As far as we’re concerned, any time is a good time to steep oneself in all things British, but Christmas is a particularly grand time to do so. While the US has produced many more, and more recent, Christmas movies, we thought we’d share some of our favorites from across the pond with you.
Scrooge (UK) or A Christmas Carol (US) – The 1951 Alastair Sim version remains the best version of Charles Dickens’s yuletide tale. The film also features Kathleen Harrison as Mrs. Dilber, Scrooge’s charwoman, and George Cole as a young Scrooge. Hermoine Baddeley plays Mrs. Cratchit. Now a Christmas staple, it was slated to premiere stateside at New York City’s Radio City Music Hall, but theatre management thought the film was too grim and somber and did not possess enough family entertainment value to warrant an engagement at the Music Hall. The fact that it was filmed in black and white gives a period feel. The film stands out because of its perfect balance of dark and light, which is what Dickens intended in his ghost story of misery, terror, loneliness and redemption, all serving to draw the viewer into the authentically bleak world of London during the early Industrial Revolution. You can buy it here.
Of course, one feels honour bound to now mention Blackadder’s Christmas Carol.
Leave it to the Blackadder crew to put their own spin on the Christmas classic. In this version, Scrooge is the nicest and most generous man going. Until the spirit of Christmas shows him the future and shows Scrooge that his goodness will play havoc upon his descendents, who will wind up as slaves. Scrooge turns mean and soon manages to offend everyone, including Queen Victoria and Prince Albert. A website called
Black Adder Hall sums up the episode thusly: “Dickens’ classic tale of kindness, truth and virtue is completely mucked up and ruined by having a member of the Blackadder family involved. Stuffed with deeply horrid people (many of whom are gigantically fat) and groaning with cartloads of seasonal bottom jokes, it manages to squeeze in not only a Victorian Black Adder but also his famous Elizabethan, Regency and Space Age relatives into a huge pie of entertainment that will satisfy all but the most discriminating viewers.”
Love Actually – This feel-good movie follows the lives of eight couples in London during a frantic month before Christmas. Though vastly different, their stories are interwoven in love, lust, and luck. Everywhere you look, love is causing chaos. From the new bachelor Prime Minister who falls in love 30 seconds after entering Downing Street, to a loser sandwich delivery guy who doesn‘t have a hope with the girls in the UK, so heads for Wisconsin; from a jilted writer who escapes to the south of France to nurse his broken heart to an aging rock star trying to make a comeback at any price; from a bride having problems with her husband‘s best man to a married woman having trouble with her husband; from a schoolboy with a crush on the prettiest girl in the school to his architect step–father with a crush on Claudia Schiffer. These London lives and loves collide, mingle and finally climax on Christmas Eve with romantic, poignant and funny consequences for all. That’s really all the plot line you need since the film stars Alan Rickman, Rowan Atkinson, Hugh Grant and Colin Firth and Emma Thompson. Ho, ho, ho.
Hope and Glory – The following well written synopsis is from a website called Rotten Tomatoes – “John Boorman’s 1987 epic written and directed by John Boorman (Deliverance, The General) serves as a picaresque and semi-autobiographical remembrance of a boy’s coming of age during the Second World War. Exhibiting a defiant and humorous take on life during the London blitz, the family of the young boy at the center of the story (Sebastian Rice-Edwards) is a close-knit and resilient bunch, undeterred in the face of the war and reveling in each other even as they hide from the incessant bombing. To be sure, there are some poignant moments in this childhood reminiscence. The boy’s mother (Sarah Miles) serves as a strong influence in the boy’s life as she leads her family through this tumultuous time. The majestic sweep of the film is contrasted with so many comic moments as the people in town go about the mundane details of their daily lives yet also engage in the most absurd rituals in dealing with the onslaught of German artillery, from taking the air raids for granted to wearing gas masks at school. Boorman doesn’t dwell on the horrors of war; instead he celebrates the richness and resilience of the people he remembers so fondly. An adventurous and nostalgic slice of life, Hope and Glory is a superb and memorable film.” Hope and Glory is worth watching for sheer atmosphere and period detail alone. The scene where the family and their guests are gathered around the wireless in order to hear the King’s Christmas speech and are urging the monarch past each stammer is priceless.
Bridget Jones’s Diary – Yes, I know we watch this one all year round, but at Christmas we’ll pay extra attention to Colin Firth’s sweaters. Go on . . . put on your comfy pj’s and I’ll make the cocoa . . . . right then, pop in the disk . . . . Jeez, I can’t wait till the fight scene – “Shall I bring my dueling pistol or sword?” too funny! . . . Ready? It all began on New Years day, in my 32nd year of being single. Once again I found myself on my own and going t
o my mother’s annual turkey curry buffet. Every year she tries to fix me up with some bushy-haired, middle-aged bore and I feared this year would be no exception. . . . .
Merry Christmas Mr. Bean – O . . M . . . G . . . have you ever seen anything as funny as Mr. Bean’s turkey!? Okay, we’re cheating by including these as they aren’t full length movies, they’re episodes, but they’re hysterical. You can watch the bit with the turkey here and a bit where Mr. Bean goes Christmas shopping here. Keep an eye out for Teddy!
Have we missed any of your favourite Yuletide flicks? Suggestions? Let us know.