December 8th – Advent

Michael Prescott
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Day 8 – Vada Advent Calendar

Film Club #8: Christmas Comforts

The first of a couple of Christmas cracker Film Clubs to discuss with your racist grandparents, turkey-slaving parents and drunken siblings round the dinner table focuses on those films that we can only term Christmas Comforts.

To be clear, these aren’t films with a Christmas link (it’s only December 7th for goodness sake) – we’ll address that in a couple of weeks’ time. For now, we look solely at those films that you can’t help but watch as an annual tradition.

It may be delightful animations, warm family films, fantastical adventures or childhood classics. Vada writers put forward their own personal choices that both they and you can enjoy this festive season…

Carl Eden

This is in no way a Christmas movie, but it’s a fantastic feel-good piece to watch in the festive season. Miyazaki is one of the most magical directors working today and as with all Studio Ghibli features, Howl’s Moving Castle is a simple yet beautiful visual feast.

The sheer sense of scale in the rolling hills, fluidity of the animation and sense of detail on show really come together, along with the wonderful piano score, to create an all-encompassing and absorbing world.

As with most Miyazaki movies, the plot isn’t straight-forward and doesn’t adhere to Western narrative constraints – which may be frustrating for some – but most will find the strange plot (Beauty and the Beast meets anti-war magic fantasy) equally liberating, and you never know where this story is going or what’s going to happen next.

It’s a weird movie, full of surreal imagery, wizards and spells, magic working on metaphor and some really fun characters – including (in the solid Western dub) Christian Bale as an oddly sexy Howl.

Howl’s Moving Castle is a lot of fun and leaves the audience feeling great by the close; this is a fulfilling and fun movie, one to make you feel good and a definite must watch over the festive season.

Frazer Lough

My Christmas favourite without doubt has to be Mary Poppins. Without fail it is watched in the Lough household at least 10 times over the Christmas period.

There is something splendid about this film that makes me reminisce about my childhood and we can’t forget about the glorious songs. Penned by the Sherman Brothers they are a true masterpiece, from Supercalifragilisticexpialidocious to Feed the Birds to Let’s Go Fly A Kite; they’re the kind of songs that get stuck in your head and are cherished.

For me Mary Poppins has family at its core and this is exactly what Christmas is all about in my eyes. The world’s favourite nanny has a place in everyone’s home and with the recent release of Saving Mr Banks the film’s true meaning is revealed to everyone.

Mary Poppins is Disney’s most Oscar-awarded and nominated film to date and it isn’t hard to see why; it is practically perfect in every way. A true classic and a perfect winter warmer that will be celebrating its 50th anniversary next year, Mary Poppins inspires many and will continue to do so for many more years.

James Gallagher

If ever a film can get me in the Christmas spirit, it’s Who Framed Roger Rabbit. At once a childish cartoon and a glorious neo-noir parody, it is a film that everyone – old and young – can enjoy, albeit for very different reasons.
When I was a child, I loved seeing all of my favourite cartoon characters in one hilarious, slapstick-heavy film. As a teenager I loved the techniques, the style and the dark humour of the thing. Now, as a (sort of) adult, I just love how clever and witty it is.

It is a film rich with in-jokes, though it’s also one that has the utmost love, respect and appreciation for the genre that it is parodying. It borrows heavily from films such as The Maltese Falcon and Chinatown yet never mocks them; rather it praises them and helps to pass their timeless stories on to the next generation.

At its core, Who Framed Roger Rabbit is about two different groups putting their differences aside and working together to ensure the triumph of good over evil. It’s a film that explores the importance of friendship and family, and is one that is brimming with warmth, humour and an anarchic sense of fun; in essence, it’s the perfect Christmas film!

Michael Prescott

There are some people out there, as unbelievable as it sounds, who have not yet watched The Sound of Music, and so it really is time for them to amend this staggering state of affairs.

Set aside a mid-afternoon and bathe in the glory of Austrian pride, musical children, complex love triangles, barmy nuns and Julie freakin’ Andrews taking on the Nazis.

And what’s more, The Sound of Music didn’t need 12 episodes and a box-set to do all this, it manages it in 3 hours. It’s a timeless classic – a mash of about six separate genres – and so it really does have a bit of everything.

To revisit some classic animation to go alongside this, the much more time-manageable Alice in Wonderland – the 1951 Disney original, of course – is worthy every single one of its paltry 75 minutes of running-time.

The dark, twisted and terrifying meets the joyous, charismatic and bizarre in the form of the Cheshire Cat, The Queen of Hearts, the Caterpillar, the Mad Hatter and other lesser-known fiends and friends, not forgetting Alice herself.

Curiouser and curiouser as it goes on, the wonderfully barmy adaptation of Lewis Carroll’s novel of the same name and its sequel, Through the Looking Glass, works on many levels for all audiences.

Looking to the future, both Stardust and particularly Hugo have all of the ingredients to become mainstays of Christmas for many years to come…

Raks Patel

I have chosen Robert Zemeckis’ Back to the Future because I watch the film every Christmas without fail. I return time and again because it is such a box of delights – it has everything you could wish for – time travel, science-fiction, action, adventure, family drama, comedy, a love story and a great soundtrack.

The film centres on the friendship between Marty McFly, a teenager, and Dr Emmett Brown (“Doc”), a scientist/inventor. Doc invents a time machine and Marty is accidentally sent back in time from 1985 to 1955.

Back in 1955, Marty meets his parents and has to bring them together. This proves tricky when Marty’s mum fancies Marty – calling him a “dreamboat” – rather than his father! Marty must also get back to 1985.

The film’s positive message is that you make your own destiny: “if you put your mind to it, you can accomplish anything”.

The two central performances from Michael J. Fox and Christopher Lloyd are outstanding and the film takes you on a thrilling and exciting adventure. Whenever I watch the film, it never fails to put a smile on my face.

About Michael Prescott

24-year-old Welsh writer on all things film. Background in Philosophy. Accidentally in Sheffield for 6 years and counting. Addicted to Kevin Spacey. Tweetable: @M_S_Prescott

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