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Ranking the stories of

The Dark Underbelly of

the definitive scrooge

Love actually Jingle all the way Michael Caine

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CHRISTMAS Special

MERRY CHRISTMAS AND A HAPPY NEW YEAR!

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ALKS T O W O L E Y O ND NEW A E N I A C L , MICHAE E I L O J A WA Y N A I E M O C ANGEL M FIL

Is klaus the greatest Christmas movie of all time?


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DECEMBER 2020 FILMHOUNDS 23


The Muppet Christmas Carol T h e Muppet Christmas Carol has everything you could want for a timeless festive classic; a strong moral compass, a focus on being with the ones you love, and of course… Muppets. This funny and touching take on Dickens’ classic Christmas story sees all of Jim Henson’s creations perfectly cast in their roles, supported by a phenomenal Michael Caine and sticking faithfully to the original story. It’s the kind of festive film that fills your heart with an unexplainable joy. Christmas would simply not be the same without it. - JAMES HANTON


Our Christmas Favourites

© Jim Henson Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

CHRISTMAS 2020 FILMHOUNDS 05


SCROOGE

© Jim Henson Productions, Inc. All Rights Reserved.

06 FILMHOUNDS DECEMBER 2020


JAMES HANTON

A CHRISTMAS HUMBUG WHY MICHAEL CAINE REMAINS THE DEFINITIVE

SCROOGE CHRISTMAS 2020 FILMHOUNDS 07


SCROOGE

T

here are more reasons than you can count why The Muppet Christmas Carol from 1992 is one of the best Christmas films ever made. The singing, the story and most importantly the Muppets. But with such headlinegrabbing antics from Jim Henson’s believed creations, it is easy to overlook the film’s human element. Michael Caine is utterly exceptional as the tight-fisted Ebenezer Scrooge, and he is just as large a factor in the film’s success as all the delightful non-human characters. In 2015, the film’s director Brian Henson told The Guardian that when he approached Caine for the role, the actor had this to say:

a Muppet within 100 miles. And yet, in hindsight there is more to Caine’s words than immediately meets the eye. For the Muppets are not just pieces of felt held up by wood and wire. They are beloved characters in their own right, imbued with emotion, presence and style. Caine was right not to act as if he was with puppets because, in a way, he wasn’t - the Muppets are something more. He more or less treats them in exactly the same way as the human characters, namely as people to extract wealth out of however he deems necessary. Why? Because that is exactly what Ebenezer Scrooge would do.

“I’m going to play this movie like I’m working with the Royal Shakespeare Company. I will never wink, I will never do anything Muppety” michael caine

“I’m going to play this movie like I’m working with the Royal Shakespeare Company. I will never wink, I will never do anything Muppety. I am going to play Scrooge as if it is an utterly dramatic role and there are no puppets around me.” And he stuck to his word. If you looked at Caine’s menacing, imposing performance in isolation, you would never know there was

It is this commitment to the role, and his evident lack of charity even when surrounded by some of TV and film’s most delightful characters, that make Caine such an accomplished Scrooge. Early in the film especially, Caine perfectly captures Scrooge’s cut-throat, callous nature with pursed lips and wicked glares. His villainous, eerily charming smile - a smile that could only belong to Caine only appears when he thinks about the financial hardship he will bring upon others. The veteran actor so capably handles the layers underneath Scrooge’s hardened exterior; his heartbreak, his younger years and - in the latter stages - his fear of a pitiful death. Caine convinces you beyond doubt

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that Scrooge is much more than a thinly-constructed, atypical villain. He is a cursed old man who has been manipulated by the lure of money and the events of his own, lonely life. Just as important as capturing Scrooge’s heartless nature however is capturing his transition. Yet again, the British actor excels. Little by little, Scrooge’s hatred gives way to Caine’s innate charm


met anybody like you before.” Ghost of Christmas Present: “Really? Over 1800 of my brothers have come before me!” Scrooge: “1800? Imagine the grocery bills!”

and wit. By the time he is under the spell of the Ghost of Christmas Present, he is even prepared to have a laugh and absorb himself ever so slightly in the magic of Christmas. But crucially, this is not immediate. An early exchange with the jolly ghost sees Scrooge crack a joke that, while short, speaks volumes about where his character is at: Scrooge: “I don’t think I’ve ever

sometimes violent man beyond saving. In the only significant divergence from the sincerity Caine promised to practice throughout, he is singing and dancing with the Muppets by the film’s climax, and treats his loyal worker Bob Cratchit to the Christmas he deserves. Again, Caine is near faultless. Say what you will about his vocals; ‘Thankful Heart’ is loaded with the happiness and optimism that it needs to be worthy of a heartfelt singalong. Caine’s disarming persona and cheeriness suddenly come flying out, and his genuine glee at wishing everyone a Merry Christmas is utterly endearing.

Caine’s disarming persona and cheeriness suddenly come flying out, and his genuine glee at wishing everyone a Merry Christmas is utterly endearing.

