As Spring begins and the weather, at least for us here in the Northern Hemisphere, is meant to be improving you may have less time sat indoors with Netflix. However if you weather is not improving then here are some recommendations to help pass the time.
This classic film is charming and sweet, a perfect proverbial cherry to go on top of your weekend of relaxing with the family. For those who grew up in the 80s the film is a powerful piece of nostalgia, the beautiful singing and very retro feel of the film makes you ache to dig your old VHS tapes out. Set in the Depression in New York, Annie is a ginger haired, precocious orphan who is adopted by some of the richest people in New York and some how stops a Bolshevik terrorist (the original cartoon came from 1924 so US attitudes to communism evidently change much in 60 years).
But at the root of this film is a beautiful soundtrack, nominated for an Oscar, and the touching journey of a young girl who wants to know who she is instead of being ‘the orphan’. Whilst this writer has not seen the recent Jamie Foxx version from 2014 I can assure you the original is far better albeit a little outdated and faded round the edges.
The Royle Family
Broadcast by the BBC between 1998 and 2000 with five subsequent iconic Christmas specials. Disclaimer: this is as British as British comedy gets in many ways and that may frighten those of you who find the original The Office a bit too much.
Whilst some take a while to get into the show its writing achievement is clear. The script, written by the late Caroline Aherne and co-star Craig Cash, is monumental given the show only features one room, at a push two. The lives of the Royle Family rotate around Jim, Ricky Tomlinson, who sits in his armchair watching television and only stopping to piss, swear, defraud someone or belittle his family. But despite this quite awful character the show is full of love, the characters interact and converse beautifully, their love for each other unconventional but obvious.
One particularly hilarious episode features the darling ‘Queen of Sheeba’, Nana, played by the late Liz Smith, who has taken ill and thus must live with the family. her and Jim battle it out for dominance over the TV remote and the batteries for it but finally reconcile in a side splitting sequence. However, such is the power of The Royle Family that the humour reaches a climax and diligently steps aside for a heartbreaking finale.
Die Hard (1988)
A film that needs little introduction. Here is what one of writers, Oliver Rowe, said of the film in a recent article (MaverickFilm’s Favourite Christmas Films):
I am sure that I will feel a great deal of sadness when I elect to watch Die Hard this year, due to the passing of the great Alan Rickman. However, I am equally sure that this sadness will be outweighed by the enjoyment gained from watching what is not only a great Christmas film, but one of the greatest action thrillers ever made. And Die Hard is a Christmas film. The pacing is still superb, the set pieces enthralling and the humour just as funny and quotable as ever – “Now I have a machine gun. Ho ho ho”. In fact it’s the writing that makes Die Hard Die Hard; it just helps that the acting and editing is great too.
It’s what puts it above being a by-the-numbers clichéd action movie – by all means it has these tropes in droves, but they’re executed brilliantly and it’s more than thrilling enough for you to not really care about them. There’s even a nod to the audience about this very thing with the John Wayne/Gary Cooper back and forth between the real hero of Christmas John McClane and delightful German-terrorist-played-by-a-British-man-because-Hollywood Hans Gruber. What better way to pay tribute to Alan Rickman than by carrying on what should be every family’s Christmas tradition of watching one of his most iconic roles come December. It ain’t Christmas until the phrase “Yippee-ki-yay, motherfucker” has been radioed to Severus Snape.
By Arran Byers