Countdown To Christmas! The 5 Best Holiday Films

There is no shortage of Christmas movies in the world. Here is my list of the 5 Holiday films I find myself gravitating towards every year.

1. It’s A Wonderful Life (1946)

It’s a Wonderful Life is a film that I did not appreciate at all as a kid. It’s my dad’s favorite Christmas film, and my family has a tradition of watching it every year before Christmas. As a kid, I thought it was the most boring film in the world. But as I grew older, I began to appreciate it’s powerful messages and themes. The thing I love about this film is that it resonates with everyone in a different but powerful way. This is the ultimate feel-good film that teaches such valuable life lessons. Here is just a sample of the lessons taught from this film… no man is a failure that has friends, one life touches countless others in meaningful wats, the power of grace, realize all of your blessings, and that character is more important than trivial things. This film is truly incredible, and well-made if you have not seen it do yourself a favor and go watch it now!

2. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (2000)

How The Grinch Stole Christmas was my favorite Christmas movie as a kid, and it remains at the top of my list to this day. One thing I appreciate about this film is the acting. Jim Carrey did an incredible job as the Grinch, and the filmmakers did an outstanding job creating an atmospheric world on film. The film’s ending melts my heart every time, and I love the filmmaker’s unique spin on the Grinch. Overall, this is a light-hearted and enjoyable film that I look forward to watching every year.

3. The Santa Clause (1994)

The Santa Clause is one of those films I loved as a kid and still enjoy to this day! This film has the perfect blend of light-heartedness, comedy, and heartfelt moments. It’s one I can watch every year without getting sick of it. Tim Allen does an incredible job portraying a dad who doubles as Santa Clause. The film serves as an incredible reminder that things don’t always go according to plan but regardless, sit back and enjoy the ride!

4. Christmas With The Kranks (2004)

This Holiday film will have you doubled over from laughing so hard! Christmas with the Kranks is an enjoyable film for all ages, and it seems to grow even more comedic every year. This film is lighthearted with subtle messages on the importance of friends and family. If you’ve ever thought about skipping Christmas and going on a cruise instead, I would highly recommend giving this film a watch.

5. Elf (2003)

This film is another guaranteed laugh. I recently watched a documentary on the making of this film, and somehow knowing that Will Ferrell was going around NYC in his elf costume interacting with real-life people instead of actors in some of the scenes makes the film even more enjoyable. The music, atmosphere, acting, and comedic timing of this film are all perfectly synced with one another and the film’s jokes age well with time. This film teaches its viewers not to be anybody but themselves, and that if people don’t like the real you then your better off without them. This film will bring some Christmas cheer and put you in a merry spirit.

What’s some of your favorite Christmas films?


Advertisements

FireFly lane (2021) review

Synopsis: Tully and Kate meet as young girls on Firefly Lane and become inseparable friends throughout 30 years of ups and downs. First episode date: February 3, 2021 Network: Netflix Program creator: Maggie Friedman Executive producers: Maggie Friedman, Stephanie Germain, Katherine Heigl, Lee Rose, Shawn Williamson, Peter O’Fallon My Review: After watching the first few episodes of this series, I was not sucked into …

Alien(s) (1986) Review

Synopsis After floating in space for 57 years, Lt. Ripley’s (Sigourney Weaver) shuttle is found by a deep space salvage team. Upon arriving at LV-426, the marines find only one survivor, a nine year old girl named Newt (Carrie Henn). But even these battle-hardened marines with all the latest weaponry are no match for the hundreds …

Alien (1979) Review

Synopsis In deep space, the crew of the commercial starship Nostromo is awakened from their cryo-sleep capsules halfway through their journey home to investigate a distress call from an alien vessel. The terror begins when the crew encounters a nest of eggs inside the alien ship. An organism from inside an egg leaps out and …

Humility and Confidence in Filmmaking- Quincy Ledbetter’s advice

In a recent podcast episode with Film Riot, filmmaker Quincy Ledbetter discusses his first feature film with Paramount and how he got to where he is today. Ledbetter’s key advice is that a filmmaker needs to find the perfect balance between confidence and humility.

