Friday, December 16, 2016

Wintry, Not-Christmas Movies for Scrooges Like You

I don't know what it is about the Christmas season this year but I'm just not feeling the Christmas movies. This could of course also be because I've seen every (good) Christmas movie at least 4 times and I'm kind of over it. I have seen White Christmas and Christmas in Connecticut both once, and Muppet Christmas Carol only four times this December (this may seem excessive, but trust me, this number is low for me), and none of my Christmas movies are appealing to me. However, being raised in a household where summer movies in the winter was strictly verboten, I feel that while my movies this December don't have to be especially Christmassy, they have to at least be cold.

SO! For those of you out there who can't stomach another rendition of Dickens' Christmas Carol, or who feel their eyes start to roll at the thought of watching A Christmas Story for the 37th time, here's some cold-weather, wintry movies that are either only marginally Christmassy or just happen to take place in cold weather. Bah humbug, everyone!


Okay. This is one of my favorite movies of all time. And it takes place in the winter. So. Here we are. Loretta (played by the illustrious Cher -- just go with it) is an accountant who lives with her parents and grandfather in Brooklyn. When she decides to marry Johnny Cammareri, her family is less than pleased with the match, especially since Johnny jets off to Palermo to attend his dying mother. Before taking off though, he asks Loretta to settle some "bad blood" with his brother, Ronny -- and things happen. Also tangential to Loretta's story are those of her family members, who are having some crises of their own. A beautiful tale of drama, romance, family and the power of a full moon. Some of the best dialogue and characterizations of anything I've ever seen. And I'm not exaggerating.

Sleepless in Seattle

Horses horses horses horses. Annie Reed (Meg Ryan) lives in Baltimore, but she's driving to her family's house for Christmas when she hears a talk radio host get called by a 10-year-old named Jonah who asks how his dad can find a new wife. After Jonah's dad (Tom Hanks) hops on the show to talk about his late wife and his current life, Annie can't get the two of them out of her head. The rest of the movie shows them both as they grapple with relationships, question fate and dissect An Affair to Remember. Hanks and Ryan have such a wonderful romantic chemistry -- worth watching if you haven't.

Bridget Jones' Diary

Ah, my spirit animal. Dear Bridget Jones. Bridget (Renee Zellweger) is a publicist at a publishing house who desperately wants a boyfriend. But will she end up with her charismatic boss Daniel Cleaver (Hugh Grant) or the enigmatic Mark Darcy (Colin Firth)? I don't know what I sympathize with more: trying to navigate a love life living in the city or belting random 90s songs alone in your apartment.


Let's swerve away from romance shall we? Besides featuring one of the best intro tracks known to man this movie has a mesmerizing balance of humor, empathy and darkness that keeps it compelling without getting too bleak. When Jerry Lundegaard (William H. Macy) gets into some financial trouble, he goes to some lengths to try and get out of it without ruffling the feathers of his terrifying father in law. But staging a kidnapping with some random thugs (incredibly) does not go as planned, and after people start running their mouths, Lundegaard learns the hard way that he may have chosen the wrong way out. Investigating the case is the persistent, pregnant Margie Gunderson (Frances McDormund) who serves as a perfect foil to weakling car salesman Jerry Lundegaard in a way that has you inexplicably sympathetic to them both. And what's not intriguing about a foiled, staged kidnapping?


Speaking of kidnapping, who wouldn't love to be a writer who gets kidnapped by his biggest fan, right? That's what happens to Paul Sheldon (James Caan) when he gets into a car accident in the middle of snowy Colorado, he is taken in by kind nurse Annie Wilkes (Kathy Bates) who tells him she's his number one fan. As Paul's condition improves, however, Annie reveals herself to be far from kind, and as Paul's captivity veers into a living nightmare, only he can figure out how to save himself. Watch out for the scene where she talks about "hobbling." You might throw up.

