REVIEW: November

Directed by: Rainer Sarnet
Cast: Rea Lest, Jörgen Liik, Arvo Kukumägi

Written by Bianca Garner

November is an odd film. It’s a very odd, and very strange film; almost completely impossible to describe in words. This isn’t to say that November is a bad film, in fact, it is quite the opposite. November is a stunningly beautiful film with achingly gorgeous cinematography and a haunting score. Directed by Rainer Sarnet, November was Estonia’s entry to the 90th Academy awards, adapted from Andrus Kivirähk’s novel Rehepapp ehk November (which has sold over 25,000 copies making him the most popular 21st century Estonian writer). November is a fairytale at its core. A very grim, strange and surreal fairytale with a moral message at its core, of how love is a fickle thing that can melt away as quickly as the snow. November feels like the film that Andrei Tarkovsky never made, crossed with a dash of Ingmar Bergman’s 1960s films (like Persona and The Hour of the Wolf), and a small splash of Lars Von Trier Antichrist. Beauty is in the surreal.

In 19th century Estonia, a village is inhabited by Black Death (who takes on the form of a pig), spirits, witches, werewolves and the Devil himself. A peasant girl, Liina (Rea Lest), longs for a village boy Hans, while Hans longs for a daughter of an aristocrat (Jette Loona Hermanis),. Liina is to be betrothed to a much older farmer, who repulses her. Both try to use mythical powers to win the hearts and minds of their ‘true’ love. Liina asks the village witch to help her, a toothless hag who has her own sad story of love to tell. And, Hans makes a snowman which comes to life to disperse advice and wisdom, before melting away as the winter season slowly changes. However, things don’t go according to plan and devastating consequences occur as a result. Can their love survive even the toughest and most barren of places?

The film begins strangely; with shots a snowy landscape, a beautiful frozen river and a wolf roaming around being curious and its surroundings. At first, everything seems peaceful and quiet. Then a strange anthropomorphic creature made out of human hair, metal coils and scythes appears in a barn with a cow, proceeding the steal the cow and fly away before dropping the creature (which remains relatively unharmed). The residents come out (Liina and her father) and seem unfazed by the metal creature, in fact the viewer discovers that Liina’s father made the thing, using a soul he brought from the devil at the crossroads in the forest. If you are confused and frustrated by the film’s opening five minutes, then it is possible that this may not be the film for you. The film’s mystery and intrigue are what capture the viewer’s interest, sucking them into this bleak, and alluring world.

The world in which November is set in feels like it exists outside of reality and time. Indeed, it feels like this films could be set in any time throughout history, is it in the past or a warning of our future to come? The film’s narrative is steadily paced, with the camera taking moments to simply pause and reflect on the landscape. Often feeling like a living embodiment of a fever dream, November will leave many viewers feeling puzzled and perplexed as they try to make sense of what events have taken place on screen with surreal moments like when Liina walks out at night, stripping and performing a magical ritual. Is she a werewolf, or is she somehow controlling Han’s lover? It is worth watching November a few times to fully soak the film’s aesthetics and consume it’s plot, and there is a new experience and reading to be had upon every viewing. It is highly likely that November will become a cult film and one that will be studied and analyzed for years to come. This may be a hard film for some to watch, but it’s a rewarding watch and makes it one of this year’s most unique viewing experiences. 

The film’s lead, Rea Lest is memorizing to watch on screen and the camera seems drawn to her presence.  Her co-stars, Jorgen Liik and Jette Loona Hermanis also give a strong performance. And the film’s supporting cast made up of real oddballs helps to reinforce this strange world that November inhabits. The film’s crisp cinematography by director of photography Mart Taniel makes every shot worthy of being hung in an art gallery, and the film’s score by Polish musician Jacaszek adds to the film’s atmosphere and makes the very hairs on the back of your neck stand up. There really isn’t another film like November out there, and in a world of increasing sequels, and remakes, it is refreshing to watch a film that isn’t afraid to be different and daring.

Bianca’s Rating:

5

JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: Netflix and Chill-mas

Written by Sarah Buddery

Christmas movies are just a click or a tap away and in a year where the Netflix original films have really kicked up a notch, the streaming service is bringing us four fresh festive offerings this year.

