Category Archives: Movies

Christmas recommendation: “Scrooge” (1970)

[cross-posted from And Still I Persist]

This remains my favorite Christmas movie (yes, even over “A Christmas Story”). It is a musical version of Dicken’s “A Christmas Carol”, starring Albert Finney in the title role. I am not alone in my praise for this movie; note that of the 406(!) customer reviews for it at Amazon, 366 (90%) give it 5 stars and another 21 give it 4 stars.

“Scrooge” didn’t do all that well when it was released theatrically in 1970. Movie critics didn’t like it, feeling that it was somehow silly in the light of the earlier ‘classic’ versions of “A Christmas Carol” (in particular the 1951 Alastair Sim version). For years after that, if “Scrooge” showed up at all, it was in a chopped-up, pan-and-scan version on TV; I can remember my own profound disappointment when I first saw it on TV. The VHS release wasn’t much better — while not chopped up, it was still pan-and-scan, losing much of the outstanding cinematography and choreography.

But for five years now, it’s been out on DVD in an uncut widescreen version. The movie itself has held up very well. The score and libretto are outstanding; a few of the movie’s songs have crept into the mainstream over the years (I heard the Mormon Tabernacle Choir sing one on their weekly broadcast earlier this year). As mentioned above, the choreography is outstanding as well, as are the cinematography and art direction.

The real key, though, is Albert Finney in the title role. The director cast a young man (Finney was only in his early 30s when this was filmed) as Scrooge, figuring that it was easier to make a young man look old than to make an old man look young. Furthermore, the old Scooge is not played as a stern if elegant patrician; he’s played quite literally as a dirty moneygrubber, with a permanent hunch to his back. His Scrooge is not someone you would want to cross or meet in a dark alley.

The movie shows a bit more of Scrooge’s young life (via the Ghost of Christmas Past), giving a better sense of Scrooge’s descent from a tall, handsome, modest young man to the bent-over miser he becomes. It also adds a scene of Scrooge in Hell (as part of the visit of the Ghost of Christmas Future) that is quite humorous and at the same time chilling (so to speak). And there are a few changes in the final sequence of events as well, but they represent a payoff from things set up early on.

At its core, though, “Scrooge” fully delivers on Dickens’ original message of regret, repentance, and redemption, and it does so in a powerful fashion. I recommend it without reservation.  ..bruce w..

The Atlantic analyzes the “Twilight” novels

Caitlin Flanagan looks at the “Twlight” phenomenon and, I think, puts her finger on exactly why these novels (which so many love to scorn) have become so popular:

The salient fact of an adolescent girl’s existence is her need for a secret emotional life—one that she slips into during her sulks and silences, during her endless hours alone in her room, or even just when she’s gazing out the classroom window while all of Modern European History, or the niceties of the passé composé, sluice past her. This means that she is a creature designed for reading in a way no boy or man, or even grown woman, could ever be so exactly designed, because she is a creature whose most elemental psychological needs—to be undisturbed while she works out the big questions of her life, to be hidden from view while still in plain sight, to enter profoundly into the emotional lives of others—are met precisely by the act of reading.

Twilight is fantastic. It’s a page-turner that pops out a lurching, frightening ending I never saw coming. It’s also the first book that seemed at long last to rekindle something of the girl-reader in me. In fact, there were times when the novel—no work of literature, to be sure, no school for style; hugged mainly to the slender chests of very young teenage girls, whose regard for it is on a par with the regard with which just yesterday they held Hannah Montana—stirred something in me so long forgotten that I felt embarrassed by it. Reading the book, I sometimes experienced what I imagine long-married men must feel when they get an unexpected glimpse at pornography: slingshot back to a world of sensation that, through sheer force of will and dutiful acceptance of life’s fortunes, I thought I had subdued. The Twilight series is not based on a true story, of course, but within it is the true story, the original one. Twilight centers on a boy who loves a girl so much that he refuses to defile her, and on a girl who loves him so dearly that she is desperate for him to do just that, even if the wages of the act are expulsion from her family and from everything she has ever known. We haven’t seen that tale in a girls’ book in a very long time. And it’s selling through the roof.

Be sure to read the whole thing, and then ask yourself: why are the “Twilight” novels and movie so popular among adult women as well?  ..bruce..

“Twilight”: a brief review (w/spoilers)

My wife turned to me on yesterday (Thursday) morning and said, “I’d like to see the midnight showing of ‘Twilight’ tonight.” So we went; I’m always game for seeing a moving on opening day/night. And since I’ve read all the “Twilight” novels as well, I had my own interest seeing how the movie turned out.

Answer: not bad. In fact, pretty decent, given the relatively low budget and the need to edit down a very thick book into two hours. I have to give major credit to Kristen Stewart, who does a great job as Bella; most of the other actors do quite well, also.

The biggest problem, frankly, is Edward (played by Robert Pattison). Not that Pattinson does a bad job with the role. It’s that Edward in the book is described as so impossibly good looking and physically perfect that I”m not sure any actor could have lived up to that, at least not without some major and expensive special effects. (When the movie was over, a young woman behind me said, “That’s not my Edward!”)

The biggest weakness in the (adjusted) story arc was, ironically, Bella falling in love with Edward. The film only used a minor amount of internal narration — mostly at the beginning and near the end, modeling itself after the book. As such, we had little clue as to what Bella was actually thinking while she was staring at Edward: was she mad? Curious? Trying to figure him out? Once the romance started, the characters did a better job of selling it.

The movie did a good job of introducing some humor into the story, partly because the whole audience knew that Edward was a vampire before Bella did and so tended to giggle at things he would do or say, since they knew why he was acting that way. The movie also did a good job of putting out there (with a iight touch) the humor from the incongruities of Bella being around this family of vampires.

Demographics: the midnight showing — in a large metropolitan area with lot of multiplexes around — was sold out. The audience was at least 90% female, and I’m willing to be that almost all of the males who were there were (like myself) there with a female. The female ages skewed young, but there were plenty of women in their 20s, 30s, and even 40s there. I spent time looking around the audience before the movie started and came away pretty sure that I was the oldest male there (55); in fact, I only saw two others who looked as though they could even be over 40.

All in all, a decent job. I’ll be interested to see just what it does at the box office. Spoilers (such as they are) after the jump.

Continue reading “Twilight”: a brief review (w/spoilers)