We had so much fun putting together the CineChat Halloween awards recently, we decided to do the same again for Christmas! Last year, we put 50 Christmas movies to the general public via a series of polls, whittling them down until only one winner was left standing… Love Actually!
This time, it was up to the CineChat team to come up with their Christmas champions. So, with 10 Christmas related award categories this year, how would Love Actually fare? Well, let’s see…
Best Song Featured in a Christmas Movie
Christmas is all around – Love Actually (2003)
Runner-up: What’s this? (The Nightmare Before Christmas)
Matt: While not an original song per se, I think this is a worthy winner for a variety of reasons! To name a few: the lyrics structurally support the theme, space and genre links between all the stories (Love/Christmas is “all-around”); Richard Curtis mocks the increasingly competitive race for ‘Christmas No. 1’, where has-beens and reality star tweens battle for the best classic cover – give or take a few syllables; and he even indirectly pokes fun at the massive popularity of his own film Four Weddings and a Funeral (“Oh Jesus, not that crap again!”). Right from the opening titles, where the amazing instrumental version introduces us to every character, including the new Prime Minister as he arrives at Downing Street and the magical moment Miss Knightley walks down the aisle, and in the numerous appearances on radios and televisions throughout the film, the song truly binds the film together. The original score by Craig Armstrong is divine too – treat yourself this Christmas and have another listen to his trio of ‘Love Themes’ from the film… sublime.
Mary: Ok it’s amusing and it’s a great scene with Bill Nighy but the best song in a Christmas movie? Not a chance, I don’t get it. That’s not to say I’m not a fan but there were so many better choices.
Best Performance in a Christmas Movie
Emma Thompson – Love Actually (2003)
Joint runners-up: Richard Attenborough (Miracle on 34th Street), Tim Allen (The Santa Clause), Macaulay Culkin (Home Alone), Jim Carrey (The Grinch)
Lee: So I guess CineChat are all big fans of Love Actually then?! While I do quite like Love Actually, and usually end up watching it every Christmas without fail, I’m just not that much of a fan of Emma Thompson… sorry! Her performance in this as busy mum and wife who is possibly being cheated on certainly is powerful though and, on reflection, probably does deserve to win more than Macaulay Culkin… so I guess I’ll let this one slide.
Matt: I think we all know Emma Thompson wins for one scene in particular. One that has transcended the film and is almost always the first topic of conversation when Love Actually is brought up. The fact that for the majority of the film she is fussing, bumbling and busying herself makes this one moment of complete pause all the more poignant, and in this moment she delivers one of the most devastatingly human performances put to screen… I still would have liked to see The Grinch though!
Mary: Again Love Actually is brilliant and I watch it every December and adore Emma Thompson and this may well be the greatest acting she has ever committed to film. The bedroom scene is genuinely heart-breaking. But the best performance in a Christmas film?! I guess when I think of Christmas performances I think of characters that actually have something more to do with Christmas, or at least have a bigger part i.e… James Stewart in It’s a Wonderful Life. But I’m not too upset, when I think of the key scene I can’t deny the brilliance.
Best Depiction of Santa Claus
Scott Calvin (Tim Allen) – The Santa Clause Franchise
Runner-up: Kris Kringle (Miracle on 34th Street 1994)
Lee: This one I’m very happy about. I only recently watched Christmas with the Kranks for the first time and have been working my way through Last Man Standing this year, both of which feature Tim Allen, and it’s clear to say that I’m loving pretty much everything I see him in. The Santa Clause sees Scott Calvin (Allen) transforming from average man to Santa Claus and dealing with the fallout and joy that entails – it’s a role that he reprised for two brilliant sequels, with the whole series being a firm Christmas favourite in my household. A worthy win, especially with some very strong Santa competition in our voting list.
Mary: The Santa Clause is very possibly my favourite Christmas film, and I love Tim Allen’s portrayal of Scott Calvin, he has such a fantastic character arc from the cynical non believing businessman to the truly good keeper of Christmas…Santa Claus. However Richard Attenborough has the edge for me, nobody does Santa like him, I could almost believe he really was.
