Home Alone, The Sound of Mu­sic, Grem­lins . . . these are the peren­ni­als that make Christ­mas telly great – but dark vi­sions lie be­neath their bright fa­cades

The Irish Times - Friday - The Ticket - - CONTENTS -

Ap­par­ently, as well as shouty Brexit end-times, Christ­mas is hap­pen­ing. Here are some clas­sic Christ­mas films to watch, lest you feel in­suf­fi­ciently Christ­massy due to Britain be­ing on fire next door.

Home Alone

In a Ken Loach ver­sion of this film, so­cial ser­vices would cer­tainly get in­volved in a heartrend­ing third act. How­ever, the Chris Colum­bus orig­i­nal is set in Amer­ica, where ev­ery­thing is bro­ken. So the scriptwrit­ers in­stead play Kevin’s aban­don­ment by his feck­less par­ents for laughs and in­vite us to cheer on as this dam­aged, lonely child pro­ceeds to in­flict life-chang­ing in­juries on two va­grants who gain en­try to his home.

Key themes: prop­erty rights; child­care tips; pain man­age­ment; lib­er­tar­i­an­ism.


Hard-bit­ten cop John McClane gate­crashes his es­tranged wife’s of­fice Christ­mas party in a sky­scraper only to find that it has been over­run by ter­ror­ists. “Ter­ror­ists!” mut­ters McClane, for they are the bane of his life. He’s like sugar to them, those ter­ror­ists. Any­way, he takes his shoes off, puts on a vest and starts yelling, much like your da.

The ter­ror­ists are ad­mirably di­verse, so their leader Hans Gru­ber looks, in ret­ro­spect, quite pro­gres­sive. Con­se­quently, when John McClane goes on to kill mem­bers of al­most ev­ery na­tion­al­ity, it looks prob­lem­atic.

“Stop be­ing such a ‘pre­cious snowflake’ and eat your avo­cado toast,” says you.

“I will not,” says I. “I’ve writ­ten a one-man show that retells the story of Die Hard from Hans Gru­ber’s per­spec­tive. It’s three hours long with no in­ter­val and I’m do­ing it in your house in front of the tele­vi­sion on Christ­mas Day. I call it Live Easy: Hans around the World.”

Key themes: sky­scraper main­te­nance; how to spice up your mar­riage; how to spice up your mar­riage with ad­di­tional mur­der; get­ting in shape for vest sea­son.


This film should re­ally be rere­leased now with the ti­tle #MeToo the Movie. Never has a film been more up­ended by a chang­ing zeit­geist. Here are some of the key plot points: A prime min­is­ter has a bound­ary-cross­ing sex­ual re­la­tion­ship with a ju­nior em­ployee. A man re­lent­lessly stalks his friend’s wife. A sad wid­ower teaches his trau­ma­tised child not to take no for an an­swer. Two el­derly men cel­e­brate Christ­mas by watch­ing porn to­gether. A gin­ger per­vert goes to Amer­ica as a sex tourist. Con­sid­ered “ro­man­tic” in its day (an­cient 2003), nowa­days it’s ev­i­dence of why we re­ally need con­sent classes.

Key themes: ro­mance; avoid­ing a law­suit; in­ter­est­ing roles Hugh Grant has taken; mild to se­vere per­very.


A singing nun who likes to spin around amid the hill­sides of Aus­tria is lured from her vo­ca­tion by a grumpy old aris­to­crat and a melodic batch of dif­fer­ently sized, leder­ho­sen-clad chil­dren. Run away, Julie An­drews! It’s a trap! She doesn’t lis­ten. Be­fore you know it she’s left her ful­fill­ing job (see: war­bling around hill­sides) in or­der to be a care­giver to these large chil­dren, and the Nazis are after her. The mes­sage, re­ally, is “leave well alone”.

Key themes: singing; fas­cism; the men­tal load.

