Our Holiday Recommendations

For this not-so-cheery (rather gloomy) holiday season, our Writer’s Block authors have put together a compilation of movies and series that will certainly put you into a festive mood. So grab your hot chocolate, candy canes and a cozy blanket (because baby, it’s cold outside) and get ready to fill the remaining days of the year with our festive favourites!

Emilia’s pick: Carol (2015)

This Christmas avoid being a homophobic Grinch and watch Carol (2015). If the fact that Cate Blanchett and Rooney Mara star in this movie is not enough reason to watch it (beware they both were nominated for Academy Awards because of their performance in this movie), perhaps the fact that they both share one of the purest romantic relationships ever seen on-screen is. The movie, set in the 1950s, follows the love affair between Carol and Therese, a recently divorced woman and an aspiring photographer. Their love story begins with a ravishing look shared between them in a department store. From that point onwards, they decide to spend time together during the holidays, a time in which their love grows and thrives in spite of all the muddiness and drama that crosses their way. Their growth is marked with green, as it starts predominating when their relationship evolves, often combined with the intensity and passion of red shades, and, at times, interrupted by brown, typically worn by men, representing the authoritative societal order. I think that the incredible palette this movie creates is one of the reasons why this film feels like the ultimate Christmas banquette. After all, is there anything that screams Christmas more than red, green, and brown? Also, the colors are not the typical bright red, green, and brown you would expect to see, they are more muted and recreate a sense of tenderness and nostalgia as they try to imitate the photojournalism style of the 1950s. A feast for the eye. But worry not! If you aren’t that much into cinematography, you can delight yourself with actual food while watching this film and still enjoy it, because I believe that the storyline is enough reason to do so. If not, as I said, don’t be a homophobic grinch and watch it anyway. Merry Gaymas!

Olivia’s pick: Dash & Lily (2020)

If you are in the mood for a series that you can binge watch in one night while eating your favorite holiday inspired food, this is the right recommendation for you. 

The Netflix series, Dash and Lily is based upon the book “Dash & Lily’s Book of Dares” written by Rachel Cohn and David Levithan, published in 2010, and adapted to the streaming platform ten years later. 

The 8-episode TV series premiered on Netflix on November 10, 2020, and right after my holiday started, I quickly became addicted to this cheesy teenage romance. 

The series tells the story of two teenagers who live in New York City and takes place during the Christmas holiday season. The protagonists develop romantic feelings for each other as they open up mutually by trading messages and dares in a notebook around various locations. Their story starts in their favorite bookstore and since they talk to each other without knowing who the other person is, there is a perfect amount of tension and slow burn romance. 

Along the way, they deal with how their romance affects their personal relationships to friends, family, and past love interests. 

Unfortunately, the series was cancelled by Netflix this October, however if you love a good teen romcom, that’s the right choice for your holiday TV screening.

Julia’s pick: Happiest Season (2020)

For me Christmas movies are not only for the holiday season; I could watch any of those at any time of the year, but since Christmas is coming, it is time to share my recommendation, that you can watch before, during or after the holidays. I decided not to reach for the classics but for something new, something that probably not that many of you have seen- Happiest Season (2020). It’s a movie that reveals what holidays might look like in many different households. In a humorous way, it shows the importance of speaking the truth, opening up about difficult family relationships and struggles especially around the Christmas season. The Happiest Season is a queer rom-com, directed by Clea DuVall with an amazing cast. For all types of fans there’s someone you adore in this movie. To all Twilight fans, one of the leading roles is taken by Kristen Stewart and to anybody who’s in love with Black Mirror San Junipero episode – Mackenzie Davis has the other leading role. Schitt’s Creek fans we’ve got some Dan Levy’s magic in the movie, and for Parks and Recreation admirers we also have some Audrey Plaza’s sparkle. It was released in November 2020 as the first-ever studio Christmas romance movie about a lesbian couple. So, gather your friends or/and family and enjoy this feel-good movie with some spicy truths about Christmas time. 

