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Yippee ki-yay, How Die Hard became a classic Christmas movie

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Its not about Christmas, seldom shown at Christmas, and Bruce Williss vest isnt red with fur trim but this action blast is as essential as tinsel and telly

Twas the night before Christmas, and all through the Nakatomi Plaza, not a creature was stirring well, except for those crazed Euroterrorists led by Alan Rickman and the loose-cannon New York cop played by Bruce Willis. There is nothing terribly seasonal about Die Hard, despite its Christmas Eve setting. It takes places in Los Angeles, so theres no snow. Theres a tree in the building, and a few items of Christmas clothing allowing McClane, when he knocks off his first terrorist, to put him in a Santa hat, write the words Now I have a machine gun. Ho-ho-ho on his top and send him in the lift to Rickman.

There is nothing terribly seasonal because Christmas doesnt matter in Die Hard: its just a McGuffin, a convenient reason for McClane to be travelling across the country. It was such a good McGuffin that it was recycled for Die Hard 2, the one set in the airport on Christmas Eve. Yet Die Hard 2 is just the second movie in the Die Hard series, while Die Hard has become a Christmas movie. That doesnt necessarily mean you watch it at Christmas, or that its on prominently in the Christmas TV schedules.

But Die Hard most certainly is indelibly associated with Christmas. It crops up in polls of peoples favourite Christmas films: earlier this year, the readers of Empire magazine rated it the greatest Christmas movie ever. The internet is awash with thinkpieces explaining why exactly it is a Christmas movie. If thats not enough the Canadian prime minister, Justin Trudeau, appeared on breakfast TV in Toronto last Friday, where he asserted: Yes, Die Hard is absolutely a Christmas movie. Theres no doubt about it.

So lets take that for granted, whether or not we really agree with the proposition: Die Hard is a Christmas movie. And it is one because so many people passionately believe it is. Whats more interesting, though, is why it has become regarded as a Christmas movie, because it certainly wasnt made as one.

Die Hard was released in the US in July 1988, and reviewers made only passing reference to its Christmas element why would they, given they were writing in the heat of midsummer? It came out in the UK the following February, and only received a December release in Argentina, Portugal, El Salvador, Uruguay and Denmark.

Nor was it one of the movies selected by the UKs terrestrial broadcasters in the days when viewers only had the choice of four channels and no internet to be a tentpole of their Christmas schedules.

See? Festive watch the trailer

So theres nothing in Die Hards history to make it into a Christmas movie. Yet a Christmas movie it has become, but not to everyone. Earlier this month, YouGov released a poll about the movie surely the founders of psephology did not foresee the day that pollsters would be earning a crust assessing the seasonal status of old action films which found that only 30% of people thought it was a Christmas film, while 52% didnt.

The age breakdown, though, was more telling . The only age group in which more people thought of Die Hard as a Christmas movie than didnt was 25- to 34-year-olds (44% against 37%), while 35- to 44-year-olds were narrowly against the idea (42% said it was a Christmas film, 47% said it wasnt). So Die Hard is most likely to be seen as a Christmas film by those who were too young to see it at the cinema (where it received an 18 certificate).

Interestingly, 18- to 24-year-olds, the first generation for whom the box in the corner is not the main provider of visual entertainment, were overwhelmingly against the idea of it being a Christmas film (52% to 28%).

If you add in some data, you can see when the association of Die Hard with Christmas begins or at least make an educated guess. Google Trends goes back to 2004, but when you look at its search trends for Die Hard, you can see the first noticeable spike is in December 2006, with small spikes every December since (the two massive spikes are tied in to the release of sequels, and nothing to do with the original film).

Something else was happening around the time of that first spike, too: Facebook launched in 2004, and Twitter launched in 2006. Suddenly, social media gave people a chance to share their own perspectives, and while some people communicated about politics or society, others really wanted to tell their friends that Die Hard was a Christmas movie.

This ties into an observation the film historian Matthew Sweet makes about how the context of films changes when people share a single observation, or a single image. Films now have this other afterlife in tiny clips and gifs, he says, so a particular image from a film like the dead terrorist in the Santa hat in Die Hard can break free from the film and have this other life online that might be its most vigorous form of life.

Die Hard is really only a Christmas film to a narrow band of people, and YouGov knows exactly which ones: the ones between young adulthood and early middle age for whom Die Hard has been a constant presence. They think of it the same way as I think of Where Eagles Dare: I know I have seen Where Eagles Dare at Christmas I have a vivid memory of Isla St Clair from the Generation Game making it her Christmas pick in the Radio Times but Ive also seen it lots of other times. Yet its associated with school holidays in my mind, and so it became a Christmas film.

