Lots of holiday recommendations this week leading up to Christmas, plus some kickass genre movies you probably missed. They're Christmas for your eyes.
White Christmas (1954, dir. Michael Curtiz) White Christmas has grown on me over the years (did you know it opened in October???). The movie is so great when it sticks to the songs and dance numbers, and so batshit crazy everywhere else. Where do I begin? Ok, this is probably the only division in the Army that didn't lose a man in WWII. They are SO upbeat, like the war was basically summer camp for grown ups. Then the troops leave their families on Christmas to go hang out with their old General. WHAT? Try that one on your wives and families, guys. Enjoy your divorce. Also, Bing Crosby seducing Rosemary Clooney is why I go to the movies. I don't ever want to watch them have sex, but I would totally listen to an audio tape of it. It would be all quips and huckleberry charm. So everybody grab your liverwurst sandwiches, the pitcher of buttermilk and sit by the fire because we're gonna have the hap, hap, happiest Christmas as we watch Bing Crosby tap-dance with Danny fucking Kaye.
Santa Claus: The Movie (1985, dir. Jeannot Szwarc) Much has been written about this film, but I had not seen it until this week. It gets weird, though, because I read the novelization when I was a kid. I'm totally backwards, I know. There were a lot of movies that I wasn't allowed to see as a kid (though this isn't one of them) that I WAS allowed to read the novelization for. I read the entire book for Rambo III in the backseat of my parents car while they ran errands one day. And so it was with Santa Claus: The Movie (not to be confused with Santa Claus: The Album or Santa Claus: The Cologne): when I couldn't see the movie, I read the book instead. Guess what? The book is better. Just kidding! It might be, but I don't remember. This is an odd little movie with a schizophrenic tone. Half of it wants to be an epic, historical origin of Santa Claus while the other half wants to be Santa versus corporate American greed. How weird for a children's Christmas movie. There's also an odd mix of sincere wonder and dark humor when they should have just picked one of those and run with it. Still, I'm glad that I've now seen it because I know of no other Christmas films quite like this. It's completely representative of 1985, in both aesthetic and theme. I'm actually recommending it here because of that. Plus, I don't think it's bad, I think it's just really strange, and very, very '80s. But this is better than many of the Hallmark channel movies that populate the Christmas section on Netflix.
Frances Ha (2013, dir. Noah Baumbauch) This one really crept up on me. Though I liked it when I first saw it earlier this year, the more I think about it, the more I like it. The latest in a string of great films by Noah Baumbauch, this one concerns the Frances of the title (Greta Gerwig) and her sometimes sad and sometimes funny attempts to navigate the vagaries of the adult world after college.This film gave me many insights into the joys and problems that my son's generation are currently facing. Great performances and outstanding black and white cinematography… Wait a minute! I recommended this last week! Damnit… Hold on...
National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989, Jeremiah Chechick) "Shitter's full." -- Randy Quaid
Drug War (2013, dir. Johnnie To). HOLY SHIT HAVE YOU GUYS SEEN DRUG WAR? This is the best cops-and-robbers movie since The Departed. Super intense, with some of the best action sequences in any movie this year. Every second of this movie will kick you in the dick. Don't see it if you are afraid of movies that are awesome.
My second pick is Bounty Killer (2013, dir. Henry Saine), the low-budget post-apocalyptic action movie the I reviewed earlier this year during its limited theatrical run. So many bad pseudo-exploitation movies have come out in the last few years. This is not one of them. It has tons of energy, terrific violence, scruffy charm and a star-making turn by Christian Pitre as Mary Death. If you like these kinds of movies, you will love this movie. It's a blast.