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This Christmas will be marked by coronavirus in many parts of the world. With restrictions of various kinds and degrees, the truth is that if these dates are usually for spending time at home with the family, this time of year will be especially conducive to watching Christmas movies.
We always associate Christmas movies with stories about families with children, who face fantastic adventures against a villain who wants, in one way or another, to destroy the spirit of Christmas. Along the way they discover that by helping each other and others they will overcome all problems together. Films with lots of snow, lots of candy, lots of gifts, some loving and caring characters, and always with important teachings about family, friends, love and peace.
At El American we have decided to create this list of Christmas movies that meet these typical requirements, but that, paradoxically, are a little atypical as Christmas movies.
Christmas action movies, gunfire and explosions? Die Hard
Many people think that this classic action movie starring Bruce Willis is not a Christmas movie, that it’s simply set in a company Christmas party in a skyscraper.
However, many other people believe that it is one of the most emblematic Christmas movies ever. Not only because of its multiple television revivals during the Christmas holidays, but also because of its theme; that of a man about to get divorced who wants to spend Christmas with his children and ends up not only saving his wife from being kidnapped in a skyscraper, but also his marriage.
This discussion about whether or not Die Hard is a Christmas movie is as old as the film, 32. But a few days ago, on December 16, 2020, on a special program of the American Film Industry, the film’s own director, John McTiernan, settled the controversy by acknowledging that it was indeed a Christmas movie, even though that was not his initial intention.
Although the film may seem like a simple -and very effective- action movie, the reality is that it hides deep Christmas messages. It is the story of the confrontation of a small American individualistic hero against a strong group of foreign enemies. John McClane is a modern-day “cowboy” fighting for what is right and just.
The film’s own villain – Hans Gruber, a white-collar German upper-class thief – refers to John McClane as “Mr. Cowboy.” But Bruce Willis’ character in this film was much more than that. He was a normal guy who acted like a hero to rescue his unfaithful wife, because he knew it was the right thing to do and no one else was going to do it.
Until then, the action genre had been played by extraordinary men like Arnold Schwarzenegger or Sylvester Stallone. With the casting of Bruce Willis, only known for his romantic TV series Moonlight, the film sent a clear message that McClane was a normal guy, not an invincible hero.
McClane has all the odds against him and not only has he to face the heavily armed and trained German robbers alone, but he also has to deal with incompetent police officers and unscrupulous journalists.
It is a film about the individualistic hero that we all carry within us fighting for his family and his dreams, doing what he considers to be right. With two new friends faithfully helping him, he manages to defeat the bad guys, restore peace, save his wife and regain his love and children. There’s no better Christmas message than that!
Christmas movies with Arnold Schwarzenegger? Jingle All The Way
This 1996 film has become a Christmas classic. It is about a father so busy with his work that he never attends his son’s school functions and that on December 24th realizes that he has forgotten to buy the Christmas present he asked Santa for.
Because of so much dedication to his company, his marriage is on the line. His wife is hurting with him because of his absences and his divorced neighbor spends more time helping her at home than he does. If she finds out that he hasn’t bought her son’s gift, it could be the last straw and cause his marriage to blow up.
The problem is that the toy in question, the Ultra-Man action figure, is the star gift of that Christmas and is practically sold out in all stores. In a few hours he will have to go all over the city in a marathon against the clock against other absent-minded parents who, like him, are on the hunt for the last available specimens for sale.
So far, a somewhat dark family comedy, but one of the most Christmas-like. The atypical of this film is its protagonist, Arnold Schwarzenegger. Although he had already played some comic characters (Junior, Kindergarten Cop, Twins), Arnold was known for being Conan, Terminator, Commando, Danko, Quaid in Total Recall and the one who killed Predator.
Typically, in this film Schwarzenegger would have been the Ultra-Man doll, not a struggling middle-class parent. In these times in which we suffer from the intoxication of, precisely, the expression “toxic masculinity”, it is thankful to see a movie in which the “deconstructed man” is the neighbor of evil intentions.
At this time it is refreshing to be able to see with the family a film that praises the enterprising man, who works hard and strives to move his business and his family forward.
Christmas horror movies for kids? Gremlins
Gremlins is an iconic film from the eighties. Shot on the same sets as Back to the Future, it was one of the highest-grossing films of the competitive year 1984, and Gizmo’s doll became as popular with children as Grogu (The Mandalorian‘s “Baby Yoda”) is now.
Although it was released in the summer, it has become one of the most typical Christmas movies, since its story takes place during the Christmas season, with lots of snow and even with gremlins singing carols. What is atypical about this movie? That it was actually a horror film with a high degree of violence to be considered a children’s Christmas film until that moment.
Gremlins was a PG category, which is a suggested parental guidance, but considered for all audiences. Because of the evil gremlins, the Motion Pictures Association of America (MPAA) had to modify its age rating system and create the PG-13 category, where content may not be suitable for children under 13.
Everyone who has seen it remembers the endearing Gizmo, although in the original script it was going to be the bad guy. Steven Spielberg suggested that it would be better to separate the gremlins from the mogwai, as the audience would become attached to the adorable creature.
Despite being 36 years old, the film has a script that could be considered premonitory with respect to the narrative that has been developing around the “Trump Era”.
Randall “Rand” Peltzer is an American inventor who comes unless he goes to Chinatown to try to sell his gadgets, but he doesn’t sell a single one. To make matters worse, he ends up spending his money on a mogwai, a strange but adorable little Chinese animal with a tender look, but which will end up destroying his home and his city.
In fact, this being was not for sale as a pet by the grocer, but Randall had to bribe his grandson to get it, who reminds him about the three rules that he must follow to take care of this mythological animal: not to expose it to bright lights or to the sun; never to give it to drink or to wet it; and the most important rule, never to feed it after midnight.
Once home, Randall gives Gizmo to his teenage son Billy, who has a precarious job to help with the household bills that his father’s inventions can barely pay. Of course, soon after having the mogwai, he ends up spilling water on his back.
From the wet area, several hairballs start to jump out and become new mogwais, only more aggressive. Luckily Billy does not engage in a possibly very lucrative mogwais breeding for resale, but these new Chinese creatures manage to trick Billy at eating time hacking the electronic clock at his bedside table.
The mogwais are transformed into a kind of gelatinous eggs, like chrysalises, from which finally arise the evil reptilian-looking beings called gremlins.
First they destroy their house and try to kill their family, including the dog, and then they go sowing chaos through the city, razing everything to the ground and attacking people. The only one who saw it coming was the village madman, a mechanic and farmer who always wore a red cap, and who complained about the invasion of low-quality Chinese products in American car and tractor parts. He also talked about the mythological gremlins, which, legend has it, during World War II snuck into Allied planes to scrap them from the inside out.
Although the gremlins are vandalizing the city, looking for water to multiply, Billy attracts them to the movies and there, while entertaining them with a movie, he manages to lock them up and burn them to death. Once the chaotic situation is over, he returns Gizmo to the Chinese shopkeeper, who will take care of him more responsibly than Billy.
A somewhat macabre story, but one that has become a Christmas classic with several messages and teachings: that you have to help each other as a family and act responsibly, complying with the important rules; that it is not good thing to make dirty deals in dark alleys in Chinatown and, above all, that you should not let yourself be hacked by the clock on the bedside table.
These are three somewhat atypical Christmas movies to watch again this Christmas. To be continued.