Kiss Kiss Bang Bang
Before Robert Downey Jr. burst onto the scene with the Iron Man film series and got the ball rolling for his comeback with this riotous crime picture, in which he stars as Harry Lockhart – magician, petty thief, accidental actor and burgeoning private investigator. Tossed into Hollywood after stumbling into an audition while trying to escape the police on Christmas Eve, Harry finds himself celebrating the holidays in the company of ‘Gay’ Perry, the private investigator he’s shadowing for his role. Along the way he meets aspiring actress Harmony Lane and is party to a string of murders. Kiss Kiss Bang Bang carries with it the truth of the holidays: that many of the gifts you get are only temporary, and it’s the spiritual gifts that count.
Few movies capture the fraught nature of the time between Christmas and New Year’s – the sense of endings and new beginnings molding together in a recipe for memory and longing – the way Strange Days does. Released in 1995, Strange Days takes place in the far-flung future of December 1999, as the impending new millennium brings the simmering tension between cops, lowlifes, the rich and famous and the average Joe to a boil. In the midst of urban decay, Lenny Nero, ex-LAPD, peddles SQUID – illegal electronic recordings of memories and physical sensations available to anyone who’s got the cash. Lenny, however, keeps getting high on his own stash, losing himself in memories of his ex-girlfriend, while his life unravels and the city explodes around him. Strange Days is an action thriller and murder mystery charged fully with the sense of looking forward and backward simultaneously that’s unique to the final days of the year.
Based on the novel of the same name by Los Angeles writer-king James Ellroy, LA Confidential opens with a voiceover extolling the bright and sunny virtues of our fair city (‘The sun shines bright, the beaches are wide and inviting…’). This intro occurs just before the viewer is thrown head-first into the ‘Bloody Christmas’ affair and introducing us to Bud White, Ed Exley and Jack Vincennes – three men who, over the course of the film, learn that their high and mighty ideas about themselves and the work that they do are merely defense mechanisms against the ugly truth. The spirit of the holidays proves to be just as much of a mirage as a series of mob-related slayings unfolds.
Tim Burton’s second Batman film was shot at the Warner Bros. Studios in Burbank. In its artistic direction and tone, the film stands as one of cinema’s most notable false winterscapes. The film sets grotesquely stylize the ice, snow, and Christmas cheer, displaying a setting that is exaggeratedly gaudy and false. Set within this plastic wonderland, Batman Returns is ultimately a rumination on solitude and the need for human connection.