Movie Reviews

Paula’s Holiday Movie Guide 2020

I adore the holidays and everything that goes along with them. The parties, the shopping, the holiday parades, the ugly sweaters… and of course the pop culture! I’m talking about movies, holiday specials on TV shows, and the music! I just love all of it.

This year, I’m not in the holiday spirit. I’m not sure if I’m alone in this feeling or not, but I really miss the parties. I miss hugging my friends and squeezing into packed bars decked out with twinkle lights. I miss the buzz of shopping and the experience of ‘wandering around’ looking for the perfect gift. I miss drinking hot chocolate and skating with my Pathfinders. My ugly sweaters are just sitting a box. I also am in denial that it’s December. I still think it’s March 295th.

But friends this week I’m determined to get into the holiday spirit. I’m going to bake cookies, drink copious amounts of hot chocolate, and overload on all my favourite holiday movies and shows. This year requires a specific holiday list and I’m here for you.

So here is my list of things I’m watching this holiday and that I’d recommend 🎁

Over on Disney+ I’ve got a bunch of favourites.

Obviously in 2020, no list would be complete without Home Alone. It’s a classic for a reason – but this year that feeling of being left behind and alone in a house for the holidays just hits different. It’s the perfect holiday movie. Plus I’d highly recommend heading over to Netflix and watch The Movies That Made Us there is an episode about Home Alone and it’s wonderful.

If you, like me, feel like a bit of a Scrooge this year, then The Muppet Christmas Carol might fix that. It’s a classic for a reason. Personally I prefer A Muppet Family Christmas but I can’t find it formally streaming anywhere (there is a youtube link if you search for it) .

I’m a massive fan of The Santa Clause. The first movie is one of those iconic 90s holiday films that I could watch over and over. My family owned it on VHS and I have probably seen it hundreds of time. Depending on my mood I watch the other two in the series but the first is the classic. I also have a lot of love for David Krumholtz as Bernard (I generally have a lot of love for Krumholtz, but this movie is the start of that love affair).

Always a classic, Netflix has a lot of great options:

I have to put Nancy Meyers’ The Holiday on the list. I have so many wonderful things to say about this movie and one day I’ll do my own “Nancy Meyers Week”, but I feel like this year The Holiday feels extra special. The idea of moving to a cottage in a small town feels perfect and quarantining with Mr. Napkin head and the girls sounds lovely. Or you know, I wouldn’t complain if I had the mansion in LA – however I would worry about Arthur and the boys. We’d be a great bubble just watching movies all day and swimming in the pool. Just perfect.

One of my all time favourite holiday movies is Christmas with the Kranks staring Jamie Lee Curtis and Tim Allen. When the Kranks’ beloved daughter Blair enrolls in the Peace Corp, they decide to skip it instead of facing a Christmas without her. The idea of “skipping” Christmas was comical until 2020. Now it’s my life. This movie is ridiculous but it always has me cackling with laughter and every time I watch it I want to plan a massive Christmas Eve party. Let’s just put it this way – in 2021, I’m hosting a BANGER. (also if you watch this and think the Frosty Tradition is great – you HAVE to drive down “Kringlewood” aka Ingelwood Dr, it will fill your heart with joy).

I’m big fan of The Nutcracker – and the iconic Debbie Allan has a new documentary called Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker about the making of her annual show. I can’t go to the ballet this year, but this does the trick.

There are also a lot of great TV shows that you can watch to get you in the spirit. Dash and Lily was a great show. There is a Norwegian show called Home For Christmas that is excellent. I also think Fargo is a must watch around the holidays. It’s that perfect ‘boxing day’ show. It’s not *Christmas* but it is a winter show – a nice show to ease you out of the holiday genre and back into regular programming.

Netlfix Canada has also come out with a list of ‘holiday’ episodes of all their classic shows. I’d recommend any of them. Friends, Gilmore Girls, How I Met Your Mother, New Girl

As I’m Canadian, I’m listing things you can find on Crave but often these things are on Amazon Prime too. I’m not a fan of Amazon. In fact I’m loving the Not Amazon local shopping guide. However, I will say Prime has a great collection of Holiday movies and if you got the ‘one month free’ to ship holiday presents fast, well this is a great time to watch their offerings. Basically what I’m saying is that this next chunk is either on both Prime and Crave but you should watch it on Crave if you can. Support the Canadian media!

