What’s your favorite Christmas movie? Today, Ethan Epstein of the Weekly Standard argues that Eyes Wide Shut is a Christmas movie. Having been subjected to a running explanation of this theory in literally every spare moment of the past month (hi Ethan!) I’m inclined to agree.
So, what makes a Christmas movie? Eyes Wide Shut certainly has all the Christmas trappings, but is it a Christmas movie? Perhaps it is a Christmas movie in some particularly subversive way: Christmas is ever present, but hardly mentioned. It is there only in its most commercial forms. Is there a single religious reference to Christmas? I’m not sure. I’ll have to ask my local expert.
I’m certain, of course, that the movie is saying something about Christmas, I’m just not sure what it is. But more importantly, I think a movie can be set at Christmas or be about Christmas without fitting into that set of movies obligatorily watched solely during the holidays, of which Muppet Christmas Carol is the highest and most worthy example. (That’s my favorite Christmas movie. I regret to inform Ethan Epstein of the Weekly Standard that he will have to settle for attending AFI’s screening of Muppet Christmas Carol, as his new favorite Christmas movie did not make the list.) Perhaps the isolation of Christmas movies is in fact what defines them. Would you watch it only at Christmas? Then it’s a Christmas movie.
In any case, if Eyes Wide Shut (HU DVD 132) isn’t your cup of eggnog, here are a five more unusual suggestions that feature Christmas for you to watch this holiday season.
Tokyo Godfathers (HU DVD 819): The story takes place on Christmas Eve in Shinjuku, Tokyo. Middle-aged has-been Gin, aging transvestite Hana, and teenage runaway Miyuki are homeless friends who have formed a makeshift family structure bond. That bond is tested when they find an abandoned baby while searching for food in a trash dumpster. They try to care for the infant themselves, and travel throughout the city in search of the baby’s parents.
The Thin Man (HU DVD 4971): Nick and Nora Charles, a former detective and his rich, playful wife, investigate a murder case mostly for the fun of it. This movie occurs around Christmas, includes an adorable Christmas Morning scene.
Tangerine (HU DVD 12856): It’s Christmas Eve in Tinseltown and Sin-Dee is back on the block. Upon hearing that her pimp boyfriend hasn’t been faithful during the 28 days she was locked up, the working girl and her best friend, Alexandra, embark on a mission to get to the bottom of the scandalous rumor. Their rip-roaring odyssey leads them through various subcultures of Los Angeles. The film notably stars and is about two transgender women of color.
Batman Returns (HU DVD 4702): Batman must face the Penguin and Catwoman in this nightmarish tale. Plenty of Christmas in this. But like Burton scary Christmas.
It Happened on Fifth Avenue (HU DVD 13717): The secret inhabitants of a boarded up mansion on Manhattan’s ritzy 5th Avenue include a philosophizing hobo and some GI families who are unable to find apartments during the post-World War II housing crunch. It just so happens that it happened at Christmas.