Best Christmas Movie Setting
Halloween Town/Christmas Town – The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
Joint Runners-up: New York (Home Alone 2), Both Houses (The Holiday), Bedford Falls (It’s a Wonderful Life), The McAllister House (Home Alone)
Mary: This is a hard one because it is all down to personal taste, I don’t think there is a setting I don’t like in this list of winner and runners up. Tim Burton created such a unique and memorable world of setting and characters, there has never been anything like it. That moment when Jack arrives in Christmas town is so full of wonder, the light and magic of the town is such a brilliant scene and paired with the fantastic What’s This its pure cinema at its finest.
Best Christmas Movie Animal
Gizmo – Gremlins (1984)
Joint Runners-up: The Nativity ‘Animals’ (Love Actually), Max (The Grinch)
Lee: For a long time during the voting process, I genuinely thought that the team would manage to sneak in yet another Love Actually win with its animals that quite clearly aren’t animals! But, common sense prevailed, and instead, we got an actual animal win… a Mogwai! Even though Gremlins clearly is a Christmas movie, it isn’t generally a movie that springs to mind when planning my festive movie watching schedule. But just look at Gizmo in that cute little Santa hat! I’m definitely going to have to watch it this year now.
Sarah: Gizmo is a worthy winner, as he’s adorable and no doubt has featured on many Christmas wish lists since the film’s release in 1984. I’m pretty sure I can’t be the only one who as a child asked for a Gizmo toy every Christmas (I’m still waiting). Although in hindsight I do wish I’d nominated the gremlin in a flasher mac.
Clare: Not only is Gizmo the best animal in a Christmas film, but he’s also one of the best animals in film. Capturing the hearts of every viewer for 30 years, he’s cute, vulnerable and brave. There was never another choice.
Best Christmas Movie Villain
Hans Gruber – Die Hard (1988)
Runner-up: Harry & Marv (Home Alone)
Lee: I’m not going to kick off any argument about whether Die Hard is a Christmas movie or not. Let’s just say that every year I’m tempted to buy an “It’s not Christmas until you see Hans Gruber fall from Nakatomi Tower” jumper, which confirms two things – that Die Hard IS a Christmas movie, and that Hans Gruber is a brilliantly memorable Christmas villain.
Matt: Deep down, I think we all know the winner of this award is Mia (“The Office Tart”) from Love Actually, after all, she masterminds the most crushing break-up in cinema history. However, having now seen Die Hard – as of 2019 – I do agree that Alan Rickman’s Hans Gruber is a phenomenal villain regardless of whatever genre Die Hard is/isn’t. We didn’t just vote it to keep Lee happy, honest.
Mary: I mean could anyone else really be in the running for this, it is amazing to think this was Alan Rickman’s first film performance. He is such a perfect villain, that voice, those killer lines he firmly cemented himself in the annual Christmas calendar.
Best Christmas Movie Character
Kevin McAllister – Home Alone (1990)
Runner-up: Buddy the Elf (Elf)
Sarah: I doubt there’s a child or adult alive who hasn’t at least once wished they were Kevin McAllister. Despite only being eight, he gets to do what the rest of us could only dream of: sledging down the stairs of his house, tormenting pizza delivery delivers and hosting a party full of mannequins and cardboard cut-outs. Oh, and he also finds time to reunite an old man with his family and foil two rather inept burglars with some ingenious traps. He’s a hero.
Mary: Is there anyone who doesn’t watch Macaulay Culkin in Home Alone at Christmas? Kevin McAllister is such an entertaining character and is played to perfection by Culkin, so cool and collected that breaking of the fourth wall is genius. Home Alone has a great script but it’s all down to the fantastic performance. There is no Christmas without it.
Best “Alternative” Christmas Movie
Runner-up: Die Hard
Sarah: Like Lee, I’ll avoid addressing whether either of these are actually Christmas films or not, but I’m glad Gremlins won. What could be more festive than a man’s Christmas present for his son turning into a hoard of slimy mischievous creatures ransacking an entire town? The gremlins even sing carols! For me, Gremlins is a must watch over Christmas. It’s a perfect darkly alternative film for those who want to feel a little festive, but without the sickly sweet over the top feels you usually get from a traditional Christmas film.