Willy Wonk a and the Choco­late Fac­tory

After a day be­ing psy­cho­log­i­cally tor­tured, a golden-haired child is gifted a fac­tory by an ec­cen­tric cap­i­tal­ist who lit­er­ally has a top hat and cane. Mean­while, other lesser chil­dren are scorned and, in some cases, lit­er­ally dis­fig­ured. It’s the strangest doc­u­men­tary about choco­late pro­duc­tion I have ever seen. How­ever, it is still my favourite Christ­mas time film (I mean, Gene Wilder is in it!) and it has taught me a lot about how to flour­ish in a large or­gan­i­sa­tion like The Ir­ish Times.

Key themes: child labour; man­age­ment the­ory; men­tor­ship.


A young man vis­its a strange old cu­rios­ity shop where he ac­quires a cuddly pet that must be tended to ac­cord­ing to bizarre rules out­lined at length by a gnomic Asian stereo­type. The young man and his friends break those rules, spilling wa­ter on the de­light­ful crea­ture and feed­ing its off­spring after mid­night, thus spawn­ing a bunch of rep­til­ian bas­tards who pro­ceed to de­stroy the world in ac­cor­dance with WTO trade rules. Conor Pope should re­ally do a Price­watch spe­cial on strange old cu­rios­ity shops run by gnomic stereo­typ­i­cal mys­tics.

Key themes: the free mar­ket; fluffy cute­ness; evil lizard peo­ple; watch­ing the world burn; what a no-deal Brexit looks like.

The Lord of the Rings

“Peter Jack­son’s Lord of the Rings is not a Christ­mas movie.” “Well, why is Santa in it, then?” “That’s not Santa. That’s Gan­dalf the Grey. He’s a wizard, not a mag­i­cal present-de­liv­er­ing home-in­vader.” “Well, why are Santa’s elves in it, then?” “Those aren’t Santa’s elves. They’re just generic elves. They speak Elvish and talk to trees and oc­ca­sion­ally ride Viggo Mortensen.” “Well, why is baby Je­sus in it, then?” “If you mean Gol­lum, I don’t think we should talk about this any­more.”

Key themes: Santa de­liv­er­ing presents; the na­tiv­ity; the spirit of Christ­mas; tin­sel; the Christ­mas star/Eye of Sau­ron.


Peo­ple tend to for­get that Stan­ley Kubrick’s fi­nal film, the Tom Cruise and Nicole Kid­man­laced Eyes Wide Shut, is es­sen­tially about a big Christ­mas party. This is prob­a­bly be­cause of the creepy masked orgy bit, which doesn’t ap­pear in too many other Christ­mas films or, in­deed, too many other Christ­mas par­ties (the Ir­ish Times Christ­mas party is on next week; I’ll let you know how I get on). I none­the­less still re­spect Kubrick’s trib­ute to fes­tive fun and will be watch­ing with my Christ­mas jumper and gimp mask on. Key themes: sex­ual jeal­ousy; Christ­mas party fun; neigh­bourli­ness.

A Mup­pet Christ­mas Carol

In a world of weird, mis­shapen hu­mans and flappy-headed talk­ing an­i­mals, a crusty old busi­ness­man (Michael Caine) man­ages to un­dergo a pe­riod of Oprah-style self-de­vel­op­ment. After be­ing vis­ited by the ghosts of Statler and Wal­dorf and Christ­mases past, present and fu­ture, he vows to re­dis­tribute some of his wealth to the poor. But not, I ob­serve, to up­end the so­cial or­der, over­haul the tax sys­tem and ini­ti­ate an an arc ho syn­di­cal­ist col­lec­tive. He’s ba­si­cally just a Vic­to­rian Bill Gates.

Key themes: the sub­ju­ga­tion of the work­ing class; fore­stalling revo­lu­tion with in­cre­men­tal re­forms; tur­key-based glut­tony; pup­pet hi-jinks; why Tiny Tim should get a job.

Hard Brexit: Grem­lins

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