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Lights! Action! Christmas!
by Asa Butcher
2006-12-11 09:53:41
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Do you remember the first festive film you ever watched? How old were you? Will you be enjoying it again this year? I was about seven when the animated feature Yogi's First Christmas was broadcast on British television and it has stuck in my mind ever since as one of my favourite festive flicks, but sadly it is not yet available on DVD. I hope one day my own daughter can watch Yogi Bear and Boo-Boo being rudely awoken from hibernation and enjoying their first Christmas.

Yogi may be close to my heart, but many more have been added to my festive viewing over the years. One dark December day in 1985, my dad took the family to see Dudley Moore in Santa Claus: The Movie, which introduced us to the blacker side of Christmas, although everything turned out well by the movie’s conclusion – phew! Home Alone and Home Alone 2: Lost in New York continued the trend, yet even Gremlins is a happier Christmas film than Raymond Brigg’s The Snowman.

“We’re walking in the air” is all very well, but the crushing death of the Snowman at the end always leaves me wondering how this is a classic Christmas film. Both of Brigg’s animated stories, The Snowman and Father Christmas, are required in the programme guide of countries around the world, while it is the same with the other quintessential Christmas movie It's a Wonderful Life that rains all kind of hell upon George Bailey until he contemplates jumping of a bridge; great family viewing!

If you want a Christmas film that has all the trimmings, but offers an alternative plot, then you can’t go wrong with Die Hard and Die Hard 2. Bruce Willis certainly isn’t Santa, but at least you don’t have to watch Steve McQueen fail to jump the barbed wire in The Great Escape once again, which pains me more than seeing the Snowman as a melted heap. Other Christmas movies with a twist, or should that be twisted Christmas movies, include Steve Martin in the terrible Mixed Nuts, Ron Howard’s How the Grinch Stole Christmas or Tim Burton’s The Nightmare Before Christmas.

Tim Burton’s nightmare was another movie the Butcher family saw together at the cinema and we all had our festive spirit blown clean away. Thankfully, Dad was still in a generous mood and immediately took us to see Richard Attenborough’s 1994 remake of Miracle on 34th Street, which is the definitive Christmas movie – I believe! – and I must watch the original some day.

Thankfully not too many classic Hollywood Christmas films have been remade, so we can still enjoy the likes of Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire in the original 1942 film Holiday Inn, which features the first performance of the song ‘White Christmas’. Strangely enough, the song became so successful that 12 years later it inspired a remake entitled White Christmas again starring Bing Crosby – I didn’t say that all remakes are bad. While on the subject of remakes, it would be remiss to ignore the all-time classic inspiration for festive flicks, namely Charles Dickens’ The Christmas Carol. This story has seen dozens of interpretations ranging from The Muppet Christmas Carol to Scrooged starring Bill Murray.

Christmas movies in recent years have realized that people don’t want to see people jumping off a bridge or the hero melting at the end, they want to laugh and artificially boost their festive cheer with comedies. Some hit, some miss, but we can usually forgive them since it is Christmas. Love Actually, Elf, The Santa Clause trilogy, Christmas with the Kranks and even Arnie’s Jingle All the Way are all aimed at making us laugh and not hoping for an Academy Award…although, in my heart, Yogi definitely deserves a statuette.

What's your favourite Christmas movie?

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