Merry Christmas Eve! If you’ve got a mountain of presents still to wrap, or just want to chill a little before heading up for a long winter’s nap, here are five yuletide films streaming on Netflix, from naughty to nice.
Pick of the week: “The Ice Harvest” — A friend recommended this 2005 black comic thriller, starring John Cusack as a Wichita mob lawyer trying to get out of town on Christmas Eve with $2 million of his employers’ money. It’s great — funny and mean and violent, and the screenplay by novelist Richard Russo and his filmmaking partner Robert Benton (“Nobody’s Fool”) elevates the material into an unsentimental look at middle-age disappointment. Cusack has a great speech about his father and his uncle that serves as an acidic corrective to the “Every life means something” message of “It’s A Wonderful Life,” basically saying “Pottersville. Bedford Falls. Either way, we’re all dead.”
Comedy of the week: “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” — Now this is probably much more what you had in mind, as the Griswolds suffer one holiday disaster after another. Comedy sequels are tough to pull off (see “Anchorman 2”), but the “Vacation” series arguably made their “threequel” their best.
Musical of the week: “White Christmas” — Saw this for the first time last year and loved it as kind of a grown-up, mixed-drinks kind of Christmas movie, as Bing Crosby and Danny Kaye put on a show to save their old commanding officer’s inn. Lots of great musical numbers, the highlight for me being Kaye’s weirdly passive-aggressive slam on modern dance. And, of course, the title song.
Romance of the week: “Love Actually” — Yes, yes I know. Some of this is insufferable. But some of it is great, like debauched rock star Bill Nighy or Emma Thompson quietly falling apart as she learns of her husband’s infidelity. If nothing else, it will remind you not to get your wife a CD for Christmas.
Fantasy movie of the week: “Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale” — This Finnish movie is completely nuts, reimagining the St. Nicholas figure as an ancient evil that reindeer herders and one brave young boy must catch to protect their village. You’d better watch out.