After a month on tour I woke up this morning in my own bed, London grey and gloomy, hanging around outside the window like a miserable teenager, and a mountain of dirty washing on my floor. It's good to be home. (Although, if someone wanted to come over and make mince pies for me, I would be eternally grateful.)
Today I plan on doing little more than sleeping and intermittently waking up to either eat something delicious or pop on another Christmas film. And when I do, it will be one of these five below.
1. ScroogedI actually watched this already in the van while we were away, but it definitely deserves multiple viewings. A re-jig of 'A Christmas Carol', this is a slightly surreal and manic romp. It tells the tale of one cynical and terrifying man's journey to peace and understanding. I sort of can't believe Bill Murray is the lead, and you get the feeling while watching it that neither can he. The film is stuffed full of hilarious and undoubtedly improvised Murray moments. Choice quotes include "I never liked a girl well enough to give her twelve sharp knives" and "The bitch hit me with a toaster!" You probably need to hear those lines in context to find them funny. So, you know, watch it.
2. ElfThis film came out ten years ago, which feels like a long time. Especially since I can very clearly remember going to see it in the cinema, and being utterly surprised at how wonderful it was. Will Ferrell is adorable, hilarious and totally insane as Buddy the elf, playing all his innocence and wonder at the human world completely straight. It's fast become a classic Christmas film, as it manages to fold good feelings and saccharine values into many perfectly crafted comedy moments. For example when Buddy gets so excited that "SANTA IS COMING", or when he congratulates a grubby coffee shop after reading their sign that they make the greatest coffee in the world: "You did it! Congratulations! World's best cup of coffee! Great job, everybody! It's great to be here." I also like this film for the appearance of pre-adorkable, blonde Zooey Deschanel. I love her in 'New Girl' too, don't get me wrong, but I have a feeling the character of Jovie is actually closer to what she's like in real life. Also, Mary Steenburgen is one of my heroes.
3. Home AloneAs a kid this film was my worst nightmare realised. Your family misplaces you, you wake up in a massive house full of scary noises on your own, and you have to spend Christmas solo. Never mind that it happens two years in a row. The scenes where Kevin is jumping on the bed with glee or going to the grocery store on his own horrified me. Oh, and then two criminals decide to break into your house and you have to protect yourself from them. No, totally, that's GREAT. But of course, it's still one of my favourite Christmas films. The older I get the more I realise how incredible Macaulay Kulkin's performance was. He was a child actor who never seemed like he was acting, and had the confidence and poise to deliver lines perfectly while not looking smug. For the generation who grew up with him he was our everyboy. Both aspirational and real, he's a joy in these films. And of course, it's written by John Hughes. I like John Hughes. I sort of imagine that the real Kevin McCallister would have grown up to be Ferris Bueller, only with more emotional problems.
4. It's A Wonderful Life
Again, this is a film I've watched since childhood and found my understanding of it changes the older I get. As a kid I knew there was a great sadness to George Bailey's life, although I think the cause of it would have gone straight over my head. I still cried at the end, but now I get the full meaning of every part of the film I find it devastating. But in a really beautiful way. The idea of a man so good and caring that his life can never been what he wants it to be, that the only way he could fulfil his dreams would be by acting selfishly...that's painful. I also never used to get why George got so angry at Mary when he went round to see her after they met for the first time at the dance (swimming pool!!). But of course now I realise that sometimes you don't want to fall in love with someone, and sometimes that love is just a massive complication and source of potential upset. My friend Ellie told me that James Stewart had just got back from WW2 and was petrified about doing his first kissing scene after the war, so some of the angst was from that. I love facts.
Another good fact: for the scene where George and Mary make wishes and throw rocks into the windows of the Granville house, Frank Capra had a marksman on hand to throw the rock off camera for Donna Reed. Reed insisted that because she had all brothers she could make the throw accurately herself. Capra agreed to give her one take to make the shot and, to the amazement of the crew, she made an accurate throw and hit the window she was aiming at. That shot is the one that is in the film.
5. Die HardI don't care what the haters say, this is a Christmas film. And it's excellent. It has everything you need for festive cheer - Alan Rickman in ultimate bad guy mode, a crony with an accent and long blonde hair, a white vest, and some incredible trash talk. My favourites include, "Let's see you take *this* under advisement, jerkweed!" and when Hans says, "This time John Wayne does not walk off into the sunset with Grace Kelly" John replies, "That was Gary Cooper, asshole". Slick. Also, has anyone ever tried the tip of taking off your shoes and socks after a long flight to feel better? I always mean to but never remember.
Anyway, there are my top five Christmas films. If anyone has any recommendations let me know, these are only going to fill about 8 hours and I'm in this for the long haul.