Now that the tree is decorated and the presents are wrapped, it’s time to relax a bit and enjoy the holiday. One of the things I love to do during the holidays is watch movies, and I intend to spend a good part of the next few days doing just that. When I’m not eating and making merry with my family, that is.
What are my favorite Christmas movies, especially from the classics? There are, of course, many versions of Scrooge and A Christmas Carol to choose from. But for my money, no Scrooge takes a longer or harder path from sheer hatred to redemptive joy than Albert Finney in the musical version of the tale, simply entitled SCROOGE.
A musical, you say? Sacrilege! Okay, some of the music is corny, but some of it is actually very good. The gritty, poverty-ridden depiction of London’s poor also contrasts beautifully with the opulent scenes featuring the Ghost of Christmas Present, and the old-fashioned, extravagant musical numbers. The sets and costumes are wonderful and portray surprisingly faithful renditions of both the Regency and Victorian periods.
But the strength of this version of the tale rests with Albert Finney’s stupendous portrayal of the iconic character of Scrooge. He’s not just mean; he’s so full of hatred and guilt that he’s almost Shakespearean. His body is as shriveled as his soul, and his personal hygiene ain’t so good, either. He looks like he hasn’t taken a bath in weeks—even his nails are dirty—and his house is filthy, empty, and cold. Clearly, this Scrooge won’t even take refuge from despair in the physical trappings of wealth.
But when Finney’s Scrooge finally breaks free of the bonds of hatred and discovers the spiritual and physical beauties of the Season, his joy is boundless. Scrooge didn’t just get scared straight; his former hatred of Christmas and all its abundance gives him monumental insight into what really matters at this time of year: family, generosity, love.
There’s a second movie I watch to get in the holiday spirit, and it deals with another kind of curmudgeon—the average joe. The movie is A CHRISTMAS STORY, and it stars the wonderfully grouchy Darren McGavin as a put-upon father who battles a broken-down furnace, the neighbor’s marauding dogs, and demands for inappropriate Christmas gifts from his son, Ralphie.
As the dad, Darren McGavin is everyman, trying to keep food on the table and keep the furnace working. He’s more than a little put-out by all the fuss of the holidays. The only thing he really wants is his Christmas turkey, and when the neighbor’s hound dogs invade the house and carry off the bird, Dad’s modest dream for a Merry Christmas is crushed. But how does he handle it? He doesn’t take his anger out on his wife and kids, as you might expect. Instead, he takes them out to dinner at a Chinese restaurant. The scene where the family is confronted with a whole roasted duck—with head intact—is hilariously funny and very sweet. Like any good man, Dad rises above the stresses of the Season to give his family exactly what they need: love and joy, and a few laughs besides.
I wish you all a wonderful holiday, full of joy, love, peace, and maybe even a Christmas duck!