12 movies, documentaries and specials for your winter watchlist

Winter is here and you know what that means; it’s binge-watching season. With temperatures colder than Scrooge's heart, everyone is on the hunt for new shows and films to watch while they keep warm. So, grab your comfy blankets, cozy socks and hot cocoa. We have 12 series and movies — all with UNCSA ties — to add to your winter watch list!

1. “Christmas Inheritance”

Watch on Netflix

The Netflix original movie follows Ellen Langford, a spoiled New York City heiress. Langford is poised to inherit her father's business on one condition; she successfully delivers a letter to her dad's former partner in a town called Snow Falls. When a snowstorm strands her in the small New England town inn, she is given a new perspective on life and privilege while also experiencing an unexpected romance with the inn manager Jake Collins.

Jake Lacy (B.F.A. Drama '08) stars as Jake Collins, the Snow Falls inn manager who sparks a romance with the ambitious heiress. Lacy can also be seen in season one of the Emmy-nominated HBO-Max series “White Lotus,” NBC’s fan-favorite series “The Office” and the Peacock series “A Friend of the Family.” 

2. “Elf”

Watch on HBO Max

A movie full of Yuletide cheer, "Elf" is a spirited, good-natured family comedy that follows the story of Buddy the Elf. Buddy is a human who was accidentally transported to the North Pole as a toddler and raised by Santa's elves. In adulthood, Buddy seeks to learn about his origins and travels to New York City to meet his father — a cynical businessman who is reluctant to start a relationship with Buddy. Hailed as a modern classic, many list it among the greatest winter films of all time.

School of Design & Production faculty member Wade Wilson worked as a sound designer on the film. Wilson created Will Ferrell's famous burp — the longest-known burp in cinematic history. Wilson's work can also be seen in "The Hunger Games" and "August Rush."

3. “A Christmas Story Live!”

Rent on Amazon Prime

Starring Maya Rudolph and Matthew Broderick, “A Christmas Story Live!” is a live, televised musical event inspired by the 1983 holiday classic feature “A Christmas Story” that incorporates the 2012 Broadway musical version “A Christmas Story, The Musical.”

Notable casting director Tiffany Little Canfield (B.F.A. Drama ’00) served on the holiday feature’s casting team. As a casting director with The Telsey Office, Canfield has cast everything from commercials to Broadway shows and television shows to operas. Her recent work has included casting for the film version of Lin-Manuel Miranda’s “In the Heights”; the upcoming live-action version of “The Little Mermaid”; and the  Hulu comedy series “Only Murders in the Building,” with Steve Martin, Martin Short and Selena Gomez.

4. “Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker”

Watch on Netflix

"Dance Dreams: Hot Chocolate Nutcracker" is a documentary that spotlights Debbie Allen's career and her students at the Debbie Allen Dance Academy (DADA). The film provides a behind-the-scenes look as they prepare for Allen's award-winning rendition of "The Nutcracker," called "Hot Chocolate Nutcracker."

The documentary features former Prep Dance student and alumna April Watson (H.S. Dance ’16) during her time studying under the direction of Allen as an Artist in Residence on scholarship. In 2020, Shondaland spoke to the DADA grad and ‘Hot Chocolate Nutcracker’ star about how dance changed her life and Allen helped make her dance dreams come true.

5. “Holidate”

Watch on Netflix

Fed up with being single on holidays, two strangers agree to be each other's platonic plus-ones all year long, only to catch real feelings along the way. Emma Roberts ("American Horror Story") and Luke Bracey ("Point Break") leave no holiday behind in this saucy rom-com.

Alumnus Chase Schultz (B.F.A. Film ’13) worked as the second camera assistant and alumnus Justin Davey (B.F.A. Design & Production '08) worked as the re-recording mixer on the film. The film also features Broadway icon Kristin Chenoweth who served as the 2009 commencement speaker and holds an honorary doctorate from UNCSA.

6. “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation”

Watch on HBO Max

As the holidays approach, Clark Griswold wants the perfect family Christmas. Still, things never go smoothly for the Griswold family. Their continual bad luck is worsened when his cousin, Eddie, and his family show up unplanned and start living in their camper on the Griswold property. Even worse, Clark's employers renege on his holiday bonus.

Renowned cinematographer and School of Filmmaking faculty Tom Ackerman served as the director of photography for the film. Throughout his 50-year career in motion picture creation, Ackerman has worked with a variety of stars like multi-Oscar-winning documentarian Charles Guggenheim, filmmaker and gothic/horror icon Tim Burton and actor, comedian and producer Will Ferrell. His credits include Director of Photography for "Beetlejuice" (1988) starring Michael Keaton, “Jumanji” (1995) starring Robin Williams and “Anchorman: The Legend of Ron Burgundy” (2004).

