Film, List

5 THINGS YOU DIDN’T KNOW ABOUT IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE:

Some facts you might not no about everyone’s favourite christmas flick.

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It’s A Wonderful Life is a true christmas classic – I count myself among one of the thousands who watches the film and gets a little misty eyed every festive season. It can hardly be accused of being subtle, and there is no doubt that it can be a little sickly sweet for some, but I see the film as essential yuletide viewing. It’s been 59 years since Frank Capra’s film came out, and much of the story surrounding it is common knowledge – based on short story The Greatest Gift by Philip Van Doren Stern, it initially flopped at the box office before being revived due to the copyright expiring in the 1970s – but there are also some lesser known fun facts about It’s A Wonderful Life, five of which I have compiled here…

5 – IT INVENTED A NEW KIND OF ARTIFICIAL SNOW

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Snow set under construction (Cornell Library) 

The film was nominated for five oscars back in 1946, but unfortunately didn’t win any. It was however awarded a Technical Achievement Award for its innovation in creating a new method for artificial snow. Before It’s A Wonderful Life, films featuring snow usually used cornflakes that had been painted white. This meant that any scenes featuring both snow and dialogue had to be redubbed due to the racket from walking over cornflakes. This situation wasn’t ideal for a film set in a town in the depths of a snowy winter, so RKO’s Head of Special Effects Russell Sherman worked together with Capra to come up with a quieter form of fake snow. This was achieved by mixing together famine – the material used in fire extinguishers – sugar, water and soap flakes, creating a sprayable and totally silent type of artificial snow. Chances are the makers of cornflakes weren’t too happy at this innovation – there must have been quite a drop in sales in the Hollywood area post 1946.

4 – IT’S AN EARLY EXAMPLE OF PRODUCT PLACEMENT

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Business Insider

Product placement is something that is generally thought of as the bane of modern filming (yes we are all looking at you, Jurassic World), so it is surprising to see that it actually dates back decades, and even wholesome classics weren’t immune from its wily ways. Mr. Gower’s drugstore is a hotbed of product placement action – ever wondered why you always have a hankering for some Coca Cola when you watch that scene? (you probably don’t have such cravings, but roll with me here). Coke is only one of numerous products which are on display in the background of the store, which mostly features brands of cigarettes and cigars. Sweet Caporal cigarettes were the biggest benefactors however – George looks at their advertisement, which reads ‘Ask Dad. He knows”, as inspiration to go talk to his father. See what they did there – product placement done right. Take note, modern day Hollywood.

3 – BEULAH BOND WAS JIMMY STEWART’S MOTHER FOR THE FOURTH TIME

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Pintrest

By the time Beulah Bondi came to play Mrs. Bailey she was no stranger to playing Mum to James Stewart – she had already done so three times. The actress, who made a career playing maternal roles, played Jimmy Stewart’s mother in Mr. Smith Goes to Washington, Of Human Hearts and Vivacious Lady. She went on to do it one last time on The Jimmy Stewart Show: Identity Crisis (1971). Despite her reputation for playing motherly roles, Bondi never married or had children, but she is warmly remembered for being a twice oscar nominated character actress who was particularly active through the ‘classic Hollywood’ era of the 1930s to 1950s.

2 – UNCLE BILLY WASN’T AS DRUNK AS YOU THOUGHT

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The Guardian

Remember that scene where Uncle Billy drunkenly makes his way home, only for a big crash to sound out and him to yell “I’m all right, I’m a llllll right!”? Believe it or not, that little chunk or hilarity was not in the script. In reality, a crew member dropped a large piece of equipment and Thomas Mitchell, who played Uncle Billy, went along with it by coming out with the line. Jimmy Stewart followed suit with his reaction, and Capra enjoyed the segment so much that he kept it in the film, enhancing the crashing noise and giving the stagehand who dropped the equipment $10 for “improving the sound”. Whilst only a small moment in the film, it is a great example of the charm that has made it so enduring, and is made all the funnier by the fact that it was unintentional.

