By Cory Phare
Whether or not you celebrate Christmas, it’s inescapable in December – and can be a key setting or plot device for movie directors.
“The holiday isn’t always about a good and happy time,” said Vincent Piturro, Ph.D., chair of Metropolitan State University’s Film and Media Studies program, housed in the University’s English department. “A lot of movies use Christmas as a backdrop for a dialectic; there’s friction between who we are and who society expects us to be.”
Part of that friction stems from the unattainable, idealized perfection expected every holiday season that ramps up stress, he said. Don’t buy into the hype this year, and instead use the yuletide to spend quality time with friends and family. Oh, and by checking out Piturro's picks for these Christmas movies that are sure to spark conversation and reflection all the way into 2019.
“Set around an office party, this classic action movie’s intrigue appeals more to grownups than children. It’s a good example of the darker and dirtier elements of the holidays – plus the soundtrack, featuring Run DMC’s ‘Christmas in Hollis,’ is fantastic.”
“Against the Christmas backdrop, the whole premise of ridiculously rich people switching stations with poorer folks (and vice versa) spoke as an antithesis to what was going on in the ’80s, with wealth consolidating in upper classes. Plus, the scene where Dan Aykroyd dresses up as Santa and gets drunk is one of the greatest holiday scenes of all time.”
“Today, we accept Bill Murray as a ‘serious actor,’ but it was actually controversial when he was cast here, as he was largely known as a comedian. As he was quite good in the role, it set the stage for his future work; this is more of a quintessential Christmas story.”
“Stanley Kubrick was interested in the darker underbelly of society. When you put something like the giant masquerade bacchanalia together with a Christmas setting, you get a glimpse at what he was telling us about what humanity is versus what it wants to be. This was Kubrick’s last film.”
“If you’re going to watch a Batman film, you might as well watch Michael Keaton – the best Batman. Though it’s a bit dated now, along with Danny DeVito as the Penguin and Michelle Pfeiffer as Catwoman, it’s fun to see the belligerent avarice of the characters juxtaposed with the Christmas setting.”
“You can look at this classic as a cautionary tale of hypercapitalism and the story of material value: Rudolph is useless to Santa and shunned by the other reindeer, but once they see his nose can be of use and lead them, he’s welcomed and loved; the dark side of capitalism is you only matter when you have material value to society.
“With a movie like this, people sometimes ask, ‘Can’t you just enjoy it instead of analyzing everything?’ and I say, ‘Why not do both?’”
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