His heart is now open to touches of humour, play and joy. But crucially his soul is not yet saved. Everything about him is still obsessed with the lure of money and the premise of economic gain, the very reason why Dickens cast Scrooge as such an unrepentant villain in the first place. Even his sense of humour is poisoned with the false promise of wealth. In this short, throwaway moment, Caine excels. It is not quite fair to call his grin a crocodile smile, but nonetheless you cannot help but feel there is a coldness still lurking underneath Scrooge’s warming exterior. Caine is central in cementing this impression, and goes on to solidify this feeling throughout the rest of the film. Eventually, after being forced to confront his fate if he remains unchanged, Scrooge repents. He is now full of Christmas cheer and good will to all (or at least scared of the consequences if he acts otherwise). It is unbelievable that this is the same man who started the film as a cruel and

There have been many takes on Scrooge of course. Alastair Sim, Albert Finney and more recently Colin Baker are among many actors to have a stab at bringing Ebenezer Scrooge to life. A different take can be seen courtesy of Jim Carrey in Robert Zemeckis’ animated retelling, while most recently Scrooge has been brought to life by Simon Russell Beale in David and Jacqui Morris’ adaptation. Yet Caine remains unparalleled, unique, and a joy from start to finish. The way he manages, embodies and sustains Scrooge’s change from a coldhearted villain to a man full of Christmas cheer is masterful, and a central part of why The Muppet Christmas Carol remains such a stalwart festive favourite.

CHRISTMAS 2020 FILMHOUNDS 09


KLAUS

10 FILMHOUNDS CHRISTMAS 2020


Words: dave manson

KLAUS Is it the greatest Christmas movie of all time?

W

hat is the best Christmas film of all time? The purists will obstinately stake It’s a Wonderful Life or Miracle on 34th Street holds the title. Alternatively, those born during an inferior era may state A Christmas Story or National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation lead the way. Slightly later releases such as Home Alone or its sequel Lost in New York are always top contenders, and some philistines still like to claim Die Hard comprises an actual Christmas movie. Modern classics like Elf and Love Actually are both easy viewing but lack the gravitas necessary to be an all-time great. The majority of these are simply movies set during Christmas, with merry cheer incorporated to gain influence over a susceptible audience. These competitors all invariably share a tenuous and optimistic link with Christmas spirit, whereas the 2019 Netflix animated film Klaus defines it. The advent of Santa Claus; the best origin story since Iron Man and possibly the greatest Christmas film of all time. A far-cry from the vast tide of bland Netflix originals unimaginatively titled ‘Christmas (enter word)’. A fresh and topical festive marvel, complete with all the unmistakeable traits that make holiday movies so comforting. The story follows Jesper Johansson (Jason Schwartzman),

CHRISTMAS 2020 FILMHOUNDS 11


KLAUS the indolent son of a Postmaster General, set in a fictional 19th century world. Our lead character mirrors Emperor Kuzco, a selfabsorbed brat content with doing nothing and expecting everything in return; the antithesis of Christmas spirit. Despite nepotistic attempts, Jesper’s inertia prompts drastic action from his Father. He is forced to establish a Post Office on the isolated, Northern island of Smeerensburg. Deliver 6000 letters in 1 year or be cut off from his inheritance. Smeerensburg is monochromatic and bleak, devoid of cheer and enjoyment. Jesper must contest with warring factions, anti-social citizens and a large bearded recluse named Klaus (J.K. Simmons) in a quest to convince the populace to send letters. What ensues is a hallmark progression for any great animated film, with the quintessential rise, fall and subsequent resurrection of our lead character. As his self-interests manifest, the town inadvertently begins to transform into something approaching inhabitable, with merriment slowly dialled up to the expected holiday level. Set as an alternative narrative to the well-known story of St. Nicholas, Klaus depicts the story of how Santa Claus came to be. It serves to deconstruct all the most famous Christmas traditions while preserving its spirit. From flying reindeer and a sack full of presents, to naughty children receiving coal, the Christmas lore is explored through a novel and immersive tale filled with unrelenting charm. The Rogue One of Christmas movies; something nobody knew they needed but most love now it’s here. The retrospective approach to such a

popular story may not appeal to sceptics, but with a well-balanced humorous screenplay to counteract the traditional exploits, even the ceaselessly referential narrative does not become tiresome. Sergio Pablos finally brings his passion project into existence, and his illustrious career as an animator can be observed in every frame. From Claude Frollo (The Hunchback of Notre Dame) to Hades (Hercules), Pablos is responsible for the creation of several timeless entities. Arguably his most acclaimed design is that of Dr. Doppler in the vastly under-watched Treasure Planet; a character with a likeness to our

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protagonist Jesper. Pablos’ genius permeates through the aesthetic, with an unconventional style of animation that harkens back to the Disney classics of the late 90s. An aesthetic which will stand the test of time far greater than its generic CGI contemporaries, and justifies its Oscar nomination for Best Animated Film. Background is seamlessly blended with intricate characters and object movement through stateof-the-art 2D effects, combined with texturing and a framing layout which generates depth. The town of Smeerensburg is a triumph in modern animation, forming the main vehicle for the


narrative. It takes inspiration from Halloweentown and Lapland to form a beautiful, twisted visual landscape; think San Francisco meets Siberia. Housed in this Winter nightmare are the feuding townsfolk, reluctantly making peace as they begin to identify their similarities instead of fixating over their differences. Klaus is admittedly a year old and given that timelessness is key in defining a Christmas classic, there is an element of conjecture associated with its popularity. There is little doubt however that Klaus will endeavour and persevere against even the most cold-hearted Scrooges. A heart-

wrenching storyline filled with beautiful animation and a generic but poignant message: ‘A true selfless act always sparks another’. The grinches of Klaus come in the form of the clan leaders, as they join forces to preserve their generational feud. Suitably voiced by Joan Cusack and Will Sasso, their characters reinforce the notion that tearing down old traditions in favour of modern ones can be difficult, but is often cathartic and beneficial. If Klaus did have a flaw, it lies in its soundtrack. In an attempt to seduce audiences, drawling pop songs are interspersed throughout the intriguing story. Alfonso

