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Monday, 22 December 2014

Time for Television, Tears and Great Tales. My Favourite Christmas Films.

Up. This is Mat and me, Whatever we're doing, it's always friendlier together.

Television time is here. After our annual family lunch on Sunday, which has more tinsel and tiaras than the local panto, this year in particular I am glad to be finished with travelling for a while as my back is complaining at me. For anyone out there with an injury, I sympathise if you're travelling - it does become very difficult to travel without discomfort, so I'm now in my Christmas onesie, the pillows are plumped and it's time for my favourite films.

Radio Times. Everyone has their own highlighting system. I keep it simple here.

Service stations have been navigated. Unruly trucks (and truck drivers) escaped. Fighting children and parents on their way to grandma's for lunch have been left behind. Time to exhale.

Terry's Chocolate Oranges and really expensive pic'n'mix are a few yards away

I'm now home and the Radio Times has been highlighted so it's time for TV. Terrestrial television doesn't really exist anymore I suppose, but I still look to the four (five as of the nineties) original channels. TV was my saving grace last year when I could barely get off the sofa, and this year is a little better, but old habits die hard, pun intended.

Special number 11 = Love Actually. To me, you are perfect. And your soundtrack too.

You won't find classics like 'It's A Wonderful Life' here, and I had to limit myself to ten otherwise you'd do more reading than watching. Many are childhood favourites, unapologetically adored. Here we go with some of the TV film treats I'm cueing up.


1. Back to the Future (1985)

Marty McFly risks life and limb to save his parents' marriage and his own destiny of dweebdom for a better life. With the help (and hindrance) of his great friend Doc Brown you've got time travel, a Delorean and a whole lot of skateboarding tricks. This is not one to miss - the bad guys get creamed, and there's sure to be a happy ending. It's like panto, just without the man dressed as a woman and with Huey Lewis. Great stuff.

2. Home Alone (1990)

Poor Kevin has been a naughty boy and is banished to the attic, even though it's scary up there. In fact it's pretty much scary everywhere except on the ground floor of his house, especially when his parents accidentally take off on vacation for the Christmas break with their extended family but forget to take little Kevin along. All would probably be okay, except for the local pizza store, which would run every chance of running out of cheese pizzas. Not so, though, when the bad guys Harry and Marv turn up to case the joint (aka Kevin's house). It's time to get creative, and Kevin's got some natty ideas. We follow along as he plays every trick in the book to beat them. "Merry Christmas Ya Filthy Animal." Indeed.

3. Up (2009)

Okay, so this is not most people's idea of a Christmas story. Mat and I spend the first twenty minutes full on sobbing and the rest of the film drying each other's eyes. Ed has lost his best friend and beloved wife after many, many happy years together and feels like there's not much to be cheerful about. (Cue crying). In fact he met her as a shy little child and it was love at first...fall. They wished for a future of adventures in foreign lands and children. They couldn't have children (cue more crying), so they focused on adventures instead. Now their time together is over. (More crying.) Lucky for Ed, along comes Russell, a whole load of balloons, a dog named Dug and a big bird who loves chocolate and adventures never imagined await. More bad guys get beaten and friendship wins the day. (Cue more crying. If you haven't got the message yet, invest in Kleenex to mop up your tears for this fantastic movie.) I gushed all over the guy who made the clouds in the early montage at my brother in law's wedding in an extremely uncool way, but I have no regrets. This film brings out the purest, unadulterated childlike emotions. I just accepted that I was never going to be anything other than a goof where this movie goes.

4. Wall-E (2008) (and Ratatouille and Toy Story 1-3 etc.)
Wall-E and Eve. True Love.

Boy meets girl. Girl's not interested - she has a plan. Boy can't stop thinking about girl. It's the old, old story. Well, except for the fact that Girl fulfils (unknown) mission, her power shuts off (eh?) and boy follows her into outer space to try to save her from an (also unknown) fate. So maybe not the old old story. This, though, is a true romance, showing that even if we humans do fill our planet with such mountains of rubbish that we have to escape by giant spaceship while it recuperates, there's hope in all of our hearts to be kinder to one another. Another weepie, (I know, I'm such a sucker) grab your loved one (ones) by the hand and enjoy a romance and proper adventure in this magical film. And the others - well, in my book anything with John Lasseter's magic touch is a winner. Watch and be enthralled, excited, enraged, enriched. Just watch.

5. Batteries Not Included (1987)

See above: you will need tissues for tears. The bad guys in this film are the faceless corporate giants who want to tear down a beautiful pre-war walk-up to build another identity-free concrete multi-storey. This time, it's with a little help from some very little visitors from outer space who come to the rescue of the residents of the building. In typical New York style the residents have little or nothing to do with one another. Until now. We see the sarcasm and the sadness of past times brushed away and a beautiful friendship and bond develop in New York. Like Up, we can't entirely beat the bad guys from getting their buildings. But we can reach a compromise, and in good old New York where the corporate giants rule, that's good enough. Added delight from the wonderful and much missed Jessica Tandy. I also love her in Fried Green Tomatoes at the Whistle Stop Cafe. If you can squeeze that in over the Christmas season, do!

