Joyeux Noel (or Merry Christmas, 2005)
Joyeux Noel or Merry Christmas takes place during the Great War. When this war started, everyone said "We'll be home before the leaves hit the ground" but it ended up taking years. This movie is based on true events: the Christmas truce. On Christmas Eve 1914 the Germans, French and Scottisch fraternize and get to know the men who live on the opposite side of the trenches, their so called 'enemies'. You follow the lives of a Scottish priest and one of his students, a German opera singer and his wife and a French luitenant. Their stories beautifully intertwine and show humanity in time of war. <3
Why watch it? I could watch it every year. This is definitely one of my all time recommendations. It's a beautiful story about how German, French and Scottisch soldiers came together on Christmas Eve and decided not to fight during the Christmas days. They spend Christmas together. How beautiful is that? I always wondered about such things ('How can you just murder people, friends, other human beings?'). I first came across the history of the Christmas truce (because it really happenend during World War One), in high school, while doing a project. A couple years later I researched it some more and that's when I found this movie. Yes, it's a bit romantized, but it's still beautiful. The characters are great, the music is wonderful, just as the scenery. There's just something about the First World War that will always interest me. It also shows there's hope in time of war. So this movie is definitely a must. I hope it becomes a classic one day ;-).
(Thomas Kinkade's) Christmas Cottage (2008)
Another beautiful story that's based on true events. The Christmas Cottage is a look behind the inspiration for the painting that goes by the same title. Once painted by Thomas Kinkade and this movie shows how he became the painter everyone knows. During the Holidays Thomas and his brother come home, but find their mother in financial problems. So bad, that they might lose the cottage they grew up in. Thomas is played by Jared Padalecki and his mentor is played by Peter O'Toole. It's a very honest story that many people might recognize something in. Again, some things may be a bit exagerated, but it's beautiful nonetheless.
Why watch it? For one, Kinkade's paintings are magical. It's interesting to see some of his background. The story isn't very exagerated, it stays close to reality and the characters are played very well. Yes, some of them are a bit weird, but it's funny. And I love communities like this where everyone knows each other. I also must mention the wonderful work of Peter O'Toole here, as Glen. His performance is amazing! It's a true seasonal movie filled with Christmas spirit, not to mention the Christmas scenery. It's where paintings like this came from.
Christmas Child (2003)
Jack (William R. Moses) is a reporter who's (adoptive) father died nine months ago, so Jack is not in the happiest of spirits. While he's working on a story in Dallas, Texas, he comes across a picture that spikes his attention. It leads him to his birthplace Clearwater, where he meets several townspeople and learns about the town's ornate nativity scene. He also starts discovering some things about his past...
Why watch it? It's a more grown up story and more on the serious side than most Christmas movies. Dialogue is kinda crappy, but most of the characters are interesting. Because it's sort of a mystery, it's about finding out the truth and you get sucked into Jack's research. It's not the best movie, of all movies I listed here. But it's still a nice movie, that's more mellow.
The Family Stone (2005)
Tagline: "Feel the Love" That pretty much says it all. Everett Stone (Dermot Mulroney) takes his girlfriend Meredith Morton (Sarah Jessica Parker) to meet his family during the Holidays. She's an uptight, conservative, businesswoman and his family is eccentric and very outgoing. So is their annual Christmas celebration, which makes her feel very uncomfortable. And she doesn't exactly recieve a warm welcome either. Below this superficial storyline, there's much more (real) drama.
Why watch it? The first time I watched this movie, I really did not like it. I thought it was terrible... I didn't like Sarah Jessica Parker in it, nor Rachel McAdams. And I really love her as an actress. It was all just a bit to heavy, I guess. And bitchy. The characters were to flat. Just having a gigantic load of famous actors (Claire Danes, Diane Keaton, Craig T. Nelson and Luke Wilson), doesn't mean it will save the movie. Watching it again, I still didn't like it that much, but I was now prepared for the characters and I didn't mind them that much anymore. And I was surprised by how fast I warmed up to the irritating family members this time. So why watch it? Because not everybody has my taste and I think many people actually love this movie.
On Christmas Eve a series of events take place that link five strangers together. They meet each other at separate times. Rose (Susan Sarandon) is a woman who is struggling to cope with caring for her mother who has Alzheimer's. The second storyline focusses on Nina (Penelope Cruz) and Mike (Paul Walker), a couple, who are having relationship problems due to the fact that Mike gets jealous. Then there's Artie (Alan Arkin), an old waiter who searches for his wife... who died. The fifth story focusses on a young man, Jules (Marcus Thomas), who deliberately damages his hand so he can attend a Christmas party in the emergency room. There's also a very mysterious man, Charlie played by Robin Williams, who may be able to give Rose some perspective.
Why watch it? Noel has a stellar cast and no-one outshines the other. Their performance is simple, but intens. This makes their characters richer than most of the main stream Christmas movies, where you already know everything that's going to happen. The story is layered and has much detail. In a way it's like many other Christmas movies because it shows the pain in people's life, while also showing the love and happiness that usually accompanies these movies. It's been a while since I've seen this and it's not the best Christmas movie I've ever seen, but it has stayed with me ever since. There's something in the simplicity of this movie that's truly beautiful and touching.
The Christmas Choir (2008)
Another wonderful story that's based on true events. A couple of weeks before Christmas Peter (Jason Gedrick) gets dumped by his fiancée Jill (Cindy Sampson) because he is emotionally detached and a workaholic. Peter, a succesful accountant, has his life turned upside down by this. While he's drinking at a lounge, Bob (Tyrone Benskin) walks up to him - a blues pianist and singer who works only for tips. Peter gets invited to his house, only to find out that this home is a shelter. While he meets the other occupants (and the caring Sister Agatha), he's amazed by their musical performances and decides to organize them into a choir. During their musical training, Peter and the other singers go through their own personal issues and grow together as a choir.
Why watch it? It's a little bit like As It Is In Heaven, which is one of my favorite movies. It's probably not the right word for it, but the movie is very 'little.' By that, I mean it's delicate. The story as well as the characters. Everyone has their own stories and nothing is rushed. They take there time, but it doesn't get boring. Even though it's a movie for the Hallmark Channel, it's not overly dramatized or cliché. It's simply 'little'. And because of that, it's worth watching.
That's it for now. I hope everyone is already enjoying Christmas, their shopping and drinking hot chocolate. The snow here has dissappeared by now and I'm sad to say that we probably won't have a white Christmas this year. But fingers crossed, maybe we'll get a Christmas miracle! :D