An Alternative Christmas

By Jake Gloth

Few things will put you in the Christmas mood more than a good holiday film. The classics often come to mind (Elf, It’s a Wonderful Life, The Grinch, Polar Express), but sometimes it’s those unique ‘un-Christmasy’ holiday films that strike a chord with your holiday spirit. A new alternative Christmas film is sparking excitement with its unique look at a family relationship during this winter celebration. Like The Ones I Used To Know is one of the most sparkling and unusual watches of the season, and it along with a few other nice films will help add some variety to your holidays.  

This fresh and exciting short film by Director Annie St-Pierre follows a father who is picking up his children at his ex-in-laws’ house on Christmas Eve.

This heartfelt and endearing story strums a very different song from the movies we are used to. With a unique 80s esthetic and creative cinematography, this film comes together to create a unique and real Christmas tale; it is one many can relate to.

It’s poignant, emotive and directed with a sure but gentle hand. This short gives provides a less than traditional Christmas tale but explores emotions many will understand: separation, difficult choices and holiday sentiments.

Sometimes the conventional Christmas narrative isn’t what you are looking for. For those desperate for something new that still captures the holiday spirit and aesthetic, here are some Christmas films that do things differently.

Bad Santa (2003) follows Willie (played by Billie Bob Thornton), a devious con man dressed up as Santa, and his elf partner Marcus as they try to rob a mall. The pair tries to take advantage of the holiday spirit, but even this dark film can’t escape the cheer of Christmas.

If you like dark comedies but an evil mall Santa isn’t your thing, White Reindeer (2013) may be right up your alley. This strange tale follows a widow whose husband was brutally murdered just before the holidays. Follow Suzanne as she discovers her husband’s secret stripper girlfriend and begins a nefarious party spree with her to get over their shared grief. 

Are you looking for something a bit more horrifying? Then, Black Christmas (2019) could be just the thing for you. Watch as Riley and her sorority sisters prepare for a Christmas party while a serial killer begins targeting girls. This film takes a traditional horror storyline and gives it an empowering twist. 

Are you looking for something that emphasizes all the bickering that comes with the holidays? Well, The Ref (1994) follows a Christmas burglar who takes a fighting couple hostage to avoid police capture. In this comedy, the criminal turned couples therapist tries to repair their relationship while evading jail. 

Maybe you want a bit of action for Christmas; then, The Long Kiss Goodnight (1996) is the holiday thriller for you. Prepare for the story of Samantha Caine, a young amnesiac schoolteacher, who begins to remember her espionage-filled past after a car accident on Christmas day.

If you are looking for something a bit more cerebral, Whit Stillman’s Metropolitan (1990) is a reflective tale that questions the lives of upper-class socialites. This tale uses philosophical inquiries and group dynamics to escape the bounds of traditional Christmas love stories and deliver a social message. 

Do you like a social message but need a film that is a bit more thrilling? Then, L.A. Confidential (1997) is probably the Christmas movie for you. In this neo-noir mystery thriller with Russel Crowe and Guy Pearce, three detectives follow a trail of homicides that leads to an examination of police corruption in the LAPD after the infamous “Bloody Christmas”, a famous and real case where LAPD officers brutally beat seven civilians on Dec. 25, 1951.

Is that too much action for Christmas? If so, you may enjoy Todd Haynes’ Carol (2015), which follows a budding yet taboo romance in 1952. In this heart-spinning tale starring Rooney Mara and Cate Blanchett, the viewer is shown two women trying to love in a world that won’t let them. 

Do you like Christmas love stories but are tired of the same old formula? Well, Stanley Kubrick’s last film, Eyes Wide Shut (1999), is certainly a wild story of fidelity and temptation with Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman. This non-standard Christmas love story follows a couple as they tangle with their relationship, upper-class sexual secret societies and lustful opportunities. 

Big Hollywood movies aren’t everyone’s style. Sometimes you want to watch a nice experiential indie film like Tangerine (2015). This film (which was shot entirely on an iPhone 5S) tells a very different Christmas story. The viewer follows a transgender sex worker who finds out her boyfriend/pimp is cheating on her. The movie shows the life of someone who is ostracized from society on a day that is supposed to be about giving. 

Maybe you want something brief to watch to pair with the new short film Like The Ones I Used To Know (the film mentioned at the top). If so, here are a few bite-sized alternative Christmas movies to add a dash of spice to your holiday spirit. 

The Junky’s Christmas (1994) is a claymation (a form of stop-motion that uses clay) short that tells the story of ‘Danny the Carwiper’, a New York drug addict looking for a fix on Christmas Day. This grayscaled film shows how dull and lonely his life is; however, a final miracle helps instil the Christmas spirit into this tragic tale. 

If you want something short and relatable, …Long Distance Information (2011) has the family struggles you need to see. This story shares the feelings of a young Scottish man who calls his estranged father on Christmas Day. 

Do you need something funny to cheer you up? The Naughty List (2016) is a silly comedy where Santa visits two non-believing mobsters hiding out in a safe house. This short focuses on the hilarity of the situation as these two hitmen are confronted by the real Santa Clause. 

Whether it’s the classics or one of these alternative films, there is nothing that puts you in the holiday mood quite like a Christmas film. 

If you are interested in these unique Christmas movies, you will want to check out Like The Ones I Used To Know. St-Pierre’s short film about a family split by divorce during the holidays has already won over 15 awards, and it’s receiving Oscar attention. If you’d like to see the film, you’ll have to wait for official distribution or hope it’s being shown at a film festival near you. For more information, check out their website at h264disttribution.com.

If you enjoyed “An Alternative Christmas”, you will also like “Christmas 2021 Day One“.

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