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Movie Review: As 'Festive' As It Gets

Back when I was in college, one of my classes was talking about Christmas movies, and a guy in there railed against essentially all of them, saying that, at their root, they were all about acquisition and consumption. To his credit, he made good arguments, even if he’s clearly wrong, but my favorite part of the whole ordeal was when he was asked if he thought there were any good Christmas movies. Without missing a beat, he replied, “The Ice Storm.

Me, I’m not a Christmas movie nut, but there are plenty I enjoy. I’m pretty sure my favorite will always be Jim Henson’s 1977 TV special Emmet Otter’s Jugband Christmas. It’s the story of young Emmet and his widowed mother, who are very poor but full of love, and how each secretly sets out to win the local talent contest so they can buy a present for the other with the prize money. Every time I watch this movie, I’m struck by its kindness and the magnificent songs written by the great Paul Williams.

Along those lines, a very good case has been made that The Muppet Christmas Carol actually is the very best adaptation of Charles Dickens’ novella. Not necessarily that it’s the best movie based on the story, but it’s the one that best captures the Dickens magic. Certainly, Michael Caine acts the heck out of Scrooge.

For a truly strange Christmas, turn to 1944’s The Curse of the Cat People. It’s the sequel to the horror film Cat People, but this one follows a lonely young girl who creates an imaginary friend out of the villain from the first movie, except now she’s not remotely villainous. The movie’s so unusual, and features a fairly disturbing subplot that’s never really explained. But I swear, it’s a Christmas movie, and a genuine masterpiece.

And then I also recently watched the 2005 Oscar nominee Joyeux Noel, which tells the story of the World War I Christmas truce. Some parts of the movie are pretty overbaked, but I’ll be darned if I didn’t get shivers when the men slowly, cautiously come out of the trenches to greet each other in the quiet night.

Fletcher Powell has worked at KMUW since 2009 as a producer, reporter, and host. He's been the host of All Things Considered since 2012 and KMUW's movie critic since 2016. Fletcher is a member of the Critics Choice Association.