Christmas Movie Night

Some holiday traditions of the Sullivan family household.

Well, everyone has their holiday traditions, and here at my family's house, we love to sit down and watch some of our favorite heartwarming (if not strictly holiday-themed) films and shorts after a good meal. Here are some recommendations for getting the whole family to come together and enjoy the magic of the season.

While half of the films here are not coherent or based on the magic of the holidays, they are a staple of our Christmas ritual, and I hope they become classics in your house as well.

The Snowman 1982

Now this brings back some memories. A bit before my time I will admit, but still an amazing holiday film. Based on author Raymond Briggs' children's book, the movie is wonderfully animated and extremely enjoyable.  The story follows a young boy who builds a snowman, which later comes to life. It (it looks like a snowman, but who am I to judge?) and the boy have magical adventures through an amazingly animated winter wonderland.

While still a children's story, it is a great piece of film. In later versions of the movie, David Bowie was cast as the narrator. But what really sets this story apart in my mind at least is the music that goes along with it. It tugs at my heartstrings every time I hear it, and give me the goose bumps without fail. Walking in the Air is an amazing song that you have probably heard before, but don't know where from or its actual origin.

Singer Songwriter Howard Blake wrote the song for the movie, and it has been covered over and over again. Artists who have covered the song include Barry Manilow & Celine Dion in a duet, Kenny Loggins in his 1998 album December, Chloe Agnew and the Celtic Women and also operatic metal group Nightwish.

The song has also been covered this year by up and coming British rock band the Maccabees. The Maccabeess and Nightwish versions are currently my two favorites, but they are all amazing and I urge any music lover to check them out. The original version can be found here, with the accompanying video.

The Snowman is an amazingly heartwarming story of the innocence of youth and the magic of the season. It is a must-see for the coming Christmas time.

The Ref 1994

While a bit off color, and not appropriate for all audiences, this movie is a classic Christmas caper. It has the staple angry comedy of Boston's own Dennis Leary, who plays a cat burglar. Leary's character gets stranded in the middle of a small Connecticut town, and finds himself embroiled in the middle of a dysfunctional family, whose house he had initially deemed a safe hideout.

He takes the couple and their ne'er-do-well son hostage, but in the middle of a family crisis. Throughout the movie, the line between hostage and hostage-taker gets more and more blurred, and a miraculously funny version of the Stockholm Syndrome ensues.

Complete with hilarious jokes,  some scarily real arguments and situations, and even a happy(if uncertain) ending, this movie is awesome.

Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis give amazing performances as the dysfunctional couple, and Christine Baranski plays a great passive-aggressive aunt. The Ref is definitely a funny romp through the holidays, and quite an underrated movie. Though again I would point out that the language in this movie most certainly not appropriate for the younger children, I would still recommend it for the holidays when they have to go to bed, with iPods and Xboxes running through their heads.

The Princess Bride 1987

This is, without doubt, an extremely heartwarming fantasy tale that has nothing to do with the holidays. Based on the book by William Goldman, the characters come to life in this extremely funny and heartwarming tale. If you haven't had the chance to show this film to your family, or haven't seen it yourself, I sincerely recommend this film for the holidays.

Set in a fictional part of Europe, Cary Elwes plays our hero, Westley, starting out as a stable boy. He falls in love with the daughter of the farmer he works for, Buttercup, and they have (literally) a storybook love. When he goes to seek his fortune in the world, in order to provide for the love of his life, his ship is taken by the Dread Pirate Roberts.

Buttercup, thinking her love is with Davy Jones, becomes overwhelmed with grief, and vows never to love again. The prince of the land of Florin, with the most royal title of Prince Humperdink, later asks her hand in marriage, but only so he can kill her, blame her death on the neighboring country of Gilder and start a war of vengeance to prove himself a great warrior.

While the story itself is amazingly well written, and almost exactly on point with the book, I would have to say the actors are the most endearing part of the film. They bring the characters to life and makes one feel for them on a very deep level.

Andre the Giant plays a lovable oaf, whose two loves in life are rhyming and wrestling. Christopher Guest, in an unusual role for him, plays the evil six-fingered Count Rugen, the prince's ruthless sidekick. Wallace Shawn plays his most memorable role (at least in my opinion) as the Sicilian who kidnaps the princess, and brings all of our heroes and heroine together.

If you haven't see this film, I seriously recommend it for the holidays because of the storybook nature and just plain concrete belief in the power of love, even if you are "mostly dead."

Inkheart 2008

I know, it's a bit recent to be a tradition, but still an amazing (if underrated) flick. Personally I think it was the fact that they had a film based on the power of reading that brought it such a poor box office showing, but I can be a terrible cynic sometimes.  Anyway, the story focuses around Mo 'Silvertongue' Folchart, a man with a very strange magical power.

As a Silvertongue, he has the power to bring characters and objects from the literary world into the literal world. But his power is something of a double-edged sword, as something form the real world has to be traded for something (or someone) in the literary world.

His wife gets taken into the rare and (ironically enough) underrated book entitled Inkheart. He spends the following years of his life searching for another copy of the book, in order to bring his wife back.

But what came out to bring her in you ask? The villain of the book of course! Capricorn, played by Andy Serkis, famed for playing Gollum in the Lord of the Rings Trilogy, is just a cheap thug in the book, but becomes enormously wealthy in our world. He builds a castle in the moutains and relentlessly pursues Mo, so that he can bring out his evil boss from the book and turn our world to darkness.

Amazingly campy performances give me the chills in this film, especially when other, more famous literary characters come streaming off the pages. Paul Bettany gives an amazing performance as the conflicted Dustfinger, a fire-eater who has also been ripped from his home, and Helen Mirren makes a great representation of an old bookworm suddenly forced to find adventure in the real world.

A thoroughly good movie, an amazing book as well, if you haven't seen it, I recommend it. Great cast, great story, just not very popular and most likely greatly misunderstood when it came out.


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