A Christmas Story
Director: Milos Foreman

TOMMY. 1975
Director: Ken Russell

Director: Henry Selick

Director: Bob Clark

Reviewed by Paghat the Ratgirl

Random Mutterings on Four

One Flew Over One Flew Over the Cuckoo's Nest (1975) may often be missed as a Christmas film, as who thinks a nice young lunatic (Brad Dourif) driven to suicide by an evil nurse (Louise Fletcher), & a happily rebellious McMurphy (Jack Nicholson) reduced forever to zombie status, as in the Christmas spirit.

But in fact one of this extraordinary film's many great scenes is the big Christmas party for the mentally ill. There are so many moments of joy in the madhouse, generated by McMurphy who is the most sane man in the world, his initial goal being merely to get out of prison, believing as he did that the nuthouse would be more fun.

And boy oh boy was it fun! But in the long run, McMurphy's wit versus the vicious tyranny of Big Nurse leads to one of the most cynical films imaginable. So if you're feeling overwhelmed by the sickening sentimentality & crank religiousity people spew in the context of shopping mania, this One Flew over the Cuckoo's Nest is the poultice for your chill blanes.

With one of the best ensemble casts ever brought together in one film, you could waist a lot of time watching dumbass Christmas movies willynilly all season, or you could watch a film that many would put on the top ten of all world cinema.

Tommy Many may also have permitted it to fade from memory that the Who's rock opera Tommy (1975) is a Christmas movie, though who could forget that "carol" of an aria titled "Christmas," sung by many in the cast.

This is the tale of Tommy, "that deaf dumb blind kid" who plays a mean pinball, played by Who lead singer Roger Daltry.

He lost his sight & hearing after his mother & step-dad (Ann-Margret & Oliver Reed) told him to forget all that he'd seen & heard regarding their having murdered his war-hero dad (Robert Powell).

A veritable darkside of the looking-glass rollcall of characters populate the film, like Gypsy the Acid Queen (Tina Turner), the cultic preacher (Eric Clapton), camp counsellor & pedarast Uncle Ernie (Keith Moon), the neighborhood Lad (Elton John), & the weird doctor (Jack Nicholson), while the beloved Sally Simpson (Victoria Russell) is the subject of possibly the best of many great songs, written by Pete Townsend with assists from John Entwhistle & Keith Moon, is throughout superb.

Ken Russell's direction is goofy; the sets are minimalist; the film actually has very cheap look. But the characters are so wild, the music so good, it is simply captivating, the greatest rock musical after Jesus Christ Superstar (1973), & still waiting to be bested.

Nightmare Before The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993) springs to mind as another film that does not rely on holiday mawkishness. The combination of sentimentality & horror renders this film a visual poem. The s top-motion animation is some of the best ever achieved, in every way a treasure of art vastly to be preferred to computer-generated cartoons.

Jack Skellington (Chris Sarandon, though Danny Elfman, who wrote the tremendously cool soundtrack, did Jack's singing) rules Halloween Town. Surrounded always by a mood of horror, Jack has become downcast, & weary of the same old thing every year.

His accidental discovery of Christmas Town inspires him to undertake the joyful, positive act of preparing toys for children. He means the best for the world, but a certain attitude inate to his culture turns Christmas dark & frightful.

Goodhearted Sally, a female Frankenstein monster, is voiced by the splendid Canadian singer Catherine O'Hara. If everything in the film had stunk but O'Hara, it would've been a classic; but in fact just about everything about this film is up to her level of greatness.

She's as sexy as a stituched-together monster ever gets. She's brave & loves Jack. She perceives that the Halloweenizing of Christmas is not a good thing. Will Jack wise up before the damage is irreversible? Can Sally save Christmas? Will Oogie Boogie (Ken Page) kill Santa?

Crammed with wonderful spooky characters start to finish, with laugh-out-loud moments of comedy & seat-of-your-pants moments of suspense, this is quite conceivable that a better cartoon than this does not exist.

A Christmas StoryFor years I really felt that the best Christmas movie of all time was never anything like It's A Wonderful Life (1946) or the Aleistair Sim version of A Christmas Carol (1951) or the original Miracle on 34th Street (1947), grand though these are. Rather, the best was A Christmas Story (1983).

By now I've seen it so often it seems old-hat & is no longer very surprising, & I regret I'll never again know in this life that feeling of seeing it for the first time.

Told as the memoir of Ralphie (Peter Billingsley) in the 1940s, as an homage to what working class Christmases were all about, the spirit of humanity infuses every scene, & what a funny lot we all are.

Ralphie wants a Red Ryder BB rifle for Christmas, & nothing else. His mom (Melinda Dillon) is convinced "You'll put your eye out," which becomes the film's catchphrase, & there's just no way she'll allow him to have a gun.

His dad however (absolutely the best performance ever given by Darren McGavin) is inclined to give the kid what he wants, though Ralphie will indeed just about put his eye out, leading to one of the greatest tales of successful lying ever told.

This family lives in a crummy suburb. Dad's a loser & sort of knows it. Ralphie's a fat little kid bullied at school. Life pretty much sucks for everyone, but a Red Ryder BB Rifle would transform the darkness into light!

Something else transforms dad's darkness into light. For the first time in his life wins something. What a lucky man he feels himself to be! It's a floorlamp that looks like a stripper's leg with lampshade on top. It becomes his substitute for a Christmas tree in full display in the frontroom window, to mom's humiliation.

Other ingredients could be listed in an attempt to convey just how grand this movie is, including a great moment with Santa's boot in Ralphie's face, or the humiliation of the bunny pyjamas.

But all one really needs to know is, if you haven't seen A Christmas Story, then by god get the family together right now & watch the damned thing. It's praises can't be exaggerated. And if that leg-lamp doesn't become the symbol of your Chrismas thereafter, your heart has withered.

copyright by Paghat the Ratgirl

[ Film Home ] - [ Film Reviews Index ]
[ Where to Send DVDs for Review ] - [ Paghat's Giftshop ]