He went on to state that as a director it’s okay to level with your cast and crew and admit when you don’t know everything. In fact, he admitted that in several points of his career some of his best cinematic moments came from speaking with cast and crew and brainstorming together.

When describing his first feature film, Alieu the Dreamer, he described how throughout the entire pre production and pitching process he went forward with the mentally that no matter what happened he was going to make the film anyway. Fully believing this calmed nerves and helped him to gain confidence when pitching to producers.

I think everyone has heard the phrase don’t think just do. But Ledbetter really brings this mentality to life and gives humbling advice on maintaining a balance of humility and confidence as an emerging filmmaker.


Listen to Quincy Ledbetter’s full podcast with Film Riot Here


Little Women (2019) Review

Synopsis

In the years after the Civil War, Jo March lives in New York and makes her living as a writer, while her sister Amy studies painting in Paris. Amy has a chance encounter with Theodore, a childhood crush who proposed to Jo but was ultimately rejected. Their oldest sibling, Meg, is married to a schoolteacher, while shy sister Beth develops a devastating illness that brings the family back together.

Release date: December 25, 2019

(USA)Director: Greta Gerwig

Box office: 206 million USD

My Review

The first thing that caught my eye with this film was its exquisite costume, and set design. Within the first few minutes of the film I felt transported back in time, and the acting played a huge part in this as well. The chemistry between the March sisters added a lot of depth to the film, and the sisterly bond between them came to life on the screen to create an overwhelming sense of nostalgia.

The one thing that I feel this film had a difficult job executing was its non-linear plot. With the first few time jumps, I had an easy time following along. However, at several points in the film it was initially unclear to me if the film was taking place in the present or past for certain scenes. I understand what the film was trying to go for, but its execution was a bit off.

The acting in this film was spectacular, and every character was both believable and realistic. Despite Jo March being the protagonist of the film, I still felt that every other character was established and well- developed. My only complaint with the acting is that it was a bit awkward and uncomfortable watching Florence Pugh act as young Amy. Her acting all throughout was great, but it was weird seeing her play a little girl with such a deep voice.

Overall, this film is creative and worth watching. The story is engaging and kept my attention all throughout. The production design is extremely well thought out and brings the entire universe of the film to life. However, I’m not sure if I would watch it again in the future. I think once was enough for me.

My Rating

7.5 out of 10


Advertisements

Jody Lee Lipe’s Advice on the Emotional Impact of Cinematography

In a recent podcast with Film Riot, Jody Lee Lipes gave some industry advice on conveying emotion through the eye of the camera lens to the audience. Jody Lee Lipes describes cinematography as the physicality of words in images, and the cinematography of a film can have a massive impact on the psyche of an audience member, and often determine the audience’s relationship with the film. Jody Lee Lipes describes cinematography as the physicality of words in images.

Jody makes a point of stating that the focus of a cinematographer should not be to manipulate the audience, but to familiarize themselves with the story in such a way that the story tells the camera where it wants to go. The art of cinematography is to lead the audience down an emotionally led journey, and often the instinctual idea you get for a shot is the right one.

When asked about his prep routine before every film, Jody advises that the cinematographer breakdown every scene of the film into a “Bible.” Breaking down each scene into one summarizing sentence. He states that the cinematographer should be so familiar with the script that he/she can back up every planned shot down to a single purpose. If they cannot back the idea up, it likely means its initial concept wasn’t strong enough. Stick to your gut and follow the story line and it will drastically aid in bringing the film to life.


“A film is never really good unless the camera is an eye in the head of the poet.”

– Orson Welles

Listen to Jody Lee Lipes full podcast with film riot Here

Silence of the Lambs (1991) Review

Synopsis

Jodie Foster stars as Clarice Starling, a top student at the FBI’s training academy. Jack Crawford (Scott Glenn) wants Clarice to interview Dr. Hannibal Lecter (Anthony Hopkins), a brilliant psychiatrist who is also a violent psychopath, serving life behind bars for various acts of murder and cannibalism. Crawford believes that Lecter may have insight into a case and that Starling, as an attractive young woman, may be just the bait to draw him out.

