Film, OldVenue

The Happy and the Sad of Christmas Movies

It’s time for the obligatory Christmas film list. Four writers share what makes them cry, for better or worse.


The A-Team (2010)

I’m not going to argue that The A-Team, based on the 80s TV show, is a deep film. It’s not. The plot is crazy, adrenaline is on full flow and the finale is just a series of explosions. Yet it knows this and plays with it- the dialogue is witty, the action wacky, and the actors all know they’re doing it just for laughs. The gloriously over-the-top action scenes can’t help but leave a smile etched in your face. To cheer you up on a rainy day, all you need is some hilarious tank-flying or skyscraper-surfing. Just don’t think too much.

One Flew Over the Cuckoo’s Nest (1975)

Mental illness is never a happy subject for a film, yet this drama somehow fools you into thinking that somehow there must be a happy ending. Light-hearted scenes such as the drunken party or the boat trip convince you that there can’t fail to be a glimmer of hope for some of these characters. Even Nurse Ratched can be seen to be simply trying to do her job with some difficult patients. This optimism is wrong, however. The film doesn’t end in an even slightly dignifying way, rather, it is ambiguous and leaves us morally outraged. Tom Bedford


Amélie (2001)

A modern Parisian fairy-tale, with all the whimsy and accordion playing one could ask for, Amélie is the tale of a shy dreamer, who likes cracking crème brûlée and dislikes drivers in movies who don’t pay attention to the road. A quirky supporting cast are the backdrop for Amélie’s series of selfless good deeds and though she doesn’t pursue love, it finds her anyway; in the form of a treasure hunt and a collector of discarded smiles. Amélie is a genuine heart-warmer, bringing a smile to your face and inspiring you to be a better person, and perhaps even teaching you another language along the way.

Up (2009)

As anyone who’s shed tears over clownfish and toy cowboys knows, Pixar films have never shied away from sentimentality, but you’ve barely pressed play on 2009’s Up before the sadness hits you like an animated freight train. The silent montage of Carl and Ellie’s life, told through bow ties, handprints, picnics and Michael Giacchino’s gorgeous score, soon becomes an unbearably heart-breaking tale of lost dreams and lost soul mates. The grief of those four minutes hovers over the entire film and it becomes clear that for all their charm, the balloon-fuelled house, the Boy Scout and the talking dog aren’t just an adventure; they’re a healing process. Emma Holbrook


The Lego Movie (2014)

2014 has been a remarkably good year for children’s films, but The Lego Movie is that rare thing that appeals to children, parents and everyone in-between in equal measure. The movie follows the story of nobody Emmet (Chris Pratt), an ordinary mini-figure who finds the strength to save the world against the backdrop of gorgeous plastic landscapes alongside the likes of self-pastiche Batman and shamelessly vibrant Uni-kitty. It’s imbued with the spirit of creativity, fun and acceptance and will leave you grinning ear-to-ear. Warning: will also result in singing Everything Is Awesome to the annoyance of everyone around you.

The Land Before Time (1988)

I’ve been reliably informed that I used to watch the VHS of this animated tale about a pack of young dinosaurs on a constant loop as a child, but re-watching it as an adult I can’t imagine why: the brooding atmosphere, the plight of youngsters lost and alone in an uninhabitable world, with loved ones falling by the wayside all adds up to one of the most depressing films you will ever see. It may be a treasured gem for some, but revisiting it as an adult will reduce you to a comatose wreck, sobbing away your lost childhood as you prepare for a difficult, uncertain future… Happy Holidays! Chris Rogers


Love Actually (2003)

It may not be socially acceptable to admit to liking this classic, yet cheesy, Richard Curtis film with a star studded cast but it is a compulsory feel good Christmas watch. Frequent collaborators with Curtis steal the show however, including Hugh Grant who excels as the dad dancing British Prime Minister, Rowan Atkinson steals the scene in his three minute cameo and Bill Nighy’s rockstar granddad who has the best one liners. Also worth watching to spot the celebrities before their big break including Bilbo Baggins from The Hobbit, Rick Grimes from The Walking Dead and Jojen Reed from Game of Thrones among others.

Filth (2011)

Definitely not your typical Christmas heart-warming, feel good film. The closest it gets to Christmassy is James McAvoy’s character throwing up out of a car window to the tune of Shakin’ Stevens’ Merry Christmas Everyone. That aside, this film is a grimy tale of a corrupt police officer who breaks every single rule in the book and includes (a lot of) sex, drugs, a tapeworm, and the gradual mental, physical and emotional deterioration of Bruce in what may be McAvoy’s best performance yet. Funny yet dark and depressing this may not be the best film to watch with the family over Christmas. Dan Struthers


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September 2021
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