Cinema Style Ep. 6

Annnnnd we’re back, with the third instalment of Cinema Style ~Christmas Edition~!

I’m thinking I will actually end this mini-series off here (the best things always come in trilogies, right?) but there will, of course, be other non-festive episodes to come.

What better way to finish off here than with the classic Christmas movie – It’s A Wonderful Life.

Thing is, this is not my favourite movie. It’s not even my favourite Christmas movie, especially since I don’t particularly count it as such. To me, this film is a story about life, about all the human experiences tied into it. It just happens to have an abundance of scenes that take place at Christmastime.

Released in 1946 and directed by Frank Capra, It’s A Wonderful Life stars James Stewart as George Bailey who one day wishes he had never been born. Upon hearing this wish, an angel names Clarence (played by the wonderful Henry Travers) shows George what would happen if he had never been born, and how many lives he has impacted for the better. Ultimately, the film is a celebration of life and being thankful for what we have.

By now, the film has been spoofed so many times that the plot is awful familiar even if you’ve never seen it. (A specific Sabrina The Teenage Witch novel comes to mind.)

Costume design for the film was done by Edward Stevenson, known for his work on a complete different movie about life, Citizen Kane. Stevenson’s eye for well-tailored suits and All-American style is clearly shown in Wonderful Life.

Remember the scene where George shows up to Mary’s house, where the “lasso you the moon scene” occurs? Mary’s white bathrobe and George’s collegiate finery are pretty iconic.

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“You want the moon, Mary?” Image source.

In fact, Mary (played by Donna Reed) is one of the stars of the show with her wardrobe choices. Her outfit at the dance, her Christmas finery and always-impeccable hair leave a lasting on-screen impression.

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The Charleston scene. Bot Mary’s amazing ruffles and white shoe combo. Image Source.

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George and Mary. Now THIS is dressing for dinner. Image Source.

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Check that cap and coat combination! Image Source.

A special shoutout needs to be given to Violet, played by the beautiful Gloria Grahame and who has one of the best outfit moments in the entire film.

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Need I even say more? If I had this ensemble, I would wear it all summer long and strut like there is no tomorrow.

And we shall not forget the hat, either.

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Never forget the hat. Image Source.

Violet is dressed for her role as good-time gal and socialite perfectly. But as with many classic movies, a love of fashion and outlandish outfits is a characteristic of a person who cannot be taken seriously. Obviously, I disagree, but it’s a trope as old as cinema itself.

Other than Violet, and Clarence with his angel-eseque white shift, little of the characters is said through their wardrobe.

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Clarence and George. Image Source.

The clothes are situational, and instead build more towards the dream-like feel of George’s whole trip through his life. It’s less about a specific character expressing themselves as it is about the world built around George, both in his real life and in the what-if alternate reality. The clothes are timely,. Each outfit Mary wears is tied to a moment in her life with George. The robe when he comes to see her. The dress when they dance the Charleston, and so on. The clothes become markers of events in George’s life.

This resonates with me, because when I do look back on certain moments in my life, the memory may be triggered by what I was wearing. I’ll see a photograph of myself in a certain top and recall a day I wore it when I was a teenager, when I went out with friends or had my heart broken for the 100th time.

While clothes aren’t our whole lives, we do live our lives in them and therefore they become inexorably linked to the events that have shaped the people we’ve become. For George Bailey, it’s a wonderful life wearing Edward Stevenson’s suits.

 

Cinema Style Ep. 5

On this episode of Cinema Style, we’re looking at another classic Christmas flick, this time without the Technicolor.

It was one fateful Christmas a few years back when I discovered Christmas in Connecticut with my mom. That began a love affair with the 1945 film that has lasted to this day. It’s a holiday rom-com with great comedic chops and a dashing sailor as the leading man. What’s not to like?

Dennis Morgan plays the sailor, Jefferson Jones. Peter Godfrey directed the picture. Our leading lady is none other than the gorgeous Barbara Stanwyck. Stanwyck plays Elizabeth Lane, a single New Yorker who can’t cook, pretending to be a Connecticut housewife for the sake of her wildly popular column, “Diary of a Housewife.” She gets into trouble when her publisher, who knows none of her deception, plans to have a young war hero stay on Elizabeth’s Connecticut farm for Christmas. And as with any 1940s rom-com, hijinks and misunderstandings ensue.

