Bah, humbug: anti-Christmas treats for the tinseled-out

<span>Photograph: Cate Cameron/AP</span>
Photograph: Cate Cameron/AP


There is plenty of cheer in the unapologetically silly, raunchy comedy Barb and Star Go to Vista Del Mar, but none of it particularly festive. It’s written by Annie Mumolo and Kristen Wiig – the team behind hit 2011 film Bridesmaids – and the two comedians also star as small-town Nebraskans having a rollicking good time on their first ever vacation. The fictional Florida town of Vista Del Mar is saturated in beachy summery hues, the hotel pool is an exquisite aquamarine blue, and talking crabs and mermaids feature. Yet in this cheerful idyll, danger brews in the form of a sun-avoiding supervillain plotting revenge on the forever-tanned Floridians. Jamie Dornan, playing the Hawaiian shirt-loving henchman, is a particular delight. Rebecca Liu

* * *


Agnes Martin’s life story and art are an antidote to Christmas excess, its noise and crowds. In the 1960s, the abstract painter and student of Zen left New York’s art scene for New Mexico’s empty, open wilderness. Her gridded paintings offset geometry with nature’s unpredictability: their straight lines are hand-drawn with wavering pencil, while the rough canvas is tangible through her thin washes of pastel paint. On the one hand, they are pure abstraction, but they also suggest the desert’s luminous, blissfully people-free expanse. This late series saw Martin return to titling her works, which channelled positive memories. Her Happy Holiday from 1999 is a serene vision in the wispy pale peach and blue of a winter dawn. Skye Sherwin

* * *


As the old adage goes, the best way to get over an old year is to get stuck straight into a new one – or something like that. If the lethargy of Crimbo limbo and endless 2022 retrospectives are getting you down, stick on Nia Archives’ Forbidden Feelingz and Headz Gone West EPs instead; one of the hottest tipped artists for 2023, her diasporic, upbeat blend of reggae, house, jungle and lo-fi lovers rock feels distinctly like the future, guaranteed to get even the weariest of December heads nodding in approval. Jenessa Williams

* * *


What could be less Christmassy than Patrick Bateman, the protagonist of American Psycho, talking about beating up homeless people, ripping the skin off his victims or hitting someone in the face with an axe? Nothing. Except perhaps Patrick Bateman extolling the virtues of Huey Lewis and the News. Bret Easton Ellis’s savage evisceration of the creatures who wander around Wall Street is an admittedly extreme escape from seasonal jollity – but highly effective. It’s as compelling as it is horrifying, as funny as it is disturbing. There is even serious food for thought alongside all the cannibalism. Ultimately, this book is a profoundly effective takedown of power, money and consumerism. It might not make you feel better – but it will make you feel different. Sam Jordison

* * *


Carly Chaikin and Rami Malek in Mr Robot.
Carly Chaikin and Rami Malek in Mr Robot. Photograph: USA Network/Getty Images

What better way to escape the forced warmth and cordiality of Christmas than to retreat under the covers and watch a show about one of the definitive fictional loners? In the psychological thriller Mr Robot, Elliot, who is managing alienation, depression, substance abuse and dissociative identity disorder, redirects his daytime skills as a computer engineer into deceiving people to hack into their accounts. For good, though. He connects with people through their social networks and deals with their enemies. Like a perverse overly online Batman, he becomes a “cyber vigilante” working to destroy “evil” corporations including the one that killed his father, subtly named E Corp. In the end, his uninvited interference in people’s lives is more Santa than Satan, but you would be less delighted to find him in your house at 2am helping himself to milk from the fridge. Jason Okundaye