Now Playing! Dubious Taste and Rampant Absurdity this Holiday Season

Still from 'The Magic Christmas Tree,' 1964. (Courtesy of Alamo Drafthouse)

The perennial dilemma confronts us: How do we stay focused on the deeper satisfactions of the holiday season amid the onslaught of crass commercialism? While grappling with that wee challenge, it’s easy to succumb to the “embrace the cynicism” philosophy popularized by one Ebenezer Scrooge and numerous crime novelists. This year’s Noir City Xmas double bill, unspooling at the Castro on Wednesday, Dec. 14, revels vicariously in greed by way of the 1961 British heist drama Cash on Demand (starring Peter Cushing) and Sam Raimi’s pulpy 2005 rob-the-mob tale The Ice Harvest. Moral lessons and moral superiority are guaranteed.

Still from 'The Magic Christmas Tree,' 1964.
Still from 'The Magic Christmas Tree,' 1964. (Courtesy of Alamo Drafthouse)

This week’s late-night Weird Wednesday show at Alamo Drafthouse, “The Funtastic World of Santaspolitation” caters to other common reactions to the garishness and goofiness that surround us this time of year: amazement and bemusement. A cornucopia of dubious taste and rampant absurdity culled from boxes of Santa-centric moving imagery stashed in the attic of the 1960s, the program is anchored by The Magic Christmas Tree (1964), a one-hour children’s movie that, half a century on, has apparently fallen into the hands of the wrong elves. Presumably there’s a moral to this story, too, but you’re on your own.

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