Release date: February 14, 1991

(USA)Director: Jonathan Demme

Film series: Hannibal Lecter

Story by: Thomas Harris

My Review

The plot line of this film had me engaged within minutes, and my attention did not waver until the end of the film. Even days after watching this film I am still dumbfounded and astonished by Anthony Hopkins performance. Jodie Foster does an incredible job as well, and the two clearly mastered the acting technique of completely bringing the characters they were cast to life.

The thing that stood out to me the most in this film was the unique transitions and editing. The Films use of parallel editing was pulled off both effectively and effortlessly. Many times throughout the movie the audience is introduced to two or more scenes happening simultaneously in different locations. The corresponding scenes eventually meet into a climax, and the rising action into the climax is extremely productive in this film. Because of these parallel scenes, the audience is left in the dark as to what is really happening in each location, and this creates an extreme level of unnerving suspense and tension. This is not an easy feat for any filmmaker to pull off, but the tone and pace of each shot played well off each other, and helped to build suspension.

Unlike many thrillers/ horror movies, the story line of this film was not easily predictable, and the plot twists took me by complete surprise. The level of surprise in this film is definitely what helped me stay so engaged into the film all throughout.This is the type of film that you could see more than once without growing sick of it, and I can see myself watching it again within the near future. If you are a fan of thriller movies, I highly recommend giving this one a watch and I promise it will not disappoint you.

My Rating

9.5 out of 10


Advertisements

Lucas Hagar: The Influence of NArrative Storytelling on Documentaries

In a podcast with Film Riot, Lucas Harger talked in-depth about his filmmaking process as well as the creative cross between narrative film and documentary filmmaking. As a filmmaker, Lucas has been successful in crossing between editing both documentary and narrative stories to produce unique and creative content. According to Lucas, being able to create …

12 Years A Slave (2013) Review

Synopsis

In the years before the Civil War, Solomon Northup (Chiwetel Ejiofor), a free black man from upstate New York, is kidnapped and sold into slavery in the South. Subjected to the cruelty of one malevolent owner (Michael Fassbender), he also finds unexpected kindness from another, as he struggles continually to survive and maintain some of his dignity. Then in the 12th year of the disheartening ordeal, a chance meeting with an abolitionist from Canada changes Solomon’s life forever.

Release date: October 18, 2013

(USA)Director: Steve McQueen

Producers: Steve McQueen, Brad Pitt, Dede Gardner, Bill Pohlad, Anthony Katagas, Jeremy Kleiner, Arnon MilchanScreenplay: Solomon Northup, John Ridley

My Review

This film is incredibly hard to watch, and there were several moments I felt extremely angry and sad as to what was occurring in the film. However, I believe this is a film everyone should watch at least once in their life. Not only is this an astonishing well-made film, but the message behind it is especially powerful. This film teaches the genuine and beautiful message that people don’t just deserve the capacity to survive, but to live.

12 Years A Slave gives a unique and amazing look into the life of a free black man who is trafficked into 12 years of slavery. Not only does the audience gain a deeper look into the horrific reality of slavery, but the film also gives a look into the massive problem of human trafficking. I found myself immediately sucked into the story-line of this film, and it kept my attention well throughout.

My favorite element of this film is by far the acting. Chiwetel Ejiofor’s performance in this film is one of the best I have seen in a long time. Watching this film is such an emotional journey, and as an audience member I felt the characters emotions alongside him. Which goes to show what an amazing performance he put into this movie.

The other actors’ performances were extraordinary as well, and I enjoyed how the film told more stories than just the principal character. There was much more depth in developing the other characters and story lines and this definitely added a lot to the film.

The ending of this film is extremely powerful, and I found it to be the perfect ending to such an incredibly developed film. Something I love about this film is that it is based on a true story, and there is nothing over dramatized in the plot. The whole film keeps a constant realistic feel, which makes its message that much more lifelike and powerful.