Thats a point Sweet makes, too, suggesting that films associated with some special childhood event get associated with Christmas, because Christmas is the most special time: You might find some Christmas films were really Easter films, you just saw them when you were off school, he says.

Not
Not down the chimney Bruce Willis comes through the window. Photograph: 20th Century Fox/Sportsphoto Ltd/Allstar

I suspect that what has really made Die Hard into a Christmas film is its familiarity. Christmas is about routine, about doing things the same way every year, about being able to slip into familiar roles with barely a thought. A film as boundlessly familiar as Die Hard slips into that same part of the mind. It makes no demands: once seen, it is a film one can begin watching at any point without the slightest trouble. It almost doesnt matter whether or not Die Hard is actually on at Christmas: the very certainty of it makes it seem as if it should be, and that is backed by the example of another non-Christmas film, the Wizard of Oz.

On both sides of the Atlantic, there are many who regard the Wizard of Oz as a Christmas film, because they think they saw it on TV at Christmas. In fact, of 39 screenings of the film on US network TV between its premiere in 1956 and 2002, only four were in December. It was much more commonly shown at Easter just as Sweet says, the association of holidays and film makes one think of Christmas. And routine and familiarity reinforce that impression. Since 2003, the Wizard of Oz has been shown much more frequently in December, but that postdated its Christmas status.

So Die Hard: not a movie released at Christmas, or about Christmas, or necessarily associated with being shown on TV at Christmas, but a Christmas movie. Thats the magic of film.

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/filmblog/2017/dec/21/die-hard-christmas-movie-bruce-willis

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‘A Star is Born,’ ‘First Man’ And ‘Widows’ Are This Year’s Early Oscar Front-Runners

Charmaine Blake

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“On the first day of the Toronto International Film Festival last week, the Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences announced that the Oscars will table the polarizing new category meant to honor the year’s “outstanding achievement in popular film.” Good. The award isn’t only misguided what makes a film popular, and why reward something on those grounds? but also quite unnecessary, as the festival itself made clear.

Many of the movies that premiered and screened in Toronto are crowd-pleasers destined to earn piles of cash and offer the sort of skillful prestige the Oscars favor. Already I can pinpoint three awards front-runners with solid shots at revenue exceeding the coveted $100 million mark: “A Star Is Born,” “First Man” and “Widows.”

All three have obvious selling points that could vault them into blockbuster territory. “A Star Is Born” is a beloved story exquisitely reimagined by the uberfamous Bradley Cooper and Lady Gaga; “Widows” is an electrifying thriller featuring an all-star cast led by Viola Davis; “First Man,” which reunites Ryan Gosling with “La La Land” director Damien Chazelle, depicts Neil Armstrong’s 1969 lunar journey imagery that’s seared into the American consciousness.

If all goes well, these movies will hit the sweet spot between commercial success and artistic merit that the academy seems to think eludes its grasp. (Never mind that “The Shape of Water,” a dreamy sci-fi romance with $195 million in worldwide grosses, scored this year’s Best Picture trophy.) “Star,” “Widows” and “First Man” are major studio releases distributed by Warner Bros., Fox and Universal, respectively, giving them the leverage needed to sail into the national zeitgeist long before fall’s top awards are announced. ……………………….”

Read the rest of the story here: http://www.huffingtonpost.com/entry/a-star-is-born-oscar-race-2018_us_5b9bf101e4b013b0977a7d0c

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The Coen Brothers Films Ranked!

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“With the 20th anniversary re-release of The Big Lebowski, we rank the duos films (directing only), from their 1984 debut Blood Simple to this years The Ballad of Buster Spruggs

18. The Ladykillers (2004)

What on earth was this about? A remake of the Ealing crime-caper classic (with Tom Hanks in Alec Guinnesss crackpot mastermind role) at least proves, if proof were needed, that the Coens have excellent cinephile taste. But this was pointless and baffling. A case of No Coen Do.

17. Burn After Reading (2008)

What a dogs brunch of a film: a strained and unfunny black comic gang-show of big names, with one or two good gags and an admittedly intriguing turn from Brad Pitt as a dopey fitness freak.

16. The Hudsucker Proxy (1994)

This period Capraesque comedy about an ordinary guy a rather uncharismatic Tim Robbins who is elevated to corporate greatness as part of a share-price scam is an example of how the Coens comedy can sometimes lack focus: too quirky and spongy.

