This holiday season, I had plans to enjoy three versions of Charles Dickens' classic holiday tale. For some, three might be enough. But this year, my interest in "A Christmas Carol" was piqued (not "peaked"), and I found myself wanting to explore more than these three versions, others that I either hadn't checked out before or wanted to revisit again. Here's how my journey through two, three, four and more "Christmas Carol"s turned out.
The Muppet Christmas Carol
The first one I saw this year was this one. I've seen this only a few times before, but I've played my CD of the soundtrack over and over for years! This happens to be the first time I've owned a copy this movie. And it's on VHS!! I know, crazy, huh?
We had it at a yard sale my friends and I held to raise money for our Relay for Life team, and it was among the items that didn't sell. Originally, I had planned to buy the new Blu-ray version of it, but with it missing the "When Love Is Gone" scene, I dragged my feet on getting it. Ultimately, this VHS - which includes the scene (albeit in pan and scan format) - ended up with me. I know I speak for many fans of the film when I say how impressed I am by how much it uses the dialogue of the original story and retains much of its same tone while being told by The Muppets.
Disney's A Christmas Carol
I passed on watching this when it was in theatres three years ago because I got tired of Jim Carrey mugging and bugging his eyes out so damn much in his films. It was fine when he started out, but it got to be his schtick, altho' friends tell me I need to watch Eternal Sunshine of the Spotless Mind, so there's that. But the reviews claimed he reined in his usual-ness in this film, so when it came out on Blu-ray, I took a chance. And I was overwhelmingly impressed! I now have to watch this every year with my family at Christmastime who enjoy it too.
A Christmas Carol performed by Patrick Stewart
I'm a Star Trek fan. I got started watching the reruns of classic Trek, then got hooked on TNG after it debuted. That was around the time when I happened to start taking acting classes. And watching the show, even then I recognized how much Patrick Stewart forced the rest of the cast to bring their level of acting up to his level. Midway through his run on TNG, Stewart produced and performed his one-man show of "A Christmas Carol". A CD of it quickly became part of my CD library and I have loved playing it every year ever since. I finally got to see his show at the Doolittle Theatre in 1996, and I remember how cool it was that he'd changed the personality of Scrooge from the one I'd heard all the years before on CD to a low-key, sharp businessman, like one of those single-minded sharks you'd imagine swimming on Wall Street! It was a refreshing surprise and I often wished he'd record a follow-up CD performing that personality of Scrooge on it.
To listen to an excerpt from the CD, a lengthy clip is posted by Simon & Schuster on SoundCloud.
Dickens' words...my brushwork, on the TTC set
So there are the three "A Christmas Carol"s I had planned to enjoy this season. But I also got to watch a stage version of the story told by several actors each performing many different roles of the story at my local theatre, Torrance Theatre Company. It was great and reminded me of another condensed-cast-adaptation of the novel I'd done in Poway many years before.
Now, you'd think I'd gotten my fill of Dickens and Scrooge by now. But I also started reading the original short story too, something I hadn't done before. If you haven't either, I suggest you do. I knew it would be so, but it's still amazing to realize how much of Dickens' words are familiar to you as every adaptation has pulled their dialogue verbatim from his story. As I write this, I still haven't finished it yet. Unless the words are broken up with a lot of illustrated, colored panel art in between, I'm a very slow reader.
And speaking of panel art, I did finish "Batman: Noel", a graphic novel I'd gotten for Christmas last year. It's a book I wanted because of the beautiful, detailed artwork by Leo Bermejo. And "Surprise!" it's another adaptation of Charles Dickens' book, and a good one too that has the messages delivered by the three spirits in the original book represented by three familiar characters Batman runs into while patrolling Gotham City on Christmas Eve.
So two movies, on audio retelling and one and a half books later, you'd think that might be enough. But I still had that itch to look up other versions of the story. I went online and was delighted to find two full-length versions available to watch. And I also remembered I own another one that I've never seen. I only watched about twenty or thirty minutes of each the two online movies, but it only took that long to see the entirety of the other one that I owned.
