A and A's Movie A Day

Watching movies until we run out.

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 | , , , , ,

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