Anne’s pick: Kindred Spirits – Rainbow Rowell

If you’re into heartwarming, geeky Christmas stories, this short story is the one for you. Kindred Spirits, written by Rainbow Rowell, is a short story about a girl, Elena, who is a huge Star Wars fan. 

For the first showing of The Force Awakens, Elena decides to stand in line, in front of the theater, for the very first time in her life. She knows nothing about the “line etiquette”, but what she does know is that it will take about four days before she gets to go into the theater to watch the newest movie of her favorite franchise. 

When she first gets to the line there are a few other people, a guy with his nose delved deep into his book and another, older, guy with a blonde beard. 

These two guys were more familiar with lines like these, and knew the hardships Elena was about to find out about: the freezing sidewalk in the middle of December, nowhere to pee (sucks for girls), and a guy who dislikes her without having ever met her before. 

I would love to tell you about all of the funny and sweet moments in this story and talk about the hilarious ending, but I won’t spoil anything until you’ve read the whole thing. It’s perfect to get into the holiday spirit and to fulfill your yearning for a cute geeky story!

Reinier’s pick: Klaus (2019)

Christmas movies are a tricky thing to get right. Too often (for my taste at least), they lean into a sort of mushy sentimentality, backed up by a vague threat of conformity. Humour is used to relieve the senses, but the demands of Christmas are looming in the background. Of course, the reality is that Christmas is not always an easy or happy time. Nor is it avoidable. Take, for instance, a movie I recently watched: Christmas With the Kranks. A film that seems to side with bullying neighbours that just can’t seem to allow an admittedly annoying couple to escape the holidays, driving home the point that seems implicit in so many of these films: you cannot get away from Christmas. You better not want to either. All this to say: not every Christmas movie hits right for me.

So, my recommendation steers well clear of the Kranks, but keeps up with the ‘K’ theme: Klaus. Yes, it does contain the sentimental messages you might expect, all infused with a predictable dose of comedic dialogue. However, despite this, I found it hard not to feel a sort of comfortable joy watching Jesper, postman-in-training and all around brat, navigate the trials and tribulations of life near the arctic circle. The hand-drawn animation style is gorgeous, nostalgic, and yet fresh due to its gorgeous use of lighting. Its narrative, a sort of Santa origin story, covers the familiar beats, but manages to feel sweet without becoming overbearing. And with its hints of Scandinavian flair it has a visual and narrative style that kept me engaged. I would not call it a perfect movie, but it is just the kind of Christmas flick that I can get behind.

Vivian’s pick: Love Actually (2003)

Happy Holidays, all! I bet most of you are snuggling under a warm blanket and sipping hot cocoa with the distant melody of All I Want For Christmas Is You still lingering in the back of your mind. To get even further into the spirit of my favourite season of the year, here is my Christmas recommendation: the famous Love Actually

It’s probably no surprise to you guys that this movie appears in one of our recommendations, as it’s one of the most famous holiday-themed romantic comedies. However, for me, this movie is a holy grail of some sorts: as long as I’ve owned the dvd (yes, that was my childhood) I have watched it every Christmas without fail. The last few years I have watched it on Netflix, but that’s just logistics. 

For those who are not familiar, Love Actually follows a handful of characters as they experience the happiest or saddest holiday season. It involves a newlywed couple, a widower and his step-son, the Prime Minister of England (pictured above, one of my favourite scenes) and his secretary, as well as a famous singer and his manager, a lovesick best man of aforementioned newlywed couple, and more. In total, eight couples take the limelight in this movie, and each is granted their unique storyline and beautiful ending. Aside from the obvious cozy Christmas cheer and the lovey-dovey feels and laughs that we know from romantic comedies, the movie also sports a great soundtrack (I find, anyways). 

Anyway, I won’t keep you from your hot cocoa and Christmas joy any longer, so if you haven’t already, look up Love Actually on Netflix and get drawn into the magic that is this amazing collection of story lines!

