Alonso Duralde literally wrote the book on Christmas movies: It's called "Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas." So who better to guest-program the Five Most space this week?
Only Duralde — a film critic for The Wrap and (full disclosure) my co-host on the YouTube review show "What the Flick?!" — did it with a twist. He chose five movies that may not initially seem like Christmas movies yet have that Christmasy vibe. After all, anyone can pop "It's a Wonderful Life" or "Elf" into the DVD player on Dec. 25, but we've got the expert, in his own words:
— "Eyes Wide Shut" (1999): You may remember the notorious orgy sequence — or the scenes of then-married couple Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman speaking frankly about their sexual fantasies — but Stanley Kubrick's final film is set squarely in the Christmas season, with almost every scene involving twinkle lights or wrapping paper or a decorated tree. The delights of the Yuletide season make the perfect innocent counterpoint for this tale of marital discord.
— "Metropolitan" (1990): Whit Stillman's charming and witty directorial debut uses its debutante ball setting as the perfect excuse to capture the beauty of Manhattan at Christmastime, bedecked in both decorations and a coating of snow. As Stillman pointed out, his low-budget indie movie got millions of dollars' worth of free art direction from the city of New York.
— "The Lion in Winter" (1968): "What shall we hang — the holly, or each other?" asks Henry II (Peter O'Toole) in this brittle and banter-filled comedy-drama that plays like a cross between "Game of Thrones" and "Who's Afraid of Virginia Woolf?" Henry brings his long-imprisoned wife Eleanor of Aquitaine (Katharine Hepburn) down from her tower to choose his successor from among their three sons, resulting in treachery, intrigue and swordplay. And you thought your family get-togethers were argumentative.
— "Less Than Zero" (1987): Robert Downey Jr. gave his breakthrough performance as a spoiled Beverly Hills teen losing himself to drug addiction in this white-washed adaptation of the Bret Easton Ellis best-seller. The story's lead character (played by Andrew McCarthy) somehow got changed from a jaded hedonist to an earnest do-gooder, but Downey's performance — and the film's candy-colored, neon-tinged version of a decadent 1980s Christmas — still endure.
— "Die Hard" (1988): Some people find it hard to think of this action classic as a holiday staple, but many is the household where it's just not Christmas until Officer John McClane (Bruce Willis) blasts his way through a group of Eurotrash terrorists (led by the spectacularly viperfish Alan Rickman) at Nakatomi Plaza. It's a movie that set the tone for the next decade's worth of shoot-'em-ups, but it's a holiday tale, down to the redemption of the hero's rocky marriage and his use of gift wrap in the final gun battle.
Think of any other examples? Share them with Alonso Duralde through Twitter: https://twitter.com/#!/ADuralde .
"Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas": http://amzn.to/b444F8