JumpCut All The Way is celebrating some of the best and most beloved Christmas movies and the big question is, can any of the Netflix offerings join this pantheon? Here’s how I have them stacked up, from worst to best, to help you make the best choices this Christmas…

 

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6. Christmas Inheritance (2017)

Full disclosure on this one, I was not able to get through this film. I was invested in its trashy and predictable vibes initially and just when I thought it would start wrapping up, I made the mistake of pausing it and seeing that there was, unfortunately, another 75 minutes left. I persevered for a little while, but honestly, this film is unwatchable. It struggles in particular with having a central character who is so inconceivably stupid and borderline detestable, that it is impossible to feel anything for its attempts at schmaltz. A character going on some kind of magical transformation is what we would expect from a film such as this, but this character is so unlikeable, you can’t help but think that she really doesn’t deserve to inherit anything. The pace is so slow it feels like it is moving backwards, and it lacks the charm and warmth of many of the other Netflix offerings. Avoid.

 

 

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5. The Holiday Calendar (2018)

In a film about an enchanted advent calendar, you know the schmaltz is going to be ladled on thick, but whilst there is still an odd charm to The Holiday Calendar the contrivances outweigh this. There is absolutely no doubt, from the moment the film starts, how it is going to end, which makes much of the film feel like a wasted exercise. The performances are okay, and if you know exactly what type of film you are going to see going into it, then there are still things to enjoy.

 

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4.  A Christmas Prince: The Royal Wedding (2018)

Just like the first film, this sequel is cosy nonsense, as indulgent as a giant mug of hot chocolate with mountains of whip cream and all the marshmallow trimmings. Its faux attempts at drama and plot are all inconsequential in the grand scheme of things as we’re really just here to see the magical Christmas nuptials, and they do not disappoint. The original was bafflingly brilliant and fans who have been eagerly anticipating this sequel will not be disappointed.

 

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3. The Princess Switch (2018)

Anyone who thought A Christmas Prince had the most confusing location logic, you’re in for a treat with The Princess Switch. Continuing the trend of adding “via” onto the end of a random word to make a European sounding country, The Princess Switch takes place in the fictional country of Belgravia (actually an affluent district in London, but definitely not a country) centred around a baking competition that takes place at Wembley. No, not that Wembley, just a large building called Wembley, because of course any of the naming conventions of these films are decided by throwing a dart at a map of London. Aside from the fact it makes absolutely no sense, The Princess Switch is a rehash of The Parent Trap and as long as you can switch your brain off, this film is kind of fun. It’s ludicrous of course, but the dual performance from Vanessa Hudgens is charming, and the picturesque scenery will certainly make you feel warm and festive.

 

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2. A Christmas Prince (2017)

Its placing at second on this list should not fool you, A Christmas Prince is still absolute trash, but boy is it wonderful trash! Again, the logic is absolutely baffling, and you’ll know how it ends from the moment it starts. It’s a slightly more modern take on Cinderella but it has a lot of the same story beats and is the closest a film has come to recreating the magic of Disney with a live-action offering. The locations are again beautiful and as a film, it could, of course, exist without the Christmas element at all, but it’s all part of the odd charm. Like mince pies and Christmas cake, A Christmas Prince is the indulgent treat that you should only have to endure once a year.

 

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1. The Christmas Chronicles (2018)

Home Alone, Die Hard, Elf…everyone has their go-to Christmas movie, whether it is one of those mentioned here or one of the countless other classics. Hopefully, this is not overstating the mark, but The Christmas Chronicles genuinely feels like it could be one of those ones. It’s endearing and sweet enough to give you all the warm festive fuzzies that you need, but it also has plenty for the adults with the legendary Kurt Russell playing a (rather dashing!) Santa Claus. There’s a couple of jokes in it which are not going to age particularly well but it still has all the ingredients of a Christmas classic. It’s funny, heart-warming and has all the magic to make you laugh and cry. This is far and away Netflix’s best original Christmas film and one which will hopefully endure for many years to come.

JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (2005)

Directed by: Shane Black
Starring: Robert Downey Jr., Val Kilmer, Michelle Monaghan

Written by Elena Morgan

When petty thief Harry Lockhart (Robert Downey Jr.) goes to Hollywood to audition for the role of a movie detective, he gets detective lessons from private eye Gay Perry (Val Kilmer) and reunites with his high school friend Harmony (Michelle Monaghan). But the line between fiction and reality blurs for them all when Harry and Perry find a dead body.

Now Kiss Kiss Bang Bang might seem like an odd choice for JUMPCUT All the Way, because is it really a Christmas film if it’s just set during the Christmas season but the plot doesn’t revolve around Christmas? Well if Die Hard counts, so does Kiss Kiss Bang Bang!

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is so much fun. It’s a modern neo-noir film, with Harry providing a narration over what’s happening, sometimes interrupting himself and throwing in a flashback or two. With Shane Black’s witty script, it plays on all the tropes from the genre; one moment it’s embracing the tropes, and the next it’s subverting them. There’re so many witty one-liners, most of them are from Perry, my favourite being, “Why in pluperfect hell would you pee on a corpse?”

When you think about it, the plot is rather convoluted with dead bodies piling up, bad guys framing our heroes, and general misunderstandings, but the story goes by at such a pace that you can forgive it for any inconsistencies or ridiculousness.

The reason Kiss Kiss Bang Bang works so well is because of the chemistry between Kilmer and Downey Jr. The bounce off each other so well and as Harry and Perry’s working relationship turns to almost begrudging friendship, their whole dynamic gets even better.

Kiss Kiss Bang Bang is a comedy murder mystery where you never really know what’s going to happen next, and that makes it all the more fun. If you like The Nice Guys definitely give Kiss Kiss Bang Bang a watch this Christmas.

COMPETITION: ‘Kin’ / Mogwai Merch Bundle

Thanks to our friends at Lionsgate UK, our latest competition is for a Kin / Mogwai Merch Bundle which includes:

  • Kin DVD
  • Kin Soundtrack CD by Mogwai
  • Signed Mogwai 12×12 alternative Kin LP artwork print

KIN - DVD, Print, CD.jpg

To enter, simply be sure you’re following us on Twitter and retweet the below tweet:

14-year-old Eli (Myles Truitt) lives in Detroit with his father Hal (Dennis Quaid). On the eve of his estranged brother Jimmy’s (Jack Reynor) return from prison, Eli breaks into an abandoned building site, where he stumbles upon the aftermath of an intense shoot out and a mysterious otherworldly weapon hidden amongst the rubble…

Back at home, Jimmy’s arrival causes trouble for the family as he struggles to pay back local gangster Taylor (James Franco), the man who kept him alive inside. After a disastrous attempt to secure money ends in tragedy, Jimmy hits the road with Eli in tow. Chased by a criminal gang bent on revenge, it turns out that Eli’s weapon brings a much more dangerous set of pursuers, who may not be from this world. With an all-star cast and a stunning soundtrack from Mogwai, Kin blends sci-fi and action in a slick, stylish thriller about family, loss and corruption.

Starring Jack Reynor (Free Fire), Zoë Kravitz (Mad Max: Fury Road), Carrie Coon (Avengers: Infinity War), with Dennis Quaid (The Day After Tomorrow), and James Franco (127 Hours), and introducing newcomer Myles Truitt.

Directed by Jonathan & Josh Baker and based on their award-winning short film ‘BAG MAN’. Produced by Shawn Levy & Dan Cohen (Stranger Things), and Michael B. Jordan (Black Panther).

Kin: Original Motion Picture Soundtrack by Mogwai.

Available now on Digital with DVD & Blu-ray 26 December

REVIEW: Ian (Short)

Directed by: Abel Goldfarb
Written by: Gaston Gorali

Written by Jessica Peña

Inspired by the real life story of Ian, a young boy who was born with cerebral palsy, Abel Goldfarb’s animated short film about the titular boy is a sweet and profound revelation, even for a child’s perspective, where its strength lies. It tells of a boy’s struggle to make friends at the playground, using unique stop-motion animation and CGI to bring Ian’s obstacles, the mobile and emotional, to life. It’s a push for awareness through universal imagery and only invites kindness into the world around it, as portrayed in Ian’s will to connect. Just shy of ten minutes, this endearing short film is of the firm belief that misconceptions and stigmas, especially at a young age, can be diminished in the face of benevolence.

