22 Dec 2018

Christmas movies a fabulous topic for festive family moments

10:13 pm on 22 December 2018

By Roseanne Liang

Recently, a video came up on my feed about how to get through festive family gatherings intact.

Director Roseanne Liang at the helm, Flat3 Productions

Film director and screenwriter Roseanne Liang says Christmas movies are a nice, safe subject of conversation for festive gatherings. Photo: RNZ Lynda Chanwai-Earle

The advice was this: don't talk about anything that might be remotely divisive. Not politics nor religion. Definitely not the double standards going on in this country. Indigenous rights, reproductive rights, immigration and social equality are right out.

For pete's sake let's talk about nice safe things. The weather. The food. Christmas movies.

Ahh. Christmas movies. Even now that Christmassy feeling accompanies the festive movies they used to play on TV ad-free - The Sound of Music, The Wizard of Oz, The Ten Commandments and Charlie at the Chocolate Factory (the Gene Wilder one, what other one, I don't know what you're talking about).

Feel-good Xmas movies are a great topic, because you can have a strong opinion about them and nobody gets hurt.

In this deeply polarised world, we cling conversationally to the small stuff that it's safe to have a straight answer to, rather than the big stuff, which never has an easy fix.

I don't mind if you hate Bad Santa for the R-rated stuff, I enjoy it for the same reason. We don't have to see eye to eye on movies - it's all right.

What's your favourite Christmas movie?

My favourite Christmas movies are Die Hard and About a Boy. My non-favourite is Love Actually.

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A scene from Love Actually, released in 2003. Photo: © Working Title Films / DNA Film/ AFP

I remember when Love Actually came out and friends recommended the film as "something that's right down your alley". After I watched it, I starting questioning who I was and why people thought I was like this.

Maybe it was around then that I decided that I would wear more army green and leather jackets, so people wouldn't ever mistake me for some egg who actually liked Love Actually. If you tell me to "lighten up" and "it's just a bit of warm British fun", I will scream.

If you want British jollies, About a Boy has more charm in its left pinky nail than a hundred turgid Love Actuallys.

I have children and I've been readying myself for the talk that goes "if (when) you come across pornography, just remember that 90 percent of what you might see is an inaccurate representation of sex".

I should also add "Oh, and if you ever have the misfortune to come across a movie called Love Actually, perhaps foisted on you during Christmas, just remember that 100% of that movie is an inaccurate representation of love, women, or in fact how anything happens in the actual world, and it was a movie made for women by a man, and by golly you will not grow to be a person who likes this movie, not on your nelly, not on my watch, as god as my witness."

If you genuinely like Love Actually, we can't be friends. I mean I'll be civil to you, but we won't go out together and do stuff together alone, let's face it, because even though I might like you, I can't respect you. We should probably stop talking about Love Actually.

Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber in John McTiernan’s classic Die Hard (1988)

Alan Rickman as Hans Gruber in Die Hard (1988) Photo: Twentieth Century Fox

I didn't think I could love Die Hard more until I read that the screenwriter, Jeb Stuart, was close to being broke and took the job out of desperation. He had a fight with his wife - "She was completely right, I was completely wrong. And, instead of apologising on the spot, I got back into the car angry".

Stuart crashed full speed through an empty refrigerator box that was inexplicably sitting on the freeway (put there presumably by the Muse of fricking awesome movies), pulled over to make sure he wasn't dead and then experienced an epiphany about the hard-boiled action novel he was tasked with adapting into a screenplay.

"It's not about a sixty-year-old man who drops his daughter off of a building - it's about a thirty-year-old who should have said he's sorry to his wife and something really bad happens." When I read this piece of trivia, I fell in love with the movie again.

It makes so much sense that Die Hard is the quintessential muscular action movie and it's born of heartfelt, meaningful contrition. This is a 30-year-old movie and it's teaching us even now - especially now - about the value of saying sorry.

Saying sorry isn't weakness, it's one of the strongest things a person - especially a man - can do. If you think this movie is just about violence and all-American bravado, you're missing the point. And Alan Rickman. If you don't think Die Hard is the best Xmas movie ever made, we can't be friends. Maybe we'll say "let's catch up" if we bump into each other, but neither of us will follow through - probably for the best we don't. I think we should probably stop talking about Die Hard.

This pavlova is great. So fluffy and not too sweet. Mmm-hmm. Oh you're so right, we are unlucky with the weather.

- Roseanne Liang is a New Zealand-born Chinese director and screenwriter. Her autobiographical feature film, My Wedding and Other Secrets, is the most successful New Zealand-Asian feature film to date. She has made award-winning work across TV comedy and short film including Flat3, Friday Night Bites and Do No Harm. She is currently pursuing feature opportunities in the States.