1 – IT WAS CAPRA’S FILM THROUGH AND THROUGH

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AFI

Frank Capra generally both wrote and directed his films, but he took things a step further with It’s A Wonderful Life. Capra directed, produced, financed and co-wrote the film, making it a true passion project for the director. In his autobiography he stated that he believes it to be the best film he ever made (a sentiment now shared by the masses, it would seem), and it is clear that he believed in the project wholeheartedly. This makes it all the more tragic that the film did so poorly in it’s initial run. After the Second World War Capra’s films became less popular – his work was deemed to be overly idealistic and simple for the prosperous post war climate, and was seen as better suited to the Depression and pre-war era that he had found such success in. On the bright side, Capra lived to see the film gain the iconic status that it has since afforded itself, and much of his later work has been reassessed as being excellent, so it wasn’t a total Van Gogh situation.

What are your favourite facts about It’s A Wonderful Life? Let me know in the comments section!

 

 

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Film, Opinion, Reviews

FILM REVIEW: KRAMPUS

An anti-holiday flick that owes more to Gremlins than Black Christmas

Runtime: 1 hour, 38 minutes

Certificate: 15

Directed: Michael Dougherty

Starring: Adam Scott, Toni Colette, David Koechner

IMDb: 6.9/10

Rotten Tomatoes: 65% critics/62% audience

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Horrorbuzz

It’s the most wonderful time of the ye- wait, what? Krampus is coming? Perhaps not then. Based on Austro-Bavarian folklore, Krampus is the so-called “shadow of Saint Nicholas” who is sure to punish you if you find yourself on his naughty list, which is exactly what happens to a suburban family in Michael Dougherty’s festive horror-comedy.

Paying heavy homage to Gremlins (1984), the film has a lot more in common with The Gingerdead Man (2005 – it’s a real film, which features Gary Busey and spawned two sequels) than yuletide slashers such as Black Christmas (1974) and Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984), meaning Krampus errs much more on the side of comedy, and is relatively gore free as a result.  This is not necessarily a criticism, as the film has various laugh out loud moments (perhaps not all intentional) and there is heaps of B movie appeal. However, horror fans may feel shortchanged after an ominous marketing campaign focused around what turns out to be sparse scares.

The comedy element should have perhaps been clear based upon the cast, featuring Parks and Recreation alumni Adam Scott and Anchorman (2004) joker David Koechner as part of a greater ensemble, with further star power injected by Toni Collette. Whilst the cast is strong, the characters are generally unlikeable which means that it never feels like the stakes are very high – nobody really cares what happens to them.

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Metro

The script is (hilariously) deadpan and thus somewhat of an acquired taste, whilst Krampus himself is a bit of a letdown. The big bad isn’t remotely funny, and doesn’t have enough scare factor to counteract this. His little helpers on the other hand are the perfect blend of creepy and outright hilarious – a particular highlight are the evil gingerbread men, who are like the love children of Gizmo and the Gingerbread Man from Shrek (2002).

There are unexpected moments – such as the animated sequence – that keep the film from being a paint by numbers flick, but suspense is short in supply, and Chuck Wilson at the Village Voice argued in his review that Dougherty has been:

“….charged with delivering a wide appeal PG-13 film”

This point has a strong basis, as it feels like Krampus is holding back from being the sort of film it wants to be. Dougherty is known for 2007 cult hit Trick ‘r Treat, and it would perhaps be interesting to know what this film would have looked like without any input from Universal Pictures, who were obviously keen to cash in on the holiday season and appealing to as many people as possible.

Various quibbles keep the film from being the anti-christmas classic that it wants to establish itself as, but there is still plenty of fun to be had and a fair chance that Krampus will go on the Santa list of those people who find that annual viewings of It’s A Wonderful Life isn’t their bag.

Score: 3/5

What did you think of Krampus? Did it jingle your bells, or are you happy to stick with Santa? Let me know in the comments section below!

 

 

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List, Television

FRASIER CHRISTMAS EPISODES – RANKED:

Ranking beloved sitcom Frasier’s (1993-2004) Christmas offerings.

