A riot of red and green hits streaming services… Photos: Netflix, Amazon, Sky
Twas the Saturday before Christmas and all through the house, not a creature was stirring. And I was bored. Chasing some festive spirit after what has been, for all of us, and notably for me, another completely weird year, I decided to marathon some Christmas movies. What’s more, I decided not to go the usual route. There’s always Die Hard, there’s always Home Alone, there’s always It’s a Wonderful Life. That’s the easy way. Aware that “Holiday Movie” is very a specific format, I decided to go the road less travelled and set myself some rules.
RULE ONE: The film must have “Christmas” in the title. Seems solid. Let’s not get bogged down with what is and isn’t a Christmas movie. This sorts it out pretty quickly.
RULE TWO: It must be available on a UK streaming service. Preferably one I have.
RULE THREE: The poster must include at least two people, one of whom is wearing green, the other wearing red. This, I’m told, is how you spot the Christmas films.
Finally RULE THREE: Where possible I should use the “Recommended to watch next” feature on whatever streamer in order to select the next film. If there’s not one that matches rules one or three, move to another service. See you on the other side.
9am. This is Christmas (2022), Dir. Chris Foggin
This was at the top of Now’s Christmas movie recommendations. It’s new! It’s British! Dean Thomas from Harry Potter is wearing a red scarf, but his co-lead, Effy from Skins, isn’t wearing green. Foiled at the first hurdle … but wait! Timothy Spall is lurking in the background in a green scarf! Win! I get a mince pie, add a slug of vegan own-brand Baileys to my coffee and hit play.
This film has the least likely premise of all time. Dean Thomas gets a commuter train into London every day (presumably they got a decommissioned old train to film on, because I refuse to believe there’s a commuter train going into London where everyone always gets a seat every day, let along the same seat.) He decides that, since the same people miraculously sit in the same carriage every morning, he’ll throw a Christmas party just for them.
Despite this being the ABSOLUTE WORST IDEA IN HISTORY his mismatched crew of Timothy Spall, Effy off of Skins, Armstong or Miller, a grumpy BAFTA Winning Actress Joanna Scanlon and a likable simpleton with a bowl cut end up becoming fast friends and no-one tells him to shove his party up his bum. Dean and Effy snog, someone sings the theme from Birds of a Feather, BAFTA Winning Actress Joanna Scanlon turns out to have a heart of gold, snow is falling all around, children playing, having fun, tis the season of love and understanding, the end. I am appalled to find that I thoroughly enjoyed myself and somehow caught warm and fuzzy feelings at the finale. Damn them. 3/5
10.30am. A Christmas Number One (2021), Dir. Chris Cottam
Ramsey Bolton from Game of Thrones is a sarcastic bass player in a dreadful grindcore band, except anyone who knows actual metal will tell you that this definitely isn’t grindcore. Anyway, this one is all over the place. Ramsey’s 13-year-old, vlogger niece, Nina, who in this feel-good-knock-about-Christmas-comedy is dying of terminal cancer, has asked him to write her a Christmas song. Meanwhile, Frieda Pinto is managing a boyband and has been charged with finding them a Christmas hit. When Nina uploads Ramsey’s song to her blog, Frieda finds the hit she’s looking for. But will The Bastard Lord of the Dreadfort agree to let “The Man” use his tune? This one is a tonal mess. It’s a knockabout Christmas comedy, it’s a vomit-flecked cringe comedy, it’s a feel-good pop movie, its a little girl literally dying of cancer. Will a Christmas miracle occur? No, of course not. This is Britain. I am appalled to find I thoroughly enjoyed myself and somehow caught the warm and fuzzies again. I am also surprisingly far down this bottle of Baileys. 3/5
Midday. Christmas Town (2019), Dir. David Weaver
A proper Hallmark movie! A teacher from the big city (Boston in this case) gets a new job in Springfield, presumably to take over after Mrs Crabapple died, and dumps her hotshot TV exec boyfriend to start her new life, only UH-OH her train breaks down and she has to make an unexpected stop-over in a charmingly tiny, Christmas-obsessed town. The first person she meets is a preternaturally attractive hunk played by Mutt from Schitt’s Creek, who apparently does loads of these films. He has a foster son that keeps giving his new coats to the needy. Aunt Zelda from Sabrina the Teenage Witch runs a Christmas-themed cafe, where our teacher hero is astonished to find a picture of her own father on the wall. It feels like a Twilight Zone episode. Mutt Schitt still needs to get a Christmas tree, but weirdly has decorated the rest of his house, which surely no-one does. I fall asleep halfway through and have to rewind it. At the end, my Twilight Zone hunch is confirmed when they put an angel on top of the tree and it literally glows for no reason and no-one freaks out apart from saying “look! It’s glowing!”, even though nothing supernatural happened at any other point in the film. Despite the warm glow I have from the fake Baileys and my quite-nice snooze, this is comfortably one of the worst pieces of art ever to happen to humanity. 1/5
2.30pm. Christmas She Wrote (2020), Dir. Terry Ingram