My Rating

9/10


Advertisements

julie taymor: the cross universe of film and theatre

In a recent podcast episode with The Treatment, Julie Taymor discussed her new movie “The Glories” and how she uses storytelling to externalize what characters are feeling on screen. Julie Taymor is a Tony Award-winning director of both theatre and film. Her goal as a creative is to master the fantastical elements of the film …

r-e-s-p-e-c-t on a film set: advice from mimi leder

In a recent podcast with the Director’s Guild, Mimi Leder, an American director and producer, gave her best advice for keeping a healthy and productive film set. Mimi’s key piece of advice was to treat everyone with the respect that they deserve, and to always show them your appreciation. She pointed out that the cast …

Sixteen Candles (1984) Review

Synopsis

With the occasion all but overshadowed by her sister’s upcoming wedding, angst-ridden Samantha (Molly Ringwald) faces her 16th birthday with typical adolescent dread. Samantha pines for studly older boy Jake (Michael Schoeffling), but worries that her chastity will be a turnoff for the popular senior. Meanwhile, Samantha must constantly rebuff the affections of nerdy Ted (Anthony Michael Hall), the only boy in the school, unfortunately, who seems to take an interest in her.

Release date: May 4, 1984

(USA)Director: John Hughes

Featured song: If You Were Here

Screenplay: John Hughes

Producer: Hilton A. Green

My Review

Like Most John Hughes movies, this film will immediately transport you back into the 80s. Molly Ringwald once again did an incredible job in this “girl next door” role. However, Anthony Michael Hall carried a lot of the film with his acting and well versed comedic timing. Overall, the comedy of the film is well balanced and creative, but some of the films jokes have not aged well with time. It’s definitely important when watching this film to consider what the world looked like in the time it was made.

This film contains the character stereotypes of most Romantic Comedies- with the popular boy and girl duo, girl next door, and geek. However, for the most part, the characters are well developed and remain interesting throughout. My biggest complaint is that the love interest, Jake, is so underdeveloped as a character. His performance is very monotone and boring, which makes it hard to root for him and Molly Ringwald’s character to end up together in the end.

The other characters of this film are well established and add a lot of comedic moments to the film. While most of the characters are developed as very flat, the characters’ distinct natures and characteristics clash with one another for added comedy.

My favorite thing about this film, as is in most John Hughes films, is the soundtrack, and overall atmosphere established within the movie. The costumes, sets, language, and soundtrack compliment each other to create a unified universe within the film. While this film is not my favorite John Hughes movie, it is one I have seen several times now and still enjoy just as much as the first time I saw it.

My Rating

6.5 out of 10


Advertisements

working with what you got: Advice from the creators of Faith Based

In a recent podcast with Film Riot, the creators of the film Faith Based (Vincent Masciale, Luke Barnett, and Tanner Thomason), gave constructive advice to filmmakers who think they need to wait till they make it into Hollywood to make their film. The filmmakers discussed how their original plan for the film was to shoot …

Aaron Schneider’s Directing advice from film Greyhound

In a recent podcast with Film Riot, Aaron Schneider discussed the things we were forced to learn while shooting Greyhound. Most of the films set was composed of green screens, which had its challenges. Schneider’s main advice is to come up with a detailed and set plan when working with extensive green screens and technology …

Humility and Confidence in Filmmaking- Quincy Ledbetter’s advice

In a recent podcast episode with Film Riot, filmmaker Quincy Ledbetter discusses his first feature film with Paramount and how he got to where he is today. Ledbetter’s key advice is that a filmmaker needs to find the perfect balance between confidence and humility. He went on to state that as a director it’s okay …

The Pick-Up Artist (1987) Review

Synopsis

Serial pick-up artist and commitment-phobe Jack Jericho (Robert Downey Jr.) takes lessons in the art of seduction from aging player Phil Harper (Danny Aiello). Jack finds a formidable opponent in Randy Jensen (Molly Ringwald), a fiery tour guide who has a retort for his every line. Though she initially spurns his advances, Jack finds a way in when Randy’s alcoholic, compulsive gambler father, Flash (Dennis Hopper), ends up in serious debt and deep trouble with gangsters in Atlantic City.

