I haven't written a post in ages and I'm afraid this might well continue. There are two reasons for this which are good reasons and strong. First of all my film writing has kept me exceptionally busy. I have finished a chapter on Terrence Malick for next year, I have entries in three other books due out next year and I have been keeping up a regular stream of articles and what not for various sites, including Static Mass Emporium, Cinespect, Cine-Vue and Electric Sheep Magazine. Not to mention, I've also written a novel, but I said I wouldn't mention that so just pretend like nothing happened. The second reason is that I have co-founded a site with a friend which is eating up lots of time. This site requires an average of two stories a day and they have to be original. It is at the moment very early stages, but with over a thousand a hits a day, it seems to be going very well.
That said it's high time I posted something here and so - given the season - I thought it might be interesting to mention Xmas films. First of all I want to avoid It's a Wonderful Life although that is definitely one of my favourite films ever as well as Xmas films. Well, maybe I won't avoid it. Okay, here's the list and comments:
1. The Shining.
I tend to watch this on the approach to Xmas. Obviously it doesn't feel particularly warm and cuddly but there's something about the snow and the light through the windows. The film fails for me as a horror film. I've never been scared by it and only slightly disturbed, even when I first encountered it when I was 13. But as a poem to snow and isolation, it works very well.
2. Flash Gordon
This film is a cheap and cheerful attempt to reproduce the popularity of Star Wars by leapfrogging Lucas and going back to his sources. This failed at the time and failed again with John Carter, this year. Yet, directed by the man who did Get Carter (now there's a double bill of an eclectic director) the film is full of camp delights and is as colourful as a Xmas tree. Queen soundtrack and Ornella Muti in her hey day, not to mention Max Von Sydow as Ming (that man can cash a cheque magnificently), the film is full of delights.
You need to go black and white at Xmas and Casablanca is as good as they come. One of the most rated films of all time: not under nor over, but rated exactly right. One of the most entertaining products of the studio system ever made. And if you don't fill up at least three times during the film, then you have no heart and no love of cinema.
4. The Thing / Where Eagles Dare
The snow factor is definitely strong with both films, as with the Shining. John Carpenter's film is a masterpiece in tension and narrative leanness. The Richard Burton film slips from talky to machine gunny and explosiony in its last act. It's the best Alastair Maclean adaptation by a long chalk, vastly superior to the soporific Guns of Navarone. Broadsword to Danny Boy.
5. It's a Wonderful Life
Bugger. Well, never mind. This has everything from comedy, tragedy, character, actors, music, but I would say the endurance of the film resides in the way it never quite makes up its mind. Is the ending really happy? George brainwashed and bludgeoned into being happy with his lot. Or is Bedford Falls much more exciting without George? And how come everyone else is so fickle that without George they all become corrupt? And yet when he runs down the road shouting 'Happy Christmas you old Building and Loan!' ... well what else is there to say?
Happy Christmas you old Building and Loan!
John Bleasdale is a writer. His work has appeared in The Guardian, The Independent, Il Manifesto, as well as CineVue.Com and theStudioExec.com. He has also written a number of plays, screenplays and novels.