Weekend Watch List: Friday December 11

We’re almost to Christmas and there is no better time to get couch comfy and indulge in some Christmas movie wonderment. So, whether you’re finding time for a family movie night or if you’re in the mood for more mature viewing, this list has something for everyone. Grab a hot coco, get under a cozy blanket and enjoy!

First Blood (1982)

Yes, like Die Hard (1988), First Blood is a Christmas movie. Often forgotten within the landscape of action movie masterpieces, First Blood is the first film in the Rambo series which was inspired by the David Morrell action thriller First Blood first published in 1972. 

Forget about the Rambo you may know from the over the top Rambo First Blood Part 2 (1985) that was released at the peak of Reagan’s American obsession with meta-history and “winning” the Vietnam War. In First Blood we’re introduced to an isolated Rambo, a Vietnam War veteran drifter who in looking for friendship is confronted by a small town Sheriff who doesn’t like his kind or his war. The two characters collide as Rambo launches into a PTSD fuelled response to the Sheriff and the small town policemen who push him too far and ignite within the physiological trauma of the war both at home and afar. 

Quietly set during the Christmas season with only a few Christmas trees and lights on display, this origin story places Rambo in the small town America he was told to fight for in Vietnam. A place of indifference towards him, First Blood’s epic climax takes place in a quintessential small American downtown and specifically a gun shop. There, Rambo finds himself coming to terms with his war demons and the loss he faces day-to-day as as veteran of a war America is ashamed of. 

Much different than the original novel, it took First Blood many years to get to the screen but it is all worth it. Released in October of 1982, First Blood is the OG of 80s action cinema later perfected by films such as Die Hard. 

Happiest Season (2020)

This perfectly 2020 Rom-Com tells the story of young lesbian couple Abby (Kristen Stewart) and Harper (Mackenzie Davis). Newly in love, Christmas obsessed Harper  wants to spend Christmas morning together and invites Abby to spend the holidays with her and her family.

Not until they are travelling by car to the holiday festivities does Harper cautiously inform Abby  that she lied about telling her parents about being a lesbian in the summer and that Abby isn’t her girlfriend but roommate.

Along with this, Harper also places Abby in the awkward and unsettling scenario of not being truthful about her own sexuality; asking her not to mention the fact that she is gay. All of this to protect the sensibilities of her conservative parents. Even worse, Harper selfishly leverages Abby’s hardship of losing her parents as the reason she is celebrating with her family. With this chain of events, a joyful family yearn unfolds with Abby caught within this American family with all their obscurity. Reminiscent of the very best of 90s and early 2000s romantic comedy hits, Happiest Season is very much in the spirit of writer-director Nora Ephron (Sleepless in Seattle, You’ve Got Mail). This little film co-written and directed by the wonderful Clea DuVall is smart, charming and so progressive without being cliched or preachy. It’s LGBTQ pride shouts with grace, empathy and love. A must watch for anyone looking for a warm hearted family affair. 

All I Want For Christmas (1991) 

This is not remotely the Christmas movie 2020 is looking for. Although overtly white, privileged and littered with high brow rich New Yorkers, this early 90s film does strike a sentimental Christmas tone with a brother and sister who scheme to reunite their recently divorced parents at Christmas.

It all begins with young Hailey (Thora Birch), who visits Santa at Macy’s. Instead of asking for toys and treats, she asks Santa for a united family. Her caring older brother Ethan (Ethan Embry), who is perhaps the nicest older teen brother in family films, works to ensure that Hailey’s wish comes true.

So, brother, sister along with some friends stir up the perfect mix of family film antics that brings laughs to kids and warms the melodramatic hearts of adults. Yes, it’s sappy and far from a Capra classic, but this little 1991 film brings plenty of heart just in time for Christmas. 

Scrooged (1988)

From Richard Donner, the director behind Superman, Lethal Weapon and The Goonies came this late 80s classic that finds Bill Murray in his cantankerous prime.

A dark comedic take on Charles Dickens A Christmas Carol, Bill Murray is a media mogul without a soul that not only pollutes the television airwaves with cultural rubbish but also treats the people in his life with incredible disdain. Like all tellings of the Dickens’ classic, Murray’s character is visited by a collection of ghosts who teach him a thing or two about what it means to have the Christmas spirit all year round. Heightened by Murray’s comic antics and talent for gruff, this telling is dark, satirical and more timely now than ever. 

Batman Returns (1992)

I still have memories of this most Tim Burton of Batman films while enthralled at an opening night screening back in June of 1992. 

Enjoying Batman’s even darker Gotham, a family with young kids left the theatre as Danny DeVito’s sinister Penguin enjoyed a vicious bite of a man’s nose.It immediately dawned on on my 12 year old self that this tale was not the kid geared story of the first Batman that dominated movie theatres and toy stores in 1989. Instead, Tim Burton with all the clout of new cemented A-list director dove deep into the complexity of Gotham, the characters that inhibit it and the unmasking of Christmas itself.

At its core, Batman Returns with all of its violence, sexuality and holiday set design is a Christmas exploitation film; one that forces audience to remember that with the festive season rests many unhidden or often avoided truths and horrors of society forgotten or run amok. 

This is quintessential Burton; peeling away the societal masks and using costumes and abstraction as an exploration of truth. Regardless of all of the dark, there is a sheer comic joy to Batman Returns. Brooding and fun, this is the best of the 90s Batman films and one of the characters most intriguing interpretations. 

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