7. “Hot Mess Holiday”

Purchase on Amazon Prime

After being unceremoniously dumped by her cheating fiancé during the Diwali holidays, a jilted woman and her friends take a trip to Chicago, where they accidentally find a valuable diamond. But when it goes missing, they must find it before they get their eyes scooped out by a homicidal maniac.

The Comedy Central original movie features alumnus Chris Parnell (B.FA. Drama ’89) as “Mike.” Parnell can also be seen in “Rick and Morty,” “Archer,” “Love, Death + Robots,” “Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt,” “21 Jump Street,” “Will & Grace,” “Grown-ish,” “30 Rock,” “Saturday Night Live,” and “Senior Year.”

8. “A Hollywood Christmas”

Watch on HBO Max

Jessica, a young, up-and-coming Hollywood filmmaker, has made a name for herself directing Christmas movies. But when a handsome network exec shows up, threatening to halt production on her latest film, she finds herself living in her own Christmas movie. Jessica must now juggle all the classic tropes to get her movie – and life – to their happy endings. 

This brand-new film features alumnus Missi Pyle (B.F.A. Drama ’96) as Theresa Frost. Pyle has appeared in several popular projects, including “Galaxy Quest,” “Dodgeball: A True Underdog Story,” “Gone Girl” and “Charlie and the Chocolate Factory." 

9. “Dolly Parton’s Mountain Magic Christmas”

Watch on NBC  

Everyone’s favorite iconic country queen is back to spread holiday cheer in her brand-new Christmas special, “Dolly Parton’s Mountain Magic Christmas.” Inspired by the hopeful spirit of the Great Smoky Mountains, the contemporary movie-musical tells the backstage story of making a network TV special. Throughout the chaos, Dolly takes a journey guided by Three Wise Mountain Men and is taught valuable lessons. Set in the star’s Tennessee amusement park, Dollywood, the holiday special features stars like Jimmy Fallon, Miley Cyrus, Billy Ray Cyrus, Willie Nelson and more.

Rhoda Griffis (B.F.A. Drama ’83) stars as Judy Ogle in the special. Griffis currently serves as a UNCSA Board of Trustees member and can be seen in hit films “The Blind Side” and “Walk the Line.”

10. “The Color Purple”

Though fans will have to make the trek to the movie theater on Christmas Day, seeing the newest adaptation of Alice Walker's "The Color Purple" is worth it as it is being hailed as a 'bold new take on the beloved classic.' Featuring a star studded cast – including North Carolina's own Fantasia Barrino – and music from the award-winning stage production, "The Color Purple" is a "decades-spanning tale of love and resilience and of one woman's journey to independence."

Tiffany Little Canfield also served as casting director for the film. 

Editor's Note: School of Drama faculty member Krisha Marcano originated the role of Squeak in the original Broadway cast. 

11. “Home Alone”

Watch on Disney+

When eight-year-old troublemaker Kevin McCallister acts out the night before the family’s holiday trip to Paris, his mother makes him sleep in the attic. After the McCallisters accidentally leave for the airport without Kevin, he wakes up to an empty house. He assumes his wish to have no family has come true. But his excitement quickly sours when he must protect his family’s home from a pair of burglars.

School of Filmmaking faculty Eve Cauley served as Set Decorator for the film. Cauley joined the Production Design department after 32 years in the film industry. Kicking off her career with the Oscar-winning film “The Untouchables,” she has worked in film and television production design, art direction and decorating. Before her film career, she designed, decorated and painted sets for many major member theatres of the League of Resident Theatres (LORT).

BONUS: “The Nutcracker and the Four Realms”

Watch on Disney+

Disney's reimagining of “The Nutcracker” follows Young Clara on her journey to find a magical, one-of-a-kind key to unlock a box that contains a priceless gift from her mother. A golden thread leads her to the coveted key, but it soon disappears into a strange and mysterious parallel world — the four secret realms. There she discovers her greatest strength could change the world.

American Ballet Theatre principal dancer and UNCSA guest artist Misty Copeland is featured in the film as the Ballerina Princess. Copeland recently visited campus to talk about her life, career and influences, as well as issues of equity, diversity, inclusion and belonging in ballet.

by Natalie Shrader & Melissa Upton-Julio

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Originally published: Dec. 13, 2022, Updated: Dec. 12, 2023

December 13, 2022