The film itself is delightful. Sydney Greenstreet and S.Z. Sakall are note perfect in their supporting roles, not to mention a cameo from Dick Elliott as the jolliest judge you’ve ever encountered.

But instead of going into plot details, let’s get right to it with the costuming. Or more specifically, Elizabeth Lane’s to-die-for wardrobe.

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Reginald Gardiner as John Sloane and Stanwyck as Elizabeth Lane. Image via Pinterest.

Her “Connecticut farming” attire is honestly me if I had to wear farming attire.

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Stanwyck and Morgan as Elizabeth and Jefferson. Image Source.

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Stanwyck as Elizabeth. Image via Pinterest.

Billowing skirts, fitted jackets that show off an unfairly tiny waist and the infamous mink coat are just a few of the characteristics of Elizabeth’s style. (Of course now you can obtain a faux fur coat that is just as glam.)

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The infamous mink coat. Image Source.

Bear with me here while I give a few pictures of the mink coat scene to note the incredible high-waisted trouser and white blouse combination Elizabeth is sporting, as well as the most beautiful, best-dressed delivery woman ever seen in the history of cinema.

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This look is CRUCIAL and ideal and difficult to get a good image of. Image Source.

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One more for the pants. Image Source.

The costume design for the film came from two talented individuals. Elizabeth’s gowns were created by costume designer Milo Anderson and, once again, EDITH HEAD.

This series of Christmas-inspired blog posts is quickly turning into an ode to Edith, but can I help it if she styled every old Christmas movie I like? Let me sing to you of Edith, folks. If the costuming is worth taking note of, you know she was probably behind it.

Milo Anderson does also deserve to be sung about, for his designs in this film and for his work on other films such as The Adventures of Robin Hood and High Sierra. The gowns he created for Stanwyck in this film are stunning.

Once again, we see a wardrobe that reflects the character’s self. At the beginning of the film, we see Elizabeth as the hotshot New Yorker she is, with her stylish power suits and luxe details.

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Elizabeth and John. Image Source.

 

Throughout the movie, she holds onto her glam persona, clearly ill-suited to the role she is pretending to play. Occasionally a more causal look seeps into the mix, but ultimately that’s what Elizabeth is doing: playing a role.

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Stanwyck as Elizabeth. Note the necessary velvet bow. Image Source.

She is not the amazing mother and chef her column makes her out to be, but she also doesn’t need to be those things in order to be valid or successful, despite what some of the men in the film say. (She does find love at the end of the movie, sure, but who doesn’t like a cute sailor, anyway?) As we get to know Jefferson Jones, we learn that he is a decent cook, the one who’s good with babies, the one more competent in stereotypically “female” roles in the household. What the two characters find together is balance, once they’re able to be honest with each other.

And in my opinion, living as a writer in New York, wearing some great high-waisted pants? That’s the ideal life.

Cinema Style Ep. 3

And now for something completely different!

The first two films I discussed on here are very near and dear to my heart. But as much as I love them, the costuming is also pretty tame. It’s my intention to look at all sorts of movie costuming, not just the beautiful dresses (but I do love the beautiful dresses.)

So let’s talk about science fiction. I am, at some point, going to have to make an entire post listing iconic looks from 70s and 80s sci-fi flicks, but that time is not this time.

Science fiction has the ability to go there, whether it be socially like Star Trek, technologically like Metropolis or fashionably like The Fifth Element.

If you are a sci-fi fan, a film student or another movie costuming geek, you’ll likely have seen and/or heard about The Fifth Element before. Directed by Luc Besson, the film was released in 1997 to mixed reviews but gained a big fanbase. The film stars Bruce Willis as   cab driver Korben Dallas and Milla Jovovich as Leeloo, an embodiment of the fifth element. Leeloo has the task of combining with the other four elements to prevent the Great Evil from destroying the world, etc. At one point they get on a giant intergalactic cruise. It’s a whole thing.

In terms of plot, you get a lot of standard big-budget sci-fi stuff. There’s a gruff male lead shrouded in mystery, a beautiful and strange lady who kicks butt, a scary villain and the world in jeopardy. Something that did catch my attention the first I watched this movie was the costuming in it.

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Gary Oldman as Zorg in The Fifth Element. Via Tumblr.

