Holiday Film Reel: Classics for the Season


By Zoe Gottlieb, Arts Writer


Now that October has come to a close and businesses are beginning their gradual restocking of Christmas decorations, you may look back on the past month with the yearning to have done more. You may wish you visited more pumpkin patches, sipped more craft ciders and played Monster Mash for more than 12 hours a day. While hearing “there’s always next year,” comments from friends can be one way to ease your nerves, there are some things you can do to get yourself in the spirit with nominal effort. Use this non-exhaustive list of TV and movie recommendations as a cheat sheet to revisit spooky favorites and gear up for the Christmas season.


October & November

From horror movies like “The Conjuring” and “Paranormal Activity” to the animated favorites brought forth by the brilliant mind of Tim Burton, there exists an abundance of material to entertain yourself with during the spooky season. While it would be easy for me to rattle off many horror flicks fairly quickly, I instead considered the movies, books and media that are highly regarded today for their stylistic elements and provocative messages.

One such film that I cannot get enough of during the Halloween season is a masterpiece of stop-motion with enough unsettling moments to appease the horror fans and enough notoriety to become a cult classic, “Coraline.”

In brief summary, “Coraline” centers on a girl who moves to a new town and, feeling generally unappreciated by her parents and the world at large, explores a hidden, sealed-off door that holds secrets late at night. With help from a few chattering mice, she gains access to the world beyond the door — a world where her mom lavishes attention on her and cooks her five-star meals, where her dad is smart, funny and helpful — plus, best of all, she can experience all the live entertainment she wants. However, things quickly change when she realizes what she has to sacrifice in exchange for this idealistic lifestyle, exchanging her sight for buttons and allowing her soul to be devoured by the heinous creature that pretends to be her mother. The overall moral of the story is to be careful what you wish for and appreciate what you have because things can go south in an instant.

A second favorite, cannot-be-missed movie to watch during the October to November transition is “Donnie Darko.”

“Donnie Darko,” released in 2001, carries with it ’80s nostalgia that offers some remarkably profound insights about life in exchange for its more dated feel. The film follows Donnie, a teenager and middle child who has to deal with his ignorant, cherubic kid sister, parents and an older sister who wouldn’t know the first thing about spending a day in his shoes. One night, he wakes up displaced on top of a hill and sees a haunting, ethereal image of a menacing-looking rabbit warning him of doomsday. This rabbit, which keeps appearing to him at inopportune times, convinces him to do things outside of his normal behavior, gradually becoming subservient to an order beyond himself.

The movie talks about themes of self-sacrifice and explores science-fiction related topics such as time travel. I love the atmosphere — Jake Gyllenhaal delivers a masterful performance and the soundtrack features the best hits of Tears for Fears and Joy Division.


December & January

If you’re an avid home cook or simply love drooling over carefully crafted, artisan-baked goods, among the holiday television specials there is none better than “The Great British Baking Show.” This show offers a more refined take on other popular programs such as “Hell’s Kitchen,” “Cake Boss” and “Chopped” — participants are placed under time constraints and are tasked to produce goods ranging from homemade meringue to the classic loaf.

For those interested in full-length films to get into the holiday spirit, a few favorites of mine are “The Holiday,” “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” and “Love Actually.”

“The Holiday” — a romantic comedy starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black — is a great film to transition into the Christmas season. Released in 2006, “The Holiday” centers on a recently dumped English woman named Iris (Winslet), who agrees to swap houses with California native, Amanda (Diaz), who is just as unlucky in love. Both looking for new leases on life, each strikes up a romance with a local man, but their returns home may end the relationships.

Next up is the holiday classic “Christmas Vacation.” For those unlucky enough to have never come across this film, “Christmas Vacation” is a Christmas comedy centered on the fictional Griswold family. Family patriarch, Clark (Chevy Chase), wants to have the perfect family Christmas and enlists his wife and children to keep everything on track. However, things soon go awry when cousin Eddie (Randy Quaid) and his family show up announced and begin living in their trailer on the Griswold’s property.

Finally, “Love Actually” is the classic tear-jerker that ties together multiple storylines in a satisfying way. The film follows Daniel, a widower who spends the length of the film trying to connect with his stepson Sam — Mark, a man who harbors a forbidden love his married friend — Jamie, who tries in vain to communicate with a Portuguese housekeeper he has fallen madly in love with — all among many others. “Love Actually” revolves around the lives of Londoners as they seek out romance during the holiday season, provoking feelings in even the most stoic viewers.


‘Tis the Season

While these recommendations hardly cover the vast collection of holiday classics, they’re sure to have you feeling the holiday spirit — whether it’s revisiting Halloween horror or transitioning early into the Christmas season.


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