 

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Daily Mail

Despite ending 11 years ago, Cheers spin-off Frasier is still held in high regard as one of the best sitcoms of all time, and certainly one of the greatest spin-offs ever created. Starring Kelsey Grammar in the titular role alongside David Hyde Pierce, John Mahoney, Jane Leevis and Peri Gilpin, the show is a hilarious classic that only gets better with repeat viewings. Over 11 seasons the show produced an impressive seven festive episodes which feature everything that made Frasier so great, combined with a dash of festive cheer, ranked here for your pleasure…

7 – THE FIGHT BEFORE CHRISTMAS (SEASON 7)

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Fanpop

Frasier is at his haughty best here, having planned a traditional christmas party with only Roz (Peri Gilpin) allowed to attend from the KACL gang, only to find that rival Cam Winston is also holding a party and has poached his guests. This provides the festive setting to the episode, which revolves around the previous ones revelation to Daphne (Jane Leevis) of Niles’ (David Hyde Pierce) long standing feelings for her. I doubt I am alone in thinking that the Niles/Daphne dynamic was at its best when he was infatuated with her and she was hilariously unaware of it, so I was never a fan of them getting together, as much as Niles deserved them to. Whilst the episode does have some funny use of the crossed wires trope, it ranks last as it it signified the beginning of a period of decline for the show.

6 – WE TWO KINGS (SEASON 10)

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TV Guide

This episode revisits one of the show’s most common occurrences  – Niles and Frasier arguing. This time they are bickering over how to spend christmas, which drives Martin (John Mahoney) to announce he is going to work on the day. This leads the brothers to attempt to mend fences by putting together a surprise for Martin which, low and behold, does not go to plan. Even in its darker days Frasier was bolstered by its phenomenal cast, and this is an example of that situation at work, with laughs throughout. The Frasier-Niles rivalry rarely disappoints, but this episode loses marks for giving Roz a lazy subplot volunteering as an elf at the mall, whilst Martin’s decision to work feeling like a rehash of season one, suggesting the show was running out of steam by its tenth year.

5 – MARY CHRISTMAS (SEASON 8)

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Sarah TV

Frasier is realising a dream of his by hosting the Seattle Christmas Parade, but worries it won’t go to plan when his co-host comes down with food poisoning and is replaced with Mary (Kim Coles), who he had previously clashed with at KACL. As predicted, chaos ensues, with incidents including Frasier hitting Santa with a microphone. Season eight was a tough time for the series, with changes in dynamic and a decline in quality, and it shows in this episode. Whilst funny moments are scattered throughout, it’s nothing like the offerings from the shows hey-dey.

4 – FRASIER GRINCH (SEASON 3)

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Tumblr

The ‘Frasier learns an important lesson’ storyline wasn’t unique to christmas episodes, but plays well here. Frasier is determined that he only get Fredrick (Luke Tarsitano) high-end educational toys as gifts, even though Martin thinks he should just let Fredrick be himself. There is a great balance between the funny and touching here, with the end of the episode holding a sweet message. Eddie features – dressed to the nines in a santa suit and hat – and we get to see the Crane apartment in fully fledged Martin christmas mode, talking Santa and all. The only reason this episode doesn’t rate higher is because it lacks the laugh out loud hilarity of other episodes.

3 – MIRACLE ON THIRD OR FOURTH STREET (SEASON 1)

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Lockerdome

This early episode was when the show was still finding its feet, and features Frasier facing christmas alone after Fredrick receives a chance to spend the festive in Austria and he and Martin argue. The first christmas episode of the series, it sets a trend of the Cranes arguing about decorations, which goes on to be a fun staple of the festive specials. Eddie is hilarious, drinking from Niles’ cup and hiding under a pillow when the argument occurs, whilst the latter half of the episode with Frasier’s depressing christmas callers becomes increasingly hysterical. The episode does lack the shows winning ensemble in the latter half, but it’s still great festive viewing.

2 – MERRY CHRISTMAS, MRS. MOSKOWITZ (SEASON 6)

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Neogaf

The best episodes of Frasier tended to have a very simple premise – events would conspire, building up to a hilarious and absurd finale – a formula that served the series well for 11 years. This festive offering is a perfect example – Frasier is set up on a blind date with the daughter of a woman he meets in a department store. It transpires that Mrs. Moskowitz (Carole Shelley) believes Frasier to be Jewish, leading to a visit to his apartment where he and her daughter Faye (Amy Brenneman) attempt to cover up the fact that he’s not. This is complicated by the delivery of a christmas tree and Niles dressed up as Jesus, leading up to a truly hilarious final act.