It’s pretty spectacular. The costume design for the movie was done by none other than French designer Jean-Paul Gaultier, known for his own haute couture and prêt-à-porter fashions as well as his stint as the creative director of Hermès from 2003-2010. Gaultier also designed Madonna’s stage costumes for her 2006 Confessions tour and the infamous cone bra worn on her Blonde Ambition tour in 1990. Other clients include Mairlyn Manson.

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Jean Paul Gaultier & Madonna. 90s. Via Pinterest.

Gaultier’s knack for the unexpected and attention-grabbing lends itself perfectly to The Fifth Element, as movie that is, by all accounts, a bit over the top. Gaultier created more than 1000 costumes for the film, from the main characters to extras in crowd shots.

Let me point you to some specific visuals.

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Milla Jovovich and Bruce Willis in The Fifth Element. Source.

Leeloo’s bandage outfit is a pretty good place to start. It’s a step up from her being completely naked, strategically covered up as at the beginning of the movie, she’s naked in the tank she escapes from. Think of it as Gaultier’s “underwear as outerwear” collection on an acid trip. Obviously, literally no one except Milla Jovovich could dream of pulling this off.

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Leeloo. Source.

From the strategic bands to Leeloo’s orange suspenders. The ones that perfectly match her hair. With that white crop top and gold pants, that’s honestly a look that has potential for translation today. A little 90s, a little weird.

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Chris Tucker as Ruby Rhod. Source.

Now, we have to talk about Chris Tucker’s truly iconic turn as radio host Ruby Rhod. His performance was amazing and his costumes were ridiculously extravagant and suited the character perfectly. Highlights include his introduction look of all-leopard and the black satin and roses number seen in the singing performance sequences.

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Ruby Rhod. Source.

And we need to talk about the extras. Gaultier’s obsessive attention to detail is to thank for every supporting cast member looking fire at all times.

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The infamous see-through green skirt. Via Tumblr.

Not to mention what Gaultier did with uniforms. We have the cruise attendants in their blue bustiers and matching hats.

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The flight attendants. Via Pinterest.

We can touch on the uncomfortable notion of service industry uniforms getting increasingly sexy and revealing in the future – seen initially with the gorgeous model-like McDonald’s employees who make a brief cameo in the movie’s beginning. I will say, the golden arches headpiece and red wig is a pretty great touch. Extreme branding meets extreme accessorizing.

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23rd century McDonald’s. Via Tumblr.

From start to finish, The Fifth Element is a fun ride, and the costumes make that experience all the better. while the film itself had a huge budget and Dan Weil on production design, the costumes Gaultier created make the movie so much more memorable and have set the overall look for the 23rd century.

SOURCES

IMDb

Elle (Gaultier Retrospective)

Dazed Digital (Gaultier and The Fifth Element)

AUTHOR’S NOTE: To anyone who may follow this blog regularly, I’m going to be away the next few weeks on a road trip so there will not be any new posts! After I return we’ll be back to regular programming!

 

 

Cinema Style Ep. 2

For our second round of Cinema Style, I’m going to take you guys into a very, very sad period piece. Seriously, I was sobbing in the theatre. But even through my tears, I took notice of the costuming.

You probably already have an idea of which movie I’m talking about, but I’ll tell you anyway: Atonement.

If you’ve never seen it, the movie is directed by Joe Wright and based off of the book by Ian McEwan. It stars Keira Knightley and James McAvoy as Cecelia and Robbie, two young lovers torn apart in 1935 by a lie Cecelia’s younger sister Briony tells. Because of this lie, Robbie is taken to prison and only released four years later under the condition he joins the army. Tragedy and pretty crying ensues.

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Gif via Tumblr

I felt a lot of emotions when I saw this guy in the cinema with my mom back when it came out in 2007 (10 years ago!!!) I was, in my core, sad. I was pissed at Briony, well actually, pissed at everyone in that movie because if you all just took a second to THINK THEN THEY COULD HAVE BEEN TOGETHER DO YOU THINK IT MAKES IT OKAY THAT YOU WROTE THEM INTO A HAPPY ENDING????

Anyway.

Through this roller coaster of emotions I, like many others, did take notice of the movie’s superb costuming. Or, to be specific, the dress. 

