Bad Santa, The Ref, Holiday Inn, White Christmas

The Ultimate Christmas Movie Showdown: Rounds 11 and 12

Sometimes we dream of a White Christmas but sometimes we dream of telling our family exactly what we think of them. Why can’t we have both?

Today’s Showdown match-ups are the perfect combo of anti-festive catharsis and cozy Christmas classics. The first battle features a pair of films devoted to the darker side of the season, though played for laughs, while the second sees seasonal favourite Bing Crosby face off against himself as Holiday Inn and White Christmas go head-to-head. 

Read up on all four films below then weigh in and vote for your picks!

Round 11:

Bad Santa, The Ref

Bad Santa (2003)

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Easily the crudest film on our holiday face off, Bad Santa looks straight at the seedier parts of the season. Through a sexed up, alcoholic criminal we are given every reason to never trust a mall Santa with a child ever again. Willie (Billy Bob Thornton) is exploring the lower crevices beneath what any other rational human would deem “rock bottom” when he decides to take advantage of a young kid living with a low-functioning grandma while working as a Santa and planning his next heist. While this might seem like an outlier in terms of feeling the spirit of the season, Willie’s character development and redemption far exceeds anything that wimp George Bailey ever gains. Willie has demons he needs to fight and through the magic of Christmas, he starts to come to his senses. – Deirdre Crimmins

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 79%

 

The Ref (1994)

Kevin Spacey’s unfortunate existence aside, The Ref is possibly the most cathartic and truthfully hilarious Christmas comedies out there. On Christmas Eve, cat burglar Gus (Denis Leary) is stuck in a small Connecticut town as the police do a thorough search to find, well, him. With nowhere to hide, Gus takes dysfunctional couple Lloyd and Caroline (Spacey and Judy Davis) and their teenaged son Jesse (Robert J. Steinmiller Jr.) hostage for the night. To allay suspicion, he even goes so far as to pose as their much-needed marriage counsellor when their insufferable extended family visits for the night. Lloyd and Caroline are both pretty awful to each other, and the presence of a criminal and copious amounts of alcohol removes any pretence of civility or affection. Seeing this emotional pressure valve release is the ultimate escape from our own troubled families, just when we need it most. And you will never see Christine Baranski yell, “Slipper socks, medium” with such fervour anywhere else. – DC

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Rotten Tomatoes Score: 72%

VOTE:

10
Christmas Showdown: Round 11

Which of these two cynical Christmas comedies gets your vote?

The poll has expired!

Voting ends December 7 at 11:59 EST.

 

ROUND 12:

Holiday Inn, White Christmas

Holiday Inn (1942)

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It doesn’t get much better than Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire. Add to that a laundry list of memorable Irving Berlin songs and a stellar supporting cast including scene-stealer Walter Abel and you’ve got yourself a winning festive movie classic. Known best as the film which introduced the world to Berlin’s White Christmas–the second best-selling song of all time–Holiday Inn follows Jim Hardy (Crosby), a showbiz vet who retires to a farm but finds it to be too much work so decides to run an Inn open only on holidays. A fabulous set-up for a host of memorable songs and dance numbers, including the unfortunate “Abraham” performance. Memorable for all the wrong reasons, the minstrel number celebrating Lincoln’s birthday contains total black-face and so many reprehensible stereotypes that it acts as a mid-movie history lesson on the state of racial relations in Hollywood and the US circa 1942. It’s an incredibly distressing, offensive and disappointing set-piece in a classic filled to the brim with other clever, inoffensive standards like “Easter Parade” and “Happy Holidays”.

While Crosby does a stellar job as Hardy, the film belongs to Astaire–here playing against type as Ted Hanover, Hardy’s underhanded former showbiz partner who has a habit of stealing his friend’s romantic partners. Every dance number is a complete delight but the highlight has to be his drunken New Year’s Eve pair-up with Marjorie Reynolds, which ends with Astaire face-planting on the floor amid the revellers. He is the perfect foil for Crosby’s easy-going charm and together they create a cozy Christmas classic (minus “Abraham”) that deserves to step out from underneath the shadow of 1954’s White Christmas. – Emma Badame

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 100%

 

White Christmas (1954)

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If you want your classic Bing Crosby Christmas musical with less blackface than Holiday Inn, and you have a sizeable tolerance for military propaganda, then White Christmas is for you! Capitalizing on the titular hit song, White Christmas has four performers head up to Vermont for the holidays, only to be met with no snow, which means no tourists nor their fat wallets to keep the tourism industry afloat. By lucky coincidence the inn that these four head to happens to be run by the retired general of the unit where the two men of the quartet served in WW2. Feeling forgotten with a failing business, the two Broadway men make it their business to lift his spirits, save the inn, and woo the sisters with whom they traveled up north. Looking past the glorification of the troops, there is an undeniable sweetness and heart to the desire to save the general from economic and self-esteem peril. The personal sacrifice these men make, and ask others to make, is touching and a powerful showcase for the magic of the Christmas season. – DC

Rotten Tomatoes Score: 77%

VOTE:

9
Christmas Showdown: Round 12

Which of these Bing Crosby Christmas classics gets your vote?

The poll has expired!

Voting ends December 7 at 11:59 EST.

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The elimination showdown runs from December 1 until the 23, with the Ultimate Christmas Movie being unveiled on Christmas Eve! You can vote here, on Twitter, or on Instagram. Find out if your favourites are in the running below, then tune in tomorrow for two new face offs…

The Brackets:

 

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