The Shining

Speaking of Stephen King (this list is really becoming transitive isn't it?), The Shining is another atmospheric horror guaranteed to fill that absence of Christmas spirit with heebie jeebies. Jack Torrence (Jack Nicholson) has just taken a job at the Overlook Hotel in Colorado with his wife (Shelly Duvall) and their son. But there's an evil sort of energy at work at the Overlook, and when Jack starts falling prey to the hotel's mind games, it's only a matter of time before he becomes dangerous to his wife and son. Kubrick's atmosphere of isolation really gets driven home by the creepy sound design and cinematography.

The Thing

Speaking of isolation (just go with it), another creepy, unsettling winter scene is The Thing. Loosely based on 1951's The Thing from Another World, a group of scientists at a research base in Antarctica are taken by surprise by an alien that can assume the appearance of anything that it wants. As the thing becomes harder and harder to keep track of, the small group of researchers must decide for themselves if there is an impostor among them and, if so, who (or what) it is. Suspenseful to the very end, a great atmospheric thriller, and amazing practical effects!

Die Hard

Alright, we're going to allow the Christmas in just this once, because Die Hard is one unorthodox Christmas movie. NYPD officer John McClane is going home for the holidays to try and reconcile with his estranged wife. But after he meets with her at her corporate office, the building is soon taken over by German terrorists (why not, right?). As they take hostages, it's up to shoeless hero John McClane to overtake the terrorists, enlist the help of the LAPD's Sgt. Al Powell, and save the day. Yippie-ki-yay, motherfucker.

The Lion, the Witch and the Wardrobe

Again bordering on the holiday theme, C.S. Lewis's children's story gets a grown-up makeover in this Disney adaptation. Four children are transported from bleak WW2 England to enchanted Narnia, another dimension filled with centaurs, fawns, unicorns, and all kinds of enchanted creatures. But they soon find out that magic isn't always pure, and soon become wrapped up in Narnia's battle to fight the land's endless winter and terrifying leader, the White Witch. Nice effects but the children's acting chops and the set design really make this worth your time.


I'm sure I don't even need to explain the plot of this one, but I will anyway for continuity's sake. Princesses Anna and Elsa, orphaned when they're teenagers, have grown apart over the years due to Elsa's fear of her own icy powers. When Elsa freaks out and abandons her kingdom, encasing it in a brutal winter, it's up to her sister to find her and to bring her back. An interesting case study in responsibility, being different, and in girl power, you obviously also want to watch this one for the catchy tunes.


Why not, right? Bet you forgot about this little gem. Set in tropical Nome, Alaska, Balto is a half-wolf who joins a sled team to bring a sick child medicine. Along the way he encounters push-back from the other sled dogs and has to learn to accept his wolf side. So sweet.

Last Holiday

Oh. My. God. I remember my sister telling me how great this movie was years ago and kind of brushing her off, but after watching it at the urging of one of my coworkers, I have to say -- goddamn. This movie is a treasure. Georgia (QUEEN EFFING LATIFAH) is a quiet sales clerk at a department store who has dreams of doing something big someday, just not now. But after receiving a devastating diagnosis that leaves her with only weeks to live, Georgia decides to live life as full as she can and takes off for a ritzy hotel in Europe. This. Movie. Omg. The amount of good feelings in it are endless. And LL Cool J's appearance as her crush is just the goddamn cherry on top. So much yes.



If you've read more than two of my blog posts, you probably know that I have an irrational obsession with this movie. I sincerely do not know why. Grace (Ricki Lake) is an overweight makeup artist who works at a New York morgue with her hypochondriacal best friend (don't tell me you're not already hooked). When Grace sets her sights on a guy who looks like a movie star, she'll do anything to try and win him over -- and he is shockingly okay with it. I love this movie for how freakin' weird it is. Listen for a quote about the dinosaurs going extinct as a metaphor for living in the moment. Ah, sweet, fluff films from the 1980s.

Well we've really come full circle, haven't we peeps? Hopefully this spans the scope of your winter moods! Happy Cold Month!

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