Marijne’s pick: Narnia (2005)

Usually, I am too busy around the holidays to really indulge myself in some Christmas themed films or series. Either I’m stressing over upcoming finals, finishing a series that isn’t Christmas themed, or I’m going from one Christmas dinner to the other. Then there is also the fact that I like to watch Christmas themed films with my family rather than by myself and they live on the other side of the country. On top of that, we rewatch the same films every year: the Polar Express, A Christmas Carol, and maybe Home Alone if I can convince them to watch it for the billionth time. 

Nonetheless, The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, The Witch and the Wardrobe (2005) in my opinion is a story that’s perfect for the days between Christmas and New Year’s Eve. A very winter-themed tale but not overly Christmas focused so you can watch it almost at any time of year. Santa makes an appearance but is not the main focus of the film, so if you’re still in a cosy winter sphere but no longer in a Christmas mood, this would be the perfect film to watch. 

It’s an old tale so I assume most people are aware of what it’s about, but for those who have never seen it before: It follows the story of 4 siblings that end up in a different universe which they accidentally reach through entering a wardrobe. They have to come together and save the creatures living in the universe from an evil witch (who wears absolutely killer costumes, by the way). The story is filled with betrayal, talking animals, and the bond between siblings. 

You could also opt for reading the seven-volume book series that will open up an even more elaborate version of the universe, and that goes way beyond being a winter-themed-tale!

Happy Holidays!

Elisa’s pick: Rise of the Guardians (2012)

I have to be honest, I don’t watch many Christmas movies. It’s not that I don’t like them – in fact, I usually really enjoy the ones I do watch, I just never have the desire to actually watch them.

When I do watch Christmas movies though, it’s always the same two: Home Alone (duh, I know) and Rise of the Guardians. Since Home Alone is literally the most famous holiday movie ever, today I want to recommend my other favourite, Rise of the Guardians. I’m not sure how popular this movie is, as I’ve never actually heard people talk about it. Still, it was my favourite animated movie for a long time and I reckon it’s way too underrated.

Released in 2012 by DreamWorks Animation, Rise of the Guardians stars some of the biggest children icons ever: Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, the Easter Bunny, the Sandman and Jack Frost. They are the Guardians, tasked to protect children and their dreams. However, Pitch Black, the villain of the story, is threatening to scare the children into not believing in the Guardians anymore. The Guardians, of course, have to stop him and save the day. Though the plot may seem cliché, this movie is such a fun watch. It has the right amount of comedy, action, wholesome and touching moments that will hit you right in the feels. Despite being a children’s movie, the characters are well developed and really likeable, most of all Jack Frost (who was one of my first fictional crushes ever, so do with that what you will).

If you want a feel good movie to watch during the holidays that may or may not make you emotional at times, definitely give Rise of the Guardians a chance.

Laiana’s pick: The Holiday (2006)

It’s finally that time of the year where all we can think of are the end of the year festivities, and I’m sure we are all excited to cuddle up with a warm blanket, a cup of your favourite hot beverage and a good movie. I admit that I’m not that big on sitting around to watch a movie (as you might recall from my Halloween recommendation), but ever since I discovered The Holiday (2006) about three or four years ago, I always take some time to settle down and watch the Rom-Com in a cosy setting. 

In The Holiday, Iris (Kate Winslet) and Amanda (Cameron Diaz) meet online on a vacation website that allows them to swap houses, and both protagonists take this opportunity as a way to take some time away from the issues of their day-to-day lives. As your typical Rom-Com, the romance element is found as we watch the protagonists begin to feel the attraction towards the people they meet in their host-house, and the comedy element is present throughout the entire plot as they experience rather embarrassing moments whilst they adapt to their new environment. Although the plot takes place around Christmas time, the movie itself is not particularly Christmas-y. The film can arguably be watched at any time of the year due to its light and heart-warming storyline, but I believe that the entire setting of the movie just fits perfectly with The Holiday spirit.

Therefore, if you’re a sucker for holidays and all of that Christmas season tradition – or if you also just can’t wait to take some time to grab some popcorn and stay in – The Holiday will definitely get a laugh out of you and get you further into the holiday spirit. 

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