The Canadian holidays are a lot like the American holidays, but with a higher chance of snowfall. Plus, Santa’s workshop is totally in the Canadian north, right? I say we call dibs on the guy in red – back off, Coca Cola.
My favourite thing to do around Christmastime is to curl up on the couch with a cup of hot chocolate and watch Too Many Things. Too Many Things could be that DVD box set that you got from a loved one, or the goodies waiting in your instant qeue on Netflix. Whatever it is, you’ve got to watch it. This holiday season, my must-watch movie spree includes some classic Canadiana. While Home Alone and National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation may be on TV repeat, hunting down the following movies and TV specials will make your holiday season merry, bright, and especially Canadian.
Mon Oncle Antoine
Perhaps one of the greatest Canadian movies of all time, Mon Oncle Antoine is set during Christmas in rural Quebec prior to the Asbestos Strike of the late 1940s. The film’s protagonist, a teenage boy named Benoît, works part-time for Antoine, his uncle who owns the local general store and also acts as an undertaker. Benoit watches the world from the busy general store, finds himself noticing local women and girls for the first time, and joins an epic snowball battle. There is a dark and lonely undertone that marks the subplot involving the Poulin family, and Antoine’s duties as an undertaker is bleak but beautiful at the same time.
I, and many other weirdos, love holiday horror movies. Black Christmas (the 1974 version, naturally) has the distinction of being the best of the bunch. The film follows a group of sorority girls who are stalked by a psychotic killer with no phone manners to speak of. Christmas parties, carolers, and ornaments all play a key role in the murder and mayhem. Filming took place in Toronto with several scenes shot around Annesley Hall. Bob Clark directed the film. (Fun fact: he was also responsible for directing and writing A Christmas Story as well as the Canadian classic Porky’s). Watch the scary trailer here.
“The Raccoons Christmas Special”
“The Raccoons” are as Canadian as maple syrup or Rick Moranis. The show was originally broadcast from 1985 to 1991 BUT, before that, there were four TV specials that began in 1980. One of those specials was “The Christmas Raccoons” which first introduced Canadian kids to Ralph, Melissa, and Bert Raccoon. It aired not only in Canada but in the US and England. In “The Christmas Raccoons” Bert, Melissa and Ralph have their house (an awesome tree) stolen when two kids chop it down and take it home as a Christmas tree. But it’s not the kids’ fault that the tree was cut down - it’s the nefarious Cyril Sneer who is the mastermind behind the deforestation of the Evergreen Forest. Stop him, Raccoons! Cheesy fun for the whole family.
One Magic Christmas
The wonderful world of Disney may have its stamp on 1985′s One Magic Christmas, but this movie is pretty darn Canadian. It was filmed in Ontario (specifically Collingwood, Meafort, Owen Sound, and Scarborough), features Canadian money, and a character who sports a Blue Jays shirt. The plot is pretty wacky: Gideon is an angel (played by Mr. Harry Dean Stanton) who’s on a mission from Santa (Santa can command angels?) to cheer up a depressed mother who’s lost faith in the magic of Christmas. Gideon takes mom, with the help of her kid, on a field trip to see Santa. Two of my favourite Canadian actors make appearances in this weird little film: Sarah Polley and Elias Koteas.
Christmas with SCTV
One thing that Canada has in abundance is the holiday comedy show. This is a fine tradition that goes back to Wayne and Shuster and continues on with “22 Minutes”. Some favourites include Dave Foley’s “The True Meaning of Christmas Specials”, “Air Farce’s” countless great Christmas and New Year’s shows, and “Trailer Park Boys Christmas Special”. The best bang for your buck will likely be Christmas with SCTV, which compiles the show’s holiday episodes. Why? John Candy, Harold Ramis, Martin Short, Rick Moranis, Eugene Levy, and Catherine O’Hara – that’s why.
The NFB film adaptation of “The Hockey Sweater” is not geared for the holidays, but certainly suitable given our crisp weather and favourite passtime. It also brings to mind Christmas mornings when you don’t quite get the gift that you ask for. It tells the story of a boy, obsessed with Maurice Richard, whose mom gives him a Toronto jersey instead of Montreal’s. Much to his mortification, he is forced to wear the jersey in front of his friends. Real cold, Mom.
Christmas in Wonderland
This movie sounds like the weirdest. This is what the Internet Movie Database (IMDB) tells me about it:
“Three kids and their Dad move from L.A. to Edmonton. When they go shopping at West Edmonton Mall they find counterfeit cash. They inadvertently help catch the crooks, and later make a discovery about Santa.”
West Edmonton Mall? Weird. Counterfeiters? OK. But… the oddest part may be that it features Chris Kattan, Tim Curry, Patrick Swayze, and Carmen Electra. Together. In a movie! Ahhh! Watch it, if you dare, and drop a comment here and let me know how it goes. I’m not sure if I’m brave enough.
La guerre des tuques
Two kids lead rival groups that engage in an epic snowball fight around Christmastime. Their “war” keeps escalating until an unforeseen casualty brings the sides together. Sad, funny, and touching, it’s a winter must-see.
My favourite Canadian Christmas film of all time is the hilarious, festive, and gory wonder, Treevenge. Directed by Hobo With a Shotgun‘s Jason Eisener, it follows the massacre and roundup of a group of Christmas trees. “Families” of trees are split up and sent to homes where they are decorated against their will until they realize they’ve been abused for far too long. In protest, they stage a bloody coup against the human tyrants. Trees 1, Humans 0. Watch the gory trailer here.