Just a little something to keep you warm while the festive season gets into full swing – it’s another list, of course, this time the ten moments that I consider to be the most, well, ‘Christmassy’, and I would love to hear about what you consider to be the notable omissions.
10. Billy Ray: [posing as 'Nenge Mboko,' an exchange student from Cameroon] Merry New Year!
Beeks: That’s ‘happy’. In this country we say ‘Happy New Year’.
Billy Ray: Oh, ho, ho, thank you for correcting my English which stinks!
Trading Places (1983) Dir. John Landis
Officially the last great film that John Landis made before officially losing the plot, and this was a diamond moment from it. Another gem of a scene has a drunken Billy Ray (Dan Aykroyd) dressed as a grubby Santa Claus eating a whole salmon…through the dirty beard.
9. The Snowman (1982) Dir. Dianne Jackson, Jimmy T. Murakami
There’s no dialogue to quote, but there is a still-beautiful song by one Aled Jones to cherish, as a young boy and his snowy friend discover the magic. All together now…’We’re walking in the air…’
8. ‘Mummy, mummy, it’s Father Christmas! I let him in!’ Tales from the Crypt (1972) – Dir. Freddie Francis
It’s interesting that Christmas has always been associated with the macabre as well as with joy to all men, and this scary vignette from the best of the Amicus compendium horrors is still very creepy. Joan Collins has been a very naughty girl on Christmas Eve, but there is an unexpected avenger just waiting to come down the chimney…
7. The Killer: [On the phone]: ‘I’m going to kill you.’ Black Christmas (1974) – Dir. Bob Clark
And Bob Clark, who has the honour of two places on this list, was responsible for the very first film of its kind, namely the stalk-and-slash/slice-and-dice horror, which were to be repeated ad infinitum (and largely ad nauseum) during the late 1970s and 1980s (John Carpenter’s Hallowe’en (1978) being the other quality exception). Difference is, Clark’s film is tight, very suspenseful and really rather scary, with its unseen, quasi-supernatural killer menacing US fraternity sisters. Brrrrr!
6. Cindy Lou Who: ‘Santa, what’s the real meaning of Christmas?
The Grinch: [bursts through the Christmas tree] ‘VENGEANCE! Er, I mean… presents, I suppose. The Grinch (2000) – Dir. Ron Howard
One of the all-time Christmas-related belly laughs, from Howard’s genuinely warm and amusing adaptation of the Dr Seuss classic. Also one of the last films to see Jim Carrey mugging big-style before the cameras, and there was nothing wrong with that.
5. ‘Now, I have a machine gun. Ho, ho, ho.’ Die Hard (1988) – Dir. John McTiernan
Still an all-time classic moment – Alan Rickman, who’s brilliant as uber-criminal Hans Gruber, begins to realise that he may well have a fight on his hands and that his plans for a ‘Happy Christmas’, courtesy of $600 million of the Nakatomi Corporation’s funds, may be thwarted by NYPD cop John McLane (Bruce Willis), who sends him a little ‘present’ down in the lift…
4. Ralphie: [Ralphie is shoved down the slide, but he stops himself and climbs back up to Santa Claus] ‘No! No! I want an Official Red Ryder Carbine-Action Two-Hundred-Shot Range Model Air Rifle!’
Santa Claus: ‘You’ll shoot your eye out, kid.’ A Christmas Story (1983) – Dir. Bob Clark
It’s the ultimate betrayal – all that Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) wants for Christmas is the above-mentioned ‘firearm’, but he is to be told, again and again and again, that he’ll ‘shoot his eye out’. Now, even Santa would appear to be against him – what’s a boy to do? Clark (who directed the previously cited Black Christmas (1974)) serves up a warm, witty and wonderful festive treat that’s not only one of the best cinematic evocations of Christmas, but of childhood too.
Still the best version of Dickens’ A Christmas Carol, by a country mile, Hurst’s film is elevated to all-time classic status by Alistair Sims as the curmudgeonly Ebeneezer Scrooge who realises, in a simply delightful denouement, just how much life is still worth living. Ahhhhh.
2. Bob Wallace: [sings] ‘I’m dreaming, of a white Christmas, just like the ones I used to know…’ White Christmas (1954) – Dir. Michael Curtiz
It’s only just beaten to the top spot – Bob Wallace (Bing Crosby) perhaps takes the celluloid record for bringing audiences to blubbers the fastest, with his wonderfully timeless performance of Irving Berlin’s song. Simply beautiful.
1. Harry Bailey: ‘A toast to my big brother George: The richest man in town.’ It’s a Wonderful Life (1946) – Dir. Frank Capra
And how could this not be number one? Now as much a part of Yuletide as seeing loved ones again, George Bailey (James Stewart) realizing that he really has had a wonderful life, with his friends only too willing to show him how wonderful, is cinema’s most joyously moving moment, bar none. And, if you’ll forgive me, it’s exactly what I am going to watch right now.
Thanks very much to all the readers who have kept it with Picturenose and our reviews on Expatica during 2010, and a very Happy Christmas to all.