It’s that time of year again. The time of year when every blog and news site rolls out a list of holiday movies, books, CDs and recipes to enjoy with your family! But what about the Grinch? What is he supposed to do while sitting around waiting for his heart to grow two sizes — count his nose hairs? It may be that the majority of the world enjoys making merry during the holiday season, but we cannot overlook the misanthrope. There are some of us who loathe the holidays. The only thing I hate more than garish lights, jingling bells and jolly fat guy in a cheap red suit with a raggedy beard are holiday lists that end with Home Alone, A Christmas Carol and Mariah Carey’s All I Want For Christmas. You can pretend to disagree with me, but I know I’m not alone. So I present to you a series of Holiday lists for us, the Holiday Misanthropes.
Week One: Movies.
The Diving Bell and The Butterfly (2007) - Director: Julian Schnabel
The true story of Jean-Dominique Bauby who suffers a stroke and has to live with an almost totally paralyzed body (locked-in syndrome) with the exception of his left eye. I agree this sounds awful. But you’re missing the bright side. He never has to speak to anyone ever again. Yes, sure it is very tragic and he feels trapped inside his own body, but, when he’s exhausted of everyone he merely has to close his eye, and all of those annoying people go away. Win.
The Decalogue (1988) - Director: Krzysztof Kieślowski
The Decalogue is a ten part series originally produced for Polish television. Krzysztof Kieślowski tells the story of the tenants in a housing project in 1980s Poland. Little kids drown, husbands die in comas, women are stalked and a prosecutor fails to save a possibly innocent man from dying on death row. It beautifully illustrates the uselessness of life over the course of ten hours. If you haven’t got ten hours to spare you can cheat and watch A Short Film About Love or A Short Film About Killing, but you’re only cheating yourself.
Dancer in the Dark (2000) - Director: Lars von Trier
Don’t let the fact that Dancer in the Dark is a musical turn you off. There is a pretty sad death at the end. In fact the entire film is full of sadness and squalor. Lars von Trier had the brilliant idea to cast Björk as this tiny elf who moves to the U.S. with her son. They’re pretty poor and they work in a factory with down on her luck Catherine Deneuve. Yes there is lots of singing. But it’s Danish and it’s von Trier and as I’ve promised you there is a very sad death at the end. Also you’ve seen this, right?
Tokyo Story (1953) - Director: Yasujirô Ozu
Tokyo Story tells the tale of an old couple that decides to visit their children in the city. They soon find out that their children are too busy to visit with them. The children spend time pushing them from house to house until they lose track of their parents. While I can’t really fault the kids for not wanting to be bothered with their old parents who sort of just drop in unannounced, this actually might make a misanthrope with parents a little sad. Keep a phone close to give them a call when the film is finished.
The Shoot Horses Don’t They? (1969) - Director: Sydney Pollack
Jane Fonda, Michael Sarrazin, dance marathon. Do I have to say more? Ok – so, a bunch of people participate in this dance marathon during The Great Depression to win $1500. It’s pretty nuts. But the guy running the marathon is crooked and is pretty much never going to let any of these people win. The marathon goes on for weeks. That’s right, weeks. People are dropping all over the place. Jane Fonda is amazing and grumpy as always, and Red Buttons is pretty incredible. The sad thing is, this could totally happen today.
**For the traditionalist
Just for fun, watch It’s A Wonderful Life, but turn it off 15 minutes before the end. It’s a much better movie