Discrimination to Ian’s incapacitation and bullying keep him at bay when all he wants is to play with the kids in the gated off playground. He musters up the courage to integrate himself with the others, hanging by shyly, until he’s suddenly whisked away into the wind and back through the gates, shattering into little blocks and reforming back to his wheelchair. This happens a few times, Ian will peek the chances to feel normal, be perceived by the kids as such, and play with no limitations, but inclusion doesn’t need to come at a cost to Ian’s identity.

Eventually the kids, one by one, begin to notice him and lend a hand so he can stay without his wheelchair (before getting pulled toward the fences once more), but that’s far from the point of what the animated short is trying to communicate. It’s not exactly Ian’s determined bravery that finally wins the other kids over, but it’s the integration of putting yourself out there and freeing yourself of those doubts, not to be overshadowed. This closely works as a teaching moment for the younger audience as it smoothes out the social divide kids sometimes make around that age. This film means so much more when it comes to the mentality of young children. It’s easy for them to pick sides, brush others off, be occupied with their own matters and games, and so Ian’s ability to socialize and play with his able-bodied peers suffers…but it doesn’t have to. When kids interact and spend time with each other, the companionship is equivalent to acceptance with no barriers.

And speaking of barriers, Goldfarb’s short is without spoken dialogue, a creative decision that welcomes the interpretation of other backgrounds. Produced by Oscar winner and two-time Emmy winner Juan José Campanella, this small story for a better tomorrow brings you down to the bare pillars of humanity, lending a hand of its own to shatter petty judgement worldwide. Lack of knowledge and awareness about the condition even in the country of Argentina raises action for change, backed by an organization that’s willing to plant the effort in.

A 2019 Oscar-qualifier for Animated Short, Ian is doing well to win the hearts of Academy voters and audiences alike. Released from Argentina with the help and funding of companies and nonprofits like Mundoloco CGI and Fundación Ian, an organization that raises awareness and further enriches the lives of children with cerebral palsy, the short film is all-embracing to understanding. In part due to its absence of spoken words, the short emphasizes to the viewers just how far kindness, understanding, and patience can cross the fences of discrimination and bullying, especially in the lives of our children who are so perceptive to these behaviors. The film’s description says it best: Inclusion is vital for our society, it makes us richer, more diverse and more just.

Jessica’s Verdict

5

JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: Gremlins (1984)

Directed by: Joe Dante
Starring: Zach Galligan, Phoebe Cates, Hoyt Axton, Corey Feldman, Keye Luke

Written by Cameron Frew

Twisted, scary and unorthodox: Gremlins is the ultimate festive palate cleanser.

“Yeah, I know, who hasn’t got a story to tell?” says Randall Peltzer (the charming Hoyt Axton), coming in at both the beginning and end of the feature to offer a warm narration. He’s right though – why should we partake in this tale amidst the wonted seasonal efforts? Well, Joe Dante’s film (with executive producer Steven Spielberg) isn’t like the rest. It’s definitely a Christmas effort, but unlike the family-friendly aura so common around the holidays, Gremlins is dark, twisted and downright scary at times, even 34 years after its release. Fall in love with Gizmo, cower from Stripe; this is a timeless, idiosyncratic bedtime story.

Randall wanders around the murky, red-lit world of Chinatown, his towering stature sticking out amidst the busy scene (a little bit of juxtaposition for the impending thrills in suburban America). He’s ushered down into a cobweb-ridden antique shop, greeted by owner Mr. Wing (the presence-absorbing Keye Luke). He’s looking for a present to take home to his son, but he’s also trying to sell something himself – he’s a bit of an inventor, you see. His “illogical, logical” product is the “Bathroom Buddy”, which speaks for itself. This is the first in long line of references to the capitalist-conquering nature of the west, but his sales spiel isn’t eye-rolling – there’s a gentle dose of slapstick and self-aware goofiness consistent with all of Randall’s inventions in the movie.

