All around the world it’s Christmas

Of course it’s also Yule, Hannakah, Eid, Diwali, Kwanzaa, Festivus and Chrismukkah …
But, anyway, I have a ton of stuff I traditionally view this month and between Hulu and recording a lot of it on DVD, I was able to see most of it (forgot, however, that I needed new DVDs of the Sim Christmas Carol and Miracle on 34th Street)

Specials and TV episodes:
ROBBIE THE REINDEER IN HOOVES OF FIRE is the British comedic sequel in which Rudolph’s nitwit offspring shows up to join Santa’s sleigh only to have Blitzen’s scheming undercut him and destroy his confidence. Not A-list, but amusing enough. “Use the nose jump Robbier—the nose jump!”
CHRISTMAS CAROL II: THE SEQUEL was an episode of the George Burns Comedy Show in which Scrooge (James Whitmore) gets a visit from the ghosts a year later and learns that his new generous spirit is causing a whole set of problems for the Cratchitts (Roddy McDowell, Samantha Eggar and Ed Begley Jr. as the grown-up Tiny Tim). This one is definitely first rate. “A pauper’s grave! And they misspelled my name—Ebenoozer Screege, for all eternity!”
HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS—well, what can you say about the triple threat of Boris Karloff narrating, Theodore Geisel writing and Chuck Jones animating? A true classic. “What happened next? Down in Whoville they say/That the Grinch’s small heart/Grew three sizes that day.”
A CLAYMATION CHRISTMAS CAROL is a claymation anthology in which two dinosaurs try to figure out wassailing, Quasimodo conducts the Carol of the Bells and the California Raisins sing about Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. A fun one. “Maybe wassail is an old word for waffe?”
WKRP IN CINCINNATTI: Bah, Humbug! is an episode of the classic comedy (if you’ve never seen an episode, I highly recommend Netflixing some—now!) in which three Christmas Ghosts visit a beleaguered radio station manager on Christmas Eve; what makes it s stand out among TV’s many Dickensian episodes is a)it’s a good show all around; b)the acknowledgment of its roots (“This is one of those Christmas Carol-things, isn’t it?”). “The chickens have come home to roost, my friend! The horse has left the stable! The cows have bolted!”
GLEE: A Glee Christmas probably won’t become a perennial but the riff on the Grinch—not to mention a few other Christmas perennials—made for fun viewing. “Elves have awesome blood for stem-cell research.”
EUREKA: O’ Little Town was also a fun Christmas episode as the world’s most scientifically advanced town discovers that a new recipe for fruitcake is causing them to shrink, one scientist devotes himself to duplicating all of Santa’s tricks and the town sheriff insists that mystery guy full of Christmas spirit was really … “This is Eureka—a device is always responsible.”
THE REAL GHOSTBUSTERS: Xmas Marks the Spot has Egan, Ray and Peter (in their syndicated cartoon forms) stumble through a time rift on Christmas Eve where they save some old miser being tormented from three ghosts … and when they return to the present, learn that Ebenezer Scrooge’s campaign against Christmas has destroyed it forever! Can they save Christmas? “I need to think of a title—BAH, HUMBUG! Yes, that would be good.”

