They fed the moh-gwi after midnight. You won’t believe what happened next! (#SFWApro)

latestI think I’m getting the hang of those clickbait titles … GREMLINS (1984) is probably one of the best Darkness at Christmas movies, as amiable Hoyt Axton buys a strange, adorable creature for son Zach Galligan’s Christmas. The seller was quite specific about the rules — don’t feed “Gizmo” after midnight, don’t get him wet — and when the family break them, all hell breaks loose. The eponymous monsters wreak havoc on the small town, brusquely wrecking property and killing people without regard to whether they’re good or bad; can Galligan and sweetie Phoebe Cates (man, does she look baby-faced here!) save Christmas? This was originally even darker according to the director’s commentary (next year I may buy the DVD instead of Netflixing so I can listen to the whole thing), a straight-up horror film. It works in the (slightly) lighter tone and it’s rife with movie references such as a shot of the time machine from The Time Machine (1960) and clips of It’s a Wonderful Life on TV. I’ll make the minor demurral that making Keye Luke the keeper of the Moh-Gwi seems to be the same sort of Mystic East orientalism as in Doctor Strange. All rights to poster image reside with current holder. “And that’s when I learned there was no Santa Claus.”

Rewatching drives home how very differently SCROOGE (1970) approaches the story from the Alastair Sim Christmas Carol; where the 1951 film  constantly shows Scrooge in isolation, this sets the bitter miser against a backdrop of bustling, cheery crowds. I don’t think this works as well as sim, but it’s still a favorite of mine and impeccably cast, including John Gieldgud as Marley, Dame Edith Evans as Christmas Past and Kenneth More as Present. “If you were in my will, I’d disinherit you!”

LOVE THE COOPERS (2015) has my respect for squeezing in pretty much every Family Christmas drama possible: parents Diane Keaton and John Goodman are divorcing; Olivia Wilde’s bringing a pretend boyfriend home to prove she has it together; and Marisa Tomei struggles to compete with her supposedly perfect sister. This worked for me as a talking lamp — the cast is certainly good — but I can’t blame the critics who loathed it. “My mother knew before I did.”

MIRACLE ON 34TH STREET (1949) is the only good version of the story (there are three official remakes, plus Whoopi Goldberg’s Call Me Santa borrows from it heavily) about an amiable department-store Santa (Edmund Gwenn) who insanely believes he’s the real deal, which is obviously impossible, right? John Payne plays the lawyer who has to defend Kris Kringle’s sanity in court; Maureen O’Hara is his oh-so-sensible love; and Natalie Wood does a very good job as the child learning to believe in Santa (as O’Hara says on the commentary, you can see her reacting to what’s happening, not just making faces). “You’re no more qualified to practice psychiatry than a dentist is qualified to remove a gall bladder!”

RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER is, of course, the TV classic that turned a song about a reindeer with a luminous schnozz into a Christmas perennial involving misfits, snowstorms, dentistry and the abominable snowman. I’m less devoted to it than to The Grinch Who Stole Christmas, but it has its charms. “Rudolph, with your nose so bright, won’t you guide my sleigh tonight?”

Among the multiple Rudolph sequels I know of (Hooves of Fire, Rudolph’s Shiny New Year, Rudolph and Frosty’s Christmas in July) we have RUDOLPH THE RED-NOSED REINDEER & THE ISLAND OF MISFIT TOYS (2001) is a computer-animated sequel in which Rudolph worries being idolized for his nose still leaves him a misfit; however when the sinister Toy-Taker begins collecting all Christmas toys for some secret agenda, Rudolph has to put his own issues on hold to save Christmas again. This does a surprisingly good job capturing the look and voices of the original, but at feature length, it’s quite padded. And the writers can’t pull off a musical number to save their lives. “Won’t anyone fear me—please?”

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One response to “They fed the moh-gwi after midnight. You won’t believe what happened next! (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: Time hacks that work, hacks that don’t | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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