“What is that?” he asks, upon hearing mysterious sounds in the background. We catch our first glimpse of the “Mogwai”, its silhouetted ears moving with its swooning whistle. Of course Randall wants him, but “Mogwai not for sale”, Mr. Wing says. It wouldn’t be much of a movie if he didn’t somehow get the cute little bugger. But before Dante really gets down to business, writer Chris Columbus delivers the three of the greatest Chekhov Guns in cinema: “Keep him out of bright light, don’t get him wet, and whatever you do, never feed him after midnight.”

These three conceits are a delicious time-bomb (best not to think of how Mogwai wash or how their bodies actually know it’s midnight). Before they explode, we need to be acquainted with the playground; there’s the townsfolk you would expect, such as the sneering, pantomimic old woman, the subtly racist but kind-hearted neighbour (“God damn foreign cars!”), and the boyish lead (Zach Galligan as Billy) with a girl down the street to win over (Phoebe Cates as Kate). In this regard Gremlins is both a ingeniously original work and a tribute to well-established traits of other stories, wearing them with pride as it subverts its genre.

Billy is bowled over by Gizmo immediately, as is anyone with a heart. The puppetry and technical know-how behind him is extraordinary, seemingly managing to make him appear to be a real, breathing, living creature. Dante and other members of the crew have famously said how much they actually hated the little guy due to the frustration of operating him, but the result was an 80s icon (I still have the same Gizmo toy I bought when I was eight-years-old).

Billy goes through the careless motions and eventually, there’s a litter of Mogwai running around, led by the ferocious Stripe (because of the mohawk). Gizmo remains unaffected, but his relatives are entirely different beasts; simply, they’re monsters. Dante, who displayed a real B-movie streak in the original Piranha which continued right through to 1998’s underrated Small Soldiers, has nasty, devilish fun with his new beings. Billy’s mum memorably fights off a bunch of them, shoving them in blenders and microwaves and whatnot in a hilariously gory flurry of kills. It is at this point, Gremlins switches genre, from child-friendly fare to frightening horror flick.

The craft behind the film is deserving of praise; Dante’s direction is impassioned and rambunctious, aided by the wacky eye of cinematographer John Hora (watch out for the fluorescent pool scene). Jerry Goldsmith’s score is a not-often mentioned work, which is criminal, as his Gremlins theme is the stuff classic compositions are made of. Columbus’ script taps into coming-of-age tropes, but at one point, in the most fantastic, off-kilter moment of dramedy you’re likely to experience, gives Kate a harrowing story to recount for Billy – no spoilers, but you’ll know what I’m talking about if you’ve seen it.

The final stretch of the film is a full-on descent into monster-mayhem. We watch in awe as they completely wreck a bar, enjoying an extravagant night of boozing and playing cards, before heading to the cinema for an impromptu, feisty performance of Snow White. They could be interpreted as many things, a representation of the hysteria of capitalism, perhaps? Or, if nothing else, uproarious, riotous, murderous villains that you’ll find even more captivating with every croaky “yum yum”.

By the rather poignant end, Gremlins is guaranteed to have left a mark. It was criticized for its violence back in the day, alongside similarly uncharacteristically extreme Indiana Jones prequel, Temple of Doom. Consider whether your children will be able to handle it before putting it on perhaps. If they can, they’re in for a wicked treat. Just remember, check all the cupboards and under the beds, “you never can tell – there might just be a Gremlin in your house”.

REVIEW: Mortal Engines (2018)

Directed by: Christian Rivers
Starring: Hera Hilmar, Robert Sheehan, Hugo Weaving, Jihae

Written by Elena Morgan

Based on the book by Philip Reeve, Mortal Engines is set in a post-apocalyptic future where in order to survive, whole towns and cities are on wheels, roaming the Earth looking for fuel. Smaller towns are on the constant lookout for predator cities, London being the biggest and deadliest of them all. If a town gets caught, the predator city ingests it and strips it for parts.

What you need from a whole new fantasy film, especially one where not everyone will have read the source material, is to be instantly immersed into this world – Mortal Engines succeeds in this. Opening with a thrilling chase as London pursues and eventually captures a small town, you’re seamlessly introduced to its world, how these towns work, and how its people live. Unbeknownst to London’s hero Thaddeus Valentine (Hugo Weaving), on their newly acquired fuel source is Hester Shaw (Hera Hilmar) a young woman who is hell-bent on revenge for her mother’s murder. After Hester’s attempt to kill Valentine fails, she, along with historian Tom (Robert Sheehan) who had naively tried to help Valentine, are flung from the city and are forced to fend for themselves.

