By Steve Guntli
Are you tired of “The Night Before Christmas?” Are you sick to death of the same old Christmas songs? Are you completely over seeing “The Christmas Story” played on an endless loop on every channel? Try these fun holiday alternatives.
By Terry Pratchett
Terry Pratchett has always treated his long-running “Discworld” series like a playground, never letting the tropes of high-minded fantasy fiction keeping him from having fun. The world he’s created (a flat planet balancing on the back of four elephants who are standing on a turtle) is open and inviting, and each book in the series tells a separate story with its own cast of characters. “Hogfather,” one of the best and wittiest in the series, is gleefully silly but still rooted in the mythology that makes the series endearing even after more than 40 books.
Every December 32, the magical Santa-like Hogfather flies around to all the children of Discworld, granting their wishes in celebration of Hogswatch Eve. This year, though, the Hogfather has disappeared, and while a motley band of drunks and hooligans searches for him, Death himself steps in to replace the beloved holiday figure, and must learn to tone down his usual routine.
Fans of the series will delight at the recurring characters and running jokes, but for those who have never read a “Discworld” book before, this is a great place to start. “Hogfather” balances the skillful world-building of J.R.R. Tolkien with the dry wit of Douglas Adams.
The Ref (1994)
Directed by Ted Demme
Most Christmas movies focus on the magic, warmth and togetherness of the season. “The Ref” celebrates the stress, and as the holidays grow nearer, sometimes it’s nice to know that others understand.
Dennis Leary stars as a jewel thief who is forced to evade the police after a burglary in an upscale mansion goes wrong. Desperate, he kidnaps a married couple (Judy Davis and Kevin Spacey) as hostages, little realizing that they are in the middle of one of the most epic marital battles ever committed to film. Leary finds himself being dragged into the fight, ultimately serving as the titular referee to keep from losing his mind. To make matters worse, the couple’s juvenile delinquent son and horrible extended family are on their way for Christmas dinner.
While this is ostensibly a starring vehicle for Leary, then at the height of his stand-up popularity, the real pleasure of the film is watching two of the best actors of the era tear into each other with deliciously acidic barbs. Spacey and Davis’ characters are so intent on their fight that they barely acknowledge they’ve been kidnapped, and it’s to Leary’s credit that he lets them have the spotlight. “The Ref” may not be warm and fuzzy, but it’s well acted and very funny.
“A Very She and Him
By She and Him
For those who didn’t already know from watching TV’s “New Girl,” actress Zooey Deschanel has an incredible singing voice. She sounds contemporary, but possesses a classical quality befitting the torch singers of the 1920s. In other words, she has the perfect voice for sprucing up old holiday favorites.
She and Him, made up of Deschanel and Portland musician M. Ward, utilize their mellow chemistry for both classic Christmas carols and some more esoteric tunes. It’s hard not to get into the spirit after listening to the duo’s energetic “Rockin’ Around the Christmas Tree,” the coy “Baby, It’s Cold Outside” or the lovely “Christmas Song.” It’s the perfect selection for people looking for something a little different without sacrificing the classics.
Each of these titles is available through the Blaine Public Library. To reserve a copy, visit the local branch or go online to wcls.org.