Cozy comfort films for the holiday season

As the demand for holiday movies draws nearer, here is a curated list of warm and melancholic films for the month of December that you probably haven’t ever seen.

Phantom Thread (2017)

Paul Thomas Anderson

Set in the affluent couture-fashion scene of the brash British countryside circa 1950, we follow world-renowned dress designer, Reynolds Woodcock (Daniel Day-Lewis) as he takes a liking to a reclusive waitress, Alma Elson (Vicky Kreips). The two fall in love but slowly begin to slip into a descent of deception and distress, revealing disturbances about each other through both beautiful and haunting dialogue, imagery and one of the greatest soundtracks ever recorded, courtesy of composer Jonny Greenwood

Specifically tailored to an equally tranquil and distressing rhythm, the work of filmmaker Paul Thomas Anderson is widely considered to be that of a genre-defining stature. With the sheer range he possesses that it takes to make a melancholic romance feel like a whimsical fairytale in 2002’s Cannes-crown-jewel “Punch-drunk Love,” to the drearily dramatic and thrilling verboseness of 2007’s “There Will Be Blood,” there is no doubt in my mind that Anderson can write and direct any kind of film and maintain a level of artistry and perfection under any circumstances. 

Above all his other films, there is a seething beauty in the anguish of “Phantom Thread,” one that can only be derived from its outstanding leads and pitch perfect screenplay. A holiday classic through and through.

Currently streaming on Netflix

 

The Long Day Closes (1992)

Terence Davies

On the subject of atmosphere, I have yet to find a film that captures the essence of a long forgotten youth quite like Terence Davies’ criminally underrated tale, “The Long Day Closes.”

Shot through the mist of the ice-frozen window panes, we bear witness to an transformative mediation through Bud (Leigh McCormack), a young boy living in Liverpool, England who finds solace in visiting the cinema while the world around him crumbles. The sense of life in this film feels immensely real, as its grounded conceptualization of repression and familial ties grows relentlessly solitudinous and saddening, as well as sweet and relatable.

This is indeed a hopeful movie, one you should take your time with and let wash over you. The amount of thematic emotion displayed is my absolute favorite element of this film, in addition to its visual style and atmospheric music. Another great holiday gem with lots to offer in terms of storytelling and experiencing. 

Currently streaming on The Criterion Channel

 

The Umbrellas of Cherbourg (1964)

Jacques Demy

French New-Wave pioneer Jacques Demy, in all his technicolor glory, is undoubtedly responsible for some of the most memorably cheery musicals of the 1960s. It is in “The Umbrellas of Cherbourg” that we see him at his most passionately yearnful and gleefully saturated.

Following a young couple on the outskirts of France predating the World War, we observe the bemused Geneviève (Catherine Deneuve) at a romantic crossroads between her soon-to-be-drafted boyfriend Guy (Nino Castelnuovo) and the offer of marriage by a diamond merchant working in tandem with her mother. What unravels is a purely romantic film of tremendous highs and dreary lows all through the gaze of some of the brightest pink, blue and yellow hues ever put to the big screen. 

Throughout its duration, the only dialogue conveyed between characters is an unbroken, consistently rhythmic song, making it one of few musicals in which the characters never stop singing. Witness young love, color, war and melancholy all under a profoundly French umbrella.

Currently streaming on HBOMax

 

The Grand Budapest Hotel (2014)

Wes Anderson

What says winter spirit more than pastel colors, snowy weather and elaborate European pastries? Wes Anderson’s idiosyncratic signature stands at its absolute peak in his 2014 treat for eyes and ears, “The Grand Budapest Hotel,” a beyond aesthetically-pleasing breath of fresh air for modern films and an understandably wacky descent into luxury and madness. 

Following a mirage of an ensemble including but not limited to Tilda Swinton, Saorise Ronan, Edward Norton, Adrian Brody, Willem Dafoe, Jeff Goldblum and Bill Murray, “The Grand Budapest Hotel” is a whimsical genre-blend that delivers immense comedic genius as well as stylistic prosper so iconic it is sure to have you smiling the whole way through. 

Currently streaming on HBOMax.

 

Eyes Wide Shut (1999)

Stanley Kubrick

Photographer, provocateur, deity. With as many hats as cinematic legend Stanley Kubrick wears, his range is synonymous with his extraordinarily pontificated filmography. Though, among terms like crass and vulgar, the last thing you could consider Kubrick is cheery and or joyful. That sentiment remains with his final feature film, 1999’s “Eyes Wide Shut,” that may not be in the spirit of a happy holiday but is an exceptional movie for the season.

Acting as the definitive celebrity couple of the 90s, the ever-so-iconic Tom Cruise and Nicole Kidman shine fluorescent lights on the cold, atmospheric horror of “Eyes Wide Shut.” This film tells the story of a man and a woman in a toxic state of boredom with each other and a dangerous game of psycho-sexuality that propels them into a chastising tunnel of conspiracies, cults and Christmas lights galore.

To call this incredibly mature and intentionally uneasy film an actual holiday movie is indeed a stretch, but there is simply no denying how sheerly winter it feels. The way Kubrick utilizes the color wheel specifically in the background of this film crafts a necessary comforting aura before pulling the rug out from under the viewer, revealing its true nature. A thriller worth a million rewatches. 

Currently streaming on Netflix.