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Was 'Elf' the last great Christmas movie?

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 A small man dressed as an elf holds a picture while another large man stands on the right.
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With the rise in streaming services, film critic and UMKC professor Mitch Brian said corporations don't make films anymore, rather consumerist content. "They're trying to reach the widest, possible, international audience as they can, sell as much as stuff as they can (and) tie-in as many corporations as they can; and what has emerged is a very different kind of holiday movie."

Our film critics share their favorite holiday movies that, even years later, still uphold the spirit of the season.

With the rise of commercial influence in films, many wonder if Hollywood can still produce a great holiday movie — and if anything will match up to 2003's "Elf," the last blockbuster piece of Christmas cinema.

Film critics Mitch Brian and Erin Hamer Beck joined KCUR's Up To Date to present some of their favorite movies for the joyful season. Here are their current recommendations:

Erin Hamer Beck

  • "Tangerine" — Filmed on iPhones, the movie is set on Christmas Eve. The main character, a transgender sex worker, discovers her boyfriend/pimp cheated on her and sets out to teach him a lesson. (Free on Kanopy with a public library card.)
  • "Prancer" — An 8-year-old girl discovers a reindeer in the woods that, she believes, is one of the nine pulling Santa's sleigh. (Available on HBO Max with a subscription.)
  • "A Christmas Carol" — The 1951 film is considered one of the best renditions of this classic tale, featuring Easter eggs and surprise guest appearances along the way. (Free on PLEX.)

Mitch Brian

  • "Trading Places" — Actors Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy star in this 1983 comedy following an upper-crust executive and broke hustler whose lifestyles are swapped for a social experiment. (Rent on Amazon Prime for $3.99.)
  • "Scrooged" — Another film starring a SNL alum, "Scrooged" centers Bill Murray in a modern-day (for the 1980s) retelling of the Charles Dicken's story. (Free on Amazon Prime with a subscription.)
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When I host Up To Date each morning at 9 a.m., my aim is to engage the community in conversations about the Kansas City area’s challenges, hopes and opportunities. I try to ask the questions that listeners want answered about the day’s most pressing issues and provide a place for residents to engage directly with newsmakers. My email is steve@kcur.org.
As senior producer of Up To Date, I want our listeners to hear familiar and new voices that shine light on the issues and challenges facing the myriad communities KCUR serves, and to expose our audiences to the wonderful and the creative in the Kansas City area. Just as important to me is an obligation to mentor the next generation of producers to ensure that the important conversations continue. Reach me at alexanderdk@kcur.org.
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