Best Film on TV: Christmas Special

With a festive season packed full of brilliant films on TV, Owen picks the cream of the crop for you over Christmas Eve, Christmas Day itself and Boxing Day. Whilst it’s 4 days shorter than the usual Best Film on TV article, it’s practically bursting with quality movies, starting with….

manchurian-candidate1Christmas Eve –

The Manchurian Candidate (1962) (ITV4, 12.10) – A favourite of ITV’s as it seems to be on at least once a month recently, it doesn’t make it any less worthy of your time. Starring Laurence Harvey, Janet Leigh and ol’ Blue Eyes himself Frank Sinatra, this psychological thriller about a returning POW who’s been brainwashed by the commie Koreans is as nightmarish as it is absorbing.

It’s a Wonderful Life (Channel 4, 13.10) – Whilst the proposed sequel is still some way off development, it wouldn’t be Christmas if this wasn’t on TV now would it? Last year we actually outlined exactly why you should see this in James and Kate’s 12 Days of Christmas series.

Fantasia (BBC2, 16.15) – Believe it or not, this is actually the terrestrial premiere of Walt Disney’s Fantasia, despite the fact it was released some 73 years ago now. Blending classical music with spell-binding, magical animation, it’s sure to draw in a huge number of viewers young and old to marvel at the splendour of classic Disney.

Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale (Film4, 00.45) – Adapted into a feature film by Finnish director Jalmari Helander from his own short film, this is a Christmas film like very few others! As a horror-comedy about a young boy that discovers the real Santa, an evil child stealing monster, is trapped in the mountains of his home town, it quite obviously doesn’t take itself too seriously! You will either love or hate it. If you stay up to watch it, it could even be the first film you see on Christmas day!

Children of Men (ITV4, 01.05) – Not Christmassy at all. In fact, I don’t even like Children of Men. However, director Alfonso Cuarón’s Gravity made it into the top 10 of 2013 in the Sight and Sound list and was mostly enjoyed by our podcast team and by Carole, our roving reporter at the London Film Festival, so one of his earlier sci-fi films about a world where women have stopped giving birth may appeal to the cinephiles out there looking for something a little bleaker this Christmas.

theredshoes2Christmas Day –

The Red Shoes (BBC2, 08.50) – The best Powell & Pressburger film that I’ve seen, The Red Shoes is about a ballet.. but don’t let that put you off like it threatened to do to the uncultured swine that I am. It is truly excellent. The actual ballet scene itself is mesmerising. The hissing romance between its two superb lead performers, Moira Shearer and Marius Goring, stuns the film into one of the most enchanting and mesmerising I’ve ever seen. Atmospheric, beautiful, tense. amazing, spectacular, illuminating… I could go on!

Gone With The Wind (Five, 10.15) – The episodic structure to this epic Civil War southern romance story from 1939 starring Clark Gable and Vivien Leigh means you can quite easily dip in and out of it between your view getting blocked by nan standing in front of the tele and helping with the tidying up without really missing much. If you make it to the end in one sitting, complete with sitting through ad breaks, then frankly my dear, I’m proud of you.

Casablanca (Five, 14.35) – Another film I don’t care too much for but is hailed as a classic is Michael Curtiz’s Oscar winning war time political-romance drama Casablanca. Taking a look at the profile page for the film over on Letterboxd, only one reviewer has given it anything less than 5 stars; even they gave it 4.5 stars! That, my friends, is a rarity. I would wager it will be a while again before I see the likes of that. Maybe not today. Maybe not tomorrow.. ok I’ll drop the cheesy quote-jokes.

Toy Story 3 (BBC1, 15.20) – Whilst it has been argued that Pixar are on the decline as of late, it’s hard to beat watching one of their films on Christmas Day. BBC seem to have developed a tradition of showing their movies on the 25th December, and this year they have decided to air the eleventh highest grossing film of all time. Indeed it was even nominated for an Oscar in 2011! Financial and critical success might suggest Pixar are far from a spent force, but nothing they have released since the third instalment of their Toy Story franchise has come close to matching its achievements.

