MUHBOMM - Other Christmas Stories
"Yippee Ki Yay! Mother-..." Rings through my house, a sign of the holiday season. Just as St.Nick will decend the chimney, Hans Gruber will fall from the 30th floor of the Nakatomi Plaza Building. You see Die Hard (and it sequel for that matter) are part of the collection of movies I watch every December. Why? Because they are great Christmas movies. Just maybe not of the same mold as Miracle on 34th Street.
There is a wonderful little sub genre of films that feature Christmas, but are not really Christmas movies. That sideways look at the Yule times is fascinatingly charming to me. These flicks take place in the season but aren't necessarily about it. And in all honesty they sort of end up punching the Christmas feel way more then films that focus on it. Here in the US the end of the year is dominated by the holiday. So it stands as no surprise that writers would pen stories about Christmas time. It's a surprisingly mundane magic. Every year red and green, winter and reindeer, Santa and baby Jesus; invade every corner of culture. The drowning of holiday cheer is inescapable. And many still mine great stuff out of the the universal themes of family, charity, goodwill, and peace. December is a rare time for reflection on the human condition. And maybe the best time to have people listen to an hopeful view of things. Even if these off beat movies tend to begin with a strong sense of cynicism for the very messages they deliver.
Let's take what I mentioned earlier, Die Hard. The movie is the adventure of John McClaine saving his wife and thirty some odd hostages from a group of armed men inside the ill fated Nakatomi building. While it is an action movie born of the ultra violent 80s, it is surprising how appropriate it is to be set at Christmas. At first glance the season is just a backdrop to hand wave the company party everyone is attending. Let's start by looking at the fractured relationship between New York cop John and his estranged upcoming corporate executive wife, Holly. She has moved some months earlier to LA to expand her job into a great career. Meanwhile not prepared for his wife to do so well John stayed behind. Stuck in his old way of thinking he has ruined there marriage. Now having flown out to the coast he tries to reconcile but keep screwing it up. But a surprise attack by robbers posing as terrorists dawarfs there problems. In there own ways the people they have become allows the threat to be thwarted. When the harrowing ordeal is over they come together as they are, not as they saw each other at the beginning. The tragedy has brought them together and they go home to celebrate the holidays with their kids. It is about the baggage we bring with us to the family reunions. The yearly reckoning where we judge our parents and children through the lens we build in there absence. And it sings home the importance of family coming together and embracing our loved ones as the flawed people they are.
It's sequel "Die Hard 2: Die Harder" finds the McClaines in the Washington DC attempting to meetup for the holidays again. This time the stain on the relationship is distance between them physically. As Holly is on one of the planes circling a hijacked air traffic control tower. As John fights off the terrorists in the jam packed airport. They deal once again with the obstacles that get in the way of the togetherness we seek for the holidays. It again ends with reunion and a Christmas song.
Other peripheral Christmas movies share this common matching of themes. They come in at an angle to the fundamental reasons for the season. Gremlins is a cautionary tale of responsibility and trust. Hook is the story of childhood wonderand how things change as age. Catch Me if you Can, lands on poignant moments each of the Christmases the period piece covers. Even Iron Man 3 connects with the undervaluing of our loved ones that seems to get righted at Christmas and New Years.
Perhaps it is just the time of the rolling year. That focus on hope. The hope that we can overcome the failings of the human condition. To be open to hearing a message of compassion and empathy. To feel for our fellow man. To believe in the childlike optimism we pull out of the crawl space with the Christmas tree. And by tying our stories to this introspective time of year we hope to capture a little of that receptiveness. To wish that the lessons we teach in our films are taken to heart. Either way, this magnetic time is a great plus to many, many movies. Few things serve as an axis through the whole of our lives like Christmas time. And I hope it's something that our stories continue to explore whether or not we put Christmas in the title.