A Very Merry Christmas (or Seasonal Equivalent) to One and All! My wish for everyone is a peaceful and joyful day of good food, good friends, good relaxation, or whatever you wish this season. Ideally you aren’t traveling today, but if you are I hope your journey is swift, easy, and safe.
So the year is ending nicely I think; worthy of some celebration.
My Christmas Eve, for many years, is comprised of a good meal, some good drink, and watching several versions of A Christmas Carol (although many of those versions don’t go by that name). Later today I’ll read the Dickens Novella — it’s an old friend.
This year I realized three things:  The Patrick Stewart version is much better than I’ve given it credit for; it’s really good.  The Reginald Owen version is almost too Hollywood and off-book for me;  The Disney Jim Carey version is genuinely atrocious and I’ll never watch it again.
How bad is it? I turned it off during the Marley scene, which is a favorite scene. That’s how bad it was. Already by then I was hating what I was watching. The Hollywood stink on the Owen version is a mild annoyance compared to how the Disney stench ruins the story.
What’s significant is that, by then, I’d had a good meal and a couple beers, so I was in a positive mood and looking forward to what I remembered as a fairly faithful adaptation.
That’s a big criteria in how I judge versions of A Christmas Carol. Over the years I’ve gotten to be a bit of a connoisseur and gourmet. At this point it’s probably the story I’ve seen and read the most times. It is, perhaps, my favorite story of all, and I take it very seriously.
It isn’t that a version, let alone every version, has to be faithful to the text, but I do have a special appreciation for the ones that do.
Finding a fresh take within the confines of a well-established story takes skill and talent, so if a “true” version works at all it often works very well. That’s part of what commends the Stewart version — it’s very true to the text.
(And it certainly doesn’t hurt having Patrick Stewart playing Scrooge — it’s not an easy role to pull off. The character undergoes a major change in a short time. I pay a lot of attention to how an actor manages that arc.)
That said, I have very much enjoyed some of the stranger versions. (Many don’t care for it, but I have a major soft spot for the Bill Murray version, Scrooged.)
I certainly can’t fault the weather. (Well, okay, I can. That 40+ stuff had its advantages. It was single digits all day yesterday, although it’s up to 12 as I write this just before 12 noon.) But when it looked like this just last Monday:
On balance I’ll take the cold snap and snow.
I was going to post more about the three versions of A Christmas Carol but I’m feeling lazy, so I’ll be brief. I want to get back to, and finish, Hercule Poirot’s Christmas — the last of the Agatha Christie Hercule Poirot books I’ve found at my two local libraries.
Unfortunately I’m still eight books shy of reading the whole canon. I was saving this one to read during Christmas since the story takes place then (the murder is on Christmas Eve day). The story is also apparently something of a Christmas present on Christie’s part to someone who wanted a right and proper gruesome and bloody murder.
I’ll have to try to track down the other seven Poirot books somehow. I’m not paying Apple or Amazon the $8 or $9 dollars they seem to think those old books are worth. Especially not for electronic versions!
A Christmas Carol (1999), starring Patrick Stewart, is a TV movie version directed by David Jones. I think it’s a very strong version; definitely among the best.
It’s extremely true to the book. It includes two parts adaptations often leave off: the Children of Man, Ignorance and Want; and the trip around the world with the Ghost of Christmas Present (also the aging of the ghost).
A nice touch here is the somewhat predatory nature of the children, especially the boy (Ignorance). As the ghost says, “Beware them both, and all of their degree, but most of all beware this boy, for on his brow I see that written which is Doom.”
The first scene of any version sets the tone and nature, and often signifies how true to the text the adaptation will be. The first paragraphs of the story are among my favorites:
Marley was dead: to begin with. There is no doubt whatever about that. The register of his burial was signed by the clergyman, the clerk, the undertaker, and the chief mourner. Scrooge signed it: and Scrooge’s name was good upon ‘Change, for anything he chose to put his hand to. Old Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
Mind! I don’t mean to say that I know, of my own knowledge, what there is particularly dead about a door-nail. I might have been inclined, myself, to regard a coffin-nail as the deadest piece of ironmongery in the trade. But the wisdom of our ancestors is in the simile; and my unhallowed hands shall not disturb it, or the Country’s done for. You will therefore permit me to repeat, emphatically, that Marley was as dead as a door-nail.
They do a nice riff on this in the opening scene. A really nice riff.
I also get a kick out of Stewart’s Scrooge rediscovering laughter once he wake from his dream. (Or was it a dream?)
There was a quote by a character I wanted to record: “The narrower the mind, the broader the statements.” Yes, I’ve noticed that! Fun way to put it.
This version is rare in getting the Ghost of Christmas Past exactly right. On the other hand, the special effects are decidedly low budget (to the point of being humorous sometimes), and the Ghost of Christmas Future isn’t very scary.
A Christmas Carol (2009), starring Jim Carey’s voice (in multiple roles) and directed by Robert Zemeckis. I liked this okay the first time I saw it, largely because a lot of it follows the book.
But I had to turn it off last night during the Marley scene because it’s actually pretty awful. It’s seriously trope-ridden and reduced to Disney basics. Scrooge, for example, hunches over counting actual coins because (remember Scrooge McDuck?) that’s the Disney image of misers.
Or consider the pratfall Scrooge takes over surprise at Marley’s face in the door knocker. A cartoon stunt that would have, in reality, broken Scrooge’s back.
It’s such a high bullshit version that I found it unwatchable. As a storyteller, I had notes for every scene. The telling was utterly unengaging. There is also that the animation is badly in the uncanny valley.
A final insult: The version YouTube TV recorded for me was from the Freeform channel owned by Disney. I’ll live with (but really don’t like) the channel bug in the corner of the screen all the time, but this need to pollute the bottom of the screen with promo bits makes a channel unwatchable. So I don’t. And I didn’t.
A Christmas Carol (1938), starring Reginald Owen, is a way off-book Hollywood version of the story.
Its heart is in the right place, but it was made to pander to audiences of the era. It focuses a lot on Scrooge’s nephew, Fred, and adds a number of new scenes for him. On the other hand, it completely skips the final scene in Scrooge’s office.
There is also an added scene where Bob Cratchitt, playing with local boys, knocks off Scrooge’s hat with a snowball (not knowing it was his boss). Scrooge fires Cratchitt on the spot for some added tension.
I do get a kick out of Alexander Waverly as Marley’s Ghost, though. Overall I give it an Eh! rating. Lots of adds, lots of holes, but it’s harmless.
Each Christmas, for my small circle, I get each an interesting bottle of something.
One year it was different coffee-infused liqueurs, another year it was different local wines. This year I gave (French!) champagne because there are things to celebrate (the election, the vaccine, a possible return to some sort of normalcy).
I would have cracked a bottle last night, but I was given some nice bottles myself, and I keep a few bottles of that French champagne in my fridge (I really like it) in case I feel like celebrating something.
For example, the Bourbon County Caramella Ale I got from BentleyMom was amazing! It really was a bit reminiscent of a caramel apple along with a slight hint of cinnamon. After brewing, these beers are aged in bourbon barrels (which has turned into a thing).
Definitely consider opening a bottle of champagne!
Stay merry, my friends! Go forth and spread beauty and light.