15. O Brother, Where Art Thou? (2000)

The Coens love of Preston Sturges resurfaced in this film that whimsically takes upon itself the title of the desperately serious social-realist movie being planned in Sturges 1941 Sullivans Travels. It is an appealing, likable film about three runaway chaingang convicts in depression America who pass themselves off as a bluegrass trio, their record somehow becoming a hit. Silly, amiable stuff that has faded with time.

14. Hail, Caesar! (2016)

More golden age Hollywood nostalgia with this cantering comedy about tinseltown: the boozers, the fixers, the divas, the hoofers, the scribblers. It features George Clooney as a none-too-bright ageing star in a cheesy toga-wearing Roman epic. The movie reminded the world what a great dancer Channing Tatum is.

13. True Grit (2010)

Unprecedented commercial success was what the Coens found with this handsome remake of the 1969 John Wayne classic; or rather a new adaptation of the original novel by Charles Portis. Jeff Bridges was probably the only possible casting as the no-account Rooster Cogburn, with Hailee Steinfeld as his employer, the 14-year-old Mattie Ross. It is a good-natured, well-made movie, but perhaps without the strong taste of the original, or the Coens other films.

True
True Grit. Photograph: HO/Reuters

12. Intolerable Cruelty (2003)

Here is the biggest underrating issue in contemporary Coenological studies. On release, most critics seemed to decide that this screwball divorce comedy with Catherine Zeta-Jones and George Clooney was no good. I disagree. The smoothie lawyer Miles Massey was a part Clooney was born to play, and Zeta-Joness cat-that-has-every-intention-of-getting-the-cream predator is tremendous.

11. Raising Arizona (1987)

Some Coenoisseurs regard this early comedy as one of the top three; maybe even the gold medal. For me, it doesnt stand up that well, but it is an utterly distinctive film with twang and snap, a realist-fantasy action comedy drama with weird subplots and extraneous minor characters. Holly Hunter is the cop who falls in love with Nicolas Cages criminal; on discovering they cant have kids, they get involved in the most wackily innocent child abduction imaginable.

10. The Ballad of Buster Scruggs (2018)

The Coens have created a gem with their latest film, a western portmanteau of tales from a comically picturesque old west, conceived with humour, warmth and visual flair. Some stories are better than others, but the best are superb, and Tim Blake Nelson has what must be the greatest role of his career as Buster Scruggs, the singin, gunslingin cowpoke……………………………..”

See the Rest of the List by Clicking the Following Link: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/sep/07/the-coen-brothers-film-ranked

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Burt Reynolds: the Easygoing Cannonball of Old-School Hollywood Manliness | Peter Bradshaw

Charmaine Blake

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In his heyday in movies like Smokey and the Bandit, Reynolds became a hugely popular star who embodied the twinkly-eyed mans man with a touch of the rebel

“At his peak, Burt Reynolds had the kind of face, the kind of body, the kind of masculinity and appeared in the kind of movie that hasnt been fashionable in Hollywood for decades. From 1978 to 1982, Burt Reynolds in all his easygoing ruggedness was the undisputed king: the industrys top grossing star every year in that time for increasingly unfashionable but lucrative pictures. It was a short but legendary reign, after which his awful career moves, calamitous personal investments and matrimonial woes put his star into the descendant. But, like Travolta, he enjoyed a hip and postmodern comeback in the 1990s as the porn movie mogul in Paul Thomas Andersons Boogie Nights (1997), a role with a streak of darkness which reconnected to him to the disturbing John Boorman picture that made his name in 1972, Deliverance, the story of four white salarymen who go on a trip to the Georgia wilderness, unwisely patronise the locals and encounter a situation which unlocks ruthless violence in Reynoldss character.

But Deliverance however sensational it was was a slightly atypical role for Reynolds. In his glorious, sunlit heyday, Burt Reynolds was an easygoing figure. He had a wide, handsome and very intelligent face: sometimes accessorised with a big moustache, he appeared in an outdoors-guy leather, denim, sometimes in lawmans uniform or sports kit the kind of rangy look that was later co-opted by the gay community. Reynolds had a fine singing voice and appeared opposite Dolly Parton in the musical The Best Little Whorehouse In Texas, and in 1973 released a country album called Ask Me What I Am…………………..”

Read more: https://www.theguardian.com/film/2018/sep/07/burt-reynolds-the-easygoing-cannonball-of-old-school-hollywood-manliness

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