As part of the holidays, I have a ritual of viewing all the classic Christmas films. I try to be open-minded to new Christmas films in the hopes of adding to my holiday viewing list. So far my assessment is, although the newer movies have better production values and have cost small fortunes to make, apparently all the writers have been edited to death to produce the absolute blandest and broadest-appeal movies to benefit the sponsors.
Here’s my viewing schedule: I always watch Miracle on 34th Street as my first Christmas movie. The movie starts with the Macy’s Thanksgiving Day Parade, so I watch it after the live Thanksgiving Day Parade. You can watch it in black and white, or color. There are several updated versions of Miracle, but I find all the writing to be too schmaltzy and trite. I know it’s not the writers, because there can’t be that many lousy writers. I know their scripts have been hacked to accommodate what the sponsors want; which is to include everyone, offend no one, and maintain political correctness at all times. [expand]
Next I watch the first-filmed A Christmas Carol from 1938 starring Reginald Owen. Each Christmas Carol movie seems to differ slightly from one another. Next is the definitive Christmas Carol that we all love with Alastair Sims from 1951. This remains the best of the lot. It doesn’t matter if you see it in black and white or color, it looks the same either way. Industrial England in the winter didn’t have any colors. It was all black, white and grey. Color only shows up at the end on Bess’ dress.
Since 1951 there have been many versions of A Christmas Carol, but I can only recommend three. In 1970, Albert Finney did a musical version, which I rank right up there with the Alastair Sims classic, if you haven’t seen it, try it, it’s wonderful. George C. Scott did an excellent version. Patrick Stewart gave it a go, his Scrooge was fair, but I’d stick with Sims or Scott. Other than these few exceptions, none of the newer versions measure up. I think it’s just lame to try to interpret this story with a female Scrooge, or set it in a modern setting. Actors struggle with dialog that tries to be most profound than the original.
I have discussed the problem of the newer Christmas movies with some passionate movie lovers on the Island and the consensus is this: Hollywood often fails to realize that nothing can improve the original. You can’t remake Gone With the Wind, Casablanca, Wizard of Oz or the Alastair Sims Christmas Carol. The Shelter Island Library shows films, and I know they get a good turn out for classics. Great movies make you want to talk about them and keep enjoying them long after you see “The End.”
There’s just one new movie I like seeing now. I can’t recall the title because these days I have to look at my driver’s license to be sure of my own name. It’s about a single mother returning home one winter to the small island she was raised on, where she finds that time has nearly stood still. She finds a job, falls in love, the kids are happy, and they all live happily ever after on the tiny island—I think it’s off the coast of Maine because I remember lobster signs in the background. Seems like such a typical story, I can’t imagine why I like it. Oh, wait—lobsters—they all got lobsters at cost from incoming boats, yup, that’s it, lobster. Never did met a lobster I didn’t like.