Elf

Elf. Three letters which indicate the greatest Christmas movie ever. Ever.

It's easy to miss it on the endless 'holiday' movie crapfest that's on Netflix. Tinder swipe your way past it at your peril. Don't misunderstand me. I love James Steward and I love that he has a Wonderful Life. And I hate that smug little Mara Wilson. I hope the miracle on 34th street is that I go back in time and slap that kid's face. I wouldn't get tired. Oh, how Ebeneezer of me. She's probably all grown up and a Cross Fit freak who'd beat me silly.

What is it about this film that makes my heart glow, like I've drank a pint of mulled wine? Quite simply, because Buddy the Elf effortlessly reminds us what is so awesome about Christmas. Buddy (played by notoriously tall Will Ferrell) is an orphan accidentally snatched by Father Christmas and raised as an elf in the North Pole. After unintentionally wreaking havoc in the elf community, he sets off to find his real Dad (James Caan) and his true identity in New York.


I have a weird, self imposed tradition about this film. Until now, I've been left alone to indulge it, but now the little dude has come along, I firmly intend to include him. Here's the criteria: December 23rd, a pile of presents, huge box of malteesers, gift tags, sellotape and half a forest of wrapping paper. Hit that play button please! This tradition is more of an audio treat for me, as I'm tearing through sellotape with my teeth while it plays. The result is I can irritate many people by quoting it. I think you can see where I'm going with this...


  • "I am a cotton headed ninny muggins"
    Buddy understands better than anyone how to phrase self admonishment after reflecting on behaviour at the work Christmas party. According to some research talked about on Radio 4 (so it must be legit) the Brits are the worst for revealing embarrassing truths about themselves, or behaving inappropriately at the annual work do. I'm definitely guilty of both. In my first career by boss gave me this sage advice: get your client drunk, get your boss drunk, then get drunk. After that party my friend became legendary with the London Fire Brigade Service for her vodka fuelled antics. In that industry, it gained her a promotion: you've got to love Advertising.  


  • "You didn't recognise me? I'm wearing work clothes today"
    He won't give up on being an Elf, even when his father tries to pigeon hole him as a bland worker-bee corporate american. A smart suit and camel coat have never looked more absurd than on Buddy, crossed legged in a corner office. To get philosophical, we all have to adopt a uniform for work (not always literally) but it's important to be like Buddy, and cherish our true identity, otherwise what are you left with when you retire?  
  • "First we'll make snow angels for two hours"
    His pure childlike joy of Christmas makes me greener than the Grinch with envy. I mourn for the feeling of Christmas Eve when I was a child. I used to make lists to plan out the day, just so I could cope with the excitement. A Freudian slip, which exposed what a massive, organisational nerd I was even as a child. One year my older brother found it and mocked me mercilessly (justly, I now retrospectively see) for writing the following.
9.15am look a the tree
9.30am eat chocolate coins
10am watch Snowman

Why I would stare slack jawed at the tree for a quarter of an hour is beyond me, but I bet Buddy would, so I feel a bit better about it.


  • "SANTA! Oh my gosh, I know him! I know him!"
    Buddy tackles office boredom like a boss. I once had a job for... hmm, let's just call them the UK's largest health and beauty retailer, which gave me stress panic because of the boredom. Once, I spent a whole day cutting out paper snowflakes to decorate my desk and my boss didn't bat an eyelid.

  • "Singing? Well, it's just like talking, except longer and louder, and you move your voice up and down."
    I'm not a bad singer, but at Carol Services I think I'm Adele. If you're wearing a hat in the pew in front, prepare for it be blasted off with a burst of 'O Come all Ye Faithful' rocking out of my lungs. I don't even tone it down for 'Silent Night'.



  • "You sit on a throne of lies!"
    He's smarter and braver than I'll ever be. There's many a Christmas meal (usually with work) I've attended and had to hold my tongue as some guest, fuelled by festive jagerbombs, prattles on about how awesome they are.

  •  "Son of a NUT-cracker"

    It's only happened to me once, that truly Dickensian white Christmas and it was awesome - partly because it's my second favourite memory of my Dad (he's still alive, don't worry). My favourite is how drunk he got at my brothers wedding, but I'll save that for later. Picture the scene: midnight mass over, we leave church to see in the past hour a blanket of fresh snow has fallen. The stars are bright, the tree lights twinkle, the peace is unbroken. Until my Dad, hiding behind a tree like a child, smacks me in the head with an icy cannonball. He's definitely no Scrooge, but neither is he a Mr Fezziwig, so this behaviour was surprising to say the least. Like Buddy shows us, this is further proof that a snowball fight can unite hearts and minds with joy, and pure icy vengeance.



  • "We elves try to stick to the four main food groups: candy, candy canes, candy corn, and syrup"
    which is basically everyone's December diet.



