Friday, December 16, 2011

Holiday Movies

It used to be a treat to stumble on a great Holiday movie on TV this time of year.  If I stumbled on it in July it wasn’t as much of a treat, but I still watched it. 

They weren’t trumpeted or turned into big, exclusive events, the way they are now. They were mostly late night or afternoon programming fillers. You didn’t look for them as much as they found you.

I remember the very first time I came across “It’s a Wonderful life",“Charlie Brown’s Christmas”, “Mr. Magoo’s Christmas Carol”. The 1951 “A Christmas Carol” with Alistair Sim, the Scrooge by which all other Scrooges are judged.

Now, like everything else, there’s a Holiday movie mill where you can find something new almost every day of the week. I’m not gonna say where these movies run or who makes them, but I will say the place is a Hallmark of Christmas schmaltz.

But I won’t tell you who they are exactly….

The first time I came across, “It’s a Wonderful life” was after I served as an altar boy at midnight mass. Yeah, I know…I did those kinds of things back then; before I grew a mind of my own, and escaped unscathed to tell about it. I enjoyed the midnight mass, mostly because it was midnight, and churches are spooky at midnight with all that dark stained glass. Plus all the incense that was flying around had a pleasant effect on my reality, and I got to bong the cool acoustic bell thing, which kind of sounded like the network ID tone for NBC. 

But again…I digress.

So there I lay in my room, in the wee hours of Christmas morning, still buzzed on holy fumes, when I turn my old circa 1940’s black and white TV to this odd little Jimmy Stewart movie with a bunch of people, looking way too old for high school, dancing on this gym floor that suddenly turns into a pool…and that was that.  There I sat, lost in the twin worlds of Bedford Falls/Pottersville for the very first time.

No fanfare, no color, no horde of lame NBC celebrities cutting in every 5 minutes to relate their useless reminisces. Just me and Jimmy and Donna and Lionel.

I remember, the day after Christmas, telling my friend and fellow altar boy, Phil, about it, and he had the same exact moment and reaction I had…except for ringing the bells. That was mine.

All of that public domain spontaneity lost when NBC paid a gazillion dollars for it and it became an “NBC Holiday Tradition” instead of ours.  

I’ve had a few other pure Christmas movie moments like that over the years, most of which I mentioned earlier.  There was also the original “The Bishops Wife”…the Carey Grant/David Niven version, not the Denzel.
Caught that one on a Christmas Eve while I was waiting for my mom to pick up my dad at the train and trying not to peek into the garage to check out the bicycle I was sure was being hid out there…which it wasn’t, cuz you know I had to look and ruin my Christmas Eve, because I’m nothing if not materialistic… yet, there it was by the tree the next morning.  A Christmas miracle if there was one.

So maybe you can understand if I politely refrain from the countless slew of new Christmas “films” that roll of the sentimental production line this time of year. There are only so many drunken dead beat dad’s who stumble on an angel that turns his life around and reunites him with his family or his dog or his dog’s family…or worse, some tiresome Little Red Christmas Ball that falls off the tree on Christmas eve and enlists the help of some itinerant rodent and a pair of insects to help him reclaim his one true purpose by shining bright for Santa.

I mean really…come on.

Gag me with a spoon, why dontcha.

Who writes this stuff??????

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