Gonzalez Aguilar’s original score is magical and could easily have carried the film throughout its entirety. Instead, the misplaced modern entries are distracting, and although adequate as standalone songs, are inappropriately utilised. It undermines the audience and perhaps highlights Netflix’s insecurities in releasing their first animated feature. The interludes disturb the atmosphere; disturbances which might be amplified when families watch Klaus in the coming decades. For every weakness however, Klaus has multiple strengths, typified by its universal accessibility. The story is light-hearted, warm and

CHRISTMAS 2020 FILMHOUNDS 13


KLAUS

not overly long; tailoring itself to a younger audience. That being said, the narrative is complex enough to be enjoyed by older viewers, especially those 80s and 90s children who subconsciously succumb the covert Disney sentimentality woven throughout the animation. The emotionally charged chronicle will also leave some people in pieces, especially as we delve deeper into Klaus’ past and motivations. Jesper’s blossoming romance with the disillusioned local teacher Alva (Rashida Jones) is perfectly predictable, but her character arc is so seamlessly integrated into the main narrative, nobody will blink an eye. She represents the entire town, yearning for more, yet not

realising the opportunities right before them. Ultimately, Klaus is likely to be as close to true events as any cult or religious story. The good deeds of one man or woman which change the lives of many, embellished to alter the course of history. The story of Santa Claus is enchanting, and Klaus takes the established narrative and beautifully distorts it, blending the perfect amount of Yuletide tradition with classic animated nostalgia. Klaus echoes previous juggernauts whilst making its own statement, reverse-engineering a tale as old as time to provide an impactful, modern miracle which loses none of the customary Christmas magic.

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Batman Returns When people think of Christmas a onesie clad Danny DeVito spewing black sludge doesn’t immediately spring to mind. That said, Tim Burton’s second stab at Batman is more confident, more weird and more grotesque than the first. Like his proceeding film Edward Scissorhands, Batman Returns uses its winter setting to juxtapose the innocence of the holidays with some kinky weird storylines. Keaton is more confident in his role, and Michelle Pfeiffer mugs her way through the film, but it’s DeVito’s perverted, nasty Penguin who steals the film along with Danny Elfman’s beautiful score. - Paul Klein

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Our Christmas Favourites

© 1992 Warner Bros. Entertainment, Inc.

CHRISTMAS 2020 FILMHOUNDS 17


interview Words: paul klein

David OYELOWO 18 FILMHOUNDS CHRISTMAS 2020


David

O

OYELOWO

ver the past twenty years David Oyelowo has set about making himself one of the most in demand actors in the world. From his time on long running drama series Spooks to turns in blockbuster movies like Rise of the Planet of the Apes to his Golden Globe nominated performance as Dr Martin Luther King Jr in Ava DuVernay’s moving Selma, Oyelowo hasn’t stopped the momentum of mixing big budget affairs with intimate dramas each with something to say about race, identity or culture. His latest film, Come Away, sees him and Angelina Jolie as parents grieving the loss of one of their children, while the other two attempt to help them cope with the pain by creating magical worlds that might eventually lead them to becoming Alice from Alice in Wonderland and Peter Pan.

Come Away is your film, being a fantasy film set in the past, it kind of feels revolutionary in its depiction of a mixed race family. Was that something you were conscious of as an actor and producer? Yeah, it was of course something I was conscious of, and it was also one of the reasons I was very keen to do it. I was pleasantly surprised to be approached to play the father of Alice from Alice in Wonderland and Peter from Peter Pan. First thing to say is that concept really grabbed me. I of course know the story like most people separately and individually, but I also thought

there was something revolutionary about putting them together as brother and sister. Then of course approaching me would mean they were Black, or at least, mixed race in relation to the family dynamic. I remember loving those stories growing up but, not that it was on my mind at the time, but I was never reflected in them. So, to afford that to a new generation is something that I find quite meaningful.

As you say about being reflected, there’s an element in mainstream media that even by acknowledging Black people existed in the past, people consider it controversial, and they bridle against it. Was this a concern for you, that you were taking on these iconic characters from people’s childhoods but daring to say Black people existed at this time as well? It wasn’t a concern for me only because I had encountered it before. I played Henry VI at the Royal Shakespeare Company and we faced that kind of thinking then. I recently played Javert for the BBC in Les Miserables and there were those rumblings as well. I think the way to combat it is to normalise it. People, no matter who you are or where you’re from, bridle at things

“People, no matter who you are or where you’re from, bridle at things that are new and are outside of their experience.”

CHRISTMAS 2020 FILMHOUNDS 19


David

OYELOWO that are new and are outside of their experience. It’s just human nature that we tend to react, or recoil, at things we don’t understand. But, as you say, the nature of the family we show in Come Away is absolutely historically accurate, not necessarily pervasive. There weren’t tons of mixed race couples but there certainly were mixed race couples. There were people who could have held the station Javert holds in France at the time of that story being told. The ironic thing is that people have less of a problem with Les Miserables which is clearly set in Paris, and in France, and that being transposed onto English life. Which I would argue is a far more radical change to what was originally written, and you think about Alice in Wonderland or Peter Pan, we have talking rabbits, we have mad hatters, we have boys who can fly, we have fairies. So, again, to allow that and accept that fairytale fantasy element and to get upset when you have those kids being Black doesn’t really make sense.