I personally don’t think it’s Christmas until I’ve watched Love Actually. However this year it feels a bit off. As in… I don’t want to watch people hugging at airports. The whole idea of families coming together… break my heart Love Actually. That being said – of course I’m going to watch it. I really think the scene that will resonate this year is Mark’s cards. I feel like a lot of us will be wishing loved one’s “Merry Christmas” from a far with signs…

Greta Gerwig’s Little Women was an instant holiday classic last year. I could watch this movie at any time of the year, but it feels the most like a Winter movie. In 2020, I need more Jo in my life you know? I need someone who is fiercely okay with being on her own and I need that pep talk. I also need the reminder that while my Christmas looks different, at least I’m not in the middle of a Civil War or impoverished like the Hummels. This feels flip, but what I mean to say, is that I’m very grateful that my “bad” holiday is just watching movies. (Note: LW is sadly not on Crave – only on Prime.)

For Emma Thompson fans – she wrote the movie Last Christmas. If you haven’t heard of it thats okay. It’s a more recent movie (came out in 2019) and it was just *fine*. Go in with low expectations and no understanding about what it’s about and I think you’ll love it. It stars Emilia Clarke and Henry Golding and I loved them together. I want to see them in other projects together.

One of my all time favourites is The Polar Express. I was entranced by it when it first came out. It was slightly ruined by a bad viewing experience when I was in high school and the animation hasn’t aged well… but all that said, still a classic story.

I think we all want to blow stuff up in 2020 so if you also want some *violence* in your life, I’d recommend Die Hard. It’s a Christmas movie. Fight me.

Lastly, cult favourite The Family Stone is always a good choice. I haven’t seen this in years but I feel like I’ll be revisiting it this year.

Other things to watch:

As previously mentioned, I love The Nutcracker. I grew up in Toronto, and I have wonderful memories of going to see The National Ballet of Canada’s fantastic production. This is the first year since 1955, the National Ballet isn’t putting on a live show, however you can still partake in this annual tradition by watching it on Cineplex. They are showcasing the 2008 show which I think is particularly cool because I know people in this performance! Every year, 20 singers from VIVA! Youth Singers of Toronto join The National Ballet of Canada Orchestra for the famous snow scene. VIVA is lead by Carol Ratzlaff who was my high school choir teacher and she always brought a few girls from our choir to join them. So I’m excited to watch this and see some old friends! It’s $30 to rent the performance but well worth it to support this fantastic institution. Get it here.

I watch a lot of TV (obviously) but I really try hard to watch shows that are from “other markets.” Things that as a Canadian, I might not be spoon fed. So lots of international shows are on my radar. One of my favourites is RTE’s The Late Late Show. This is Ireland’s flagship talk show hosted by a delightful man named Ryan Tubridy. In Ireland, The Late Late Toy Show is a cultural institution. It is a TV event like the Super Bowl is to America and that Olympic Hockey is to Canada. Everybody watches this special. I get it. It’s a joy to watch. It’s like Oprah’s Favourite’s Things – but for Irish kids. I cry every time I watch it. There is a kid this year on the show this year named Adam King. People are saying his appearance on the show is the ‘Irish Moment of the Year’. You can watch the full 2.5 hour show on the RTE Player here. If you want a little sneak peak of the joy of this show – you’ve got to watch this clip:

If you have the DVD you’re in luck for this favourite. IMO – A Christmas Story is the ultimate holiday movie. In 2020 I love the idea of watching a ‘historic’ film. Something that doesn’t feel at all ‘current’ because I need some escapism from this year. There are a lot of things this movie does well and lessons it teaches (like don’t stick your tongue to a flagpole in winter), but in 2020 the idea of ‘adapting’ is critical. So what if the dogs eat the turkey or covid means you’re eating alone – there is always Chinese takeout and honestly that sounds great.

I always watch The O.C. during the holidays. Two reasons: 1) Chrismukkah and 2) for this soundtrack to get stuck in my head.

Finally, the holidays are ALWAYS a time to marathon fantasy movies. I’m personally a Harry Potter* girl, but I also have been known to watch the Chronicles of Narnia. I know many of you love watching The Lord of The Rings. There really is no ‘wrong’ answer here. It’s all about watching epic quests that at some point involve snow.

Ok that’s it for me, as always tell me what you end up watching!

 

*I’m watching HP on DVD. I’m not give her more $$$ through streaming.

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