You can’t talk about Atonement without talking about Cecelia’s green dress. It’s an icon in and of itself, hugely memorable on its colour alone. Emerald Green.

 When you think of classic dress moments in movies, you think of a little black dress, maybe a red dress, maybe pink à la Marilyn in Gentlemen Prefer Blondes. These are the Hollywood starlet/femme fatale looks. Green is a weird one. It’s barely used in cinema on account of it supposedly making audience members uncomfortable. Remember Tippi Hedren in The Birds?

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Hedren in Alfred Hitchcock’s The Birds. Source.

Keira Knightley is so stupidly beautiful and willowy that she could pull off anything, but this dress was a special case.

Costume designer Jacqueline Durran, nominated for an Oscar from her work on the film, created the dress from scratch based on Wright’s vision for Cecelia at the fateful dinner party. Durran and Wright had previously worked together in 2005 on Pride & Prejudice, which, incidentally, also starred Knightley.

The dress was tailored to fit Knightley perfectly and moved with her as she walked. The descriptions of the dress in the book were taken to heart when the dress was designed, and certain features of it, backless with a train, are in line with 1930s gowns. The dress fits into the setting perfectly yet completely stands out.

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Photo via Tumblr

When you look at the other costuming in the film, it is starkly different to this dress. Briony, also being only 13 in the early scenes, wears the shift-dress shape of the 1930s in light colours.

Cecelia too wears lighter colours and materials in the early scenes, then when we enter wartime, she don’s the nurse’s uniform. Her silhouettes become more practical, her colours more muted.

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Cecelia in 1935. Photo Source.

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Cecelia during wartime via Pinterest

The dress itself stands as more of a fantasy, made more bold through Briony’s recollection, perhaps. Like they’re supposed to in any movie, the costumes tell the story. You could break up the styles into before the dress and after the dress. Plot-wise, that refers to before the dinner and after the dinner.

A quick search online can reveal many people looking for replicas of the dress. Since it was a custom creation, the original now moves around museum to museum. Back in 2012, it was at the V&A in London.

If anyone does find an excellent replica, let me know. I’m definitely not Keira Knightley, and I definitely don’t have an affair with the handsome young gardner on at the moment. But, you never know. Maybe I’ll wear it grocery shopping and recreate the library scene in the frozen food aisle.

Sources

IMDb

Clothes on Film

The Costumer’s Guide

Fashion & Power

 

 

My Top 5 Moments from the Oscars

Their relevancy has been debated heavily in the modern age, but I still love the Oscars. I love movies and I’m fascinated by every aspect of the movie industry. When I was younger, I would always make a list of predictions and watch the Oscars live. I used to practice my own Academy Award acceptance speech in the shower. For best leading actress, naturally, in a movie with Tom Hardy as my co-star, probably.

Now as a bitter adult living in Toronto, I definitely don’t have cable, and I do know that the Oscars aren’t without their problems. It’s not a perfect system. It’s a show rooted in elitist tradition. But still, I hold out, because movies are my first love and I’m down with any night that is dedicated to honouring them.

This year, I was actually able to catch most of the show live, and since it’s a long-ass show with lots of commercial breaks, I’ve compiled my five favourite moments from the show to serve as a little recap.

5. Jackie Chan Wins the Lifetime Achievement Award

So Jackie Chan has worked on an estimated 250 films in his career. If that doesn’t warrant an award, I don’t know what would. The Governor’s award was given back in November, but Jackie also attended the Oscars, and he attended with two stuffed pandas as his dates.

Very pure. Very good.

4. Viola Davis Wins Best Supporting Actress

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Gif via giphy.com

Viola Davis is a queen who has been nominated for an Oscar twice before, but finally won on Sunday for her turn as Rose in Fences alongside Denzel Washington. Viola looked stunning in red and was gracious and elegant accepting her award. Naturally, she gave an incredible and powerful speech, so much so that Jimmy Kimmel joked she should get an Emmy for it.

And in an interview after the Oscars were over, Viola dropped another Emmy-worthy response. Upon being asked what she felt the moment her name was announced during the ceremony, she said, “I felt like a princess, and I never feel like a princess.”

