Best Ever

Christmas Movies

My Christmas movie collection expands exponentially every year. And we're talking about DVDs here; that quaint old-school technology that you can pack away in your decorations box then haul out and stack next to your TV like a Yuletide to-do list every December (okay, November).

For me, the season starts with the same movie every year. I have several versions of what must be the most-filmed festive tale of all time: A Christmas Carol. And while I enjoy the stoic Patrick Stewart version, marvel at my weird 1937 curio starring Seymour Hicks and usually borrow the chuckle-tastic Bill Murray Scrooged from the library (note to Maggie: feel free to add this DVD to my Christmas list), it's the lesser-known 1970 Albert Finney movie Scrooge that I particularly love.

Made a few years after the rip-roaring arrival of Oliver! and clearly hoping to cash-in on that movie's Dickensian musical success, it has a two-fold joy for me: a full-on evocation of the traditional Victorian Christmas (which always feels like the real Christmas era to me) and a brilliant performance from Finney in the central role.

The celebrated actor was in his 30s when he made this movie (the flashback scenes with the Ghost of Christmas Past are closer to how he looked in real life at this time). But he perfectly captures Ebeneezer's curmudgeonly, creaky-boned deportment.

 

The miracle of the performance, though, is how he transforms at the end. Few actors manage to switch effectively from grumpy old git to giddy, fleet-of-foot people-lover -- both Stewart and Michael Caine (in the surprisingly faithful Muppet Christmas Carol) look weirdly unconvincing when filled with a sudden joy that makes them smile for the first time.

But the look on Finney's face when he realizes he's still alive and has a chance to change his life is spine-tinglingly effective. I also really love the way he dances like a crab in the movie's final few scenes. It's a dance move I've almost perfected and it works especially well with a Victorian night shirt (second Christmas wish list note to Maggie).

I'll be discussing my other favourite festive flicks here over the coming months. But here's a partial menu of my recommendations to get your started.

If you have your own favourites, let us know all about them on twitter via @MyVanChristmas

  • It's a Wonderful Life

  • Miracle on 34th Street

  • A Charlie Brown Christmas

  • The Snowman

  • The Snowman and the Snowdog

  • Jack Frost

  • National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation

  • The Polar Express

  • Elf

  • How the Grinch Stole Christmas

  • Love Actually

  • A Christmas Story

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All content © John Lee, unless otherwise stated.

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