By Ben Theriault, Staff Writer
Getting in the holiday spirit used to be difficult if Rudolph or Charlie Brown were not your cup of tea. Fortunately, the last couple of decades have offered even the biggest of Scrooges a way to get in the holiday spirit. If you find yourself as someone who struggles with traditional festivities, consider these unconventional Christmas films as a way to look at the holidays from a new point of view.
Eyes Wide Shut (1999) is one of Stanley Kubrick’s lesser discussed films. Discussed even less is the fact that it makes a truly unique Christmas film. The film takes place in New York City starring Tom Cruise as Doctor Bill Harford and Nicole Kidman as his wife Alice. The film begins at an upscale Christmas party hosted by one of Bill’s clients. After returning from the party the couple begin to question each other about potential past infidelities. As the couple begins to become more and more suspect of the other’s actions things soon spiral out of control. The couple soon inadvertently infiltrate a secret cult, putting both of their lives in great peril. While Christmas takes a back seat in this film, Eyes Wide Shut provides the viewer with a thought provoking and comedically dark view of the holiday season.
Tokyo Godfathers (2003) is an animated film by Satoshi Kon that follows three homeless companions—an alcoholic, drag queen and runaway teenager— as they try to scavenge for food on Christmas Eve. While digging through the garbage, the trio stumble upon a discarded baby. As the film progresses the unconventional family must grapple with hard decisions and bicker amongst each other about the fate of the child. Tokyo Godfathers offers the viewer a unique experience about the true spirit of giving. The film puts an intense spin on the giving season, asking the viewer if they too would risk their own survival for the betterment of a stranger’s baby.
Tangerine (2015) follows the escapades of two transgender sex workers in the streets of L.A. The film begins with the release of Sin-Dee from a month long prison sentence on Christmas Eve. She immediately has a rendezvous with her best friend Alexandria, who accidentally informs her that while she was in prison, her pimp and boyfriend Chester has been cheating on her with cisgender women. In a fit of rage, Sin-Dee decides to devote her holiday to tracking Chester and his mistress down for revenge. The duration of the film follows the pair and their unique cast of associates on their quest to locate Chester in this pitch black comedy about the struggles of life on the streets. Tangerine was shot entirely on a combination of three different iphones by director Sean Baker, providing the viewer with a truly unique interpretation of cinema.
For even the most cynical movie viewers, a perfect Christmas movie exists, Krampus (2015). Michel Dougherty’s homage to German folklore follows the Engel family as they prepare to host their dysfunctional relatives for this year’s Christmas gathering. It seems that no one in their household is in the Christmas spirit except for the youngest son Max, a devout believer in Santa Claus and his German grandmother Omi, a fearful follower of Santa’s dark Christmas side-kick, Krampus. Together the pair watch in horror as one by one their family members give up on Christmas and conversely become targets of Krampus’s brutality. Krampus delivers the perfect bleak alternative for viewers who have seen Santa Claus is Comin’ to Town one too many times.
Hopefully, at least one of these four films will have something unique to offer that one person who has already had enough of Alvin and the Chipmunks rendition of All I Want for Christmas and the relentless commercialism of the holidays.