Festive films

Joe Cramer

The snow is beginning to fall, the weather threatens to freeze anyone who ventures unprepared into a cold December morning and the nativity scene is on display in front of everyone’s favorite dining hall.

This can only mean one thing: The holiday season is upon us.

And yet, despite all the decking of halls and jingling of bells, you may find that it doesn’t really feel like Christmas yet. Why, you ask?

The answer is simple: It is quite nearly impossible to find an ounce of holiday spirit when you’re too busy tearing your hair out over papers, projects, presentations and, of course, finals.

The sad truth is that for the average college student, the Christmas season generally consists of that week between the day you are mercifully freed from your last exam and Christmas Day itself.

This is no way to celebrate the holidays. In order to help bring a little holiday cheer into your life, take a break to check out some classic holiday movies. Here are a few gems to help get you in the spirit.

If all you want is to laugh for awhile, look no further than “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation,” starring Chevy Chase.

This classic tale of the holiday misadventures of the Griswold clan arguably has more laughs than any other Christmas movie, ranging from out-of-control sled races to mad squirrel chases to Clark Griswold’s immortal rant against his boss. It is low on sentimentality, so if you just want to laugh for two hours with no heartstrings attached, then this one’s for you.

If the scary world of libraries, all-nighters and Starbucks Doubleshots is too much to handle and you want to reclaim a sense of childlike simplicity, then pop in “Elf” with Will Ferrell.

Both hilarious and touching, this film tells the story of Buddy the Elf, a human who snuck into Santa’s bag when he was an orphan baby and has since resided with Santa at the North Pole.

Ferrell is in top form here as the manic and perpetually cheerful Buddy, and James Caan gives a nice turn as his cynical and bitter father.

If you want to gain a sense of perspective amid your struggles next week (and you don’t mind subtitles), watch the French war film “Joyeux Noel.”

This film, set in December 1914 during World War I, tells the story of a temporary and unauthorized ceasefire among French, Scottish and German troops on Christmas Eve. Even against the orders of their superior officers, these troops struggle to retain a portion of their humanity amid one of history’s most savage wars.

It is a little-known story that celebrates the potential for peace and goodwill in our world and a perfect one for rediscovering the true meaning of the holidays.

Having trouble cracking that thesis statement? Watch Bruce Willis crack skulls instead in “Die Hard” and relieve some of that rage.

When brutal terrorists invade an office building during a Christmas party and start taking hostages, it’s up to John McClane to save the day in the most explosive and entertaining way possible.

No film can release the pent-up anger of finals better than this one.

Perhaps you want to complement your feelings of despair and hopelessness with a nice dose of cathartic filmmaking.

If this is the case, then cry your eyes out while watching “It’s a Wonderful Life.” This sadistically mistitled film tells the story of a despairing family man who, feeling as though he has failed as a father and a husband, intends to kill himself.

Before he can do this, however, an angel takes him on a heart-wrenching journey through a future where he never existed so that he can see all the good he has done for his family and his town.

Basically two hours worth of emotional torture, this film should only be viewed if you absolutely need to release a week’s worth of pent-up emotional frustration.

Finally, should you need to reinforce your feelings of bitterness and disaffection with your studies, chow down on a super-sized portion of cynicism with “Bad Santa.”

Easily the darkest, most scathing and most offensive movie to ever bear the sacred banner of Christmas, “Bad Santa” is also one of the only truly memorable holiday films released this decade.

Billy Bob Thornton gives the comic performance of a lifetime as a burnt-out thief and department store Santa who, when he is not passed out drunk or assaulting children, plans a Christmas Eve heist of the store with his truly evil sidekick.

A ruthless assault on the false sentimentality paraded by companies during the holiday season, “Bad Santa” is a laugh riot if your sensibilities aren’t quite as conventional as most during this time of year.