1 – PERSPECTIVES ON CHRISTMAS (SEASON 5)

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First Time Mom

This season five episode came out when the show had really hit its stride, utilising the winning formula . Various different plot lines intertwine and culminate in hilarious misunderstandings, providing laugh out loud moments aplenty. The story is told through flashbacks as Martin, Roz, Daphne and Niles get massages as a Christmas gift from Frasier and the episode plays out as a series of interlinking sketches where we get to see each character at their best – the winning sequence has to be when crossed wires leads Daphne to believe that Martin is dying when he is actually appearing as a shepherd in a christmas pageant. Brilliant stuff.

Which festive Frasier is your favourite? Let me know in the comments section below!

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List, Music

TOP 5 CHRISTMAS SONGS:

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The countdown is on and it will soon be Christmas. One of the best things about this time of year are all the Christmas songs that dominate the airwaves. There are literally hundreds of brilliant tunes to get you into the festive mood, but I’ve ranked my five personal favourites here for your listening pleasure:

Honourable mention…

CHRISTMAS IS ALL AROUND – BILLY MACK

As my previous post made abundantly clear, I am a huge fan of Love Actually (2004), and it will therefore come as no surprise that I think the song my favourite character Billy Mack sings in the film is on the shortlist for my favourite christmas songs. A festive version of The Troggs’ Love is All Around, the song is best when accompanied by the undeniably hilarious video.

5- LONELY THIS CHRISTMAS – MUD

This Elvis-esque track actually has a very sad theme of being alone at christmas, but it still makes it way onto my list of favourites due to just being so damn catchy. Seriously, try listening to it getting lodged in your brain for at least 24 hours. It’s also a nice old school departure from some of the more poppy, cheesy christmas hits that we all know and love.

4 – DO THEY KNOW IT’S CHRISTMAS? – BAND AID 20

I was born in 1995, and I was therefore nine years old when Band Aid 20 released their single in 2004. It is for that reason that the song is a favourite of mine, a nostalgia trip which allows me to reminisce over all the artists who were big in 2004 – Dido, McFly, Busted, The Darkness, Bono was still there for some reason…

3 – WONDERFUL CHRISTMAS TIME – PAUL MCCARTNEY

This song is one of my favourites due to the fact that it features on the soundtrack of Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie (1998), an animated christmas film that I loved watching on VHS when I was younger. The song bass everything you look for in a christmas song – it’s retro, cheesy, upbeat and was written and recorded by a former Beatle – a surefire winning formula.

2 – ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU – MARIAH CAREY

The majority of christmas classics were produced from the 1950s to the 1980s, and there are actually surprisingly few additions since then that would be classed as a bonafide ‘classic’. Mariah Carey proved to be the exception to the rule in 1994 when she released the self penned All I Want For Christmas is You, a song that has become a staple of the holiday season. Interestingly, Carey released a children’s book based on the song – which has by now raised over $50 million in royalties – this year.

1 – FAIRYTALE OF NEW YORK – THE POGUES AND KIRSTY MCALL

I’m sure i’m not alone in holding this song dear as my favourite christmas song of all time – this irish folk-ballad actually holds the title as the UK’s most played christmas song in the 21st century. The song is sung from the point of view of an Irish immigrant in New York, who is in the ‘drunk tank’ (prison cell) and thinking about his girlfriend, who he has an apparently love/hate relationship with.

What are your favourite christmas songs? Let me know in the comments section! Meanwhile, enjoy the songs featured on this list right here:

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Film, List

‘LOVE ACTUALLY’ STORIES: RANKED:

laRichard Curtis’ ensemble romantic comedy Love Actually came out in 2004, a full 11 years ago, meaning it has now been out long enough to accrue the title ‘Christmas classic’. I indulge in multiple viewings of this film – which kickstarted a trend in the US where every holiday got itself an all-star ensemble (New Years Eve, Valentines Day etc) – and whilst it may have its critics, I am sure I am not alone in holding it as a festive favourite. The film has a total of nine storylines interweaved with one another, and I have taken it upon myself to rank them below…

Honourable mention…

RUFUS:

e5ea6edb7f7b1a94761f96ef2284aee3Rufus (Rowan Atkinson) is a department store employee who firsts shows up wrapping a necklace for Harry (Alan Rickman), with his over-enthusiasm for providing a premium service raising laughs. He then shows up later at the airport, providing a distraction which allows Sam (Thomas Sangster) to slip through security. His supporting role has not been included due to the fact that he is a lone character who does not have a storyline of his own, though he is still extremely important to the overarching plot.

