I say Die Hard is a Christmas movie, Mark Thomas says it isn’t
Life is full of big questions. Which came first, the chicken or the egg? Are Jaffa Cakes cakes or biscuits? And, at this time of year at least, perhaps the biggest of them all - is Die Hard a Christmas movie? Comedian Mark Thomas and I got into it.
“Who the **** is against Christmas,” says Mark when I ask if he’s full of festive cheer. “The only people who are against Christmas are the people who think Die Hard is a Christmas movie.”
We’re supposed to be talking about his forthcoming tour, Showtime from the Frontline, which sees him and his team setting out to run a comedy club in the Palestinian city of Jenin. My first proper question though is how is Die hard not a Christmas movie?
New York cop John McClane (Bruce Willis) visits his estranged wife on Christmas Eve during her office party. The festivities are interrupted by terrorists who hold everybody at the high-rise shindig hostage, with only McClane left to stop them.
“It’s an action movie that happens to be set at Christmas time. I’ve had an argument with a vicar about this, who believes the story is one of redemption,” says Mark.
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“It’s not about redemption, it’s a tough bloke who’s slightly awful killing other tough blokes who are very awful. He’s fighting baddies, that’s the gig. She was saying ‘but the marriage comes back together’. I said ‘yeah, that’s just an advanced stage of ******* Stockholm Syndrome, that his wife comes back to him’. The point being is there’s not one redemptive Christmassy thing about it.”
I should’ve pressed my argument by bringing up the “now I have a machine gun ho-ho-ho” jumper scene.
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Then there’s Run DMC’s Christmas in Hollis, turned up to 11 by limousine driver Argyle. It’s featured on two Christmas compilations, samples holiday songs Back Door Santa, Frosty the Snowman, Jingle Bells and Joy to the World. It even features a slide whistle.
How much Christmas does he want?
Instead I strengthen Mark’s view by mentioning the McClane’s marriage collapses again a few films later.
“That hadn’t occurred... I obviously don’t watch ITV3 enough to follow through all the ******* Die Hard strands.”
Touché Mr Thomas.
The comedian, presenter, political satirist and journalist adores Christmas. There’s a tradition in his house that you can’t start cooking Christmas eve tea until he’s cried at It’s a Wonderful Life.
“Wouldn’t it be much better if you had been on the original Miracle on 34th Street or It’s a Wonderful Life where you rediscover the importance of your role within the community, its values, challenge the capitalist neo-liberalism of Mr Potter and the evil banks?
“Or wouldn’t it be better actually being in Ernst Lubitsch’s The Shop Around the Corner, the movie on which You’ve Got Mail is based on which is set at Christmas? An absolutely beautiful film.”
I daren’t tell him I’ve never watched James Stewart’s encounter with angel Clarence all the way through. If we can’t agree Gremlins is definitely a Christmas film I fear the interview may be over before it’s really begun.
“Gremlins is a Christmas film without doubt. What you’ve got to remember about Gremlins is that it’s a film about Christmas, the sanctity of Christmas being destroyed. Therefore the film cannot be anything but a Christmas film.
“Actually, at the end, it’s about the families, the individual components of that community coming together and celebrating. It’s about the things they shared in common, that they find to exist greater bonds in adversity. It’s a beautiful Christmassy message.”
Gremlins 2 The New Batch is horrible though.
“It is, but for the fact they satirised Donald Trump in the Clamp Tower.”
Dodging cultural and literal bullets, Israeli incursions and religion, Showtime from the Frontline sees Mark and co find it’s not so simple to celebrate freedom of speech in a place with so little freedom.
See them at Colchester Arts Centre, January 31; Norwich Playhouse, February 8 and Cambridge Junction April 7. Full interview coming soon.