Grown-up Winnie from The Wonder Years is a wholesome New York newspaper columnist sacked by her grinchy (and handsome) new editor, who says her salary is part of “the fat” he has to cut. Given that she appears to live alone in a Manhattan loft apartment, I get why he might consider her overpaid for writing a lifestyle column. Winnie, quite naturally, cancels her fancy vacation plans and heads back to her Christmas-loving hometown for the holidays, where her sister still hasn’t got a Christmas tree but, weirdly, has decorated the rest of her house. Meanwhile, shock! Her readers in New York are livid that she’s been sacked and take to the comments in droves to leave unanimous praise – surely even less likely than people on a train talking to each other – and that chisel-jawed editor must track her down and beg her to come back or lose his own job. She tells him to do one, because she’s feisty. Plot twist: it’s Mr Handsome Grinch Boss who is redeemed! It’s actually kind of charming. Winnie from The Wonder Years should be in more things. I appear to have a second wind now. 3/5
4pm Oh no! Now hasn’t got anything else to recommend to me that fits the Christmas movie brief! Fortunately my smart TV has its own recommendation feature and scans the other streamers, hence I finish the fake Baileys and alight on Netflix, pondering if I should order another one…
Return to Christmas Creek (2018), Dir. Don McBrearty
Tech Girlboss Amelia’s new app to revolutionise Christmas shopping, by basically asking people what they want and getting it for them, is deemed “not in the spirit of the holiday”, on the exact day her boyfriend dumps her because of her unceasingly Scroogey humbuggery. So, she does the only thing she can… returns to her Christmas-loving home town. There’s a square jawed guy from her past, no visibly gay people and her uncle hasn’t gotten his Christmas tree yet, despite having already decorated the rest of his house.
[So my theory about this is that the central character needs to have a tree-decorating scene in order to meet the classic grammar of the Christmas movie. However the film simply cannot have the homey centre of the story being undecorated from the off, so they split the difference.]
The jeopardy in this film is literally “her Dad will be annoyed she went to see her uncle”.
During this one I cracked and used a delivery app to get more fake Baileys and one of those special Christmas sandwiches, which I think made me better inclined to not totally hate this objectively terrible film. 1/5
6.30pm The Netflix algorithm really wants me to watch that new Lindsay Lohan vehicle, Falling For Christmas, and it totally fits the brief. Full red and green action, proper Christmas title, everything. But I can’t. I just can’t. Not after Christmas Creek. Not after Christmas Town. It might be the booze, it might be the fact that I have clearly not eaten enough to be necking this much neat, creamy spirit, but the very idea… I cheat and go back to the smart TV homescreen and find it wants to send me to Prime Video to watch a British film.
Your Christmas or Mine (2022), Dir. Jim O’Hanlon
Cory Kirk is wearing a red hat on the poster, but co-star Asa Butterfield is wearing no green. Damn. But WAIT… he’s pointing to a green train. I’ll take it. I’m glad I did. It’s a fish-out-of-water family-swap comedy, it’s got the Duke of Windsor from The Crown in it (not Sir Derek Jacobi, the other one) and David Bradley, who is great in everything. The leads have proper chemistry, despite barely sharing any screentime together, which isn’t easy. It has proper families. I liked it. Warm and fuzzies again. Oh, thank god. 3/5
8pm I realise that there’s a documentary about The Snowman on, so sod it, I’ll watch that. Surely that counts? 5/5. Excellent time. Bloody love The Snowman. I contemplate watching The Snowman itself, but decided that I owe it to journalism to see the mission through.
10pm I have been at this for over 13 hours. The TV menu wants me to watch Falling For Christmas. The Netflix menu wants me to watch Falling For Christmas. The universe wants me to watch Falling For Christmas. I scan through Paramount+ and Prime Video. Lots of “The Christmas [thing]” Lots of red and green. All of it looks horrible. I have drunk a bottle and a half of Baileys. Sod it. Who doesn’t like Lindsay Lohan?
Falling For Christmas (2022), Dir. Janeen Damien
The male lead in this Christmas movie is called CHORD OVERSTREET. I cannot emphasise this enough. CHORD OVERSTREET is the name of a real, human person. I am obsessed and google him. It’s his real name. CHORD OVERSTREET. I realise I am now extremely pissed. Lindsay is a spoiled brat who has an accident on the ski slopes where she is rescued by, and I cannot state this enough, CHORD OVERSTREET. She has amnesia. This is incredible. She’s forgotten she’s a spoiled heiress and is bonding and discovering the meaning of Christmas. It’s amazing. She’s totally going to dump her douchebag wealthbro boyf for Chord, isn’t she? Once she gets her memory back the Magic of Christmas means she is no longer a dick to people and does her own washing. Classic Christmas redemption arc. Scroogetastic. Pow. Also there’s a bit on the soundtrack where she sings ‘Jingle Bell Rock’ like in Mean Girls. Pow! Pow! Christmas! I have no idea if this film is any good. I enjoyed myself. Might be 1/5, might be 5/5, I honestly don’t know. I’ve got a headache. It’s nearly midnight. MERRY CHRISTMAS TO ALL AND TO ALL A GOOD WOSSNAME ETC.
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