3 Movies Like EXmas (2023)

Staff & contributors
How do you make a film about the Holocaust feel new? How do you make the terrors feel fresh, like it was just in the news, without sounding redundant or without giving into the sensationalized and emotionally manipulative? For Director Jonathan Glazer, the answer lies in not what you show but what you don’t show. The Zone of Interest is shot from the point of view of Nazi Officer Rudolf Höss (Christian Friedel) and his wife Hedwig (Sandra Hüller), who live a dreamy life right next to the infamous Auschwitz death camp. Glazer frames them plainly and without flourish as they ignore (or, arguably, revel in) the glow of burning bodies, the howls of pain, and the billows of smoke coming from the torture chamber a wall away. It’s a powerful, nauseating contrast that turns the question from “How can they do this?” to “Who among us is committing the same things right now?” Who among us is casting a blind eye to the atrocities and genocide being committed at this very moment to our neighbors? The film, which is also a technical feat in terms of the way it’s shot (the crew and cameras remained hidden so that the actors were free to roam, as if in a play) is chilling and thought-provoking, and it will unnerve you for days on end.

Genre: Drama, History, War

Actor: Anastazja Drobniak, Christian Friedel, Daniel Holzberg, Freya Kreutzkam, Imogen Kogge, Jakub Sierenberg, Johann Karthaus, Klaudiusz Kaufmann, Lilli Falk, Luis Noah Witte, Marie Rosa Tietjen, Maximilian Beck, Medusa Knopf, Nele Ahrensmeier, Rainer Haustein, Ralph Herforth, Sandra Hüller, Sascha Maaz, Shenja Lacher, Thomas Neumann

Director: Jonathan Glazer

Rating: PG-13

South African director John Trengove follows-up his debut The Wound with another take on masculinity, this time set in the States. Manodrome stars Jesse Eisenberg and Adrien Brody as a newbie and a veteran in a support group for men who have been emasculated by women and feminism. That's right, this is a film about incel culture, but one you haven't seen before. In tandem with Taxi Driver, Fight Club, or Joker, Manodrome represents a new era for the incel movie, as it confronts all the terror and aggression feeding into the community head on. Ralphie (Eisenberg) insists that his girlfriend Sal (Odessa Young) keeps their unplanned baby and deep down the rabbit hole he goes. Mental health struggles that have no outlet, worries, disappointment, alienation: all these facets of Ralphie's character come to the fore and bring him to the Manodrome clan, where Dad Dan (Brody) promises two miracles—absolution and acceptance—in exchange for celibacy. Trengove's sophomore feature is a blood-curdling psychological thriller that is not afraid to go to extremes (content warning!) to show that incels are not, in fact, a dorky online minority of youngsters, but a real wound in the body of our patriarchal world.

Genre: Drama, Mystery, Thriller

Actor: Adam Wade McLaughlin, Adrien Brody, Brian Anthony Wilson, Caleb Eberhardt, Ethan Suplee, Evan Jonigkeit, Garrett Richmond, Jesse Eisenberg, Jonah Wharton, Lamar Johnson, Matthew Lamb, Odessa Young, Philip Ettinger, Riley Keough, Sallieu Sesay, Zia Anger

Director: John Trengove

Rating: R

Christmas is a common setting for romance stories, because it’s obviously the best time to warm up… if you know what we mean. (Warm drinks, sweet treats, and snuggling with loved ones, of course.) Christmas as Usual seems to go along that vein, as Thea brings home her fiancé Jashan to meet the parents, and he tries to impress her family, as these family Christmas romances tend to go. This obviously brings about the relatable romantic troubles that anyone can empathize with, so it’s a bit of a shock when Thea’s Norwegian family treats Jashan so badly that it seems more insidious than good ol’ concern over their daughter. Had the story been approached with more sensitivity, Christmas as Usual would have been outstanding, but its current version never really questions the racism of the Norwegian family, or the passive way Thea just lets it all happen.

Genre: Comedy, Drama, Romance

Actor: Ida Ursin-Holm, Jonas Strand Gravli, Kanan Gill, Mads Sjogard Pettersen, Marit Andreassen, Veslemøy Mørkrid

Director: Petter Holmsen