Paul Anderson on the Die Hard debate that (hard or soft) just won't die.
Submissions Coordinator and co-host of the Strangers In A Cinema podcast, Paul Anderson, on what makes a Christmas film... a Christmas film. Where do you stand on the annual festive debate on whether Die Hard belongs on the shelf alongside The Muppets Christmas Carol and It's A Wonderful Life?
Is Die Hard a Christmas film? It's set at Christmas, the central theme is John McClane trying to get home to his family, it’s got a pantomime worthy villain in Hans Gruber and there is not one but three Christmas songs used on the soundtrack. Oh, and there is the fairly weighty argument that the scriptwriter puts Die Hard firmly the festive movie category. Gremlins is another example, it’s set at Christmas, has themes of family and friendship and the Mogwai wouldn’t even be in the house if he wasn’t a Christmas gift.
Based on those two examples, why then do people argue against these being Christmas films? It could very well be down to genre and perhaps even a little bit of snobbery from film fans. Die Hard is widely regarded as one of the greatest action movies of all time and Gremlins is fondly remembered as another 80s classic. Could it be that people simply don’t value Christmas films as much, have written them off as lesser novelty works and don’t want their beloved classics to be associated with (what could be considered) a novelty genre?
It could just be that that you don’t associate these films with Christmas. While both Die Hard and Gremlins are set at Christmas, it's difficult to argue that Christmas is at the forefront of either film. Personally, I have to look for the festive references in Die Hard. I don’t watch it in July and get all nostalgic for years gone by. It's all well and good throwing some Christmas songs into the mix but there isn’t really anything festive about watching John McClane massacre some terrorists sporting dodgy European accents. Likewise, Gremlins, it’s a film I’ll happily watch any time of year and I regularly forget its even considered a Christmas film until reminded, at no point does that film make feel festive, you can tell me its festive until your blue in the face and I still won’t put me in a Christmas mood!
For me, Christmas films need to evoke a nostalgic feeling and remind you of fond memories of Christmas past. National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation for example is a film that I’ve watched pretty much every year I remember thanks to my Dad thinking it was the funniest thing ever. It’s not aged well, painfully sexist in places and has a frankly horrible materialistic message but it always go on without fail when we put the Christmas tree up and serves as a fond reminder of exactly what Christmas isn’t about.
Ultimately it doesn’t matter… as far as I’m concerned Requiem for a Dream can be a Christmas film if you want it to be, although if that evokes nostalgia and warm festive sentiment in you then I’m taking you off my Christmas card list.
You can follow Paul on Twitter: @HKCavalier1981