Its beginning to look a lot like Christmas, well its been looking that way since early September to be fair, with Christmas music channels on air and Christmas ads creeping into the TV schedule. There’s no getting away from it the festive season is well and truly heading our way whether we like it or not. Scrolling through for example Sky (other TV providers are available) and already the Christmas movie channel is in full swing, with classics and not so well known movies that fill the days and nights and early mornings and the dreaded afternoon slots, I say dreaded afternoon slots because that is normally the time when channels decide that it’s a great idea to show not so good movies, with their well who’s watching attitude anyway? Shining through (or is that twinkling through). Don’t get me wrong I do like Christmas, (notice I said like not love or adore or whatever). Christmas as we know it now can be what I call and acquired taste, and at times is also hard to take in because it is so so commercial and contrived now. I should imagine that Santa is pretty fed up with it by now, but there again what a great job working 1 night a year and having three hundred and sixty-four days off paid. But I suppose we don’t know what goes on behind closed doors in lap land or the North Pole or wherever Santa is based these days, so maybe he has like a desk job, doing admin and filing all those letters from kids of all ages. And also, quality control on all the toys and pressies, plus the reindeer have to exercised and fed. So, Santa I guess is a busy guy all year round. Have yourself a Merry little Christmas, Let it Snow Let it Snow Let it Snow, Chestnut’s roasting on an open fire, Jack frost nipping at your nose etc etc, all great sentiments and thoughts connected with that big day and also lines from what are now classic yuletide songs, Christmas is coming the Geese are getting fat, that’s a great line isn’t it, but who nowadays has goose for Christmas? This year we will be lucky to get a Turkey by the looks of things because of the dreaded bird flu outbreak in the UK, of course there are alternatives, Beef, Pork, Duck even, (Vegan and Vegetarian alternatives are also available please check your local supermarket for all the latest deals and offers). The thing is if you were a Turkey for instance, would you not think ok I am going on a pre-Chrimbo diet so then I wont be as appealing for the you know what when December comes around, think about it. Ducks you have wings so fly (my beauties), get away, for one thing you would avoid the orange sauce treatment and it’s so much warmer away from the UK in winter. Christmas is also a time for families, yep, the good old family Christmas argument, when things that happened twenty years ago get dragged up after a couple of glasses of egg nog, but are then forgotten again after the box of chocolates come out.
Cynical, am I? (Sorry slipped into Yoda mode for a second there, but it is Christmas and Star Wars will be on TV) yep certainly am, had enough Christmas’s to realize by now it’s not all tinsel and mistletoe, twinkling lights and love and good cheer, and goodwill to all men, (what about the women). After the past two or three years I would love it if this was a Christmas to remember for all the right reasons, (but sadly I do not think that will happen do you?). A great Christmas present would be in the words of Johnny Mathis and so many other recording artists who created Christmas songs in the middle of summer to catch the Christmas market, Peace on Earth. Yep, nice thought, but will that happen? No it won’t. But before I get all serious and down, let’s think about the Christmas movies and the Christmas scores that you know and love, (it’s that word again).
These are titles that are actual Christmas movies as in full on snow, Santa, presents, elves the whole thing, or films that were set at Christmas time (yes Die Hard and Lethal Weapon are included My blog My article, My Rules, do not even go there) r even films that have been shown every Christmas and New year since you can remember. So, if there is even just a hint of a decoration, an elf, or even a Snowman yep, it’s in, and I will allow the odd movie and score that maybe is nothing at all to do with Christmas but has made an impression upon you at Christmas-time. So, let’s go Walking in the Air, do the Jingle Bell rock, Listen to a Fairy tale in New York, Rock Around the Christmas Tree, Take a Sleigh Ride and discover the magic, sparkle, and wonder of the festive season as in your choices of films and scores and the odd Christmas non film music album thrown in (literally) but be careful there could be some dark surprises along the way, that may include memories of Christmas’s past that maybe you or I would rather forget. Are you sitting comfortably, then I will begin.
I think the Christmas film that I love the most is Scrooge, which starred Albert Finney in the title role, a musical but one that I think just had something really special about it, it has become something of a tradition in our household that when its on we watch it and that can be at the height of summer in a drought and also at Christmas, Easter, birthdays, etc. Based on the classic Dickens novel A Christmas Carol, it has everything that a good feel-good Christmas story should have. A grumpy old skinflint, an array of ghosts and spirits (no not those sort of spirits) an impoverished family with a sick child and ….Hang on did I say feel good?
