Friday, December 25, 2015

A Diet Of Christmas Films VIII

Seven years ago, I came up with the idea to watch a handful of festive films in the weeks leading up to Christmas with the intention to publish a blog post on Christmas morning with my thoughts on all the movies.

I found the concept fun and have continued to do it every year since. What you're reading right now is the eighth edition.

What I usually do is start writing this post in late November or early December and pack as many films into my watchlist as I can. As soon as I complete a film, I leave my thoughts and save the post to be published at 12am on Christmas morning. I'm doing the same this year. However, due to my time being eaten up by other things, this might be a shorter edition than usual.

I'm going to start with an oldie...

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

When a nice old man who claims to be Santa Claus is institutionalized as insane, a young lawyer decides to defend him by arguing in court that he is the real thing.

Here's a surprise for you. I have heard a lot about this film and its remake, but had never seen it until now.
I thought it was really good and it does sort of hold up to the present day because the theme 'Christmas spirit over commercialisation' can still be applied all these years later.

One Bad Christmas! (2012)

Big Earl, the owner of a Christmas tree lot in Compton, California runs into some trouble when his son Derrick crosses the line to prove to his father that he is a success.

I watched this film with an Amazon Prime account. The film is listed with the title 'One Bad Christmas!'. I found it difficult at first to find it on IMDB until I assumed the title was changed. The opening theme song, I guess, was called 'Christmas in Compton' so I typed that in. My instinct was correct the movie is named differently over here for some reason.
Within the first couple of minutes, I thought I'd end up struggling through it. I am glad I stuck with it. It won't be the best festive film I've watched this year. It hopefully won't be the worst, either as there were parts in that made me smile.
And that's what these films are all about, right?

Frosty the Snowman (1969)

A living snowman and a little girl struggle to elude a greedy magician who is after the snowman's magic hat.

As funny as this might seem, I had never seen this before. I obviously have heard of the cartoon and know the song, but - other than that - I have never been able to catch it on television or video. I saw it on the Amazon Instant Movies, so thought it was the right time.
It is what it is. An old cartoon that can still be viewed by today's generation of youngsters. One thing that might not hold up, however, is the pipe. I doubt a 21st Century Frosty will be able to have a pipe placed in his mouth.
Jimmy Durante was the narrator and singer of this film. Here's a teaser for you - this might not be the last we see of Mr. Durante this Christmas.

Home Alone (1990)

An 8-year old troublemaker must protect his home from a pair of burglars when he is accidentally left home alone by his family during Christmas vacation.

To put this in its proper context, it's 16th November as I am typing this part of the post. Today is the 25th anniversary of the release of Home Alone. When I noticed this, I thought to myself 'I should have waited until this year to write about it on the Diet of Christmas Films post'. I then had a look back at all the previous Christmas Day posts and noticed I hadn't covered it.
This was obviously not the first time I have seen Home Alone. In fact, I went to one of the first screenings of the film when it came out (I had free tickets from the Odeon through The Sun newspaper).
The film is just as fun now all these years later. It's a shame I cannot write the same about its sequels. If, by any chance, you have never seen this - I urge you to watch it!

Elf (2003)

After inadvertently wreaking havoc on the elf community due to his ungainly size, a man raised as an elf at the North Pole is sent to the U.S. in search of his true identity.

The story here is that I've had this movie on DVD laying around the house since it first came out. I had never felt compelled to go out of my way to watch it. Doesn't that seem funny considering that I've been doing this project for all these years? Anyway, earlier this year, I was talking about Christmas movies with my youngest nephew and he told me that Elf is one of his favourites. So, it took a recommendation from a five/six year old to finally sit down and watch this. And you know what - I liked it a lot.
Will Ferrell plays the part of Buddy - a human who found his way into Santa's sack one Christmas Eve and is accidentally sent to live with the elves in the North Pole. I'm overlooking the fact that Santa Claus more or less abducted a child once he realised his mistake. The story progresses to Buddy figuring out that he's human and not an elf, so he heads over to New York to find his real father. It's the typical narrative where the father is reluctant to accept that the son is actually his until the end. Spoiler alert, by the way. It is one of the best films I have seen so far this year.