Initial release: September 18, 1987

Director: James Toback

Screenplay: James Toback

Box office: 13.29 million USD

Producers: Warren Beatty, David Leigh MacLeod

My Review

I have seen nearly every Molly Ringwald film from the 80s, and when I first stumbled upon this particular film, I was curious why I had never heard of it. Well now I know, it’s because this movie is awful! With a cast of Molly and Robert Downey Jr. I thought this would be a phenomenal film, and while the acting was mostly impressive, the writing was AWFUl. The actors tried their best to make a badly written script better, but the plot was still all over the place and pointless. This was definitely a film I had to force myself to watch all the way through.

I’m not sure why this film is even called the pickup artist because twenty minutes into the film Robert Downey Jr’s character already falls for the girl and gives up his player lifestyle. Instead, this film is less of a romantic comedy and more of a gangster film, in the sense that Ringwald’s dad owes a gang boss some money and Downy Dr. vows to help. This is the fundamental conflict of the film, and it has nothing to do with the lighthearted pickup comedy I thought this film would be.

The plot of this film was so confusing as a whole. In the film Downey mistakes Ringwald’s father for her boyfriend, and she doesn’t correct him till the end of the film. With how all over the place and inconsistent the plot was, I honestly found myself confused if this character was Ringwald’s dad or boyfriend. This is just one example of how the plot was a little confusing and inconsistent.

After watching this film, I did some research into its background. I found out that the writer/ director was trying to tie in roles the actors had played in other films into this one. Which is why I think this film did so well during its release in the 80s? Because the audience understood its references. However, the film has definitely not aged well, and this just made it hard for a modern day audience to follow.

One impressive thing about this film was the soundtrack. From the first song, the soundtrack was transformative and brought me back to the 80s. However, overall the audio recordings of this film were very sub par. Several times the audio was quiet and hard to hear compared to the background music, and there was lots of background and white noise.

My Rating

2 out of 10


Advertisements

Judd Apatow: The Role of improvisation in FILMMAKING

In a recent podcast with the Director’s Guild, Judd Apatow shared his advice for film directors. Judd had lots of brilliant advice to give, but the principal thing he kept reiterating was the important of improvisation in film-making. He expressed that throughout the entire film-making process he slowly allows the film to come to life. …

Control Your Property- Jim Cummin’s Advice On Distributing Your Own Film

Jim Cummings is an extremely unique director in the sense that he often heads up the distribution of his films and their production. In a recent Podcast with Film Riot, he explains to the listeners just how he goes about accomplishing this. To many filmmakers, the idea of overseeing the distribution of your own films …

The Outlaw Josey Wales (1976) Review

Synopsis

Josey Wales (Clint Eastwood) watches helplessly as his wife and child are murdered, by Union men led by Capt. Terrill (Bill McKinney). Seeking revenge, Wales joins the Confederate Army. He refuses to surrender when the war ends, but his fellow soldiers go to hand over their weapons — and are massacred by Terrill. Wales guns down some of Terrill’s men and flees to Texas, where he tries to make a new life for himself, but the bounty on his head endangers him and his new surrogate family.

Release date: June 26, 1976

(USA)Director: Clint Eastwood

Story by: Asa Earl Carter

Film series: The Outlaw Josey Wales

Screenplay: Philip Kaufman, Sonia Chernus

My Review

The short and sweet intro to the films conflict at its beginning gave me the instinct that this would be a phenomenal film. That instinct was not wrong in the slightest. This Western film showcases almost every “stereotype” of a Western film, and it does so in brilliant ways. The plot kept me interested into the film’s story, and the film is full of dynamic characters that come to life on screen.

The editing in this film surprised me in a positive way. I noticed lots of cross dissolves in the battle scenes, and this added an interesting feel and look to the film. It helped the action new and exciting and avoided becoming monotonous. The limited use of music was something that stood out to me in the films editing. There are a lot of films whose musical score completely adds to the emotion and intensity that the audience feels. However, in with a lack of music in this film the filmmakers still excelled at investing the audience into its story.