The Muppets Christmas Carol (Channel 4, 16.35) – As I’m yet to pick a proper Christmas family movie, taking a peak at the schedule, it’s got to be the Muppets Christmas Carol. I’m sure you don’t need me to tell you why you should be watching this. It’s plainly obvious.

Big Fish (Film4, 16.50) – Ewan McGregor plays the son of a dying father in this fantasy adventure film. I don’t tend to pick many Tim Burton films for these Best Film on TV articles, however I will make an exception for Big Fish as it’s the time of forgiving. It might just be the last good film he made.

Ghostbusters (5*, 16.55) – If Big Fish.. ain’t your thing.. what else should you watch? Ghostbusters!

Indiana Jones and the Temple of Doom (BBC3, 20.30) – Ah, good ol’ Indy. Reliable, entertaining Indy. Proper Christmas day evening adventure film Indy. If you, like many other incorrect people, consider Temple of Doom to be a bit shit, you could wait for The Last Crusade on Boxing day at 20.00… or even Kingdom of the Crystal Skull, which is on BBC1 at 18.05 on Friday.

Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgandy (BBC1, 00.40) – With the release of Anchorman 2 last week, the long awaited sequel, BBC1 are giving you the chance to go back and watch where it all started. Arguably Will Ferrell’s greatest comedy creation pits the out-dated news anchor against an up-and-coming female counterpart. If you’ve had a bit to drink, just realised the time, and can stomach staying up just another hour and a half, then this is the perfect tonic.

The Host (2006) (Film4, 01.30) – As per my review on the latest podcast, this South Korean creature-feature about a mutant creature from the Han River in Seoul is tons of fun. Grotesque and hilarious, with a great cast of people recognisable from lots of other Korean films, such as Kang-ho Song (the vampiric priest in Thirst, and also in Sympathy for Mr Vengeance), and Doona Bae (who was also in Sympathy for Mr Vengeance as well as one of the best films of the year in Cloud Atlas), it is rightly regarded as one of the country’s best.

BenHurBoxing Day –

Ben Hur (More4, 11.45) – It’s just not Christmas without Ben Hur. Sword and sandal epics are what Christmas TV needs; Ben Hur, Spartacus, Cleopatra, Jason and the Argonauts, etc. It’s the time of year where it’s acceptable to watch an hour or so of a 3+ hour long film before giving in and changing channel, yet still feeling proud of yourself. Hopefully you time it just right so that you tune in just as the chariot race scene begins.

Paths of Glory (ITV4, 12.05) – Stanley Kubrick is a favourite of the Failed Critics team, even being inducted into our illustrious Corridor of Praise this year. His anti-war film from 1957 may be rather more tame than his more famous war film, Full Metal Jacket, but it is still just as impressive. It pits Kirk Douglas as the commanding officer, defending a group of soldiers facing a court martial. It’s bold and powerful, arguably the best of Kubrick’s pre-Strangelove films.

Fantastic Mr Fox (More4, 18.10) – Wes Anderson can be an acquired taste for some, but his quirky stop-motion animation based on Roald Dahl’s children’s book is a great film to wind down to after a long and tiring day of unwrapping presents, cooking a massive dinner, and pretending to be pleased at your annual gift set of Dove for Men from Boots.

Sightseers (Film4, 21.00) – As far as road trip films go, Ben Wheatley’s sinister and darkly comic story of a young couple from Redditch, serial killing their way through a caravan holiday, is one of the best, most disturbing and hilarious of its kind. It even made it onto James’ top 10 of 2012 list last year. If that isn’t recommendation enough, then I don’t know what is.

Horror of Dracula (BBC2, 00.10) – Remember when you were young and these Hammer Horror films used to be on TV really late at night? Me neither. I’m too young for that. But my dad assures me this was the case. Dracula, starring Sir Christopher Lee as in the titular role and Peter Cushing as Van Helsing, is arguably one of their finest. Certainly one of their most iconic and justifiably so.

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