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Saturday, December 22, 2012
With Christmas just around the corner, now is the time to ponder your seasonal cinematic celebrations and take a look at the best films on offer during the festive period. STACIA BRIGGS picks ten top films not to miss this Christmas.
1) The Nightmare Before Christmas, BBC2, 9.10am, Christmas Eve: This is my children’s favourite Christmas film, featuring that most traditional of festive figures: a spindly skeleton whose day job is the Pumpkin King of Halloween. Jack Skellington has grown bored of trick and treating and wants more from life – when he finds a portal to neighbouring Christmas Town, he decides to give Santa a break and take over Christmas. Tim Burton’s brilliant animated film is a wondrous thing to behold with plenty of Gothic sets, enough colourful creatures to enchant even the most jaded teenager and humour that can be appreciated by adults and children alike.
2) The Lord of the Rings: The Fellowship of the Ring, Channel 4, 5.40pm, Christmas Day: Everyone is anchored to the sofa, so full of turkey they can barely move and conversation has dried up thanks to a day of forced jollity. This is the film to sink your teeth into when you can’t face another chocolate from the tin, the first part of Peter Jackson’s epic fantasy trilogy based on JRR Tolkien’s novel. A hobbit is plunged into a battle against the forces of darkness when his uncle bequeaths him a magical ring of immense power: most importantly of all, this film is very long and will definitely get you out of yet another interminably dull board game.
3) Enchanted, BBC1, 3.20pm, Boxing Day: The perfect antidote to Boxing Day boredom, this film is as enchanting as its name, the story of a cartoon princess whose evil soon-to-be-mother-in-law banishes her to reality (New York) where she sets about searching for her Prince. Amy Adams is perfect as Giselle, the Princess who refuses to be anything but optimistic in the face of adversity and finally convinces everyone around her to feel the same way too. If only you could hire Giselle to referee the annual festive rows around the dinner table.
4) The Girl With the Dragon Tattoo, Channel 4, 10.30pm, Boxing Day: The premiere of this Swedish mystery thriller based on best-selling Stieg Larsson’s novel. Like an anti-tourism film for Sweden (where it appears to rain almost continually) this is a tense, fast-paced film telling the story of a journalist (hooray!) and a computer hacker (boo!) who are hired b a member of a wealthy family whose niece disappeared 40 years ago. He’s convinced she was murdered by one of his own relatives and wants them to find answers, but the family will go to any lengths to conceal their secrets. A bit like no one owning up to eating the last mince pie, but on a bigger scale. And in Sweden.
5) Dirty Dancing, Channel Five, 9pm, December 27. “Me? I’m scared of everything. I’m scared of what I saw, I’m scared of what I did, of who I am, and most of all I’m scared of walking out of this room and never feeling the rest of my whole life the way I feel when I’m with you.” Three cheers for this wonderful romantic drama starring Patrick Swayze as the snake-hipped dance instructor at a 1960s holiday resort who fears for his career when his partner is forced to pull out of an important show. Luckily, naïve teenager Frances “Baby” Houseman steps in and learns not only how to dance, but how to LOVE. Nobody puts Baby in a corner. And nobody touches the remote control when Dirty Dancing’s on.
6) Gremlins, ITV1, 10.15pm, December 28: Whatever you bought the children in your life for Christmas, I can guarantee that they’d have preferred to receive a Gremlin. A teenager is given a strange, cute creature as a Christmas present by his eccentric father and warned to keep it away from water, not feed it after midnight or expose it to direct light. Expecting a teenager to abide by these rules is, of course, insanity, and after a chance dousing, the Gremlin spawns a horde of murderous monsters that cause mayhem in a small town. Think of it as a metaphor for parenthood.
7) Love Actually, ITV1, 9.30pm, December 29: Richard Curtis is the master of heartstring-pulling to the point where you think he gains perverse pleasure from making us all miserably happy. There are eight or nine interwoven stories all about love (actually) and although it’s corny and clichéd and occasionally a bit nauseating, you’d need a heart of stone not to have a bit of a chin wobble when Emma Thompson realises her husband (silver fox Alan Rickman) has been spreading Christmas cheer in the direction of another woman.
8) Julie and Julia, BBC2, 9.15pm, New Year’s Eve: The perfect recipe for a night in (rather than a night fighting to get to the bar or a night avoiding the amorous advances of strangers at midnight), this is a little gem of a film which tells the story of revolutionary 1960s American chef Julia Child and modern-day housewife Julie Powell, who vows to master her heroine’s recipes in one year. A beautiful narrative, plenty of delicious food for thought and some stand-out performances from Meryl Streep and Amy Adams, this is a thoughtful film to take you into 2013.
9) The Wizard of Oz, Channel 4, 4.30pm, New Year’s Day: When I was a child, I didn’t believe it was Christmas until I’d seen the Wizard of Oz. Evil flying monkeys, ruby slippers, wicked witches, Emerald Cities, songs you can sing along to – this film has everything and more. The fact that I bear more than a passing resemblance to the Wicked Witch of the West and am recommending this film is, I assure you, pure coincidence.
10) Up, BBC1, 6.30pm, New Year’s Day: There’s nothing like a feel-good film, especially if you feel-bad after a night of over-consumption of alcohol. This film is a complete joy, a tribute to love, companionship and hope with pathos and celebration in equal measure. Carl Fredricksen seems to be a redeemlessly miserable old man until we discover he never recovered from losing the love of his life – when he finds out developers are planning to demolish his house, he ties thousands of multi-coloured balloons to the roof and simply takes off. Enchanting, uplifting (literally) and sure to kick off a very happy new year.
Clematis armandii is a great favourite of mine but, it has its drawbacks. First of all, it is not the hardiest member of its tribe, and being evergreen, once its foliage becomes frost damaged this becomes a permanent feature.