Atkinson is excellent in this small role, with the Mr Bean actor propelling the intertwined plot along in an amusing way. The DVD commentary of the film reveals that the original script had Rufus being a Christmas Angel – a role he still fulfils in the final product, though it is never explicitly stated. His slow pace at wrapping up Harry’s gift could be taken as a stalling tactic, attempting to stop Harry from causing his indiscretion. He also shoots Daniel (Liam Neeson) a knowing glance when Sam runs past, suggesting he knew what he was doing by distracting the guard. The idea of Rufus as an angel makes the already adorable film all the more sweeter (who knew that was possible?)

9 – COLIN & AMERICAN GIRLS

Love_Actually-colinThe story: Colin (Kris Marshall) is a goofy English waiter who is having no luck in his endless attempts to win over various women. He tells his friend Tony (Abdul Salis) that he it is British woman that he is undesirable to, and that if he went to America he would have more success. Colin then announces that he is in fact going to the US, and when he lands in Milwaukee he almost immediately becomes acquainted with three women – Stacey (Ivana Millecevic), Jeannie (January Jones) and Carol Ann (Elisha Cuthbert). The girls invite him to stay with them and their room-mate Harriet (Shannon Elizabeth). In the epilogue Colin is seen returning via Heathrow with Harriet, who has brought her sister (Denise Richards) for the stunned Tony.

Rank explained: This relatively small segment is undoubtedly comic relief to balance out the more serious moments in other stories. Colin is a one-dimensional character who is obsessed with sex, and this is without a doubt the weakest storyline in the film. The American women are presented only as sex objects with literally no character development, and the fact that Colin must go to America to get sex also creates negative connotations about both British and US women. Thankfully it is a very small part of the film, meaning it does not have too much of a derivative impact on the story as a whole. There are also some amusing cringe-worthy moments near the start, such as when Colin tries to chat up the caterer at Juliet and Peter’s wedding. Still, I would expect more of a Richard Curtis film than to revert to basic one dimensional stereotypes and crude sex jokes. Not cool.

8 – SARAH, KARL & MICHAEL

tumblr_mdc7yptV4f1ql2ny4o1_500The story: Sarah (Laura Linney) is an American woman working at a design company (run by Harry) who has been in love with co-worker Karl (Rodrigo Santoro) for years. Harry encourages her to make a move, and the pair finally kiss after dancing together at the office christmas party. They go home together, but are disturbed by Sarah’s phone ringing. It is her brother, Michael (Michael Fitzgerald), who stays in a mental health facility. Sarah is unwilling to put Karl before her brother, and goes to visit Michael. Karl and Sarah are work late on Christmas Eve, and it becomes clear that they won’t get together. Sarah is last seen celebrating Christmas with Michael.

Rank explained: This is where the ranking begins to get tricky – the whole Colin segment is the only part of the film that I actively dislike. In my eyes, the rest is excellent, and Sarah’s story is no different. Laura Linney is perfectly cast as Sarah – she inhabits the role so much and makes it totally believable. Her awkwardness is relatable, and her quick-cleaning of her room is one of the films comedic highlights. The core of Sarah’s story is how sometimes familial love comes before romantic love, and the way that she puts aside what she wants to care for her brother. It is very emotional at points, because she is the type of character that fully deserves happiness. The only reason this story ranks so low is because it makes me a little sad.

7 – DANIEL, SAM & JOANNA

thomas_liam3The story: Daniel (Liam Neeson) is mourning the loss of his wife Joanna, as well as trying to be step-father to her son Sam (Thomas Sangster). Sam reveals that he is in love with an American classmate, also named Joanna, and learns to play the drums so that he can accompany her at the school concert. Daniel then helps him chase her to the airport (Joanna is going back to America), and he meets another parent Carol (Claudia Schiffer) in the process. The epilogue shows Carol and Daniel waiting with Sam to meet Joanna, who has returned from America.