  • "If you see a sign that says 'Peep Show' they're not letting you see new toys before Christmas."
    Christmas is a time to reconnect with Christ and to think about society, how we treat others and what kind of world our kids will grow up in. The difference between Buddy's joyful naivety and the cold, harshness of New Yorkers is as red and white as a candy cane. With each person Buddy meets, he melts their cynicism, their indifference to those around them, their selfishness and greed and leaves each of them a better person for the experience. I'm not saying Buddy is the second coming - but he's a good secular metaphor for Christian values of good will and peace to all men. Just he comes with candy. Lots and lots of candy.

Indiscreet (1958)


Oldie rom-coms are the best. No, I don't mean watching Meryl Streep and Alec Baldwin getting it on. I mean, old fashioned. My goodness me, they play fast and loose with pace, feature outrageously aspirational wardrobes and simply smoulder and ooze charisma from every movie minute. What's not to like: Cary Grant and Ingrid Bergman. I mean. 

With a reputation for making easy breezy films, director Stanley Donen, has proven that 60 years on Indiscreet still appeals to an adult audience with a half a brain. Actually, you really do need a brain, as unlike modern rom-coms where Katherine Heigl sums up what's happening every five minutes, this movie allows you to piece together the plot holes like a puzzle. 

Talking of that plot, there's something Shakespearian about it. Really. It's just missing a twin to add to the screw ball comedy of it. So what gives? Famous theatre actress Anna Kalman (Ingrid Bergman) has resigned herself to her single life, believing that she has missed her chance at meeting a husband. Weary of socializing in Europe, she returns to her London flat, where her sister Margaret (Phyllis Calvert) and diplomat brother-in-law Alfred (Cecil Parker) invite her to a banquet. She declines until Alfred's banker friend, Philip Adams (Cary Grant), arrives and... surprise, surprise their romance begins, but, (here comes the jeopardy), he's already married! 

We learn quite quickly that the absurdly dashing, playboy politician, Phillip is a bit of a bastard. A bounder. A cad. A stereotype missing from modern cinema. He pretends he's bound in a loveless marriage of convenience, so to avoid women seeking a long term commitment from him. He's unapologetic. Normally, you'd dislike such a character, but his caprice is matched by Anna, a pampered, indulged starlet who takes what she wants. The in joke here is the institution of marriage, not either being duped by the other. 

There's lots of tounge in cheek comments lurking in this film, and Anna's brother in law, Alfred delivers the lions share. Blink and you'll miss it, for his performance is fabulously understated - "There is no sincerity like a woman telling a lie."

Anna is a character who cares not for convention and it's best summed up when she discovers the truth of Philips marital status "how dare he make love to me and not be a married man." She's a woman who enjoys her 'sparkle' of fame, money and men with no apology. A refreshingly liberal and un-achored woman for a 1950s audience. The irony here, is that Ingrid Bergman is kind of playing herself, having ostracised herself from Hollywood by having an affair with Italian director Roberto Rossellini. Sweet revenge to bite your thumb at the conservative values of the day by making them laugh at the idea of monogamy.


Of course, this subversive subtext is covered up slightly by the usual melodrama we'd expect. Anna, kneeling before Philip begging forgiveness at her suggestion they get married. Her mooching about the house, waiting for his call. She can't eat. She can't sleep. She can only swoon and mope... around her gorgeous penthouse apartment, drinking champagne as she pleases, socialising with who she wants to, dressing herself head to toe in designer garments. I rather feel, Ingrid with a nod and wink, was listening to Destiny's Child 'Independent Women' as she hams up the portrait of pining, love struck lady.

Equally mocking in tone is Phillip who bemoans Anna's indifference to his sappiness; "Oh, I tell you. Women are not the sensitive sex. That's one of the grand delusions of literature. Men are the true romanticists." This made me laugh as he's right, the great 'canon' of English Literature includes scant little from female poets and novelists. A fact that came out recently on Poetry Day on Radio 4. Featured on Woman's Hour was an audio treat delivered by Andrew Marr written by Shakespeare's contemporary Aemilia Lanyer. Never heard of her? Nope. Hardly anyone has. But check out these lines for some meter bashing, poetic awesomeness. 

Then let us have our liberty again
And challenge to yourselves no sovereignty
You came not into the world without our pain
Make that a bar against your cruelty
Your fault being great, why should you disdain?
Our being your equals, free from tyranny
If one weak woman, simply did offend
The sin of yours hath no excuse, nor no end.

I digress. Stick with me, it links back to the film. Lanyer in the 16th Century was ostensibly saying women are just as bad as men, and this is the joke in Indiscreet too. This is a wonderful, intelligent film, full of subtly brilliant one-liners. Bergman and Grant prove they can do drama (Notorious) as well as they can do comedy. Balancing a sharp and satirical script are moments of hilarious slapstick like Cary Grant dancing. Oh my. Wipe the tears. Just look at his face! Even he can't believe he's doing this.

Although this film wasn't as popular as his other successes, (Singin in the Rain, to name but one), it is still well crafted. Also, a film where the wardrobe department raided vintage Dior is a delight to watch!