Wednesday, 16 December 2015

Christmas Countdown 2015: Day 16

On day 16 of our Christmas Countdown we collaborate to present you with a festive Top 3 of our favourite movies to watch during the holidays that technically are not Christmas movies. Come on, you all know you have these! Anyway here are ours:


3. Dr. Zhivago (David Lean, 1965)
© MGM | Source:
An epic tale of love and intrigue set around WWI and the Russian Revolution Dr. Zhivago proves its epicness already in its length. At 197 minutes this movie has to be one to watch during Christmas break, because at any other period there simply isn’t enough time to fully enjoy it. While, strictly speaking, not a Christmas movie, the setting of snow-clad Russia in winter with a lot of scenes at night and in the solitude of the countryside puts me in Christmas spirits, when once again dreaming of a white Christmas in vain. ‘Tis the season of strong emotions, too, and boy does this one bring the emotions! And for the less patient ones it also allows a little channel switching here and there or the occasional mulled wine or bathroom break.

2. North and South (Douglas Heyes, 1985, 1986, 1994)
© WB | Source:
What started as a mere coincidence in TV schedule now has become a Christmas tradition for my mom and I: at least one late Christmas night is reserved for the indulgence of North and South. The American mini-series brings a lot to the table: Friendship, bromance, and Patrick Swayze pair up with the American Civil War, which is now almost regarded with a sort of nostalgic charm. The age old element of a relationship (in this case a friendship) caught between two enemy sides also works in this series. Finally the almost certain happy ending and the much warmer weather in the southern U.S. states serves as a nice break in our cold and dark winter.

1. The Lord of the Rings Trilogy (Peter Jackson, 2001-2003)
© New Line Cinema | Source:
Peter Jackson’s film version of The Lord of The Rings is definitely one of those epic fantasy adaptions that spark our imaginations at any time, but at this time of the year especially. It’s the perfect choice for a lengthy family film session and now we have the time to share and fully appreciate the fantastic action. And with the films not only on regular TV every Christmas, but also available digitally and on disk, we are free to enjoy the Legolas, Gimly, and Aragorn trifecta, while fast-forwarding the annoyance that is Frodo! Faith in humanity and the future of (middle-)earth restored.


3. Anastasia (Don Bluth, Gary Goldman, 1997)
© Twentieth Century Fox | Source: Lloyd Movie Reviews
This non-Disney animated feature tells the story of orphan girl Anya who finds out that she's really Anastasia Romanov, the only surviving offspring of the dead Tsar Nicholas II. It's historically inaccurate and a trivialisation of the February Revolution, but it's still one of my favourite cartoon movies out there. It's got a tough and likeable heroine, a bunch of lovely supporting characters, catchy tunes and an engaging storyline. There's adventure, fun, a sweeping romance, Rasputin as the ultimate villain, plenty of opportunities to sing along and lots of snow. What more can you ask for on a lazy Christmas afternoon?

2. Sissi Trilogy (Ernst Marischka, 1955-1957)
© Beta Film | Source: Mafab
The Sissi movies are basically the epitome of sugar-coated, kitschy, melodramatic German post-war cinema. They catapulted young lead actress Romy Schneider to international stardom and - even though she was one of the most charismatic and daring actresses of her time - forever linked her to her rendition of lovey-dovey Empress Elisabeth of Austria. The Sissi trilogy doesn't aim at historical accuracy. It lives from its epic costume and set design, and its utterly and absolutely ridiculous nature. Rural romanticism, traditional family values, a schmaltzy love story amidst a strict court regime, handsome Karlheinz Böhm as the male lead, men in lederhosen - these movies got it all. Germany still loves to show the Sissi films during the Christmas holidays because, let's face it, they're entertaining escapism of the highest order and three times as sugary as Christmas candy - and one's always sure to have a good laugh.