Rank explained: Another great storyline that I feel bad for ranking low, this shows Liam Neeson before his action-man resurgence that began with Taken in 2009. Watching his character struggle to deal with the death of his wife becomes all the more poignant with the knowledge that his real life wife Natasha Richardson passed away in 2009 after a skiiing accident. In spite of this happening years after the film came out, it makes viewing in this context more emotional than it already was. Whilst the story shows Sam pursuing Joanna, it is really about the bond between Daniel and Sam, and the way that good things can come out of the worst of times. The pair have become extremely close by the end of the film, having bonded over coming up with a plan to win over Joanna. Again, this only ranks lower due to the fact that unlike many other stories in the film, this one does not have a big standout scene (though the airport chase is pretty wonderful).

6 – HARRY, KAREN & MIA

oly1.56269.1356370498imageThe story: Harry (Alan Rickman) and Karen (Emma Thompson) are a married couple who have two children. Harry manages a design company whilst Karen stays home with the children. Mia (Hieke Makatsch) is Harry’s new secretary, who makes it increasingly obvious that she is interested in Harry. He buys her an expensive necklace, which Karen finds and excitedly thinks is for her. She is upset when she instead receives a Joni Mitchell CD from Harry, and she finds it hard to to hide her upset. She later confronts Harry and tells him that he has made a fool of her and her life. The family are later seen greeting Harry at the airport in the epilogue, where things still seem slightly tense between him and Karen.

Rank explained: This is one of perhaps the most debatable parts of the film, with many different possible interpretations of the Harry/Karen/Mia saga. Some will argue that Harry is a total idiot for jeopardising his happy marriage (which he obviously is) to the excellent Karen, whilst others may argue that their marriage is more akin to a friendship than a romantic relationship. Whatever your take on it is, it’s an interesting one to think about – was Harry having a mid-life crisis? Is Mia the worst? (a no-brainer) Did their marriage survive the indiscretion? One thing is for sure however, and that is that Emma Thompson breaking down in the bedroom as the Joni Mitchell songs is the biggest emotional gut punch in the film and probably one of the main reasons that it continues to be so well loved to this day. I rank it at number six purely because I really don’t like Mia – seriously, what was her deal?

5 – JULIET, PETER & MARK

tumblr_me9y6mbT8A1rgewb2o8_r1_250The story: Juliet (Kiera Knightly) and Peter (Chiwetel Ejiofor) get married, with best man Mark (Andrew Lincoln) organising a surprise choir and filming much of the day. It is later revealed that Mark generally avoids or acts coldly towards Juliet, who tries to break the ice when she goes over to get his footage of the wedding. Mark is reluctant to show her the footage, and when she watches it she sees that it is all focused on her. Mark hastily leaves, saying he acts the way he does due to “self-preservation”. On Christmas Eve Mark shows up at Juliet and Mark’s flat and shows Juliet via cue cards that he is in love with her, but does not want or expect anything from her. She gives him a friendly kiss, and he states “enough, enough now” to himself. The trio are then shown in the epilogue and things appear less awkward between Mark and Juliet.

Rank explained: Pre-Walking Dead Andrew Lincoln was all lovelorn and moody in Love Actually, revealing himself to be in love with his best friends new wife. Classy. Yet somehow, the film manages to make it all seem quite charming. I’ve never been a huge Kiera Knightly fan, but again I never took this story to really be about the love Mark has for Juliet, or even the love Juliet and Peter have for each other. I always took it as being about the love Mark has for Peter – even though he is ‘hopelessly’ in love with Juliet, Mark’s bond with Peter is so strong that he would never even consider betraying him. This is significant because we see betrayal in other parts of the film – Jamie’s brother and girlfriend have an affair for instance.  It’s the second best bromance in the film (more on that later), and it is absolutely adorable.