While there are big fights, explosions, and aerial spectacles, it’s Hester and Tom slowly learning to trust and care for one another that’s at the heart of this film. Sheehan’s natural charisma shines through, and his chemistry with Hilmar makes Tom and Hester’s relationship surprisingly sweet. They’re like an odd couple, Tom is friendly and enthused about ancient technology, while Hester is wary and untrusting. Having there be no big-name actors as the heroes, means there is a real sense of peril for these characters as you soon realise anyone might not make it.

The set design and special effects are incredible, these towns and cities feel like living creatures and they each have their own unique style. The same thing can be said for the various flying aircraft as well. The costumes and props flesh out this futuristic world that’s simultaneously old-fashioned with their love of books and need for coal, but also modern with their guns and planes. It’s like steam-punk mixed with sci-fi, making Mortal Engines a world of its own.

Some subplots aren’t that great and never really reach their potential, one in particular concerns Valentine’s daughter (Leila George) and her unlikely ally. They are both interesting characters but once they’ve discovered enough so the audience is aware of what’s happening, they disappear and there’s no real conclusion to their arcs.

Mortal Engines is an action-packed, fun adventure about outlaws attempting to save the world from a greedy capitalist. What more could you want? 

 

ELENA’S VERDICT:

4

JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: How The Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

Directed by: Ron Howard
StarringJim Carrey, Taylor Momsen, Jeffrey Tambor, Christine Baranski, Bill Irwin, Molly Shannon

Written by Rhys Bowen Jones

If you can believe it, The Grinch was one of the highest-grossing films of the year 2000, and is to this day the second highest-grossing Christmas film of all-time, behind Home Alone. Despite a fairly mixed reception initially, The Grinch has grown in appreciation over the years and remains a firm favourite in my household every Christmas. Last year, upon rewatch number umpteen, it truly struck me and my mum just how funny the film is. It’s become a staple of the Christmas film season, and for me, rightfully so.

The Grinch stars Jim Carrey in the titular role as a weird, green demon hellbent on ruining Christmas. Adapted by Ron Howard from Dr. Seuss’ classic tale, Carrey terrorises the town of Whoville, of which he used to be a citizen, and vows to ruin Christmas for everyone below his dwelling high in the mountains. What follows is a genuine masterstroke of filmmaking from a character and production design standpoint, all of which is elevated by a classic Jim Carrey performance, the master of physical comedy that he is.

It’s fair to say that The Grinch wouldn’t have been the success it was without Jim Carrey. In his grotesque green costume with his bizarrely hairy features, protruding stomach, and slightly misshapen face, Carrey delivers a comedic performance for the ages. Every gesture, every grunt, every line is delivered with absolute maximum effort for the comedic impact that is still referenced today; “oooh…ahhh….hmmm….that’s it I’m not going” and “hate, hate hate hate, double hate…LOATHE ENTIRELY!” are two quotes that I reference all year round, regardless of the season. The way he slinks through every scene, high knees and all, never fails to bring a smile to my face. Carrey is reliably great in almost everything he’s in, but The Grinch uses all his comedic power as humanly possible, and it’s a damn delight for doing so.

What truly defines a Christmas film is its sentiment, its overall message, and The Grinch has such a message in abundance. In amongst all of the glorious nonsense is a story of someone struggling with their self-imposed isolation; their true desire is to feel a part of something again. After humiliation as a child at school (a genuinely moving sequence that could’ve sunk like a stone but really works thanks to the young actor committing to being a young Jim Carrey as much as he could), Mr Grinch (per Cindy Lou) cut himself off to punish the town, to try to cast a light on its internal elitism. Truthfully, this angle has never properly struck me until recently, but it’s a very un-subtle metaphor for assumed social hierarchy, and for that, it deserves a lot of credit.

