Staff Recs: Winter bliss, not blues

WSN’s arts section spotlights some cozy entertainment for the holidays. 

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Aaliya Luthra

Here are some recommendations to listen to or watch this holiday season. (Illustration by Aaliya Luthra)

Nothing intensifies misery quite like a sun that sets before 5 p.m. Thus, in an effort to provide our readers with an antidote against the much-dreaded winter blues, we’ve collected some movies and tunes that might ward off seasonal depression, from Willie Colón’s salsa medley to Nancy Meyer’s classic holiday romantic comedy. In the spirit of Christmas, here are anthems of cheer that will hopefully fill you with mirth and not moodiness.

“Asalto Navideño: Vol. 1 & 2” by Héctor Lavoe, Willie Colón and Yomo Toro

Album

Puerto Rican salsa stars Héctor Lavoe, Willie Colón and Yomo Toro arrange a nonstop thrill ride through the rhythms and grooves of Latin American music, with “Asalto Navideño: Vol. 1 & 2.” “Asalto Navideño” offers a swirl of funny lyrics and jolly musical arrangements meant to fuel the communal festivities surrounding the holiday. Rather than the traditional religious fanfane, “Asalto Navideño” brings friends together to dance and get drunk. As the trio sing about swaying across ballrooms and vitalizing parties, they set themselves apart as advocates of goodwill, armed with a cheerful disposition and wholesome tunes. Perhaps this comes clearest in “Esta Navidad,” in which the chorus, “Esta Navidad, vamos a gozar (This Christmas we’re going to enjoy ourselves),” segues into a tremendous guitar solo, courtesy of Toro. This simple declaration of joy and musical craft is one that you cannot deny and must simply conform to by moving your body to the rhythm of their songs. 

“It’s a Wonderful Life” by Frank Capra

Film

Few holiday classics have withstood the test of time as successfully as Frank Capra’s 1946 film, “It’s a Wonderful Life.” Loosely based on Charles Dickens’ book “A Christmas Carol,” the film follows George Bailey (James Stewart) as he evaluates his life on Christmas Eve. His heartbreaking thoughts summon a guardian angel, who shows him the world as if he had never existed. Despite the dismal plot, this film has a message of joy and hope. It shows the audience that life may not go the way we plan, but we can never fail, as long as we help those around us. The true spirit of the season is epitomized in the lessons of kindness and community that this film provides.

“Nothing Breaks Your Heart Like Christmas” by Matt Maltese

Song

Let’s face it. This is a hard time of the year for a single person — amid the peak of cuffing season, romantic festivities, and dangling mistletoe that hinges on being cruelly mocking, heartbreak is often amplified by the onslaught of Christmas. Matt Maltese’s single, “Nothing Breaks Your Heart Like Christmas,” expresses these woes in a beautifully sardonic manner, thanks to a seamless fusion of his trademark lyrical wit, jazz-infused instrumentals and dry British humor. Lyrics such as “I just wanna hide while the whole world sings holiday cheers,” and “My second cousin asks what you’re up to now / I comfort-eat a whole pie and make a frown” pair with ironically cheery, twinkling piano flourishes to create the perfect song to listen to as you laugh away the pain of the holiday season.

“The Holiday” by Nancy Meyers

Movie

Nancy Meyers and Hans Zimmer come together in this romantic comedy classic that will leave you yearning to find love in some of the most unlikely places. “The Holiday” is a 2006 film that takes place between England and California, as Iris Simpkins (Kate Winslet) and Amanda Woods (Cameron Diaz) exchange homes during the winter holiday season. Both women travel across the world, looking to get over heartbreak during the holiday season after their exes cheated on them. 

With a touch of nostalgia and an empowering tale of self-discovery and love, this is the perfect holiday classic. As Iris meets and quickly befriends Arthur Abott (Eli Wallach), Amanda’s elder neighbor and an Oscar-winning screenwriter. He gives her a list of movies with strong female characters providing this romantic comedy with a sweet story of friendship, with both of the women being encouraged to become the main characters’ in their lives and find the love they deserve. If elderly friendships and self-empowerment are not enough to convince you to watch this movie, then the leading men should. To no one’s surprise, you will be falling in love with Graham (Jude Law), Iris’ charming book-editor brother who is Amanda’s new love interest, and Miles (Jack Black), who sweeps Iris off her feet as an adorable and lovable Hollywood film composer. 

“New Year’s Eve” by Garry Marshall

Movie

When it comes to holiday entertainment, I can be a bit of a Grinch. I’ll admit it: it’s fun to rewatch the whole Harry Potter series every year, and there’s a certain comfort in returning to very overplayed, but still loveable Christmas tunes — I’m pretty sure “All I Want For Christmas Is You” single-handedly paid for Mariah Carey’s house — but after a couple of days, it all becomes repetitive. For some reason, however, “New Year’s Eve,” the companion movie to “Valentine’s Day,” holds a special place in my heart. It’s not the best movie out there, and it’s not even great. But there’s a charm and excitement in the interconnected stories and star-studded cast in “New Year’s Eve,” à la “Love Actually.” 

You’ll watch Paul (Zac Efron) bend over backward for exclusive concert tickets by helping a stranger, Ingrid (Michelle Pfeiffer), complete her New Year’s resolutions. Meanwhile, Randy (Ashton Kutcher) gets stuck in an old-school elevator with his neighbor Elise (Lea Michele), who is a backup singer for Jense (Jon Bon Jovi). The cast also contains Seth Meyers, Common, Hilary Swank, Sofía Vergara, Sarah Jessica Parker, Josh Duhamel, Jake T. Austin, Halle Berry, Jessica Biel, Chris “Ludacris” Bridges and Robert De Niro — that’s a reason to watch in itself. Even if it isn’t wildly inventive or boundary-pushing, “New Year’s Eve” is a light, feel-good movie that’s perfect for holiday watching and appreciating New York City. 

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