And in terms of the actual content of the film, it’s dealing with grief and with loss are ones that sadly a lot of parents can relate to. Despite it being aimed at a wide family audience it doesn’t shy away from the pain that losing a child can have, was it important to you to stay true to what it would be like to lose a child even though it’s a “family” film? It did feel important, and look, not everyone will agree, but that’s the art form. That’s what we’re trying to do, we’re trying to push it. At the end of the day kids do encounter these kinds of things, especially now. You know, we made this film

before the pandemic, but we now live in a world where we simply cannot protect our kids from the reality of loss, of ill health, of the kind of challenges that render parents reeling. So, when I was younger one of my favourite films was Stand by Me, and I really appreciated that it was showcasing young people and I didn’t feel patronised as a young person. You know, they’re hunting for a dead body. That’s intense! But I’ve shown it to my kids, they loved it, I love it, and Come Away is not as intense in terms of language, that’s an R rated film. But, I lost my parents over the last couple of years and my kids were a big part of that circumstance and I had to watch them get through it. What I love about Come Away is that usually you’d have the parents helping the kids through this challenging time, you see the kids helping the parents through it, through fantasy and magic, and their useful exuberance. They actually have a better handle on how the handle their grief, more so than the parents that choose some dark means.

It certainly takes some dark turns. Absolutely.

There’s been a lot of talk recently about the role of women directors and directors of colour and putting them behind big fantasy films. Obviously this is a film directed by a woman [Brenda Chapman], looking back at your filmography you’ve been directed by a lot of women, a lot of people of colour, does that have a baring on the projects you choose or is that a circumstance of great scripts come to you and they happen

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to be directed by those people? No, it’s very intentional. I know what it’s like to be marginalised. I know what it’s like to have an ambition, and a desire, to tell stories that colour outside of the lines that have been created for you. So, as I have gained in any notoriety or platform, I hesitate to say fame as I’m still very British, it has afforded me the opportunity to advocate for others. So some of those ladies who I have been directed by I have had to fight for. Some of them it’s because I have benefitted from being directed by them, and they bring something special. Men and women are different. I don’t want to generalise, but generally speaking, I have found that women are far more apt to go straight for the jugular when it comes to the emotional complexity of the character and story. I believe


“I wouldn’t say I’m star struck by Angelina Jolie because she’s become a very good friend.”

that’s the actors job, to mine the emotional and really plunge the depths of humanity to hold a mirror up to the audience. I have found women to be generally speaking far more keen to do that than men. The point being you need a balance, we have a world where pretty amazingly we’re about 50/50 in terms of the split between men and women. So, if stories are meant to be reflecting humanity than at the very least women should be telling half those stories and that’s something I feel very strongly about.

About reflecting, given the events of this year in the US and in the UK, with regards to race and prejudice, your role as Martin Luther King in the brilliant Selma feels every bit as urgent now as it did when it came out a few years ago. Is there a desire

in you to play more roles like King, important figures from history that represent you and your culture and the culture of Black people at large? Well, as you can imagine, after I played Dr King, virtually every Civil Rights leader who ever lived was offered to me. That’s not to disparage that, but part of what you want to do as an actor is bring changes and keep the audience guessing, and keep yourself challenged. Of course there are roles, there are historical figures, there are historical incidents that warrant being told and are fascinating and would appeal to me. But, I’m also very mindful that I don’t want to typecast myself as the Civil Rights leader actor. So, the answer being yes and no. I think Selma was six years ago now and so maybe it’s time to, if the right roles comes along. But the

point, for me, is not so much the character, but the story and what it’s trying to say. What I love about having done Selma and the resonance it still has now is that right here in America we still have elections at a local level. Voter suppression, voting rights, the importance of voting, its rights here with us. There is no point making a historical film if it doesn’t speak to the moment we’re in, is my belief. That tends to be what guides my choices, so boy that was one of those and I would certainly do others that did the same thing.

On a slightly lighter note than the heavier questions I’ve asked, do you yourself ever get star struck? You’ve been opposite Oprah Winfrey and Sir Michael Caine in Come Away, do you ever find yourself going, “That’s Sir Michael Caine!”? CHRISTMAS 2020 FILMHOUNDS 21


David

OYELOWO

Absolutely. Michael Caine was an extreme version of that because of his iconic status, and his iconic voice. It really threw me to do a scene with him because I couldn’t get out of my head that it sounded like he was doing an impersonation of Michael Caine.

As everyone does. As everyone does! And mostly badly, so to have him talking to me in that voice, I kept on thinking to myself “Stop it! Stop doing the voice, you don’t really sound like that.” And he does, he absolutely does, so it was an interesting thing to encounter. So, yeah, I absolutely do. I wouldn’t say I’m star struck by Angelina Jolie because she’s become a very good friend. I remember shooting Spooks in the UK, back what was it? Nearly twenty years ago now. We were shooting at Pinewood Studios and they were also shooting Tomb

Raider there, and I remember on a lunch break her being surrounded by bodyguards, being walked back to the sound stage. I was on my own, having stepped off my trailer and thinking “oh my goodness, it’s Angelina Jolie!” And here we are playing husband and wife to Alice and Peter Pan. So, that’s the craziness of my business and you get to know people and find out they’re normal. But, Michael Caine will never be normal to me.

