Merry Christmas. I wanted to do a post on this day, the 25th of December Anno Domini two thousand twenty-one, and thought about what particular topic to cover. I seriously considered a discussion on my interpretation of the historical accuracy of the Nativity, but that felt far too dense, at least right now. Maybe another time.
I settled on a milder subject, milder like the weather I am experiencing right now, which feels nothing like a typical Midwest Christmas, with temperatures currently in the forties (Fahrenheit) and sunny skies, and no snow anywhere, for another week, perhaps, before reality returns in January. And so here is a lighthearted and common topic, that of this blogger’s favorite Christmas movie.
Thinking of recent Christmas movies, I can’t think of any. I am not even sure if I have seen a Christmas movie this century. Growing up, Christmas movies were integral to the seasonal experience. 1983’s A Christmas Story was probably my favorite as a kid in the 1980s and well into the nineties. Like most “Christmas” movies, it wasn’t really a Christmas movie at all, but a series of subplot gags revolving around the holiday, yet all penultimate to Ralphie’s quest to receive his coveted Red Ryder on Christmas Day. Continuing the humor theme, Christmas Vacation was high on my list as well. And it goes without saying, for those of you familiar with the 1980s, that It’s a Wonderful Life was on the television constantly in my house, thanks to the continual re-airings on multiple public broadcasting stations, before NBC absorbed its rights, and I haven’t seen that movie in its entirely since.
As the years went on and I paid less attention to all things contemporary, a holiday tradition developed for me to watch on Christmas Eve the 1951 adaptation of A Christmas Carol known originally as Scrooge. It started, if I recall, on public television, shown late evening December 24th on Chicago’s channel 11, and later shifting to WGN channel 9, still as a late Christmas Eve broadcast. Sometime over the past decade I purchased it on Blu-ray to keep the tradition regardless of channel affiliation, if that even still exists.
It should be noted before going further that the original 1951 version was a couple of years before movies were in widescreen format. So if you see this film in widescreen, you are seeing it wrong. The uncropped squarish-box format (I believe 4:3 or very close) is the correct viewing experience.
Yes, Scrooge is my all-time favorite Christmas movie. Alastair Sim portrayed the quintessential Ebenezer Scrooge. Even if you do not celebrate Christmas, this is a wonderful and timeless classic, among the all-time great films in my opinion. Sim’s Scrooge is believable in his journey from the cold-hearted and near-irredeemable miser to a transformed figure that fully embraces the spirit of Christmas. The quintessential could be arguably said of pretty much all the characters in this movie. The age of this film, in its glorious black-and-white, lends to its ambiance as the true standard-bearer for the Dickens classic (acknowledging that there are older adaptations as well).
To me, all subsequent “Scrooge” films are imitation variations of the 1951 standard. My second-favorite adaptation goes back to the comedic aspect, being 1988’s Scrooged starring Bill Murray. But this film lacks the timeless element that would make it a classic. I am not sure why. Frankly, it feels dated today, a product of the 1980s, and not in a good way. True classic films are able to transcend their contemporary origination, but instead Scrooged carries all those years and decades since 1988 as heavily as the ghost of Jacob Marley dragged his chains.
Let me know how your opinions differ from mine on Christmas films. More to come on this blog, but for now, enjoy the holiday season.