A Special Tribute To All The Non-Christmas Christmas Films…
“Zulus, sir. Thousands of them.”
“The hiiills are aliiiiive…!”
“Why’d it have to be snakes?”
“Fill your hand, you son of a bitch!”
“Bless your beautiful hide…”
“Use enough dynamite there, Butch?”
Yes, yes, YES! Today’s the day! Last night, trembling with excitement, I bought this year’s bumper Christmas edition of the Radio Times (the thinking man’s TV Guide) and now I’m sitting down with my highlighter ready to plan my Christmas viewing.
Christmas television was my education; Film Appreciation 101. First, there was the swathe of TV premiers of films out only a couple of years before, with which the BBC, ITV, and Channel 4 all competed for your attention, particularly if you were like my house and only had terrestrial telly. Then, of course, there was the magnificent blend of ‘80s family adventures, musicals, John Wayne westerns, Disney movies, black and white war movies and glorious Technicolor epics. If you wanted to see the classics of cinema without having to go and buy them on VHS or rent them from that surly clerk at Global Video (only kidding, Matt), you’re best chance was at Christmas.
Now, I understand that I’m not talking about a single film here, and I know that they’re not necessarily ‘Christmas’ films, but for me, leafing through this magazine and looking at the ba-jillion films showing over Christmas was the TV highlight of the year. But to do it right, it had be approached with the care, planning, diplomacy, and fighting spirit of a military campaign…
Conflict could arise at any time; conflicting times being the worst. How on earth could I watch ‘Zulu’ on BBC 2 at 12.15pm when ‘Ben Hur’ was coming on ITV at 1pm? Yes, I could tape one of them, but did I have enough space on the scrappy video cassette with my name spelt out with stick-on labels on it? I had, after all, already taped ‘Lawrence of Arabia’, so perhaps I could negotiate space on another family member’s tape? If I CAN tape one of them, I’ll record the shorter, but will the longer one be finished before ‘The Italian Job’ starts on BBC 1 at 5pm? And don’t get me started on when I’m fitting in this Christmas’s ‘Wallace and Gromit’…
Such are the trials of a young boy and his TV scheduling…
‘Ahh, Barry Norman. You magnificent cinema-wizard…’
And this Christmas shall be no different. After pouring over this year’s edition (the first I’ve looked at in around a decade or so…) I can see that little has changed. The daytime family-friendly fare like ‘Cool Runnings’, ‘Twins’, and ‘Bedknobs and Broomsticks’ are present and correct. So too are the classic musicals like ‘Seven Brides for Seven Brothers’ and ‘Sound of Music’ and vintage adventures like ‘The Dam Busters’, ‘Spartacus’ and ‘Lawrence of Arabia’ to curl up onto the sofa with while nursing post-dinner food-babies, and of course the late night gems such as ‘Blade Runner’, ‘The Birds’ and ‘Die Hard II’.
The only thing that feels a little weird is perhaps the fact that time has, of course, moved on; stuff that I never even thought would grace the pages of the RT are there. Stuff like ‘In Bruges’ and, the film that finally turned my other half vegetarian, ‘Julie and Julia’ squat on these hallowed pages like interlopers. It’s not that I don’t think these are ace films, it’s just that to me things like Digital, SkyPlus, Anytime, On Demand, Tivo and such like have made something publications like these a bit superfluous. To me it’s something very much of Christmas Past, and it never entered my head that films post-2003 would ever appear. Yep, time has DEFINITELY moved on, perhaps more quickly than I realised.
Be that as it may, I’m all set for this Christmas. Come December 22, I’m saying goodbye to such quaint ideas as ‘outside’ or ‘fresh air’; I have soaked up Barry Norman’s infinite wisdom as in days of yore, and will settle down with a few segments of Chocolate Orange to let three-quarters of a century of the western world’s cinematic history wash over me. God bless us, everyone!
‘And so it begins…’