Finally, as the world begins to move on from whatever this year has been, are you confident to go back on to film sets or are you more wary and picky about what you’re willing to jump into? That has always been the case for me, pandemic or not. Films, for better or for worse, stick around for a long time and they don’t always work to the degree that you hope. But, certainly not for a lack of trying, so you try to think long and

22 FILMHOUNDS CHRISTMAS 2020

hard about anything you’re doing. But yes right now there are still a lot of unknowns attached to a vaccine and what all of this means. I actually just finished a film that I produced and starred in that we shot in British Columbia, during the pandemic. It’s set in New York but we chose to shoot Vancouver because they much lower numbers, and they had really got it down to shoot during a pandemic. It’s like shooting a film in a science lab. It’s not as much fun as it used to be, and hopefully we won’t get stuck here for a long time. There were literally people I did an entire film with that I can’t tell you what they look like. They were wearing masks the whole time, and that’s not ideal. The thing about actors and storytellers, we’re incredibly resourceful, you only have to do a few plays to know that you’ll make something out of nothing, and that spirit will continue, and we’ll continue to tell stories. So, hopefully the pandemic will ease up, and we can carry on.


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Our Christmas Favourites

24 FILMHOUNDS CHRISTMAS 2020


Š 20th Century Fox

Home Alone Whether you have seen it or not, you know Home Alone. A film so iconic, so memorable and so beloved that it has remained in the minds of the public for thirty years. A holiday classic that perfectly encapsulates the holiday spirit whilst also working as a perfect coming of age tale filled with some of the funniest slapstick put to screen since Laurel & Hardy. A film that both children and adults can fall in love with due to it's fantastic performances, fun script, hilarious comedy and heart-warming score from John Williams. - Mark Carnochan


Words: grae westgate

LOVE ACTUALLY

26 FILMHOUNDS CHRISTMAS 2020


Words: Callum Barrington Photos: ©2003 Universal Studios. All Rights Reserved

Ranking the stories of

T

here are two main opinions of Richard Curtis’ Love Actuallyit’s either regarded as a Christmas classic, or seen as wildly overrated and overexposed. Its status as a seminal Christmas showing has put it alongside It’s a Wonderful Life, Elf and How the Grinch Stole Christmas. The film was an attempt by Richard Curtis to tell a multi-tiered narrative, to combine nine separate stories and stack them alongside each other. He wasn’t entirely successful in that goal- the film’s pacing is unwieldy and the plots don’t always follow each other cleanly, but the result has some level of success.

right or wrong order. This is simply an attempt to highlight the things that work in the movie and the things that would have been better off on the cutting room floor. So, without further ado, here goes:

To celebrate our mini-Christmas issue, in this most dreadful of years, I am going to rank all nine Love Actually stories from worst to best. This list is entirely subjective of course, based on how I respond to each storyline. There’s no real

9. Colin’s Journey to America The weakest storyline in Love

Actually seems to be based entirely around the supposition that American women find all British men attractive, regardless of physical appearance. Unlucky yet perpetually annoying Colin Frissell, played by Kris Marshall, decides that the best way to find romance at Christmas is to fly to the States and try his luck there. He ends up in a small Milwaukee bar, where three inexplicably attractive women, including January Jones, are conveniently

CHRISTMAS 2020 FILMHOUNDS 27


LOVE ACTUALLY drinking. Expectedly, Colin’s dreams come true and he returns to England with Denise Richards and Heidi Klum. This story is both childish and boring and it doesn’t help that Colin is a bit of an idiot, who, in the real world, would have been laughed out of the bar (it also seems strange that three gorgeous young ladies are drinking in a shabby bar in Milwaukee). The only positive thing that can be said about Colin’s story is it isn’t excessively big and doesn’t take up a lot of screen time.

8. John and Judy It’s rarely mentioned that Martin Freeman is in Love Actually, given the number of other big stars in the film and the fact it was made just after The Office had finished. Freeman shares his time mostly with Gavin and Stacey’s Joanna Page, with the two of them playing body doubles who stimulate sexual intercourse on the set of a film. The story goes that the two of them, despite being naked most of the time, are too shy to ask the other out, before John eventually plucks up the courage and they become engaged. This isn’t as stupid as Colin’s story, but it’s kind of like an afterthought, an idea thrown together at the last minute that never really takes flight. John and Judy are the forgotten couple in Love Actually- nothing stands out about them.

7. Juliet, Peter and Mark In the same year she starred opposite Johnny Depp and Orlando Bloom in the first Pirates of the Caribbean film, an eighteen-year-old Keira Knightley was at the centre of Love Actually’s most uncomfortable plotline. Her character, Juliet, marries Chiwetel Ejiofor’s Peter, but his best man, Mark (a pre-Walking Dead Andrew Lincoln) is in love with her. He films the wedding video entirely from her perspective before he silently declares his undying love for her on her doorstep, to which she responds with a kiss. This love triangle works at the start, when it seems Mark is jealous of Juliet for marrying his best friend and getting in the way of their friendship, but it starts to go wrong when Juliet visits Mark’s house and innocently says ‘I look quite pretty’. Rather than confront Mark, or tell Peter how his friend feels, Juliet seems more content in letting Mark suffer- the scene in which he runs from his flat and shouts on the street is deeply unsettling, because Juliet has essentially forced Mark into showing her the wedding video rather than sensing his obvious reluctance to do so. A bit more sensitivity in Curtis’ writing could have made this a powerful story of unrequited love- instead, it feels rather tacky.

