Holiday selections for scrooges: A look at alternative holiday entertainment

By in Culture

With another holiday season quickly approaching, we are in for an endless loop of Christmas cable classics. Everyone has their yearly traditions, but we often forget about the movies that capture the spirit of the holidays yet aren’t explicitly festive.

Traditional Christmas movies make audiences feel warm and fuzzy over the holiday season. They are joyful and silly — pictures like Home Alone, Elf and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. These films each have their lead characters mixed up in a series of comedic hijinks, and in return, audiences are gifted with jolly laughs and happy endings.

Though these films are wonderful, Christmas isn’t always a pleasant time. Stresses associated with gift giving, family events and feverishly busy malls can take a toll on an individual, rendering them cold to the Christmas season.

For these dark times amidst the holiday cheer, certain alternative Christmas films can help one  wallow in these estranged moods and bring to light endlessly interesting topics such as Freemason orgies, surreal dual personalities and cold-blooded murders.

The first film on this list is Eyes Wide Shut — released in 1999, it is the final film by Stanley Kubrick. It stars Nicole Kidman and Tom Cruise, two mega-
celebrities at the time. The story is set during Christmastime in New York City and follows the struggles of Bill (Cruise), an attractive but aloof doctor, and Alice (Kidman), his wife.

The film is based on Arthur Schnitzler’s 1926 novella Traumnovelle, which translates to “dream story.” This take on the brooding anxiety wrought from the thought of your partner becoming intimate with another person will surely cool your warm heart during the holiday season.

At the beginning of the film, Alice reveals to Bill that she has contemplated having an affair and would have had one had the other man been interested. Bill proceeds to go on a night-long journey in which he infiltrates a masked orgy of a Freemason-type society. If there is any soundtrack that can replace the Christmas songs we all know and love, it’s probably the reversed chanting of a masked secret order.

Eyes Wide Shut is long, slow and gives no direct answers, although it asks some of the most difficult questions that people are challenged with when engaged in long-term relationships.

The second alternative Christmas film that ought to be on your list is The Double Life of Veronique, a film released in 1991 by the famous Polish director Krzysztof Kieślowski.

Starring Polish actress Irène Jacob, this film is quieter and less grand than Eyes Wide Shut, instead offering a more contemplative and poetic look into two women who share a mysterious bond deeper than language and geography. The two main characters are both played by Jacob — one character is a Polish choir soprano, and the other is a French music teacher.

They have no knowledge of one another but are connected throughout the film in a deeply surreal way. The film is much like a fantasy — the cinematography is cross-processed and duo-toned, creating an ethereal feeling that you won’t find in your average Christmas film.

This film is not so much a work of art that you watch and understand but more something that you feel. Analysis does not do this film much justice.

The final and least depressing alternative Christmas movie on the list is the Coen brothers’ classic Fargo. Set in the cold, bitter winter of the American Midwest, the setting is reminiscent of the frosty weather of our own City of Saskatoon.

The story is centred around Jerry Lundegaard, a man in desperate need of money, who makes the erroneous choice to have his wife kidnapped and held for ransom. The plan goes completely awry, wherein helpless bystanders are murdered, lives are ruined and Marge Gunderson, a pregnant detective, works to find an answer to these murders.

This film sits somewhat parallel to the happy-go-lucky Christmas films mentioned at the beginning of this article — wherein the audience follows a lead character that gets into some comical hijinks, but in this black-comedy masterpiece, it does not end happily.

As warm Starbucks drinks flow throughout our holiday veins and the voice of Michael Bublé haunts the halls of retail environments, the overly saccharine holiday atmosphere may just lead you to seek out something a bit stranger for your holiday entertainment.

Riley Deacon / Photo Editor

Graphic: Yashica Bither