As a character Josey Wales was extremely intriguing and mysterious. Right from the beginning of the film Josey gains the sympathy of his audience members. Throughout the rest of the film the audience witnesses Josey on a journey of revenge and self growth. Clint Eastwood brought the character to life and made it his own.

I was expecting the whole film to focus primarily on the conflict of revenge in its plot. However, the plot to this film was way more complex than that, and the intertwining of several plots and stories added a lot to this film. While this film had many of the Western film traits, it showcased them in new and innovative ways. For example, unlike most Western films, the Native Americans in this film are not the bad guys. In fact, the film helps she’s some sympathy on the heartbreak they endured.

My Rating

8.5 out of 10


Advertisements

Too Loud For The Crowd?- Criticism On Nolan’s New Film Tenet

Christopher Nolan’s film “Tenet” has had a successful opening weekend. However, there is still much debate behind the sound-mixing of Nolan’s films and “Tenet” doesn’t appear to be any different. In a recent article with Indiwire, Zack Sharf explores the sound mixing of Nolan’s films and the reasoning behind it. Many people often complain that …

Jody Lee Lipe’s Advice on the Emotional Impact of Cinematography

In a recent podcast with Film Riot, Jody Lee Lipes gave some industry advice on conveying emotion through the eye of the camera lens to the audience. Jody Lee Lipes describes cinematography as the physicality of words in images, and the cinematography of a film can have a massive impact on the psyche of an …

The Florida Project (2017) Review

Synopsis

Set in the shadow of the most magical place on Earth, 6-year-old Moonee and her two best friends forge their own adventures, while Moonee’s struggling mom and a kindhearted motel manager protect the kids from the harsh reality that surrounds them.

Release date: October 5, 2017

(USA)Director: Sean Baker

Budget: 2 million USD

My Review

A24 has produced some amazing films recently, which made me very excited to give this film a watch. I had heard such amazing things about it, and I was not left disappointed. The film was perfectly unified in its visual presentation. The color grading, camera work, set, costumes, etc. all blended in flawlessly with one another. The balance of comedy, drama, and realism was wonderfully suited. Although some people criticize the ending of the film, I found it to be the perfect wrap up to a story centered on the power of childhood innocence and imagination.

This film is heavy to watch. While the children in the film are often unaware of the dangers and reality around them, as an audience we are fully aware and that makes the film heartbreaking to watch at times. However, the audience watches the three protagonist children of this film battle their surroundings through imagination, which is touching and serves as a constant reminder that it’s possible to make the most of a situation.

The acting in this film stood out to me. I know this was both Bria Vinate and Brooklyn’s first film role, and they both did an incredible job. The close knit off screen relationship between the two was very apparent when watching the film. They appeared like a genuine mother and daughter duo, with a deep love and understanding between the two of them. William Dafoe did a phenomenal job as always, and his performance was chilling and heart-warming.

The ending of this film stuck with me as well. While some people are critical of its unrealistic and random ending, I thought it was perfectly accomplished. The entire film centers on the power of childhood innocence and the power of imagination. At the end of the film Moonee faces her harshest reality, and we as an audience member are experiencing it alongside her. The audience receives the chance to see things through Moonee’s eyes and experience childhood imagination through the sudden and imaginative ending. Real like doesn’t always have happy endings, and the only way the audience will receive their happy ending at the end of this film is if they escape to a place of unrealistic imagination.

My Rating

8.7 out of 10


Advertisements

Who Are The Film Critics? And Who Do They Represent?

Kate Erbland recently wrote an article for Indiwire discussing how both women, and critics of color are still extremely under-represented in the film critic world. She states that her article will probably appear familiar to those that read last year’s Thumbs Down Study from the Center for the Study of Women in TV and Film …

Ron Howard’s Advice on Being a Good Director

In a recent Podcast with The Director’s Cut, Ron Howard spoke to Jeremy Kagan about the relationships he builds with his collaborators, and the impact these relationships have on a film. He describes the mutual and respectful relationship he aims to develop with both his first assistant director and the cinematographer, stating that both the …