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6. Jamie and Aurelia Colin Firth was the romcom man of the moment in the early 2000s following his breakout role in Pride and Prejudice. Having tried to woo Renee Zellweger in Bridget Jones’ Diary, he turns his attention to his Portuguese housemaid in Love Actually, after fleeing to his French college when he discovers his girlfriend is having an affair with his brother. Predictably, Jamie and Aurelia fall in love, despite her being unable to speak English and after declaring his love for her, they marry. This is a rather heartwarming and touching episode, well played by both Firth and Lucia Moniz, yet it’s rather twee and fluffy, never really feeling like a legitimate story, but rather one you would find in any generic romantic comedy. It comes complete with a scene where they go swimming to retrieve Jamie’s lost papers, which is the turning point in their relationship. All of that said, however, the moment Jamie tries to ask Aurelia to marry him is awkwardly endearing, a trait Firth is terrific at playing.


5. David and Natalie This is the story that contains Love Actually’s unique contribution to society- a dancing Prime Minister. It pairs up Hugh Grant, Curtis’ former muse, and former EastEnders star Martine McCutcheon as David and Natalie, the unmarried PM and his tea lady, who begin to develop an attraction for one another. After successfully embarrassing Billy Bob Thornton’s President, David realises he can’t ignore his feelings forever and hunts Natalie down, sealing their newly formed romance with a kiss on stage at her old school’s Nativity play. The moment in which Grant’s character starts dancing to Girls Aloud’s Jump has gone down in cinema history as either brilliantly bonkers or cringingly awful (maybe this was what inspired Theresa May’s ‘dance’ a few years ago). Grant always works well when working with Curtis and he plays

David with a mixture of street smart and awkwardness, while McCutcheon is a delight as Natalie. The thing that stings about this story are the rather tactless and unnecessary jibes about Natalie’s weight, with several characters, including her father, commenting on it. David may be able to see past them, but there’s no need to belittle a character so often.

4. Sarah, Karl and Martin Is there a storyline in Love Actually more frustrating than Sarah’s? Played excellently by Laura Linney, she is the quiet, endearing American in love with Rodrigo

Santoro’s brooding Brazilian Karl, her co-worker. After hitting it off at the work’s Christmas party, she invites him back to her house, where it seems she is finally going to get the man of her dreams. Halfway through, her mentally ill brother Michael calls, and despite Karl’s protestations, she chooses to go to him rather than continue their dalliance. Their final meeting is on Christmas Eve, where he merely wishes her a Merry Christmas and she spends the festive season with her brother. Curtis’ depiction of Michael’s dependency on Sarah is crushingly accurate, a reflection of the sacrifices people with mentally ill relatives are often forced to make. It’s Karl’s attitude towards the situation that’s irritatingsurely, he can’t be that pig-headed that he can’t make allowances for what is obviously a very trying situation? This is one example of Curtis choosing not to wrap things up neatly and, therefore, it’s one of his strongest writing achievements in the movie.

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LOVE ACTUALLY

3. Daniel and Sam The idea of a ten year old boy being in love with his classmate may seem absurd, but it’s not the driving force of the story that gives Liam Neeson one of his most sensitive characters. He plays Daniel, a widower left looking after his stepson Sam (Thomas Brodie-Sangster) when his wife dies. He is left bemused when Sam tells him he is in love with his American classmate Joanna (Olivia Olson), who shares the same name as his mother. After deciding to become a musician, he is a drummer during Joanna’s Christmas performance. When this doesn’t seem to work, Daniel and Sam head to the airport, where he chases after Joanna and she rewards him with a kiss. Why this storyline strikes so well is because its about the bond between stepfather and stepson, this relationship formed through marriage that survives the death of the most important figure in their life and is strengthened by their mutual support of each other. Neeson and Sangster are believable, warm and touching- the moment Sam calls Daniel ‘Dad’ is a wonderful piece that sums up everything the story is trying to tell.

2. Billy Mack By far Love Actually’s funniest story concerns Billy Mack (Bill Nighy), an ageing rock ‘n’ roll legend who records an awful Christmas single, Christmas is all Around and then proceeds to relentlessly promote it in the hope someone will buy it. This leads to hilarious encounters with Ant and Dec, Michael Parkinson and an appearance on local radio before a party at Elton John’s house to celebrate his success. In the end, though, Billy decides his long-time manager Joe needs company, so he retreats to his house where he tells Joe that he regards him, affectionately, as the love of his life. Billy Mack doesn’t interact with any of the other main characters, but Nighy’s excellent comic timing, some genuinely witty one-liners and Curtis’ obvious fondness for the character result in him leaving a huge impression on the story, to the point where we end up waiting for him to come back on screen. Billy Mack’s love isn’t romantic, or unrequited, it’s simply two best friends who look out for each other and that’s something everyone can relate to.