Well, it all turns out ok in the end and the songs are brilliantly done even if Finney is not a singer he puts in real effort, and I think that’s the appeal of the movie, it’s not polished or precise but it’s still a classic, even if it is now somewhat cliched. And when you think about it the film and the story has a lot in common with events of today that are happening right now.
Another movie at Christmas that just has to be watched is the original and the best Home Alone, (do you still laugh at the bit with the blow torch and the bit when the paint cans hit the wet bandits and also the Iced up Steps and and…. ….well all of it really, I do). Much to the embarrassment of everyone else in my house I have to say, Home Alone for me has the same effect as The Great Race, I just see things that maybe others do not and that’s it I am the one on the sofa in fits of giggles.
Ok now for Christmas soundtracks, well I don’t really know to be honest, maybe again Home Alone, as Williams did a fantastic job of blending melancholy and drama into the soundtrack adding a sprinkle of sleigh bells here and there and an incredible arrangement of the Carol of the Bell, the score weaving in and out of the various scenarios and being complimented and further enhanced but a handful of Christmas songs. So maybe my choices are predictable, but simplicity and uncomplicated is I think the order of the day.
Then there is Die Hard, (don’t start-I can mention it its in the terms and conditions, did you not read them?). I like the movie and also the score, so that’s it. Although I do have some slightly darker and sadder memories of Christmas from when I was a kid, but its Christmas let’s just smile shall we that’s it look happy (or else) and lets carry on (remember not one word). I just hope that those memories have made me realize that Christmas should be a happy time, a time of safety and warmth and a period in which that four-letter word that begins with a L and ends with an E does really shine through even more so than it does ordinarily. Other childhood memories of Christmas are Morecambe and Wise, and for some reason Mr. Magoo does A Christmas Carol (it just sticks in my mind-but others just cant see it-see what I did there).
Christmas for me was also about certain smells, yes Tangerines (no not satsumas they were not around), Big navel Oranges, and my Grand-mother’s gravy and Brussel sprouts (the smell not the taste that is something totally different), again darker memories can also be evoked by smells a musky damp smell always reminds me of a dark place, a cupboard a room, no lights and cold, but as I got older those memories have faded slightly and the smell of fresh snow and the cold winter breeze have become something I have learned to enjoy and appreciate.
Non film music has to be The Phil Spector Christmas Album, it’s just so well CHRISTMASY!!!!!!. And Merry Christmas from Motown album plus there are a few individual songs, Merry Xmas Everyone by Slade, Happy Christmas (war is over) John and Yoko, and I Believe in Father Christmas by Greg Lake (cynical till the end). Many of which I listened to when in my teens in a club or a pub surrounded by friends, who after vowing their undying love for you would then proceed to down four barrels of beer and want to murder you. Then there is The Christmas Song by Nat King Cole, which is probably my all-time favourite. So that’s me, ok are you ready over to you keep it clean.
Composer Matt Cannon says for him its Scrooged and Silent Night Deadly Night, both great movies, why those? “SCROOGED ie Danny Elfman’s score has this dread but whimsical quality over the opening credits. I always loved the movement of the score and it fits prefect with the comedy and ethos. Silent Night is creative in all these fun ways that its a Xmas film with it’s own made up Christmas tunes. Besides the chaotic antilog score which is tops for me it’s the ominous feeling of all those made-up songs that add a looming foreshadow”.
As for non-film music at Christmas Matt recalls and artist called Mr Bungle “The album was called California. If you haven’t listened to it it’s definitely worth a spin It’s an Eclectic mix of every style of music ever made. Mike Patton formerly of Faith No More is the lead singer for it”. Thanks Matt I listened and yep your right love track number five Ars Moriendi.
Composer Kenneth Lampl (Sissy the Furies), says “Favourite Christmas movie is Rudolph the Red Nose Reindeer (the animated one from the 60’s). Best Christmas scores are Edward Scissorhands and Polar Express. Best non film music Christmas album is Bing Crosby Christmas Classics”.
Sid De La Cruz composer of the Hell on the Border Score, said.“I really enjoyed the Home Alone films by John Williams as for non film I enjoy the nutcracker (ballet) – Tchiakovsky. Good choices I would say.
