Christmas movie substitutions

Jonathan Adams and Ted Bonnah recommend three lesser known holiday features to replace the overfamiliar holiday television programming.


3. To replace Miracle on 34th Street: City of Lost Children (1995)

Yes, Virginia, there is a Santa Claus … and it would appear he wants to eat your babies. The image of a snaggle-toothed, sunken-cheeked, stone bald, emaciated Santa hovering over a crib as he shakes a rattle enticingly in Marc Caro and Jean-Pierre Jeunet’s City of Lost Children stands as a welcome corrective to the sanitized lies of Miracle on 34th Street–i.e. that a man with a hoary beard dressed in a big red snowsuit who invades people’s homes could (ipso facto) be anything other than a drooling psychopath.

2. To replace A Christmas Carol: Los Olvidados (1950)

If you become depressed in the midst of all your shopping upon realizing that Christmas is after all just a venal celebration of money, wealth, and bourgeois moral vacuousness, why not take a time out to sit back and contemplate the eternal squalor of the poor. There has probably never been a portrayal of poverty as merciless, cruel, or accurate as that of Luis Buñuel’s masterful Los Olvidados. The movie follows a group of young delinquent boys in Mexico in their daily comings, goings, and beating-up-old-blind-people-ings. Buñuel lacks the English sentimentality about poverty which you find in the novels of Dickens. The final scene of the movie, in which the dead body of an innocent ten-year-old boy is stuffed into a potato sack and tossed into a ditch, might provide you with the perfect opportunity to ruin everyone’s appetite at Christmas dinner this year.

1. To replace It’s a Wonderful Life: Tokyo Godfathers (2003)

Unlike our other recommendations, Satoshi Kon’s Tokyo Godfathers is a genuinely affecting (as opposed to upsetting) modern miracle play that we dare to suggest absolutely anyone can enjoy. The movie chronicles the adventures of three homeless people in Tokyo–a former cyclist who has left his wife and daughter out of shame, a transvestite with AIDS who wonders whether she mightn’t have been chosen as the next Virgin Mother, and a young runaway who stabbed her father one day in a rage then left and never went home again. This unlikely trio finds an abandoned baby girl in a dumpster and determines to return the child to its parents, a goal that takes them from one side of Tokyo to the other. Few films show as much compassion for their characters, nor reward the viewer so richly with their endings.