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What makes a compelling Christmas movie—the season, the music, the characters? Maybe it is something else entirely.

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What makes a compelling Christmas movie—the season, the music, the characters? Maybe it is something else entirely.

The question of what makes a movie ideal for Christmas, the day we commemorate and celebrate Jesus’ birth, is subjective. It often depends completely on the audience—among my Facebook friends, for instance, the 1988 thriller Die Hard came out as an unlikely favorite when I recently posted this question. But come to think of it, John McTiernan’s action movie starring Bruce Willis has all the right elements: It starts at a Christmas party and includes danger, a pregnant woman, bad guys, reconciliation, a savior, and a happy ending. And it’s really violent. If you make a case that Jesus was born amidst peril and violence, Die Hard might be the best Christmas film for you. Personally I prefer strong but less abrasive movies.

One way to approach your Christmas movie selection is to look to the Sunday readings and responsorial psalms of Advent as a guide. For year B, week one offers the prayer “Show us your love, show us your salvation, Lord” and commands us to “be ready” following the end-times readings of the weeks leading up to Advent. This makes me think of one of my favorite films, Chris and Paul Weitz’s 2002 comedy, About a Boy. The story, which is bookended by Christmas, demands that a stingy, narcissistic bachelor get ready to show love in a way that creates a family made from strangers.

Week two of Advent tells us to “Prepare the way of the Lord, make straight his paths” (Mark 1:3). Although it ends with a passage from Luke’s gospel, what better film is there in the world than 1965’s animated A Charlie Brown Christmas to help us make straight the paths by refusing the consumerism of December? The Christmas classic leads us straight to the manger—and a Charlie Brown Christmas tree.

The third week of Advent in year C focuses on generosity and sharing. The gospel reading of Luke 3:10-18 calls to mind Peter Weir’s 1983 political thriller, The Year of Living Dangerously. In the face of great evil at a time of social and political injustice in Indonesia in the 1960s, the story is driven by this scripture passage, asking, “What then are we to do?”

The final week of Advent in year B follows the theme of “let us see your face” with the gospel of the annunciation evoking images of service to God and others. The first movie this draws to mind for me is Xavier Beauvois’ 2011 film, Of Gods and Men. Based on a true story, it follows a group of Trappist monks in Algeria who must decide whether to stay or to go when threatened by opposing sides in the country’s civil war. They see the face of Christ in both the people of the village and in those who threaten them and choose to stay. You may not think that the theme music from Tchaikovsky’s Swan Lake is Christmassy, but this film may change your mind.

- See more at: http://www.uscatholic.org/articles/201411/hollywoods-hidden-christmas-gems-29610#sthash.UUlWrTJR.dpuf

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