4 – JAMIE & AURÉLIA

Jamie-and-AureliaThe story: Jamie (Colin Firth) returns from Juliet and Peter’s wedding to discover that his girlfriend (Sienna Guillory) has been cheating on him with his brother. He departs to a French cottage to write and he meets housekeeper Aurélia, who is Portuguese and doesn’t speak any English. In spite of the language barrier, there is a spark between the pair and they begin to fall in love. Both are upset when it comes time for them to go back to their respective countries. Jamie then learns Portuguese and goes to find Aurélia on Christmas Eve, eventually proposing to her in front of the town. She says yes, revealing that she had been learning English. The epilogue shows them meeting Juliet, Peter and Mark at the airport.

Rank explained: Colin Firth is at his loveable best here. Whilst the story is itself a little far fetched, it is perfectly suited to a festive romantic comedy (they’re rarely lauded for their realism). Firth is hilariously British, with a particular highlight coming towards the end when he gives up a cab to a fellow traveller before jumping up and down in frustration. In spite of the less than realistic story Firth and Guillory pull it off due to having believable and tentative chemistry. This is one of the story lines that critics of the film will make a beeline towards, but I believe that it one that is at the heart of the magic.

3 – DAVID & NATALIE

42694_1199325940723_fullThe story: David (Hugh Grant) is the newly elected Prime Minister and when he moves into 10 Downing Street he meets one of his household staff, Natalie (Martine McCutcheon). There is an instant spark between them, but David chastises himself for liking her. The President of the US (Billy Bob Thornton) visits and David is led to believe that something untoward happened between the President and Natalie, leading him to make a defiant speech and also get Natalie moved from her position within the house. He later gets a christmas card from Natalie where she admits that it is him that she wanted all along, and he goes on a door to door search from her, eventually finding her and taking her to her brothers nativity play. The pair are then caught kissing backstage, and the epilogue shows Natalie greeting David at the airport as the press look on.

Rank explained: Like Firth, Hugh Grant is at his probably typecast best here as the new British Prime Minister (I have already conceded that this film isn’t one that is thinking about realism, alright?) . Grant’s speech where he stands up to the lecherous US President is perfectly executed, and one of the best moments in the film. The story, like all the best ones on this list, is actually a very simple one, making it accessible to everyone in spite of being about the Prime Minster. McCutcheon, who has flown somewhat of the radar in recent years, is also on excellent form as the slightly goofy Natalie, but Grant gets all the best scenes without a doubt – the dancing through 10 Downing Street is another highlight.

2 – JOHN & JUDY

a0002692_02141The story: John (Martin Freeman) and Judy (Joanna Page) are professional body doubles who are filming sex scenes for a film where Tony is the production assistant. They are comfortable with the work but are otherwise very shy talking to each other, and John eventually asks her on a date very tentatively. They go on a date and Judy tells John “all I want for Christmas is you!” after kissing him. They are then shown in the epilogue having gotten married.

Rank explained: This is one of the smaller stories in the film but it makes the number two spot due to being SO CUTE. Joanna Page and Martin Freeman are an adorable match made in heaven, and they’re tentative beginning of a relationship in less than usual circumstances sums up the entire message of the film in a smart little subplot. Pretty much the best part of the film, other than the pair who took the number one spot…

1 – BILLY MACK & JOE

love_actually_7The story: Ageing rocker Billy Mack (Bill Nighy) is trying to stage a comeback with the help of his manager Joe (Gregor Fisher). He has released a festive cover of The Troggs’ Love is All Around entitled Christmas is All Around. After a string of controversial media appearances where Billy Mack is increasingly inappropriate, he becomes the surprise Christmas Number One and goes to celebrate with a party at Elton John’s house. He then leaves the party to spend time with Joe, who he admits is the (platonic) “love of my life”.

Rank explained: Was it going to be any other? Taking the crown for one of the best bromances ever is Billy Mack and Joe. It feels like Bill Nighy was born to play this highly inappropriate, past his sell by date rocker, and Gregor Fisher plays the straight man fantastically. The comedic heart of the film, the pairs high jinks throughout make for some of the biggest laugh out loud moments, and the scene where Billy admits that Joe is the “fucking love of my life” never fails to make me a little misty eyed (even though it contains the hilarious line: “There’s been a terrible mistake chubs” in the SAME SENTENCE). Behind all the laughs is the message that love between friends is just as important as any other kind, and it takes the number one spot because it embodies everything the whole film is about, and manages to do so in a hilarious fashion.

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