my Lola, only she was a lot nicer. My heart hurt throughout watching because it had a tradition that I wish my family had. The Filipino “parols” were created to be so beautiful and meaningful in only 3 minutes and now I want to make them with my mother immediately! The story was so realistic with the granddaughter growing up and becoming ignorant toward the feelings of her grandmother. So many kids grow up and forget to appreciate their loved ones. Now I must call my other grandmother and tell her I love her.
Olaf’s Frozen Adventure (2017) dir. by Stevie Wermers-Skelton, Kevin Deters
People are so foul for hating on Frozen for no reason. Obviously, it’s targeted towards children and having catchy music to get caught in people’s heads. This short is an extension of the innocent humor and light entertainment that Olaf can bring to each household. It’s also interesting to see how the story went from the desperate need to have a tradition to traditions don’t really matter as long as you are with people you care about. That’s something to be understood from any point of view!