Make new traditions with MOVE’s slightly offbeat Christmas movie picks

Four MOVE columnists share their favorite non-traditional holiday films.

This review contains spoilers for “Black Christmas,” “Rocky IV,” “Carol” and “The Royal Tenenbaums.”

If Andy Williams is to be believed, then it is the most wonderful time of the year. As such, all the classic holiday films are popping up on televisions across America, but what about the movies that aren’t all about Santa Claus and reindeer? Not to worry — four MOVE columnists have gathered films that your grandma might frown on this holiday season.

“Black Christmas”

Columnist Megan Altschul

Watching Bob Clark’s “A Christmas Story” is a Christmas tradition for countless families, including my own, but less is known about Clark’s first Christmas-related feature, “Black Christmas.” The catastrophically dark 1974 film can be coincidentally relatable for some MU students since the main characters are all sorority sisters living together in their sorority’s house.

However, hopefully, that’s as far as the similarities lie. The sisters’ joyful holiday celebration is interrupted by a strange and obscene phone call from an unidentifiable man who shouts profanity and claims he’s going to kill them. The man is true to his word, horrifically killing one sister, Clare (Lynne Griffin), soon after the call. Clare’s absence is shortly followed by more, generating an aura of mystery to flow throughout the entire film as the sisters try to discover the murderer’s identity.

Having the film set during the Christmas season is apparent satire, which is especially present in a scene featuring children caroling as the man attacks another girl. “Black Christmas” is one of those lesser-known but incredibly notable films and is actually credited as one of the first slashers, a large influence on John Carpenter’s famous “Halloween.” If you’re someone who doesn’t hold the Christmas spirit close to your heart, the horrifyingly ridiculous “Black Christmas” could easily be your new go-to Christmas film.

“Rocky IV”

Columnist Bon Adamson

Released in 1985, “Rocky IV” is peak ‘80s cheese. The movie has everything — boxing, robots, Russian doping, a gut-wrenching death and what might be the most egregious training montage of all-time. The movie’s plot, put simply, consists of Rocky Balboa (Sylvester Stallone) ending the Cold War for Christmas. Rocky returned to screens in Stallone’s fourth outing with the character as both actor and writer and had to face his most vicious opponent yet — Ivan Drago (Dolph Lundgren), a towering Soviet boxer.

The stakes get higher and higher throughout the movie, leading up to their penultimate match on Christmas Day in the Soviet Union. This movie is bad — terrible, even. What it lacks in compelling plot, it makes up for in entertainment. It’s hard to describe why, but this movie is just plain fun to watch. If you want a mindless popcorn-flick this Christmas, then Rocky IV is the perfect pick. Plus, there’s no better time to watch this movie as its sequel, “Creed II,” just began showing in November.

“Carol”

Columnist Abby Monteil

The holiday season itself is a pseudo-character in “Carol,” which details the blossoming 1950s romance between older divorcée Carol (Cate Blanchett) and a young, flighty aspiring photographer named Therese (Rooney Mara). After the pair meets in a gaudy department store where Therese sells Carol a gift for her daughter, their courtship progresses against a backdrop of Christmas trees and twinkling city streets.

Director Todd Haynes contrasts the film’s somber, elegant score and wintry starkness with the warm, intimate exchanges between the two leads (whose complicated personal stakes make their own holiday experiences less characteristically inviting). In this way, “Carol” is able to play with the film’s seasonal atmosphere to craft an emotionally rewarding prestige love story.

Avoid the chill of winter winds as sharp as Cate Blanchett’s cheek bones, hang up your best faux fur coat and settle in for some yuletide tension and across-the-room gazing that will rival even the juiciest of obligatory holiday parties.

“The Royal Tenenbaums”

MOVE Angles Assistant Editor Joe Cross

Calling “The Royal Tenenbaums” a Christmas movie is a bit of a stretch, but it’s not too far off from the truth — after all, it is a movie about the awkwardness of reconnecting with your dysfunctional family and its constantly-changing dynamics. Its chilly December setting is one of the most beautifully rendered in any film and makes for perfect viewing for the beginning of winter when the prospect of snow is still exciting and not exhausting.

What stands out most is just how warm the cinematography and characters are despite this winter setting. Wes Anderson’s recent output (with the exception of the masterful “Grand Budapest Hotel”) hasn’t done much to challenge his reputation as a human diorama. It’s nice to revisit a time when his witty dialogue and eccentric humor wasn’t just quirkiness for the sake of quirkiness and actually matched his compassion for his characters.

Edited by Siena DeBolt | sdebolt@themaneater.com

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