Composer Andrew Scott Bell sites Home Alone also as his favourite Christmas movie, the composer’s music for the anthology Deathcember has just been released on Howlin Wolf records alongside music by other composers for the movie. Andrew says of non-film music albums for Christmas. “The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs by various female artists, released in 2008 through Epic Records”.
Composer Winifred Phillips, said “My favorite Christmas film (and score) for a movie set at Christmas is The Bishop’s Wife, composed by Hugo Friedhofer. It’s a magical, heart-warming score in a movie that places a strong emphasis on music as part of the narrative. There are many wonderfully musical moments in the film, from Cary Grant playing an impressive harp solo, to a scene with a gorgeous children’s choir performance, to a rollicking ice-dance featuring an enthusiastic band performing onscreen. The moments when Cary Grant reveals himself as an angel are particularly memorable in the score, with the mystical textures and sense of wonder that Hugo Friedhofer crafts so expertly. I’ve always wished that this score might be rerecorded or performed live. While the music is still perfectly charming in the film, the effects of time on the recording have degraded the sound quality considerably. It would be such a treat to hear a modern recording of this music, with every nuance of Hugo Friedhofer’s score captured with rich warmth and crystal clarity! Here’s a YouTube video that contains a Soundtrack Suite from The Bishop’s Wife”:
Radio show host and film music critic Tim Burden, loves the score for Santa Claus the Movie and his favourite Christmas set movie is Gremlins. Maybe take a listen to Tim at http://www.Belfast247OnAir.com.
Tim’s non film music track choices include LeRoy Andersons Sleigh Ride and this.
Its back to Home Alone again for composer Holly Amber Church’s favourite Christmas movie score, Holly recently provided the energetic theme for the Netflix series Cabinet of Curiosities, and has also scored movies such as Worry Dolls, Dark Light, Bad Impulsive. Italian film music critic Massimo Privitera of Colonnesonore.net has so many favourites that he compiled and posted this impressive collection from Christmas movies and movies with a hint of Christmas about them on Spotify it contains sixty themes and runs for over three hours, so that’s Christmas eve sorted, pass the nibbles and the fizzy stuff. Please check it out here.
Composer Rocky Gray (10/31, The Barn, Close Calls) said “Favourite Xmas film would probably be Lethal Weapon (ha ha). It doesn’t have the best Xmas time score though. Best Xmas time score might have to go to The Nightmare Before Christmas by Danny Elfman”.
Well, that’s one vote for Lethal Weapon, anymore? Fellow collector and friend Steven Smith commented “My favourite Xmas film or more correctly film set at Xmas as you say is Die Hard, can’t help but love it. Home Alone 2 fits the bill as well. But even more than that is Vince Guaraldi’s A Charlie Brown Christmas, it is seminal as far as I’m concerned. Perfection”.
Filmmaker and all-round lovely guy Terry Bamber (who is playing Scrooge this year in a new grumpy production of Ban all cyclists for Christmas) was brief and to the point about his favourite movie at Christmas and his favourite score for yuletide. “Zulu”.
One of MMI’s most stalwart supporters Mars Misik mentioned the Jeff Rona scored movie A Castle for Christmas which starred Brooke Shields in 2021. Sadly, no soundtrack album is released. Film and film music critic and author Randall Larsson, when asked the question replied. “It will probably Violent Night when it released next month! But for current films… I’d probably go with It’s a Wonderful Life or Black Christmas I like a bit of horror with my Yuletide! Well don’t we all? Yes, Violent Night is coming soon and has a score by Dominic Lewis. Let’s hope the score will be released.
Composer Reber Clark (Saturnalia, Mystery Highway, House of the Gorgon, Cowgirls vs Pterodactyls) responded by saying. “I have a lot of sentimental favourites for Xmas movies soundtracks. Some of those are better than the movie! Like Alan Silvestri’s Polar Express. But if I had to pick an overall favourite it would be John Williams’ Home Alone. It’s a fine piece of beautiful work”.
Fellow collectors like Brendon Kelly went for “Santa Claus the Movie – absolutely love Henry Mancini’s score. Enjoy the film as well. Also love Arthur Christmas score and film. Home Alone is probably my favourite film and I enjoy the score. Only have the album version though – not the full score”.
Well that’s about it I think, thanks to all who answered to those who didn’t you’re loss Humbug and all that (of course other sweets are available).