Title: The Bishop’s Wife
Release Date: December 9, 1947
Director: Henry Koster
Production Company: Samuel Goldwyn Productions
Post-World War II cinema offers many examples supernatural beings offering inspiration to the film’s protagonist. These include angels (A Matter of Life and Death and It’s a Wonderful Life), Santa Claus (Miracle on 34th Street), and the … ghost(?) of a girl (Portrait of Jennie). Add to this The Bishop’s Wife, in which Cary Grant plays the dapper angel Dudley who answers the prayers of the titular Bishop Henry Brougham (David Niven) and his wife Julia (Loretta Young).
The problem is that Henry has become estranged from Julia and their old friends because he’s caught up in fundraising for a new cathedral. And so Dudley steps into help by showing Julia a good time and falling in love with her. This movie gets really awkward really fast especially since Dudley is awesome and Henry is a fuddy-duddy and we don’t really know who we should be rooting for in this bizarre love triangle. There are some lovely performances and some charming moments, but the movie just feels off to me. It’s not a surprise that it didn’t become a Christmas classic.
Release Date: July 10, 2015
Director: Sean Baker
Production Company: Duplass Brothers Productions | Through Films
On Christmas Eve in Hollywood, Sin-Dee (Kitana Kiki Rodriguez), a transgender sex worker just released from 28 days in jail, learns that her boyfriend/pimp Chester (James Ransone) has been unfaithful. Sin-Dee goes on a rampage hunting down the cisgender sex worker Dinah (Mickey O’Hagan) for revenge. Meanwhile, her compatriot Alexandra (Mya Taylor) tags along trying to prevent “drama” and promoting her musical performance at a local bar. While this is all happening, we also see Armenian cab driver Razmik (Karren Karagulian) pick up passengers, and also be a customer of Alexandra and Sin-Dee, as well as have Christmas dinner with his family.
As you may have guessed, this is not your traditional Christmas movie. The humor can be very dark, but also offers a real glimpse into a subculture. The film was shot on iPhones which helps lend it a verite feel. I thought things get very grim for all the main characters by the end of the movie, but it ends with a scene of kindness that lends a sweetness to the whole movie.
Release Date: 8 November 2019
Director: Sergio Pablos
Production Company: Netflix Animation | Sergio Pablos Animation Studios | Atresmedia Cine
I heard good things about Klaus, but ended up sorely disappointed. Let’s start with the good things. This movie is gorgeous, and a rare example of hand-drawn animation in this day and age of computer imaging. There are shots of birdhouses swaying in beech trees with the sun filtering through that are stunning. Unfortunately, the animation isn’t supported by a good story or characters. The movie purports to be a reimagining of the Santa Claus mythos and every moment it winkingly lets you know how some different element of Santa Claus was created.
The story is set on a remote island in the northern latitudes where the son of the postmaster general is sent to work as punishment for his self-centeredness and laziness. The first flaw of this movie is that Jesper Johansen (Jason Schwartzman) is so obnoxious in that ironic, detached manner of characterization that should’ve died in the 1990s. Jesper finds himself in a town with an ongoing feud between the two main families. Their ongoing battles aren’t all that funny, but we sure do get to see a lot of them.
Jesper befriends a woodworker, Klaus (J. K. Simmons), who lives on an isolated part of the island and makes hundreds of toys. Jesper learns he can reach his goal of delivering 6000 letters by having the children write to Klaus asking for toys and then delivering them by night. The beats of the movie that follow are pretty predictable – unexpected changes in the town, a moment of betrayal, a change of heart. The movie wants you to feel everything as magical, but I found myself just getting whiplash between heavy snark and cloying moments.
Title: Robin Robin
Release Date: 27 November 2021
Director: Dan Ojari & Mikey Please
Production Company: Aardman Animations
Robin Robin is a stop-motion animated short that has the charm and whimsy typical of Aardman Animations. It’s absolutely gorgeous to look at and very sweet at its heart. The story is more of your basic misfit’s tale. Robin (Bronte Carmichael) is a young bird raised by a family of mice, under the leadership of the single Dad Mouse (Adeel Akhta). Mice in this story specialize in sneaking and stealing bits of food from humans, which the clumsy Robin is not very good at. But with the help of Magpie (Richard E. Grant) and the the threat of Cat (Gillian Anderson), Robin may find a Christmas miracle and discover himself. It’s not all too original but it is very winsome.