And then, movies—SCROOGE (1970) is, of course, Albert Finney’s shot at the grasping, covetous old miser who finds redemption with the help of Judith Anderson’s Past, Kenneth More’s Present and Alec Guinness’s Marley, with Michael Crawford as Cratchitt. Finney doesn’t do a great Scrooge but there are excellent touches, like his fate in the afterlife (“You will be to Satan as Cratchitt was to you.”). “At times our kin appear to be/devoid of wit and pith/But all of us are humorous on/December the 25th!”
THE BISHOP’S WIFE (1947) has Cary Grant as the kindly angel helping Bishop David Niven build a cathedral and restore his marriage, despite having non-angelic feelings for title character Loretta Young. Shows how long the Touched By An Angel tradition has been around, though it also has a lot in common with the My Man Godfrey fantasy of the super-servant fixing your life. This is a bit too sugary for me, but still worth rewatching now and again. (that the edition I taped was picked for TCM broadcasting by Frank Miller of SIN CITY and similar hardboiled material adds to the fun). “Even you, with all your ecclesiastical knowledge, cannot explain this.”
CHRISTMAS IN CONNECTICUT (1945) has beloved homemaking columnist Barbara Stanwyck pushed by publisher Sidney Greenstreet into taking a wounded sailor to her farmhouse for Christmas—a problem since her farmhouse doesn’t exist and her homemaking column is a complete fraud. And that’s only the beginning of the complications … “I opened my mouth, he talked—I felt like Charlie McCarthy!”
HOGFATHER (2006) is the Discworld adaptation that has Ian Richardson’s Death (I had to explain to my fellow viewers one line is an injoke reference to his role in House of Cards) and his granddaughter taking action against sinister forces trying to stamp out Discworld’s belief in the present-bringing Hogfather. Fun, though the scene where Death visits a department store feels like a Miracle on 34th Street retread.
CHRISTMAS CUPID (2010) is a weak Christmas Carol knockoff that actually comes closer to Topper in having the ghost of a drunken starlet try to redeem selfish workaholic Christina Milian by showing how her urge for “trading up” has destroyed her shot at True Love (to their credit, the filmmakers don’t have her just give up on her job when she finds it again). Not one of Dickens’ better adaptations (or Thorne Smith’s for that matter). “I just negotiated with Elton John to rewrite CANDLE IN THE WIND to sing at her gravesite!”
As the title suggests, CHRISTMAS DO-OVER (2010) knows perfectly well that it’s mining familiar ground, but doesn’t do enough fresh with it, as bitter jackass Jay Mohr makes ex-wife Daphne Zuniga’s Christmas the Worst Ever, then do it again, and again … (for a second I thought they’d use the idea that the do-over doesn’t excuse Mohr making people miserable repeatedly, but no). One of those where I think the girl would be better off with the rival (which would be better proof Mohr has grown up than having him win her back). “I heard about one guy who cheated on his wife, then bought her a car for Christmas.”
WHITE CHRISTMAS (1954) is, of course, the story of how hoofers Danny Kaye, Bing Crosby, Rosemary Clooney and Vera Allen wind up falling in love while trying to save an aging veteran’s Vermont inn from going belly-up. Not first-ranked (if it were named Vermont in July, I doubt it would be a perennial) , but given the cast, it can’t help be watchable (but the best moment for me was TYG’s seeing Bing Crosby—”Did they make him up to be that ugly?”). “Imagine that—a girl in show business who wants to get married and raise a family.”
MEET JOHN DOE (1941) has sob sister Barbara Stanwyck save her job by creating a fictitious man ready to kill himself in outrage at the world’s condition, then turn hobo Gary Cooper into her non-existent “John Doe” as a promotional stunt. I can’t help thinking cynical, wiseacre director Preston Sturges could have done so much better with this material—Capra is way too heavy-handed (and condescending) in his praise of the little people and how gosh-darn swell they are and how Cooper is virtually a second Jesus (it’s also weird to have hobo Walter Brennan assert his lifestyle is far superior to such things as regular food, a roof over your head, decent clothes—I wonder how Depression-era audiences reacted to that?). “Of course, you’ll never be able to play pro ball again.”
Finishing off on a win, A CHRISTMAS STORY (1985) once again has Ralphie yearning for a Red Ryder BB gun (“With a thing that tells time!”) as he copes with bullies, soap poisoning, fluffy bunny costumes and Little Orphan Annie’s secret messages. A perennial that deserves to be perennial. “What brought you to this tragic state?”
Seasons greetings to all.

3 Comments

Filed under Movies, Personal, Reading

3 responses to “All around the world it’s Christmas

  1. Pingback: Movies and Books: The Christmas Stuff | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: The three kinds of Christmas Story | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  3. Pingback: It’s time to immerse myself in treacly Christmas movies | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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