I love Christmas movies. Actually, scratch that, I love everything about Christmas to an extent that is probably unhealthy. Growing up as a little half jewish, half not-ish girl, the month of December was probably my favorite time of year (except maybe for my birth month, but the fact that I insisted on a whole month to celebrate my birth become less and less socially acceptable as I aged, whereas my love for Christmas makes me quirky and endearing). The twinkling lights. The freshly cut (but not by us, what are we, peasants?) pine tree. The presents. The malls. Oh the malls.
But mostly, I love popular culture representations of Christmas. I love Christmas episodes of TV (check out this list of the best ever Christmas episodes), I love Christmas commercials (I still am not sick of the “they do exist/he does exist” M&M commercials), I love Christmas songs. And I love Christmas movies.
Last year I tried to share my love of Christmas movies with My Cinema as best I could, but this year I wanted to set myself a much harder test. Rather than just sharing a few of my favorites, I was going to spend the 24 pre-Christmas days watching a movie a day, so that I could go through popular Christmas movies, good, bad and fantastically bad. I basically looked through a bunch of lists, found convenient films, scoured the tv listings, and came up with a schedule that will keep me busy right up until chestnuts start roasting on open fires.
This is my first installment in my 24 Days of Christmas, and it’s also one of only two doubles from last year: Love, Actually.
Love, Actually was an instant classic for me the moment I first saw it. It combined some of my favorite things: British people, casual nudity, Christmas, and Colin Firth. Since the film came out in 2003, I have watched it at least once a Christmas season (and often snuck it in during other parts of the year), and for the past four years it has been my first allowed Christmas movie of the season. Because of the sheer number of times I’ve seen it (and therefore the number of lines I can recite dutifully along with the characters), I don’t necessarily have a whole lot of critical things to say about it. Every year, I feel uplifted by the tales of love and devotion, and I adore the way that these stories are all grounded in sometimes depressing truth. I love the beginning and opening airport scenes, which probably should seem hackneyed and contrived, but which still feel so joyful and sincere that it’s hard to act cynical.
But it’s interesting to see how the film changes over the years, too. This year, for the first time ever, I found Hugh Grant’s Prime Minister to be kind of a douchebag. He fires a girl for getting sexually harassed by a visiting President, and then stalks her. And we’re supposed to think he’s a national hero just because he gives a speech about “Harry Potter?” (okay, yeah, that was pretty cool). It’s still cute, and I still love when she jumps into his arms at the end and he says, “God you weigh a lot,” but there’s nothing quite like realizing you can no longer blindly love one of your favorite parts of your favorite movies to make you realize just how far down the feminist rabbit hole you’ve fallen.
But the real beauty of Love, Actually (and what’s missing from its modern day copy cats like Valentine’s Day and He’s Just Not That Into You) is in its effortlessly bittersweet melding of romantic comedy excess with real life drama. The incomparable Emma Thompson breaks my heart like clockwork every year, while I find the naked couple’s travails more and more adorable every year.
All in all, Love, Actually is the perfect pallet cleanser to get me into the Holiday season, a nice little transition from the fall doldrums into the glitz and glamour of Christmas.
Stay tuned to My Cinema every day throughout December for the 24 Days of Christmas feature.