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1. Harry, Karen and Mia Emma Thompson. Tears. Joni Mitchell. The three ingredients that make up Love Actually’s greatest scene, in a story played out by its two greatest actors. Harry (the late, utterly great Alan Rickman) is the managing director of the graphics design company where Sarah and Karl work- Mia (Heike Makatsch) is his flirtatious, seductive secretary. Thompson is his wife, Karen, who finds a necklace in Harry’s coat and assumes it is for her. When she later discovers it was, in fact, for Mia, she confronts Harry, with their marriage seemingly hanging by a thread. The reason this story works so well is because its believable and truthful- Thompson’s bedroom breakdown is heart-breakingly realistic for thousands of people who’ve felt the same way, while Rickman, the consummate actor that he was, avoids turning Harry into a real villain and instead plays him as someone who is both conflicted and intrigued by the attention Mia is lavishing on him. That Curtis also allows Rowan Atkinson a scene with Rickman that combines comedy with tension as Harry tries to buy the necklace gives a moment of levity to a plot that is taken seriously by the people Curtis has entrusted with it. As an aside, it’s worth mentioning the scene where Karen confronts Harry was suggested by Rickman, who felt the story needed closure, while his tragic death in 2016 prevented the story from being revisited when the cast reunited for Red Nose day special in 2017. Thanks to the combined talents of Rickman and Thompson, this is the story that burns brightest in Love Actually.

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Our Christmas Favourites

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Photo: ©Universal Studios

How The Grinch Stole Christmas R o n Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas may not be a critical darling, but it has managed to make an impression in its 20 year existence. In a world of constant CGI, the actual sets, costumes and makeup are still impressive. And of course, it wouldn’t be as fun and memorable as it is without Jim Carrey as The Grinch. He commits to the role 110%, and it’s truly a sight to behold. His manic, unhinged energy is crucial in making The Grinch the perfect movie to revisit each holiday season. - Sarah Lord


The Dark Underbelly of

© 1996 Twentieth Century Fox Film Corporation. All rights reserved.

Jingle All the Way

The Dark Underbelly of

Jingle All the Way

B

rian Levant’s 1996 Jingle All the Way has become a mainstay in many households when it comes to the Christmas movie setlist. On the surface, it’s a fun family comedy with slapstick humour, a drunk reindeer and Schwarzenegger zooming around the Twin Cities in a full live-action cartoon come the final act. For kids, it’s all about a cool toy and the hijinks that ensue as a Dad tries to get the hottest toy of the Christmas season for his son. For the parents

and adults watching though, it is a satire that speaks to the darker truths of the Christmas season. Family friendly fluff this ain’t. Well, at least for the next few hundred words anyway.

seeing news footage of mad holiday shoppers storming a toy store, and the tale of his in-laws trying to find a Power Rangers action figure for his son one Christmas in the early 90’s..

From its very beginnings, Jingle All The Way was designed to satirise the chaos and dehumanising nature of the mad consumerist impulses that fuel the Yuletide capitalist machine. The story of a father’s pursuit of a toy on Christmas Eve is one that stems from genuine experience. Screenwriter Randy Kornfield was struck with inspiration for the idea after both

Producer Chris Columbus drew on his own experiences trying to find a Buzz Lightyear action figure as well in his uncredited rewrite, an experience I know my own parents went through too when trying to get me a Woody doll for my birthday in the late 90’s. They too were met with dead ends, empty promises, and empty shelves (although I don’t think they went as far as trying

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Words: Andrew Gaudion particularly those at this end of the year. Scenes of Black Friday shoppers storming department stores have only increased since 1996, and they more than echo the moments in the film that show mobs of shoppers desperate for a lottery ball to win the chance to buy a Turbo Man action figure at double the price (the law of supply vs. demand of course). But the real heart of darkness of the film lies in the two warring fathers played by Arnold Schwarzenegger and Sinbad. Schwarzengger plays Howard, your run of the mill, absolutely jacked, mattress salesman who is so consumed with his work that he has ended up as a negligent father and husband. Sinbad plays Myron, an overworked postman who, like Howard, is on the hunt for a Turbo Man on Christmas Eve in order to win the affection of his son. We predominantly follow Howard’s turmoil, with Myron often being made out to be the bad guy getting in the way of Howard achieving his goal and making sure he doesn’t disappoint his son, Jaime (Jake Lloyd), yet again.

For the parents and adults watching, it is a satire that speaks to the darker truths of the Christmas season. Family friendly fluff this ain’t... to steal it from the neighbours house, and setting it on fire in the process). Columbus even said at the time of release in an interview with Daily News of Los Angeles that he has always been “attracted to the dark side of the happiest holiday of the year”, and Jingle All the Way makes no qualms at trying to hide this fact. In an age where superheroes are the most dominant figures of popular culture, the story of a parent having to get the latest superhero toy that his kid is obsessed with has never been more relevant. Heck, if Turbo Man was real and I was

a kid, I’d definitely be annoyingly desperate for that action figure with the arms and legs that move and the boomerang shooter and his rock’n roller jet pack and the realistic voice activator that says *five* different phrases including, “It’s Turbo time!” (Accessories sold separately; batteries not included). There’s Turbo Man comic books, Turbo Man breakfast cereals, Turbo Man pyjamas, you name it. Kids can’t escape him, and therefore neither can their parents. The film’s relevance has also only continued to grow when it comes to the behaviour of shoppers,

But for Myron, the situation feels much more desperate. He’s not someone who can rely on the clearly privileged lifestyle that Howard’s successful business grants him (thinking of making a move into the mattress game myself). The relationship between Myron and his son is not particularly developed, beyond Myron sharing his own tales of woe of when his own father didn’t get him the hot Christmas toy back when he was a kid. Howard sees Myron as a possible future for Jaime, which frankly says more about Howard’s self-centred ways than Myron himself. Myron is the character who is the most aware of the hamster wheel

