Editor’s Note: Okay: you’ve read Joe Spillane’s thoughts on Frank Capra’s It’s a Wonderful Life, but maybe even his Points-inspired re-viewing of the film can’t get you excited about ol’ George Bailey and all that guardian angel stuff. For all those who simply can’t stand any more cinematic Christmas cheer (Acker, Ambler, McClellan, Roizen, Spillane)– or who need their holidays leavened with some drugs and alcohol (Herrera, Long, Travis)– the Points staff offers the following suggestions.
Caroline Acker: In The Big Sleep (Howard Hawks, 1946), the errant ways of Carmen Sternwood (the younger sister of the Lauren Bacall character) drive the plot. In one scene, she is apparently high on opium, which she’s been given in exchange for posing for pornographic pictures– which are retailed around town by a known “fairy,” Arthur Geiger. To cement the image of Geiger as decadent and depraved, the photo shoot takes place in his house, which is decorated with Chinese objects; the dopey Carmen is dressed in Chinese-style garb. The creepy Orientalist narcotics netherworld is juxtaposed throughout the film to the wholesome and alcohol-drenched realm where Bogey and Bacall do their thing.
Chuck Ambler: I’m not an expert on African cinema, but the recent arrest and eventual exoneration (after a “poop watch”) of Nigerian film actor and comedian, Baba Suwe got me thinking about whether drug use and drug trafficking are common plot lines in the hundreds of video films produced each year by Nigeria’s film industry—Nollywood. I haven’t come up with any yet, but one could turn to Chris Obi Rapu’s classic 1992 hit, Living in Bondage (the film that pretty much created Nollywood) as a metaphor for addiction. Like many Nollywood films, this one features lots of drinking in up-scale homes and commercial bars and cocktail lounges, but the plot turns in this movie (as in many Nigerian films) on a young man ensnared by witchcraft– and ultimately saved by Christian faith. Many Nollywood films are available on line.
Brian Herrera: Less Than Zero (Marek Kanievska, 1987). A college freshman comes home to Los Angeles for Christmas break and discovers that he can’t fix the coke-broken lives of his friends.
Go (Doug Liman, 1999). A drug deal gone wrong makes for a mad mad mad Christmas Eve in this comedy-thriller.
Rent (Chris Columbus, 2005). Christmas Eve marks both the start and finish for the five hundred twenty-five thousand six hundred minutes of the year in which everything changes for a group of NYC friends (including star-crossed and drug-addicted lovers Mimi and Roger).
Amy Long: It should be noted that Brian Herrera beat me to the punch and named not one but two (!!) of the movies I’d thought of listing here– Go and Less than Zero— so in his honor I want to recommend How the Grinch Stole Christmas (Chuck Jones, 1966). No hard feelings, though; I just had to pull a little harder to come up with the titles that follow.