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The Art of Compromise: Picking the Family Christmas Movie…

Christmas is a fun time in my household. We pack in the entire extended family for a day of fun and celebration, a nice dinner, some drinks. They stay over for a night or two and we do all the usual family activities. Christmas night, we watch a movie. St. Stephen’s night, we play a game of Texas Hold ‘Em Poker. As you can imagine, finding a movie that thirteen-odd people will sit down and enjoy in a crowded sitting room by the fire, glasses of wine and popcorn handy, is no mean feat. And, I admit with some measure of pride, the task is assigned to me: I’m the one asked to come up with a suitable movie for the Christmas evening. And, as much as it’s a fun task, it’s also a daunting one.

Ghosts of Christmas past...

Of course, it’s a new movie – one from this year. No disrespect to the classics, of course, but we all watch them in our own time over the holidays. I generally see in the Christmas season with a screening of Die Hard as I wrap my presents. I’ll try to watch at least one or two of the Back to the Future or Indiana Jones films on my own time. If I’m feeling a bit more cynical, any of the Tim-Burton-related films involving the season make for a good choice: Batman Returns, Edward Scissorhands and The Nightmare Before Christmas. And you can’t go wrong with a Sergio Leone Western. It’s funny, the movies we associate with Christmas.

Anyway, the general consensus is that we’ll try to find something that everybody can watch for Christmas. That includes my elderly gran and my younger sister. It has to be light, because we’ve all had a long day. As much as Terrence Malick’s Tree of Lifemight boast one of the most impressive film sequences of the year, but it’s hardly the perfect movie to digest after a belly full of turkey and roast potatoes. Similarly, it has to be accessible, so that rules out any foreign films, or animation.

It's a big decision...

Instead, it’s about offering a movie that offers the highest amount of satisfaction to everybody, while making sure that nobody goes home unsatisfied. It’s an interesting balance and it’s fascinating to try to figure out a “sweet spot” that exists, finding something that nobody will reject to. While I’m tasked with producing the film, anyone can veto. My mother won’t watch horrors, my brother won’t watch romances, my aunt and uncle aren’t big fans of fantasy. It doesn’t leave too much to work with.

Still, I think it’s a nice experiment, and actually gives an interesting sense of the movies from the past year and how broad their appeal might happen to be. In fairness, for the past two years, the Christmas choices have popped up on my end-of-year “best of” lists, perhaps suggesting that Hollywood has actually produced some well-made movies with some nice crowd-pleasing appeal. Last year, for example, it was Inception. The year before that, it was The Hangover. It’s great that I can readily find these movies, and that they do seem to go down a treat.

No hangovers from years past...

You can make a valid argument that the major studios don’t really take enough risks these days or that they don’t push the boat out enough – I’d argue that the smaller studios are filling that niche market, producing bold and challenging films quite well. While very few major studio blockbusters actually succeed in appealing to the audience they so desperately court, I think that things can’t be too bad as long as I can can find one film produced in the last half of the year which manages to satisfy everyone so thoroughly.

And there’s a nice Christmas thought for the season that’s in it.

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