Monday, December 21, 2009

A Christmas Carol

Elwood over at From The Depths Of DVD Hell has asked some bloggers for their ultimate Christmas Movie. I’m going to be kind of uncreative here and say A Christmas Carol.

The very name might make you roll your eyes, A Christmas Carol is one of those stories that keeps getting retold and retold, it seems like every other Christmas there’s another version of the story. There’s a reason for this though. I don’t want to get controversial here but that Dickens guy was a pretty good writer. Carol is one of those rare pieces of work with a story so strong and themes so primal that you have to be a literal moron to fuck it up.

I just saw the Zememkis version of the new story, one which has caused quite a few people to assign the dunce cap to Zemekis. I for one liked it. Say what you will about Jim Carrey but if ever there was an actor designed for motion capture it was he. He does strong work as Scrooge and the three ghosts, bringing each to life with solid body work. Gary Oldman also does strong work as Marley and Cratchet (Tiny Tim as well though he barely amounts to a cameo) Colin Firth on the other hand still seems a bit stiff. The Three Christmas Ghosts are all very well animated, the idea of making The Ghost Of Christmas Future Scrooge’s literal Shadow works quite well. And the whole movie has a shockingly eerie tone, extending even to a surprisingly unjolly Ghost Of Christmas Present (Whose demise pushes the needle into gruesome)

I also have to give credit to Zemekis for fearlessly tackling the tougher parts of the book, that filmmakers are usually loathe to touch with a ten foot pole. The Ignorance and Want scene is here in all its didactic glory, as is the scene of the ghostly cavern over London, hell Zemekis even puts in the weird little rant the Ghost Of Christmas Present, has about the church closing down community kitchens on Sunday. Surely a hot button issue.

Still the movie’s not perfect, It rushes through things, particularly in the rather key Ghost Of Christmas Past, and features long interminable tech demos, that try to show you how awesome 3D looks with long frantic sequences of the camera following Scrooge as he rushes around. Its tough for me to describe how painfully uninteresting these scenes where. And will undoubtably become even more so once it reaches home video. Though in all fairness, Disney 3D has the best system right now. And on the whole I’d argue that A Christmas Carol makes a much better argument for the potential of Motion Capture and 3D then Avatar did.

But for me the ultimate version has to be A Muppet Christmas Carol. One of the few Christmas traditions my family actually manages to keep is the watching The Muppet Christmas Carol. And its still my favorite version of the story.

When stripped to its bare essentials A Christmas Carol is basically the story of someone’s personality having a complete meltdown by himself in its room. The sentiment that gets ladled on at the end comes after a surprisingly dark core. And for all the wise cracks A Muppet Christmas Carol remembers this, anchored by a surprisingly grave performance by Michael Caine. He never once winks at the material or his “actors”. Always more of a consummate pro then showboat in many ways Caine is the ideal actor to perform opposite Puppets with cut in half ping pong balls for eyes. A Muppet Christmas Carol was the first Muppet Movie Made after the death of Jim Henson, and it remains their most successful work without him. The work that retains the most of the beloved virtuoso’s spirit and style. It stands as a loving tribute to a master craftsman through the retelling of one of the most beloved stories of all time

One of the reasons A Christmas Carol continues to resonate is the way it avoids all the baggage that comes with the season. The message of A Christmas Carol has nothing to do with religion, its just asks “Wouldn’t it be nice if we all took one day when we weren’t such total bastards to each other?” Its one of those rare works of art that challenges you to be a better person without beating you over the head with sentiment and very special lessons.

I hope you have a Merry Christmas.


Troy Olson said...

Just wanted to say how happy I am that someone else loves A MUPPET CHRISTMAS CAROL as much as you obviously do. My wife and I watch this one every year and it never fails to make us smile.

Evil Dead Junkie said...

Only the blackest Of Hearts could hate Muppets Christmas Carol.