Today’s post is written by Hilary Mortz, who wrote one of the stories in Festive Treats (the free Christmas anthology, have you got your copy yet?)
I got my ultimate guilty pleasure FESTIVE TREAT today – a glossy shiny 14 Day What’s On At Xmas TV Guide. Christmas is finally here – forget the Star of Bethlehem, there’s nothing like the arrival of the festive edition of your chosen TV guide that heralds the birth of little Baby Jesus. And no, this time an on-line edition just won’t cut it, thank you very much.
I love flicking through the 14 Day Guide. What treats have the channels got in store for us all. Aren’t they being really nice to us? It almost makes up for the rubbish they churn out the rest of the year, doesn’t it? Festive editions of Call The Midwife, and Doctor Who, repeats of much loved comedy classics, and then there’s the Soaps. Don’t get me started on the Christmas Soaps. I have to admit that I only watch Coronation Street, (I toyed with the idea of starting to watch Emmerdale a while ago but felt unable to ‘take on’ another such commitment) but whatever your soap of choice, you have to admit that they all come up trumps for the big day, if it still appropriate to use that phrase. Explosions, premature births, weddings, stolen kisses, the festive soap has it all. If Shakespeare was alive today he would probably write a Christmas special where the ultimate tragedy occurs, someone has gone off the rails so badly that he (and it is always a ‘he’) knocks over the Christmas Tree; this is the very worst thing that can happen in a Christmas Soap, the ultimate betrayal of all the festive season stands for. Advice for soap villains: kill your mother, decapitate the family pet, sleep with your wife’s sister, vote for the wrong side in Brexit, JUST DON’T KNOCK OVER THE CHRISTMAS TREE. It’s that sort of thing that stopped me from watching Eastenders back in the 1980’s.
Anyway as you work your way through the 14 Day Guide, excitement growing, you finally get there – The Bumper Family Film Guide. I don’t know why this is such a thrill in these digital days when you can download anything and don’t have to wait ten years for the movie you couldn’t afford to see at the ‘pictures’ to finally hit your screen, but it just IS, right? Its Christmas time and you have to try and find your pleasures where you can.
We all know about Christmas Films, don’t we? They roughly fall into two categories: films that are actually about Christmas, and films that have sod all to do with the festive season but without which the whole holiday would be an empty travesty.
The non-festive (let’s call them ‘secular’) films are all timeless classics that go really well with chocolate Matchmakers and a glass of Baileys. Some of these films work equally well with Easter Eggs, so they are excellent value, holiday wise. You know the ones I am talking about, RAIDERS OF THE LOST ARK, THE WIZARD OF OZ (which is more an Easter Egg movie for me, actually), JAWS, HARRY POTTER and so on. Then there’s the animated movies, like SHREK, KUNG FU PANDA, FROZEN and the brilliant TOY STORY 3; I suppose you could add TV classics like THE SNOWMAN and WALLACE AND GROMMIT to the same list. My favourite ‘secular’ film is the mighty GALAXY QUEST (a spoof on Star Trek) starring the late great Alan Rickman (from Harry Potter and Love, Actually) and Sigourney Weaver. And talking about Sigourney (gosh I hope that’s spelt right), she’s been in some other great ‘secular’ Christmas movies, like ALIEN, WORKING GIRL, and GHOSTBUSTERS. See how it works? You take your favourite movie, only watch it at Christmas when you’re relaxed and the house is full of food and drink and hey-presto it is a ‘Christmas Film’. Well in your house anyway. Real Christmas films are a completely different kettle of fish.
There are literally hundreds, if not thousands of films about Christmas. If you have Freeview on your tellybox you will find there are entire channels dedicated to playing nothing else. Sadly most of these productions are utter tripe; they have titles like ‘A BOYFRIEND FOR CHRISTMAS’ or ‘MIRACLE ON SANTA CLAUS MOUNTAIN’. The majority of them are American, but don’t hold that against our trans-Atlantic friends, because most of the all-time greats are from there as well, Americans are proper geniuses at Christmas when they try, but more of that later.
Some people would say that the greatest Christmas film ever made is ‘IT’S A WONDERFUL LIFE’ and I’ve got to admit that for a long time it was in the running, even though the bally Americans stole the original idea from A CHRISTMAS CAROL which was written by our very own Charles Dickens. No, the greatest Christmas film ever made by a long chalk is of course ELF.
“I passed through the seven levels of the Candy Cane Forest, then through the Sea of Swirly-Whirly Gum-Drops, and then I walked through the Lincoln Tunnel.”
“Don’t eat the gum on the street. It’s not free candy.”
“I’m in love! I’m in love, and I don’t care who knows it!”
ELF has everything. It is everything a Christmas Film, or indeed any film, could ever want to be. It all works on different levels. Kids love the magic and the slapstick elements – Buddy the Elf arriving in the big city and playing on the revolving doors, his first ride on an elevator, the bit when he pulls over the massive Christmas Tree (he was trying to put a star on top of it – he wasn’t drunk like poor Arthur Fowler from Eastenders), the thrilling snowball fight in Central Park. ‘Big Kids’ love the wit and wise-cracks, the pulling of the heartstrings as Buddy’s workaholic, bread-head Dad embraces the Christmas Spirit and finally accepts his long lost son; the bit when the hard-bitten New Yorkers save Christmas by spontaneously starting to sing ‘Santa Claus is Coming to Town’; the fabulous quotes. ELF is funny without being crass; it is sentimental without being sickly. It is perfect.
“Whenever I get gloomy about the state of the world, I think about the arrivals gate at Heathrow Airport….”
My other candidate for essential Christmas Film viewing (and it’s a controversial one, admittedly) couldn’t be more British if it stood in a queue for hours waiting for a bacon and egg breakfast and then said ‘sorry’ when somebody kicked it on the ankle. It is, of course the rom-comtastic LOVE, ACTUALLY. What’s not to love about this little modern classic? It features an all-star cast including Colin ‘Mr Darcy’ Firth, the brilliant Emma Thompson, Alan Rickman (again), Bill Nighy as a washed up rock-star, Ant’n’Dec as themselves and that guy from The Walking Dead. It has all the best Christmas Film ingredients, the humour, a bit of pathos, romance (durr) and a big city (London) all lit and waiting up for Santa to arrive. But best of all it has HUGH GRANT as Prime Minister. Who wouldn’t rather have Hugh Grant than our current shower, eh? Who wouldn’t like the sort of Prime Minister who can give an obnoxious American President an earbashing to remember by pointing out that we invented Harry Potter, Shakespeare and David Beckham? If 2016 has taught us nothing else, it should be that all politicians could be like our Hugh if they tried. And he gets the girl in the end, even though it’s only Tiffany from Eastenders (who must have surely seen a few Christmas Trees knocked over in her time). You see? It’s all interlinked. We are all one big television family at Christmas.
Pass the Quality Street, Grandma!
About Hilary Mortz
Hilary Mortz is the official biographer of rock legend and reality star, Geordie Selwyn.
The legal Restraining Order placed on her by Mr Selwyn’s management after she published the sensational exposé of his private life in her previous books, ‘APPETITE FOR CORRUPTION’ and ‘NEVADA MIND THE BOLLIX’, has now been lifted and Hilary is currently busy working with Geordie on his official memoirs, ‘THE SELWYN FILES’.
Hilary splits her life between working at her tattoo studio in the holiday island of Cyprus during the summer and travelling the world watching heavy metal in the winter.
She should have grown out of it all a long, long time ago.