Lee: As mentioned earlier, I love Gremlins. But the rightful winner here is clearly Krampus, so I’m not saying anything…
Clare: I’ve actually only seen Gremlins twice but both times I’ve been surprised about how strong a story it is and how well it still holds up. A classic Christmas film for those of us who can’t stand movie families – give me the Dad who buys the worlds most inappropriate gifts every time. But remember, a Mogwai is for life, not just for Christmas.
Best Animated Christmas Movie
The Snowman (1982) / The Snowman and the Snowdog (2012)
Runner-up: Arthur Christmas
Mary: The Snowman is a must at Christmas, I cannot remember a year I haven’t watched it, it used to be that I would search avidly through the tv book looking for when it would play on television on the run-up to Christmas. Now I have the luxury of watching on DVD as many times as I like. It is pure innocent storytelling, the music is so beautiful and the animation is unlike anything else but it so fits this lovely story. Can’t wait to watch it this year.
Lee: I was all for Arthur Christmas here or even The Polar Express. And I actually prefer The Snowman and The Snowdog to the original Snowman. There’s just something about the animation, the music, the story, that just hits me harder than the original.
Best Live-Action Christmas Movie
Love Actually (2003)
Runner-up: It’s a Wonderful Life
Lee: OK, there is definitely some kind of conspiracy going on here. Excuse me while I throw my toys out of the pram and then sulk for a while.
Matt: Don’t worry, I’ll take it from here! Cracking characters, cast, cameos, a comprehensive Christmas soundtrack, comedy, crying, classic scenes, quotable, and quintessentially British. It just doesn’t get any better than that. It’s Christmas No. 1.
Mary: I just don’t get it how is this happening, it doesn’t have Santa or elves or the North Pole or anything how is it the best Christmas movie? I’ll see how I feel after this years viewing.
Clare: In my mind it’s a great Christmas movie because it captures so many aspects of a modern Christmas. It’s not about fake snow coating over our problems and pretending they’re not there just for a massive meal. It’s about how different people cope, interact, love, grieve. Christmas magic is fun, but the magic of human connection and love? That’s what Christmas should be about, Actually.
Who Do We Think Was Robbed?!
Matt: My turn to complain… Arthur Christmas and Klaus were utterly robbed in the Animated category. Both 10/10 in my book, and at least they were actually feature-length films! I also think Jim Carrey’s Grinch ought to have had more of a look-in too, even if as a runner up on either the Villain or Setting categories. But most of all… Anna and the Apocalypse? Anyone? Its time will come, just you wait. Just. You. Wait.
Lee: I agree with Matt that there should have been more love for Arthur Christmas. And also, Krampus could/should have easily won in the majority of these categories! The Polar Express in a fair few of them too. If you hadn’t already gathered, I’m not impressed by all the Love Actually results, but as it came top in the CineChat best Christmas movie poll last year, I guess I shouldn’t be too surprised.
Sarah: I definitely think Krampus should’ve featured, although I‘m not sure I would have put it above Gremlins if in the same categories. But my biggest gripe is The Muppets Christmas Carol?! This has everything you could ask for in a Christmas film: laughs, songs, Muppets, Michael Caine and heartwarming festive feels, yet is surprisingly absent from this list.
Clare: As the member of the team who doesn’t celebrate Christmas, this one was tough. I’ve only seen most of the films listed once or twice, for me the only Christmas films I ever want to watch are the rom-coms, so I’m happy Love Actually features so highly, despite it being a bit of a mess. My top picks would be The Family Stone and The Holiday, neither of which got a look in. Peak Jude Law should always be celebrated! I would also like to mention a made for TV film no-one has ever heard of called The Mousehole cat. The story of a brave Cornish fisherman and his cat who saved Christmas, it was the must watch Christmas story in my house growing up.