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Christmas Films for Those Who Don’t Enjoy Christmas Films

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I assume that most people who despise Christmas movies have had their tolerance levels tested more than once, if not all of the time, when it comes to absorbing the season’s usual bright and wholesome characteristics. There are only so many happy ending tropes and ridiculous predictable scoops of excessively convenient narrative serendipity that people can take.

Christmas Films for Those Who Don’t Enjoy Christmas Films

For that audience, a film that deviates from the norm with a little sizzle is required to melt and muddy the fluffy cinematic snow. Tim Burton is one of the rare commercial directors that has a darker tone. Even the depressed can appreciate the sneaky blackheartedness of every glint in his flicks. Give me his operatic “Batman Returns” and tangent Christmas film, please. The gaudy action, colourful characters, kinky villainy, and brazen heroes of the sequel much outstrip the darkness of the first picture. The whole thing is the polar opposite of any beloved holiday classic or gooey Hallmark Channel disaster.

If you’re bored of feel-good movies that drone on about the Christmas spirit while watching TV this holiday season, let me recommend a small film called “Die Hard.” There are no morals to be taught, no need for the protagonist to be cheerful, just some good old wholesome moments of Bruce Willis falling from an exploding rooftop as Reginald Veljohnson looks permanently befuddled. “A 34th Street Miracle”??? No, how about a Nakatomi Plaza rescue?

The obvious answer is “Die Hard” or “Gremlins,” but I’d like to use this occasion to stan for “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever,” a 1983 TV movie. If you grew up in a small town like I did, you probably remember being forced to participate in a Christmas pageant, which usually entailed standing in a church looking cute while you and other kids acted out a story everyone knew by heart for an audience of adults who were probably even more bored than you were. This time-honored custom is the subject of “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever.” Grace Bradley (Loretta Swift from “M*A*S*H”), who having already been somewhat persuaded into putting it on, now has to deal with the six Herdman kids playing all of the principal roles, instead of the reliably charming kids. The Herdmans are a group of unruly, underprivileged welfare kids who “steal, smoke cigars, talk foul and punch little kids, and cuss their instructors,” according to Grace’s daughter Beth (a very young Fairuza Balk), the movie’s narrator.

The Herdmans all agree to participate in the Christmas pageant, and it benefits both the pageant and the Herdmans in unexpected ways. Small-town issues, as well as the all-too-common headaches that come with the holidays, are delightfully brought to life. “The Best Christmas Pageant Ever” also has a remarkable lack of moralising for a film about a religious event. The Herdmans don’t miraculously turn from the world’s worst kids to the greatest, but they do absorb some of the holiday’s more positive aspects, and they even make other kids and adults understand how sanitised the Jesus narrative has become. Mary and Joseph, as Beth’s father reminds out, were essentially refugees who were compelled to move to a new area distant from their home and where they knew no one. With 80s nostalgia still at an all-time high, it’s fascinating to watch a film set during that era that teaches compassion while refusing to minimise how difficult it may be for those who need it most.

“Hot Fuzz” is the perfect Christmas movie for people who despise Christmas movies since it isn’t one. However, in the opening montage, Simon Pegg’s cop character Nicholas Angel is stabbed in the hand by a violent Santa Claus in a 2-second micro scene (played by none other than Peter Jackson). And these days, all a movie needs to be called a Christmas film is some snow falling in the background during an unspecified winter month, or some non-denominational twinkling lights placed up for atmosphere. As you can see, “Hot Fuzz” far exceeds those expectations while also providing the best Christmas experience for those who don’t want one.

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