3. Dev Patel and Sunny Pawar

This is both a separate and combined thing, because Dev and Sunny have done a lot of press together due to Lion, and have been ridiculously cute the whole time. During the ceremony, Jimmy Kimmel did a bit where he raised Sunny above his head a la Lion King, which was very cute on its own, but THEN I saw pictures of Dev looking on like a besotted mom and I died a little bit.

Which brings me to my next point: Dev brought his mom as his date again and everyone cried because they are so beautiful and awesome and suddenly my skin was cleared.

(I should note that Lion didn’t pick up any awards, but that it is an amazing movie and you should absolutely see it if it you haven’t yet.)

2. Auli’i Cravalho and Lin-Manuel Miranda’s Performance

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Gif via giphy.com

I love Moana. I’m a pretty big Pixar hoe, so I was already excited to see it, and I was definitely not disappointed. I love the movie but am also obsessed with the soundtrack. Honestly, thank God one of the songs was nominated for best original song because the soundtrack is just so good and catchy and wonderful.

Auli’i Cravalho, who voices Moana in the movie, performed the nominated song “How Far I’ll Go” during the ceremony, with a rap introduction by Mr. Miranda himself. The performance was so good and Auli’i is a beautiful angel who has come down to Earth to bless us all and bring us into a better timeline.

1. Moonlight Wins Best Picture

This was a WILD EMOTIONAL ROLLERCOASTER because I had wanted Moonlight to win so badly, as it’s just fantastic, but was so sure La La Land would win because it is perfect Academy fodder. When La La Land was initially announced as the winner, I resigned myself to the inevitable and shut off the TV.

BUT CAN YOU GUESS.

There was a BBC news alert on my phone, of all things, that said Moonlight was named best picture after La La Land falsely was. Initially, I was convinced it was a joke because of the Steve Harvey thing, but then it was a BBC news alert and I started yelling and immediately went on Twitter to investigate.

Classic live TV blunder???

Either way, I got way jazzed with the result and was basically on a high for the rest of the night. Somehow, the Oscars always wind up getting me hyped like nothing else.

 

My Favourite Christmas Movies

I was originally going to call this, “The Best Christmas Movies” or “The Definitive Ranking of Christmas Movies” but then I remembered that taste is subjective, and I think we all forget that sometimes.

ANYWAY.

I’m a big Christmas movie nerd. In my time, I’ve seen my fair share of them, both popular and not-so-popular, and while I’m always looking for new ones to watch (in desperate times I HAVE watched Hallmark movies, but I need to be in the right romantic, weepy mood) I do have those Christmas movies that I return to time and time again.

Remember what I said earlier about tastes being subjective? My tastes are definitely not everyone’s. For example, controversial opinion here, but I don’t really like It’s A Wonderful Life. Like man, that’s hard for me to sit through in its entirety, as much as I like James Stewart.

Also, I like kids’ movies. And animated movies. Christmas is kind of about being a kid again anyway.

Now, without further ado, and in no particular order, here are my favourites:

A Christmas Story

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This movie is a runaway classic, with enough mishap and mayhem to make the family at its centre believable. Amazing cast all around, with the same type of overly-dramatic flair we’ll all recognize from when we were younger.

What’s it about? One boy with a dream: a dream to get a Red Rider BB Gun for Christmas. Never was a dream so unattainable. Chaos ensues, but the type of holiday chaos you can really identify with.

The first time I saw it – I laughed so hard I couldn’t breathe, and I remember thinking: how have I never seen this before? My life was forever changed.

Love Actually

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Right, so the thing about Love Actually is, even if you consciously don’t like it, if it’s on during Christmas, you’ll probably watch it. Overrated? Absolutely not. Overplayed? Probably. Still amazing? Definitely.

Every year I forget how much I love this movie until I see it, and then I’m gushing about Colin Firth all over again. (Honestly, the movie needs to be seen for Bill Nighy’s performance as an aged rocker alone.)

What’s it about? A collection of sometimes related-sometimes not stories about Brits that all play out in the weeks leading up to Christmas. Ridiculously sweet and at times heartbreaking. Also, Liam Neeson, Emma Thompson and Alan Rickman are in it.

The first time I saw it – Probably was waaaaaay to young to be watching it, especially during the body double sequences. (You know what I’m talking about.) The whole movie gave me the warm and fuzzies, even if I couldn’t fully grasp some of the concepts that I am (unfortunately) familiar with now.

