A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

Movie 300 – A Christmas Story

A Christmas Story – December 25th, 2010

Merry Christmas to all who are celebrating it today! Today is our twelfth day of Christmas movies and is also our last. Alas. But it’s been a good holiday season for us and we’ve really enjoyed doing these Christmas movie reviews, watching the favorites we do every year as well as some things we’ve skipped over in the past but enjoyed anyhow. And today we watched A Christmas Story, well known and well referenced and on the air all day long on Christmas day, thanks to the TBS 24 hour marathon.

This morning during my daily workout I flipped through the channels and came to rest on this. I was just in time to see Ralphie shoot his glasses off with his air rifle. Later today when we got to my mother’s I caught the same scene before going to help with dinner. I saw bits and pieces, scattered throughout the movie, over the course of the next several hours. At the end of the evening we were all sitting around drinking our coffee and tea and the topic turned to this movie. We went over which scenes we’d each seen today. I mentioned the ones I knew I’d seen and realized I’d really only caught about five or six scenes. My mother had seen even fewer. My brother and uncle had seen more, but my husband had seen about the same as me. None of us had seen the whole movie, even split up. But we all knew it. We new it so well we could go scene by scene and figure out what we’d missed.

Of course we did come home and put in the DVD and watch the whole thing from start to finish. But we almost didn’t need to. We know it from start to finish. From the beginning, watching Ralphie at the window of the department store, gazing longingly at the Red Ryder BB gun, to the end, with his exhausted parents finally enjoying a quiet post-Christmas moment while he’s asleep upstairs, said gun cradled in his arms. We know the scene with the flag pole and we know the scene with the leg lamp and we know Ralphie’s fantasies and we know the dogs and the infamous ‘fudge’ scene.

In some ways this movie is a lot like National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation. There’s an underlying plot, which is Ralphie’s quest for a Red Ryder BB gun for Christmas, but it’s woven through an episodic view of the Christmas season for his family in one particular year. The air rifle shows up every so often, with Ralphie mentioning it to someone, writing an essay about it for school, asking Santa for it, imagining his mother and his teacher singing “You’ll shoot your eye out!” together. But then there are bits that have nothing to do with it at all. It’s a lot of slice-of-life stuff, set in 1940 in the midwest. We get to see his father’s neverending fight with the furnace. We see his struggles with a school bully. We get him with his friends and his brother and things like his disillusionment with his Little Orphan Annie decoder ring. It’s all in little pieces, patched together to form a nostalgic view of a childhood Christmas when not everything went right, but a few important things did.

This movie is a lot more hyped now than it was when my family started watching it, but I don’t mind at all. It’s nice to know that it resonates with so many people out there. What’s fun is knowing that people in my generation and younger generations love it just as much as older generations do. It’s got a charm to it that makes it at the same time quintessentially set in a specific time period and also timeless. Because regardless of the decade and year-specific trappings like the fashion and the cars and the Ovaltine and the radio programs and everything else, there’s something about a kid desperately wanting that one thing he knows he probably can’t get that reaches across years. That’s likely why the movie is the success that it is.

December 25, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , | Leave a comment

A Christmas Story

December 25, 2010

Christmas day at last. We chose a nice short Christmas movie to watch today so we could spend more time with family. It’s also a modern classic and one Amanda, myself, and her entire family are more than familiar with after watching it repeatedly every Christmas day due to the TBS 24 hours of Christmas Story marathon which has been on the last few years. Amanda’s mother particularly likes this marathon since the family can leave it on all day and although she has to spend a lot of time in the kitchen preparing dinner she can still pop in to the living room periodically and over the course of the afternoon she’s likely to see the entire movie – albeit completely out of sequence.

I saw this movie in the theater in 1983 when it first came out. As an eleven year old kid I didn’t really appreciate the movie, I have to say. It might be a movie about a young boy at Christmas, but it is not really a movie intended for children. It is a movie based in nostalgia, and as an eleven year old I knew nothing of such things. You don’t fondly look back on years gone by through rose tinted glasses until many years later.

Furthermore I had no grasp on the time period the movie takes place in. I can appreciate now that Jean Shepherd’s tales of Christmas days of yore take place in a sort of idealistic half-remembered early nineteen forties, but at the time it all seemed pretty alien to me. There were old-timey cars and radio programs and even though things like getting a Christmas tree and craving the perfect gift were familiar things didn’t quite jibe with my own childhood in the seventies. Over the years however I’ve come to appreciate this movie though. Jean Shepherd’s tales of growing up in the midwest now remind me most of Garrison Keillor’s tales of Lake Wobegon – where all the men are smart, all the women are good looking, and all the children are above average. These are stories of a simpler, more care-free world where a child’s biggest concern is if he will get the B.B. gun he most desires for Christmas or not.

The irony is that this movie itself is now a source of nostalgia. When I was working at Suncoast we started carrying all kinds of Christmas Story swag around this time of year. In particular the leg lamp replicas were popular with fans of the movie. After having seen this film several times over every Christmas Amanda and I can easily quote every line and look forward with glee to our favorite bits.

Most of my favorite parts involve Darren McGavin and his portrayal of Ralph’s gruff father the “Old Man.” It’s a great character, defined through the narration and childhood memories. He gets all the best parts of the movie. His is the “major award” leg lamp. His is the epic battle with the furnace in the basement. At the end of the movie when Ralphie finally gets his Red Ryder rifle it’s a fantastic tender moment that reveals so much about his father. It’s an almost recursive moment – you see the father’s nostalgia for his own long ago youth and his own B.B. gun.

It has taken me years to appreciate this movie. I suppose that it is simply not a movie for children. It is a movie for people who fondly remember their childhood days. It’s like sharing stories with a friend about things that happened years ago – the hard edges of those times have all worn off and all that’s left is a warm nugget of truth around which our imaginations have formed an entirely different childhood. That idealised youth is this movie. And it’s a pleasant place to visit every December 25th.

December 25, 2010 Posted by | daily reviews | , , , , , | Leave a comment