Obscure seasonal cinema: A list of lesser-known holiday movies to watch this season

by Patty Templeton

If you hate “It’s a Wonderful Life” and “White Christmas,” you’re a monster. Disliking Jimmy Stewart, Bing Crosby, and Rosemary Clooney is a deformity of character. But fine. There is a whole wide world of tinsel-tastic flicks out there. It’s not like you have to stick to the classics after you take off your Rudolph onesie, slip into your eggnog bath, and turn on the TV. Get your ho ho ho going with these lesser-known Christmas movies.

“The Hogfather”Hogfather is missing. If there is no Hogfather, there is no fat man to deliver presents and grant wishes to children on Hogswatchnight. People need something to believe in, so Death steps in for Hogfather, red suit and all. Yes, the Death and no, he’s not good at granting wishes. He takes the kids too literal.

Whatchya got is a just-over-three-hour adaptation of Terry Pratchett’s 20th “Discworld” novel. (OMG. Read this series! … but not all at once.) If you’re not a Pratchett fan, you may find the effects overly cheesy and the panoply of characters confusing. Unless you’re high. Then you’ll probably dig the folksy, fairytale vibe.

“Joyeux Noël”During the Christmas Truce, war ceased and humanity settled in, if only for a day. “Joyeux Noël” is based on this true, WWI story. On the Western Front, a German soldier (and famous tenor) sings “Silent Night” to his countrymen. A bagpiper accompanies him from the Scottish front-line. A Christmas tree is gently waved, which leads Scottish, French, and German officers to agree to a cease-fire through Christmas. This pleasantly sentimental drama is perfect for anyone who likes “Saving Private Ryan,” “A Very Long Engagement,” or a bit of history to mix with their hot buttered rum ’ n’ holiday movie night.

“Santa Claus Conquers the Martians”If you feel like shoving your hand in a mitten fulla elf shit, watch “Santa Claus Conquers the Martians.” Santa and two Earth-children are kidnapped and brought to the Red Planet by Martians. Except one Martian dude disagrees with this plan and repeatedly tries to murder Old St. Nick and the kids. A battle over Santa ensues.

This movie is terrible. It is visually humdrum. The story rambles. The only worthwhile ways to watch it involve drinking games or the “Mystery Science Theater 3000” episode that wisecracks over it.

“The Ref”In small-town Connecticut, what could go wrong? Everything. A heist on Christmas Eve turns into taking a bickering, suckfest of a family hostage to evade police. You can absolutely cat burgle the wrong house. Denis Leary does in “The Ref.” Kevin Spacey and Judy Davis play the couple he takes hostage. They are in therapy. They hate each other. They bitch more than Trump sues people. Add in a blackmailing son, acerbic in-laws, and a dog named Cannibal and you got a damn fine black comedy for Christmas.

“Tokyo Godfathers”A middle-aged alcoholic, a runaway girl, and a former drag queen are all on hard times. There’s always someone worse off. While scrounging through garbage, they find a baby. In the spirit of Christmas Eve, the unlikely trio attempt to find the child a home. This endearing anime about the creation of an unlikely family may be a cartoon but it isn’t for young kids. Satoshi Kon and Keiko Nobumoto (head scriptwriter for “Cowboy Bebop”) have created a deep, comedic drama. If you like shows like “This Is Us” or anime like “Spirited Away,” “Tokyo Godfathers” will trim yer tree just right.

“Scrooged”Frank Cross (played by Bill Murray) is a TV network executive. He’s also an a-hole. He’s the type of douchetroll that would staple antlers to a mouse. We are talking a modern day Scrooge. He is a foul human, a bad boss, a greedy, no good bastard. Of course he doesn’t care that it’s Christmas. Until, the ghosts of Christmas Past, Present, and Future give him a visit. If you know the story of “A Christmas Carol,” you know how “Scrooged” goes … just add in cameos like David Johansen (of the New York Dolls) and Robert Mitchum (“Night of the Hunter”).

“Rare Exports”On the day before Christmas Eve, the remains of a hundred reindeer are found. Gnawed apart, bones showing, a gory show in the snow. This may or may not have to do with a dumbass British research team who excavate a mysterious burial mound while drilling into a Finnish mountain. Rauno wants reparations for the reindeer. His young son comes with him to demand it. What they find isn’t money … it’s pure evil. “Rare Exports” is hella rad holiday horror. Subtitles go quick when there’s a crooked, butchering Santa slaying over them.

“Pee-wee’s Playhouse Christmas Special”“Pee-wee’s Playhouse” was a 1980s Saturday morning show that appealed not only to kids but stoners due to an unusual amount of wonderfully awkward animatronics, puppetry, bright colors, and interactive moments. In Pee-wee’s holiday special, also called “Christmas at Pee-wee’s Playhouse,” Pee-wee entertains guests while waiting for Christmas to come. Here’s why you care: Little Richard on ice skates, Grace Jones in a structured dress, Cher lookin’ like a badass … Jesus H., Oprah even makes an appearance. Yeah, there is a moralizing moment where Pee-wee has to learn a lesson on selfishness, but overall this is the kinda movie a whole family can watch together and not have to worry about blood or dongs showing up.

“All is Bright”Dennis (Paul Giamatti) got out on parole and the only frikkin job he can find is selling Christmas trees with his misfit pal Rene (Paul Rudd … a GD dreamboat.) All Dennis wants is to buy his daughter a piano for Christmas and if slinging trees will make that happen, he’s gonna suffer through everyone’s bell-ringing, gingerbread BS. It doesn’t make any of it easier that Rene is now banging his wife. If you want your slice of Christmas ham with a side of sardonic drama, “All is Bright” should get shoved on the plate.

“A Christmas Tale”Mom is dying of liver cancer. There’s a bone marrow transplant that may save her. It could also kill her, but she’s going to die anyway, so why not try? Her estranged children are gathered together to see if a holiday miracle can happen – even the son who got banished. How the hell do the French do it? Make a holiday movie that shifts from depressing medical issues and family drama to seasonal merriment? There is wit and warmth here that makes this the perfect movie to watch while getting drunk with Ma on Christmas Eve.

Patty TempletonDGO Staff writer


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