Thursday, December 1, 2011

25 Days of Christmas Movies, Day 1: A Singing and Dancing Miser

Welcome, fellow blog readers, to the Third Annual "25 Days of Christmas Movies"!  It's really hard for me to believe that it has been three years since I started this animal and that I'm still going strong, and its even harder for me to believe that there are people still reading.  I kid, I kid.  I'm really excited and pumped up for Christmas this year and I can't wait to write down all the new, strange, and heartwarming (not necessarily in combination or order) films for you to read about.  I'm also pretty excited that I have essentially two weeks left until winter break, but that is neither here nor there.  I don't know about you guys, but getting ready for Christmas seems to get harder and harder each year.  I've already decided that I'll be doing the majority of my Christmas shopping online this year in order to cut down on things like annoyance and sales tax (god bless all those wishlists my friends and family members post on Amazon.com) and I'm cutting out a lot of the holiday foods I like too thanks to counting calories (though I am definately keeping track of all the calories I DON'T use up each day so I can stock pile them for Season's Eatings).  With all these things swirling around in my head, its a wonder I don't turn into something of a Scrooge...lucky for me and you that I adore Christmas even with it's busy-rush-rush warts.  Speaking of old Ebenezer, you'd be amazed at how many film and television version of "A Christmas Carol" exist...over 30, maybe more.  It's like the little novella the could, and until recently I wondered why (with such great source material) there hadn't yet been a big-budget musical version of the tale in theaters.  Apparently I just didn't look hard enough as there have been several produced for television and one feature-length theatrical film released in 1970.  It features, among other things, a singing and dancing Scrooge which seems perfect for the ending but just doesn't seem right in one's head regarding the beginning of the tale when Scrooge is a grouch.  This film version has accumulated it's share of controversy too, with varying opinions on it's casting, score, and direction and so I felt it was only fair to make this my first film this month.  So without further ado, experience Scrooge, a musical.

It is Christmas Eve in 1843 London and everyone is gearing up for the holiday season except for Ebenezer Scrooge, who grumpily sings a song called "I Hate People" to drive that point home after being asking for the umpteenth time to "have a heart" about Christmas and charity.  Even Scrooge's assistant, Bob Cratchet, is getting into the spirit as he takes his children around to different stores to buy the elements of their Christmas feast in a lively number called "Christmas Children".  Cratchet's children learn the value of getting a lot for a little and appreciating what you can get rather than what you'd rather have.  Scrooge heads home after being lampooned by street urchins in "Father Christmas", where they tease and taunt him for being such a sour puss, and encounters his dead buisness partner Jacob Marley.  Marley, surprisingly animated for someone so long dead, informs Scrooge that if he doesn't change his ways he will be damned for all eternity for his selfishness and greed.  What follows is a fantastic (and surprisingly musical) journey into Christmas past, present, in which three ghosts show Scrooge what it truely means to live life to the fullest.  (Can you believe I actually repeated this well-known plot as though I'd never seen it before?)

Really, we all know the story of Scrooge and his three ghosts but do we know it so well when it is put into song?  Actually yes.  I'm not going to say that I was bored by Scrooge, because really the source is one of the best pieces of literary fiction that exists, but I did find myself waiting anxiously for my favorite parts to arrive.  The fact of the matter is that this version, despite being a musical, is one of the most uninspired versions of "A Christmas Carol" I've ever seen.  For a long while I thought I was looking at footage from an older version of "Carol" that had been spliced together with a few awkwardly worded and paced songs.  Indeed, there is nothing here that you can't get from more famous and better presented "Christmas Carols".  However, there were aspects that I did enjoy and made me perk up a bit when they occured.  I loved their interpretation of The Ghost of Christmas Past who is always the most loosly adapted character.  This Ghost has been a candle flame, a cherrub, a thin woman, and even a disgruntled cabbie and I really appreciated that she was a very prim and straight-laced old Victorian woman (which made Past's little quips about Scrooge's life seem all the more witty since they were coming out of Aunt Bea's mouth).  The Ghost of Christmas Yet to Come also has a shocking moment when he reveals his face to Scrooge, leading to the film's only completely original (and thus, most interesting) scene where Scrooge is sent to Hell to be the Devil's personal clerk (as Cratchet had been to him).  It is a wonderful addition that I truely enjoyed (save for the strange design of the set) and one that I feel more "Carol's" could benifit from.  Another inspired scene was at the beginning of the passage about the Future where Scrooge hears the towns people singing a rousing song to him titled "Thank You Very Much" and he doesn't realize that they are singing to his coffin.  It really made me sympathize for the old goat in a way that section never had before (not that I never felt anything there, it was just never as profound a feeling as this).  However, given the film's bland direction and unmemorable music, I can't say I will be making Scrooge a regular in my holiday rotation.  However it is certainly different to see Scrooge singing and dancing.  Give it a whirl and you might be one of the few who decides that this Scrooge is the best Scrooge.

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