The Polar Express

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FOR SOME REASON every time I mention that I like this movie, someone goes, “Ugh.” WHYYYYY. I get it, okay, it’s pretty strange to adapt a children’s book into a feature-length film, but while some of the action sequences run long, I think a decent job was done. I like trains and I like Christmas. Done and done.

What’s it about? A young boy beings to doubt the existence of Santa, so in the middle of the night, a mysterious train comes to take him on a trip that will change his mind. Based on the children’s book by Chris Van Allsburg.

The first time I saw it – In theatres with my mom, which seems like an age and a half ago now. (2004!!!) It was long ago enough that I was amazed by the animation, and to be quite honest I still think it was pretty dang good for the time.

A Christmas Carol

OKAY BUT THERE ARE TWO VERY IMPORTANT ADAPTATIONS OF THIS STORY:

  • The 1951 Version

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Why? Because it is amazing. It’s the best no-frills adaptation ever done. Alistair Sim IS Scrooge. The first time I saw it, I only saw the ending. I walked into the living room during the scene where Scrooge wakes up a changed man after his dream. To this day, I think that entire scene is one of the best I’ve ever seen in a film. It made me so inexplicably happy, and I now watch this version every year.

  • Mickey’s Christmas Carol

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Why? Do I really need to say? This is the version of the Dickens story I grew up with. I loved it, but I was scared of the Ghost of Christmas Future. Though, I think everyone is a little bit. A little creepy, a lot heartwarming.

The Holiday

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I know, I know. Max cheese. But it’s so good. Kate Winslet and Cameron Diaz, my people. Also, can we talk about how Jack Black is actually pretty fantastic in this? While it is a bit predictable, The Holiday is also really, really sweet. It has no ulterior motives other than being about people falling in love, with each other and with themselves.

What’s it about? An American and a Brit swap houses for Christmas, and wind up becoming involved in way more than either of them imagined. Jude Law (who is weirdly tan in this by the way) is there too.

The first time I saw it – With my sister, and now it’s a tradition for us to watch it together because we’re both secret soppy messes who love this type of shit.

Christmas in Connecticut

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THIS MOVIE. HAS EVERYTHING YOU NEED. Literally – a zany comedy with Barbara Stanwyck’s amazing wardrobe, Sydney Greenstreet doing his thing, an I-love-to-hate character, a few classic Christmas mixups and the most stupidly handsome, stupidly nice, piano-playing sailor you’ve ever seen.

*pauses for breath*

What’s it about? Elizabeth Lane, a writer working with a pen name and a pretend life, must scramble to convince her boss and a war hero that she is an an amazing cook living with her husband and child in Connecticut when she is, in fact, none of those things.

The first time I saw it – I was with my mom and I was melting into a pile of festive goo every time the sailor, named Jefferson Jones, naturally, did anything on screen.

Home Alone

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A great movie with a great cast and, interestingly enough, a pretty good sequel. I won’t speak for the 3rd, but Home Alone 2 is just as good as the first. Chalk it up to a winning formula of Christmas, physical comedy and Macaulay Culkin when he was still an adorable kid.

What’s it about? Eight-year-old Kevin McCallister is left behind on his family’s Christmas vacation to Paris. At first it’s his dream come true, but trouble arises in the form of the Wet Bandits: two crooks out to rob every empty house in Kevin’s neighbourhood.

The first time I saw it – I think it was at a friend’s house, at a sleepover around Christmas, all of us cracking up at the traps set for the burglars. This was, of course, one of the Christmas movies at the time, and I think can be comfortably moved to the category of contemporary classic.

Arthur Christmas

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According to my sister, I am obsessed with this movie. And yeah, I more or less am.

It’s just so excellent. The animation is great, the jokes all land, the storyline is genuinely sweet and there is no. unnecessary. romantic. subplot.

What’s it about? The current Santa Claus, in a long line of Claus’, is on the brink of retirement. His older son Steve, a corporate militaristic type is set to succeed him, while the younger Arthur seems set to spend the rest of his days in the letters department. OR SO WE THINK.

The first time I saw it – About three years ago, putting off studying for exams by wrapping presents and watching a movie. In that moment, sitting on the floor of my room with tape all over my hands and this movie on, I felt so ridiculously Christmas-y. I still love to put this movie on in the background when I’m doing any kind of Christmas-realted activity.