Why do we all experience such dire mood swings during the holidays? (Everybody duck! Here comes another one.) There are many reasons. First and foremost, we all spend far too much time watching “happy” movies on the telly. This is a grave mistake. Bedknobs and Broomsticks, Chitty Chitty Bang Bang and the like, with their excessively cheery on-screen shenanigans, will only serve to magnify the gruesomeness of your reality. With that in mind, permit me to suggest the following gift. (It’s a grim-but-ultimately-uplifting-because-even-your-grody-life-is-not-as-horrible-as-this holiday DVD feel-good gift pack.)
I offer you The Devil’s Double, starring Dominic Cooper as Saddam Hussein’s son Uday. (He also plays his body double Latif Yahia.) How to describe this mind-numbingly fabulous performance? It is an alarming mélange of Faye Dunaway in Mommie Dearest and Al Pacino in Scarface. That’s how alarming it is. When the movie is over you can heave a massive sigh of relief, jab your white-hot mulling poker into a hearty bucket of cider, and celebrate the fact that those Hussein boys are no longer stalking the Earth.
Keeping with the satanic theme, in addition to The Devil’s Double, I offer you The Devils. Directed by the recently deceased Ken Russell, this 1971 gothic ghoul-ash of Grand Guignol is, with its orgiastic convent scenes, a perfect antidote to that nun-strewn holiday fave, The Sound of Music. Based on Aldous Huxley’s The Devils of Loudun, and featuring magnificently lavatorial sets by a young Derek Jarman, this remarkable movie delivers a gripping montage of plague, demonic possession, and mass hysteria, including Vanessa Redgrave as hunch-backed horny sister Jeanne, not to mention my old pal Imogen Claire, who appears in several scenes wearing nothing but a wimple. Don’t judge her too harshly. Decent work as an extra was hard to find back in the early ’70s.
Watching excessively upbeat movies is not the only reason we get bummed out around the holidays. Gift guides! Gift guides! Gift guides! The mandate to shower everybody in one’s orbit with exquisite and artfully chosen gifts has become quite overwhelming. This pressure to pamper cascades from the Internet and from every periodical on a daily basis, prompting the question, “How did we manage before we were spoon-fed these unremitting torrent of gifting suggestions.”
The answer is simple: Back in the olden days everyone on your list got the same thing every year. Granny got her chocolate-dipped dried apricots, regardless of how gassy they made her. Uncle Dave wore Old Spice aftershave. You knew it. He knew it. We all knew it, especially after he had sloshed it all over himself in a booze-addled frenzy and headed to the pub on Boxing Day.
And sometimes you would encounter what I call a multiple-choice gift recipient. My mother Betty was once such person. My sister and I knew exactly what our options were. Mater would accept any or all of the following: a pack of fancy Passing Clouds cigarettes, the ones with the louchely reclining cavalier adorning the pink exterior; a box of Prestat violet creams; or a bottle of L’air du Temps by Nina Ricci. For my dad, Xmas was a time to celebrate my mum’s great legs: He’d get her a couple of pairs of black, sheer, seamed nylons, and he was good to go. Any creative deviation from this list by any family member would have been deemed presumptuous. This golden era of uncomplicated gifting has long since evaporated. Gifts are no longer chosen to simply meet the recipient’s expectations. They must now exceed them, by miles.
In order to sidestep this situation, I have adopted a different but comparably simple approach: I buy the same gift for everyone on my list, thereby saving time and avoiding jangled holiday nerves. In addition, I make sure that my choices reflect my own personal causes and affiliations. Here are this year’s selections, chicks first:
I will be buying all my female friends Lady Gaga Born This Way lip gloss by Francois Nars. (Twenty-five percent of all sales of Barneys Gaga merch benefit the Born This Way Foundation, started this year by Lady G. and her mom, Cynthia, to support youth empowerment and anti bullying.)
The blokes: This year my male friends will be receiving a peace candle from my husband, Jonathan Adler, partly because I am committed to supporting my bloke, but also because it comes in a gold ceramic studded container which makes a perfect vide-poche once the candle has expired. I find that being able to vide my poche with equanimity at this time of year has always helped combat holiday mood-swings.