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The Dark Underbelly of

Jingle All the Way

that he and Howard are running in, simply a part of the constant momentum of maintaining the status quo of capitalist society. Sinbad, who apparently improvised most of his dialogue, brings the satire front and centre with such insightful rants as ”We are being set up by rich and powerful toy cartels… they spend billions of dollars on TV advertisements and use subliminal messages to suck your children’s minds out!” Myron is the guy who brings in the dark reality of not just consumerism, but systematic racism and the dangers of civil servants being overworked, with references to Rodney King and mail bomb scares. A little tonally strange amidst the cartoonish family movie fun? Absolutely. But it underpins the point that the film has a darker intention than that of a fuzzy Christmas comedy. It is particularly driven home by the fact that the film tries to coat Myron’s story in the thin veneer of a happy ending. With Jamie giving Myron the Turbo Man action figure he ‘won’ at the parade, Myron is grateful and says that it’ll make his son

very happy. But he is also being led away in handcuffs for tying up an actor and endangering the life of a kid, so there’s a strong chance he’s not going to be with his son come Christmas morning, or even for sometime after that.

throughout the whole film. Now, his son has an even more unattainable expectation and image of him, that of being a rock’n roller jetpack wearing superhero who regurgitates the catchphrases he hears on TV. I doubt he even got to keep the suit.

It isn’t a much happier ending for Howard, and I’m not just talking about that post-credit scene where it becomes apparent that he’s also forgotten to get his wife, Liz (Rita Wilson), a gift (seriously, this guy). He lost from the very beginning. His whole mission is built on the idea that the only way to win his son’s affection is through buying him things, and judging by the amount of toys and possessions Jaime has, Howard has had to apologise this way a lot in the past. You may be saying ‘but Jamie doesn’t even want the toy come the end’, but that is only because the only way his father has managed to gain value in his eyes is because he has literally become Turbo Man. Howard has had to ultimately sacrifice his body to the very symbol of capitalism that he has been chasing

A lot of this reading of the film is very much done with tongue firmly in cheek. But the darkness that sits underneath the family festive wrappings of this Christmas movie is the main reason why I think the movie continues to have an enduring appeal. It works as a fast paced and colourful movie for kids, and also operates as a movie of holiday season chaos that many parents can likely find something to relate to within. That, and we get really funny lines of Schwarzenegger demanding Phil Hartman not eat his cookies. That it can also manage to work as a pretty effective satire about the dehumanising nature of consumerism is frankly a Christmas miracle.

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Words: Alex dewing

CINEMA

BRINGING THE CHRISTMAS

CINEMA TRIP INSIDE here’s nothing quite like a Christmas trip to the cinema. An annual tradition for some, for others a holiday treat. But for all this year, it’ll be an almost impossible feat. With the current state of the Government’s Winter Lockdown plan, cinemas are back to where they started and we’re left looking for a way to capture the feeling of that Christmas outing. We deserve it, it’s been a rough year. To help, Filmhounds have rounded up a few ways you can bring the ciné spirit inside...

T

POP YOUR OWN POPCORN ...and don’t worry about being too loud. Perhaps we can find the silver-lining in moving the cinema to the home as we throw away all popcorn eating etiquette. Grab the microwavable bags, or dare to pop your own kernels, and try some different flavours. (I’d recommend some spicy gochugaru popcorn, for the brave). Extra credit to anyone who purchases a cinema bucket just to top off the experience.

PUT UP A SHOWINGS LIST While this one might be a little twee, it’s a nice touch to your Christmas cinema-at-home whether or not you have any young ones in the family. Draw up a schedule, maybe even cut out your own tickets, and put them out so everyone can see them. It might not be the same as going to a real cinema, but it’s the little things that make the difference.

TREAT YOURSELF TO A NEW DEVICE There are so many gadgets that are made to enhance the home cinema experience and are available at a range of prices so that everyone can get that movie theatre feeling. Splash out on a soundbar and recreate the surround-sound experience or pick up a projector - even the cheapest can completely change the watching experience. It’s exactly what we need as we see out this turbulent year.

MAKE YOUR OWN PICK ‘N’ MIX This sweet treat has been offlimits ever since cinemas first

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felt the effects of COVID. It’s not surprising why; the fun of this treat is in the picking and, well, mixing and even with hand sanitiser readily available it’s a risk not many would like to take. In your own home, it’s a different story. Grab some paper bags and an array of your favourite sweets and let the mingling begin.

CHOOSE YOUR FAVOURITE HOLIDAY WATCHES Perhaps the best part of bringing the cinema inside is that you can watch anything you like. With a range of streaming services showing holiday favourites old and new, nothing is off the table. If you’re looking for something to get together and laugh at, check out the films of the ‘Netflix Holiday Movie Universe’. If you want something classic and wholesome, look no further than The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992) on Disney+. And if holiday movies aren’t quite your thing, Christmas horror-comedy Krampus (2015) is available on Netflix now. But really, what’s stopping you from putting together all our tips and cosying down to watch them all? Merry Christmas, movie house!


Keep print alive

Order the latest issue from filmhounds.co.uk/magazine


Keep print alive

Order the latest issue from filmhounds.co.uk/magazine

Profile for Filmhounds Magazine

Filmhounds Magazine Christmas 2020  

A bonus free Christmas issue of Filmhounds Magazine.

Filmhounds Magazine Christmas 2020  

A bonus free Christmas issue of Filmhounds Magazine.

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