Beyond that though, as is the tradition with most Christmas films, is the discovery of the meaning of Christmas. The Grinch, one could argue, is an anti-materialist venture, showing that Christmas has nothing to do with material gain and presents, but the overall sharing of the season with the ones we love. The ultimate reason the Grinch starts to care again is this very realisation. In a surprisingly spectacular moment in which the Grinch, after robbing the entire town of their Christmas gifts, the Grinch holds the stolen gifts high above his head in a feat of inhuman strength, and declares “I’ve got you, Cindy Lou!” He doesn’t want the satisfaction that he saved the town’s presents, all he cares is his new friend is safe. He’s grown, he’s matured, 3 times over in fact. He’s another embodiment of Ebenezer Scrooge in the form of an actual demon, and it makes me feel absolute joy as the film concludes.

The Grinch is hilarious thanks to Jim Carrey, it’s a marvel in creature design, but most importantly, it’s a faithful Christmas story with a proper Christmas message at its core. That’s what a Christmas film should be.

JUMPCUT ALL THE WAY: Meet Me In St. Louis (1944)

Directed by: Vincente Minnelli
Cast: Judy Garland, Margaret O’Brien, Mary Astor

Written by Jo Craig

If arguing the great Die Hard debate, rebelling against Saint Nicholas by siding with Krampus under the fairy lights, or hearing Catherine O’Hara scream “Kevin!” for the four hundredth time tickles your tinsel, then a slight change from the rogues’ gallery of festive films could still supply enough nostalgic comfort to put the cream in your cocoa this winter. Aside from hosting one of the more classic Christmas tunes that leaves no eye dry, Vincente Minnelli’s 1940 musical, Meet Me in St. Louis, remains a mother/daughter tradition in my house that can never be skipped in December, under the threat of no brandy trifle from said matriarch.

Judy Garland’s second big break after The Wizard of Oz puts Esther Smith and her siblings through the rollercoaster of large family dramas, social frivolities accompanied by infectious singalongs and melodramatic romances that oozes just enough glowing hyperbole to remind you of its time period. As a kid, I was convinced Minnelli’s first major directing gig ran for over three hours as – at that age – a 40’s family drama/musical wasn’t The Grinch and came as more of a duty to sit through. Nowadays, the runtime has cut by half in my mind and I’m always sorry to see the Smith’s story end.

Based on a book by novelist Sally Benson and her family experiences, St. Louis infuses the airy premise with strong flavours of family bonding and loyalty that are always enhanced around the holidays. With the story broke into four acts – summer, fall, winter and spring – we witness the Smith girl’s long hot summer and their dance with romance featuring the feel-good Trolley Song that on set diva Garland managed to nail in one take. It is still not known how they survived in those curtain dresses. A memorable autumnal act tells us the little-known tradition of children who throw flour into the faces of a feared neighbour on All Hallows Eve, emphasising Minnelli’s talent at saturating each of the four acts with the pertaining seasons defining features.

Minnelli also segregates the Smith family into parents, teens and children to tell their individual stories in the narrative and effectively joins them in their times of need to convey their unity. The parents focus on the responsibilities and well-being of the family, creating a cathartic arc in the story when they threaten their family’s stability by planning to move from St. Louis to New York against their children’s wishes. Meanwhile, the teens focus on their social and romantic status’ and generally remain footloose and fancy-free. The interesting perspective is the children’s, especially the youngest sibling, cheeky Tootie (Margaret O’Brien) who’s mischief is tracked with Minnelli’s low camera angles that allow the viewer to witness her adventures from a child’s height, particularly visible in the Halloween scene.

One year in the life of the Smith family has its laughs, theatrics and singalongs, but the real sucker punch to the feels is the famous scene when Garland’s Esther sings Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas before the family has to uproot and move town. Garland apparently protested for the final line of the song to be removed – as it previously read, “Have yourself a merry little Christmas, it may be your last.” – and while this poignant moment in the film is relevant to that closing statement, Garland thought this was just a touch too sombre.

If by the end of Meet Me in St. Louis you don’t feel festively fulfilled or compelled to interact or reconnect with your family, then you are simply not human and are genuinely missing out on the tenderness that this hidden gem holds. The Christmas sequence is a heartfelt and memorable moment in cinematic history that is renowned for warming each and every heart cockle, even if Garland’s headscarf will constantly remind you of bubble wrap.