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Tuesday, December 6, 2011

Christmas Movies

I love Christmas for all the obvious reasons: merriment, gift-giving and receiving, the feeling of coziness, togetherness, being with family, great feasting, parties, Christmas decorations, the works. But there is something else that plucks at my heartstrings: the mystery of faith and believing. No, not in Christ or Christianity; I'm not delving that deeply into it because that's a personal and sacred thing that is different and unique for everyone, and I'm not interested in going there.

What I'm talking about is the mysterious undercurrent that hits me around this time: the Christmas Spirit that bubbles up, the feeling of love and gratitude, and even believing in Santa Claus. Because Santa, for a lot of us adults (myself included), is the embodiment of the Christmas Spirit itself. We may not truly think he's coming down the chimney in the wee hours between Christmas Eve and Christmas Day, but I firmly believe that his spirit is there the night before Christmas. He's there in the gifts, in the lights on the tree and outside on the house, the smouldering embers in the fireplace, and that delicious tickle of tension and anticipation.

He represents for a lot of us that childlike joy and wonderment that, for me, still electrifies Christmas and gives it that giddy kick, that romantic heat, and allows many of us to let our grown-up hair down, shake out the skepticism and put a red bow in it. Christmastime, the Christmas Spirit, and Santa all give me a thrill of excitement and a teary-eyed squeeze of love and joy and thankfulness during this holiday season. And because that joy and wistfulness reside in me, I find particular delight in the following three Christmas movies, for various reasons. I wanted to talk about them, because I absolutely adore them. I could watch them over and over and over again. And I do.

Most of you are probably laughing. What a cultured woman she is, to enjoy the muppet version of a classic tale! But I've watched this movie 100s of times throughout my life, from the year I got it (I was 12), to this past Sunday. I know the songs, the muppets and actors, the lines, the jokes and humor, all of it by heart. And as well all know, things become more precious to us the more we know them.

What is it about this movie, then? Yes, I know the message is actually Charles Dickens' but this movie really sends it home. I'm not a huge fan of musicals... although I do love muppet movies, Les Mis, Phantom of the Opera, Wicked, a few operas... ok, so maybe I am a fan, but still, not a HUGE fan. It's just that in this movie the songs really speak to me. In one, where the Ghost of Christmas Present actually manages to inspire a little warmth in Scrooge, there is a beautiful line: "It is the summer of the soul in December". And that even brings tears to my eyes as I type it out, because that is a perfect summation of what Christmas is for those of us who enjoy it.

And in the end, when Scrooge, played by the spectacular Michael Caine, is sitting at a table with a bunch of muppets, for God's sake, singing about the love he's found through his transformative, spiritual adventure, just reduces me to tears every time. Tiny Tim is alive and well, there's freaking muppet cows and muppet horses in Bob Cratchett's foyer, and... I don't know. It's just so wonderful and happy. The little homeless bunny hobo is warm and well fed at last and most importantly, Scrooge knows the Christmas Spirit, he has opened his heart and soul up to love, charity, good will and, in doing so, has saved himself from a lifetime of misery, indeed of an eternity of misery. Christmas is healing, cathartic, all-encompassing.

Plus Gonzo as Charles Dickens is hilarious.

What is not to love about this movie? Even people who aren't fans of Will Ferrell's occasional over the top comedic style cannot accuse him of any hijinx in this movie. He is the embodiment of Christmas Spirit, the anti-Scrooge, if you will, and for that you simply must adore him. He is sweet, innocent, exuberant and full of joy. This movie is adorable all around, with a great cast, a great story and great laughs.

The thing that gets me teary-eyed every time, however, is the message about believing in Santa. As I said, Santa is more than just the guy who gives us stuff, he's Christmas Spirit itself, he's something to believe in, look forward to, and is a way for us to keep our inner children alive and thriving.

The end of the movie is what gets me the most: people, strangers in NYC, standing around singing Christmas carols together only to get a glimpse of the jolly St Nick himself, and how moving it is, and how... oh, how relieving it must be to see him, how triumphant it is for that inner kiddo to see Santa, and to know that, all this time, they were right... Well how wonderful and thrilling is that? James Caan telling his wife that he believes in Santa... Perfection. And then there are the one liners:

"Buddy the Elf, what's your favorite color?"
"I like to whisper too"
"Be careful, the yellow ones don't stop"
"SANTA!!! I know him! I know him!!"
"Oh this isn't a costume. I'm an elf. Well, technically I'm a human, but I was raised by elves."

Ohhh, Love Actually. Love Actually, Love Actually, Love Actually. I'm getting goosebumps just thinking of all the great stories in this movie, the heart warming, the heart breaking, the inspiring and the hilarious. I think what makes this movie so powerful is that not everyone gets the perfect ending. There are star-crossed lovers, failed connections, near-adultery, and realizing you must sometimes settle for one kind of love and sacrifice another in order to maintain the more important: family.

There's not a lot of Santa Claus or Christmas Spirit talk in this movie, but obviously, as the title suggests, it's all about love. Christmas is a season of love in all its forms: romantic, friendly, and familial. And if you're Colin, it's also a time to sell everything, go to America and hook up with a six pack of horny Wisconsin girls who wear midriff tops in 20 below weather. But really, the reason I think that this movie takes place during the season of Christmas is that Christmas gives us a chance to hold out hope, to open our hearts and take risks, chances, express ourselves and our love to each other. It's a time for forgiveness, for sacrifice, for hope. Heartache, too, but ultimately ones that help us to heal and move on.

It's a beautiful movie, one that I have zero problem watching even if it's spring, summer or fall. Holiday season is not required in order to get enjoyment and fulfillment from this wonderful movie.

Plus Mr. Darcy is in it, and Hugh Grant dances to Jump (For My Love) by the Pointer Sisters and come on, you cannot find fault with either of those things.

1 comment:

  1. i haven't seen the first two, but i adore Love Actually and i always want to watch it at Christmas time