The Great Rupert (1950)

A little squirrel with lots of charm accidentally helps two poor, down-but-NOT-out families overcome their obstacles.

Remember when I told you that Frosty the Snowman wasn't going to be the last we see of Jimmy Durante this year? Here it is!
This film is about a former Vaudeville performing family who are down on their luck. They meet a former colleague (I think) who has just had to move out of his house because he too couldn't find work with alongside his squirrel sidekick, The Great Rupert. Rupert finds his way back to the house and is living in between the homes of Vaudeville family (The Amendolas) and his landlord (The Dingles).
Every week on the dot, Mr Dingle takes money out of his bank and slides it into a hole in his wall, the squirrel throws the money out the other end into the Amendolas' place and they think the money is a gift from God.
And that's really all I will give away. It's a Christmas film on a technicality because most of it is set at Christmastime. I thought it was okay. The animation of the squirrel does not look good in the day of CGI, but I guess back in the 1950's it must have been brilliant.
I think a remake of this movie could work today. That's if there hasn't been one made already.

A Christmas Story 2 (2012)

WAIT!! Yes, I know I watched this last year. I promised my nephew when eating Christmas dinner last year that we would watch it this year. And so we did.
He liked it and thought it was almost as good as the original. As for me - I didn't like it as much as I did last year.
Fun Note: 'The Old Man' is played by Daniel Stern. He was one of the Wet Bandits in Home Alone. I didn't notice it was him until this viewing!

Mickey's Christmas Carol (1983)

The classic Disney animated characters play the roles in this animated retelling of the Charles Dickens masterpiece.

This was the first time I have seen this movie since 1983. The last time I watched this was in the cinema when I was four-years-old. It was a double and came on before The Jungle Book, if I recall correctly. I kept seeing 'Mickey's Once Upon A Christmas' and 'Twice Upon A Christmas' being available on Amazon and Sky Movies and it reminded me of seeing this film. I managed to find it on YouTube.
It was fun seeing where all the Disney characters fit in. It was good to see one of my favourites, Jiminy Cricket, pop up along the way.
What also dawned on me was this must have been the first time I was ever introduced to the Christmas Carol story. It's a narrative that can go on for eternity, isn't it?

The Star Wars Holiday Special (1978)

Chewbacca and Han Solo try to get home to Chewie's family to celebrate Life Day, which includes various forms of entertainment.

To coincide with the release of Star Wars Episode VII, I thought it was time I watched this. I had heard all about it many years ago and had only watched snippets of it on YouTube. I managed to find the entire broadcast.
This isn't a film as such. What it was is one of those American variety Christmas specials that Bill Murray has parodied in his A Very Murray Christmas on Netflix this year. The storyline of Chewbacca attempting to get home in time for Life Day was the main theme, but it served as a way to introduce other acts to sing songs and perform. People like Bea Arthur appear in it. She played a barmaid/owner of the Mos Eisley Cantina and ended her small feature with a song.
It was very wacky, to be fair. Or should that be very Wookiee?
This special was disliked by many Star Wars fan and apparently George Lucas also hated it. As for me? I didn't love it. Nor did I hate it. It was just something intriguing to watch.
Oh.. and the big thing about this special was it featured the debut of Boba Fett. The bounty hunter was included in a cartoon that acted as an interlude in the story. As the special was released in between the original and The Empire Strikes Back, this would have been where Star Wars fans were first introduced to him.

And that's all for this year. I didn't really get time to go through the pile of DVDs I have left over from previous Christmases. The best film that I watched this time has to be Miracle on 34th Street. The one I liked the least was One Bad Christmas. But remember - I don't hate on bad Christmas films.

Well, not all the time. I almost got through a year without thinking about Santa Claus Conquers The Martians...

Merry Christmas!

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