1. Aschenputtel (Uwe Janson, 2011)
© ARD | Source:
A rather recent German TV adaptation of the Grimm brothers' Cinderella, Aschenputtel has pretty quickly become my favourite film to watch during the Christmas holidays. Since we're all prone to fairy tales, it has always made my entire family gather in front of the screen, which is nice. This Aschenputtel follows the traditional pattern of the story but it's still a modern take on the established narrative. Here Cinderella (or German Aschenputtel) is a kind-hearted, yet strong and feisty young woman, and Prince Charming even has got a name. I mean, can you believe it? The film profits from Aylin Tezel's lovely performance as the oppressed maidservant, and I especially like how it allows her relationship with Prince Viktor (Florian Bartholomäi) to grow rather than to shove the two into a happy ever after without any previous signs of affection. During Christmas time, it's nice to live vicariously through such a sweet blossoming romance and Aschenputtel's eventual rise from doormat to princess.  

Nata Lie:

3. The Last Unicorn (Jules Bass, 1982)
© ITC | Source: fanpop
This animated classic is broadcasted every Christmas and I always try not to miss it. The Last Unicorn is a mythological movie about a unicorn, who is afraid to be the last of her kind and sets out to search for others. It features all the classic elements of a fairy tale: the good vs. evil theme, a dangerous quest beset with obstacles and challenges to rise to and overcome, true friendship, a broad range of fantastical creatures and most importantly a happy ending. Despite being a family movie, there are several scenes that might end up terrifying the littlest ones, like the nightmarish Red Bull and the evil witch. Nevertheless, The Last Unicorn has a kind of haunting, poetic beauty that makes it the perfect movie to watch during the Christmas holidays.

2. Three Wishes for Cinderella (Václav Vorlícek, 1973)
© DEFA | Source: eeagrants
Like Rina, I also count the Cinderella story to my Christmas favourites. However, to me the only true version is the Soviet one of 1973, featuring Libuse Safránková in the role of Popelka (which is the Czech word for Cinderella.) We all know Grimms’ fairy tale of a kind girl who loses her parents and is then raised by an evil stepmother and tantalised by her no less evil stepsisters. That is until a prince finally comes to rescue her from this misery. But the movie from 1973 gives a new spin to the traditional story. Popelka is not the helpless damsel in distress, who needs a prince to save her. She is shown to be clever, feisty and skilled. Moreover, she does not simply fall for the prince, but expects him to prove that he is deserving of her love. Christmas, as such, plays no role in this movie, but the wintry scenery and the romantic and charmingly hilarious plot make Three Wishes for Cinderella a must-see for the entire family.

1. The 10th Kingdom (David Carson, 2000)
© Babelsberg Film | Source: fanpop
The Tenth Kingdom is a TV mini-series about a father and daughter who stumble into a parallel universe, where all the known fairy tale characters actually exist and everyone lives happily ever after. At least until the evil stepmother rises to power. With the aid of the evil Troll King, she tries to seize the crown of Prince Wendall, grandson of Snow White. He is transformed into a dog and flees by leaping through a magic mirror into the Tenth Kingdom – our world. There he meets Virginia and her father, who think he is a stray dog. Still hunted by the Trolls and the Big Bad Wolf, the three of them flee back into the Nine Kingdoms. There they form an alliance with the purpose of returning Prince Wendall to his real body and saving the Nine Kingdoms from the rule of the evil stepmother and getting Virginia and her father back into their own world. But of course this turns out to be a most difficult mission.

Like my entire Top 3, The Tenth Kingdom is another movie for the entire family with a fantastic fairy-tale charm. The series is full of twists and turns that don’t allow for a moment of boredom and it’s laced with a kind of silly humour that will keep you smirking or covering your eyes with embarrassment most of the time. Pretty perfect for Christmas, wouldn’t you say?

Finally we'd like to know what your favourite non-Christmas movies to watch at Christmas are :) Let us know in the comment section below or on social media.

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