6. The Railway Children (1970)

Tissues. Yep. Same old story. In this lesser known, low budget British drama filmed in its most famous version in 1970 with a young Jenny Agutter playing Bobby, E. Nesbitt's story of three children who find themselves unexpectedly making a temporary home in a Yorkshire village. Bobby and her brother and sister don't know where their father is, and this is Victorian England, so it would be impolite to ask. Keeping a stiff upper lip has never been so comprehensively summed up than in this triumph of the individual over society, and the amazing things that can be achieved by children who cannot stop believing that their father will come home. It's one of the last scenes that makes me howl, but I will leave it to you to find out which. You'll know when the tears start flowing freely. I daresay.

7. Pollyanna (1960)
Hayley Mills does a fine job as Pollyanna teaching us to play the 'glad' game

I believe in being good to one another. I believe in this more than I believe in anything else, and I never give myself a harder time than when I can't be charitable and forgive and forget. It brings me sadness when people aren't kind or charitable back, but I find I'm equally cursed and blessed that I can't learn. Pollyanna taught me not to give up, and although I am 100% more sarcastic than she is, and might plausibly more fun on a night out with margaritas, hers is a more modern parable for us all. When her father and mother die, she goes to live with her aunt, who has a very different set of rules for life. Pollyanna tries to find friends in her new home, but no one seems to like to smile. Pollyanna doesn't give up, although the townspeople try so hard to make her, and gradually the corners at the sides of people's mouths start to curl up. And as they do, we all learn that we need to be a bit more grateful for what we have. I can't do this when I am ill. I can't be grateful for feeling like I want to die because it's just too bloody hard to live. But Pollyanna can, and I want to believe that I could be a bit better if I held her as my mentor in my mind.

8. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

Okay, so there's a theme developing here. Less of a theme, more than an investment in Kleenex. Michael Caine's finest hour. Forget the Italian Job, forget Alfie. Forget the rest. This guy is the best Scrooge in the business and he's working with the finest green frog and pink pig in Hollywood. If you haven't read A Christmas Carol, it's a beautiful story and Dickens' genius no less apparent here than in his other works. The only thing that's missing from Dickens' masterpiece are the singing mice and the creativity of that other genius: Mr. Jim Henson. So watch and learn, and love. And cry (of course) as the story unfolds. I'm not going to spoil it for you here if you've never seen it.

9. The Labyrinth (1986)

You, you remind me of the babe. (What babe?) The babe with the power. David Bowie is the goblin king who has fallen in love with fifteen year old Sarah. She feels too grown up to be babysitting her step brother Toby and annoyed that her father's remarried a woman she doesn't like, but not grown up enough to let go of her toys, her costumes and her story books. Whatever your age, if you haven't already enjoyed this film, here's another chance to witness Jim Henson's masterpiece. Each character is a beautiful creation;

10. Miracle on 34th Street (1994) / Die Hard (1988)

Tissues. Check. Yep. I like the Richard Attenborough version but the Shirley Temple one's gotta be worth a watch too. People are mean in New York city and a little girl wants to help to save a department store with old fashioned values. The bit that gets me in the newer version is between Santa Claus and a little girl signing because she can't hear. But the rest is not so bad. There's a simple wish of a child for her mother's happiness and the old good guys versus bad that bring Santa Claus out on top. And in Die Hard, well, it's good guys versus bad again except this time it's John McClane kicking some serious arse in a wife beater while his wife Holly rocks eighties hair and power dressing. Just watch it. It's amazing.

I guess you can tell what I love about these films. It's that good wins over evil. It's the fact that there is hope. When you feel hopeless yourself it feels good to remember that you can feel (that you can, in fact, feel enough to cry) and that just maybe there is more good in the world than you feel there is right now. That's what I love. I like to watch these films alone sometimes when I don't want other people to see me cry. Even if I can't get out in the world, I can see it through the non-realism of these films. The good in them is what I want to believe in. I want to believe in good people, and that I can, or could, be one of them. And that's enough Christmas spirit; enough of a Christmas miracle.


  1. I watched the Sound of Music last night and sang my heart out, bawled like a baby, and just had a general girlfest. It was awesome. Anything with Hayley Mills is a must - I absolutely adore her in the Parent Trap! Loved Batteries Not Included ... haven't seen that in ages, think it might be time to cue it up again! I do believe we have the DVD floating around in the gazillions stacked under the tellie somewhere!

    1. Thank Kim for your comment! I didn't put The Sound of Music in here as I associate it with ANY time of the year and can still reel off most of the score / lyrics at will. I love the original Parent Trap too - a great film, and one to cheer as well as to make us laugh from the cheeky moments.

      We had to remove our DVDs from their individual cases into massive folders and lockable cases because we simply don't have the storage space to accommodate my love of films and television box sets. Thank goodness someone thought of a solution to this problem! Happy watching!