The pleasures of watching Alistair Sim (#SFWApro)

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THE CHRISTMAS CAROL (1951) is one of my favorite adaptations (all rights to poster reside with current holders) and rewatching only makes me admire it more. The core of the film’s appeal for me is Alastair Sim’s turn as Scrooge: greedy, grasping, callous, a backstabber (on top of the covetousness in Dickens, this shows Scrooge taking over his beloved former boss Fezziwig’s business and throwing him out),  and yet able to see, almost from the start, how badly he’s screwed up — his resistance is his insistence that changing would just be too hard. There’s the way he flinches when his nephew insists on wishing him Merry Christmas (it seems to sting that someone he’s utterly rejected insists on paying him back with affection); the bleak, empty streets Scrooge walks through in the early scenes (contrasted with the convivial scenes at the end, post-reform); Scrooge sobbing in horror in Christmas Past when his dying sister asks him to always look after her nephew; and a Marley who seems genuinely tormented by his afterlife. One of the darkest of the many adaptations and to me, still the best of them. “Can you forgive a pigheaded old fool for having no eyes to see with, no ears to hear with?”

THIS CHRISTMAS (2007) is another Family Christmas Movie, in this case a black family dealing with assorted problems such as scapegrace musician Idris Elba on the run from a gambling debt, momma shacking up with her pastor, the daughter’s perfect marriage falling apart and a son in the military going AWOL to see his secret white wife. While I thought the emphasis on resolving everyone’s personal crises dragged down Nothing Like the Holidays, here it worked quite well. “And you over there, are you secretly married to one of my children?”

A CHRISTMAS HORROR STORY (2015) is, of course, one from the Dark side of Christmas, as Krampus comes after a squabbling family, a man who steals a Christmas tree discovers he’s caught something else along with it, a group of high schoolers conducting a paranormal investigation become part of a virgin birth and Santa battles zombie Christmas-elf army. Didn’t work for me, though it shows how Krampus’ profile has risen in recent years; William Shatner plays a talk-radio host sort of vaguely linking the segments together. “I know one thing—you’ve been a very bad girl.”

Ever since seeing Grand Hotel as a tween — the story of multiple characters and plots linked only by the eponymous location — I’ve thought of that kind of multi-arc, multi-character ensemble film as a “Grand Hotel” story. Which is how I thought of CHRISTMAS EVE (2015), one of the most recent in the string of special-day themed Grand Hotel stories (New Year’s Eve, Valentine’s Day) even though I think the template for this cycle was more likely Love, Actually. In any case, Christmas Eve has a power blackout trapping different characters in different elevators, including a surgical team headed by atheist Gary Cole, Scrooge-ish curmudgeon Patrick Stewart, a group of disgruntled musicians and two neighbors forced into closer acquaintance. No Love, Actually, but fun enough. Obvious double bills would be the 1970s TV movie The Elevator or the wacky comedy about a blackout, Where Were You When the Lights Went Out? “You’ve said four complete sentences without telling me one thing I need to know.”

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2 responses to “The pleasures of watching Alistair Sim (#SFWApro)

  1. Pingback: They fed the moh-gwi after midnight. You won’t believe what happened next! (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

  2. Pingback: A French Christmas, a New York New Year and Woody Allen: movies viewed (#SFWApro) | Fraser Sherman's Blog

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