A Christmas Carol (1999)
I tried to watch Patrick Stewart's TNT movie adaptation once before and couldn't get through it. This year, I still can't. To begin with, it's so dull to me right from the start. His performance on the CDs are so enthusiastic, I guess I miss that in the film. I recognize he's working with a script that includes many wonderful ideas that bring more insight into the situations and main characters, but those ideas just didn't play out well for me when acted out. He's also too much Patrick Stewart in the role if that makes sense; he's ultimately too darn charming.
It was a nice surprise to find the first sound version of "A Christmas Carol" on film available on YouTube. Taking into account the time it was filmed, I found the performances rather genuine and refreshingly less formulaic than what we've all grown up seeing of the main characters in more popular adaptations. Seeing only half an hour of it, I look forward to making time to watch the rest of it. And from what I've learned about the film, we should all be grateful that it's the full-length version that's available on YouTube (embedded below) and not the abridged 60-minute US version that's out on recent DVD and Blu-ray Disc releases.
Mickey's Christmas Carol
I own several titles of the Walt Disney Treasures DVD series. They were those 30 different titles that arrived every fall between 2001 and 2009 in distinctive silver or black tin cases holding a two-disc DVD set inside. I've watched some of them like Disneyland USA, On the Front Lines, and Tomorrowland, but others like Silly Symphonies, Disney Rarities, and Mickey Mouse in Black and White I bought mainly to hang onto for future reference, especially for my design work. Then I remembered one of my Mickey Mouse in Living Color sets includes "Mickey's Christmas Carol"! I pulled it out to watch, all 25 minutes of it. It's cute and very entertaining!
So that's all the ones I've seen this year. It was fun to discover the adaptations that were new to me. And there are still a few more that came to mind that I wanted to see. One was Albert Finney's "Scrooge" which I saw when I was a kid, but all I can remember about it is the catchy tune "Thank You Very Much". Another was George C. Scott's "Scrooge". And finally there's that Alastair Sim one of "A Christmas Carol" which I can't remember if I've ever really seen. So these'll be high on my list to try and catch next Christmas season.
That is, if that itch doesn't come back and I decide to watch 'em before then!
To all my clients, friends and family, thanks for a great 2012.
Representing many of the movies I went out to see this year are - going clockwise from the lower left - an Engineer from "Prometheus", Merida from "Brave", the Amazing Spider-Man, James Bond from "Skyfall", Tinker Bell from "Secret of the Wings", Captain America from "The Avengers", Kitniss from "The Hunger Games", Batman and Catwoman from "The Dark Knight Rises", Barnabas Collins from "Dark Shadows" and Ted. Thanks too to Normal Rockwell.
The Hobbit: An Unexpected Journey is an interesting film for me to offer a review on.. It is a follow-up to a grand trilogy that I didn’t expect to wow me on the level it did, so there’s a wee bit of expectation I could bring in to seeing this new film. And of the three available theatrical formats my friends and I chose to watch this film in, we chose the newest, labeled “HFR”.
HFR stands for High Film Rate and the HFR version is projected at twice the film rate than normal projection rate. The point of HFR is supposed to be that you’re getting a clearer, sharper image to watch because there’s twice as much footage and thus visual information you’re seeing in the same amount of time. Director Peter Jackson filmed The Hobbit films in this HFR so you’re seeing the film in the same higher quality that he shot it in.
So not only was there some expectation by me about how I felt the film should be, I was also going to be distracted by analyzing the picture quality of the film.
And it was a 3D screening. So there’s the added notion of whether 3D will hinder or heighten my enjoyment of The Hobbit.
After two hours and fifty minutes of sitting in a theatre watching a HFR 3D film, I will say I was very entertained.
I’ve never read the book. But the story in this first cinematic chapter of The Hobbit was very fairy tale-like. I did go in having seen headlines of reviews saying it was a slow-moving movie, and I’m glad I knew that going in. There are some big action set pieces, but most of the film is more character-building than character battles. And for the most part, I kept pretty much interested in seeing all that character arc stuff. I don’t know that I need to pay to go see it in a theatre again for all that, but if someone forced to go I wouldn’t be disappointed re-watching it all either.
But mostly here I want to let loose about what I thought about the HFR and subsequently the 3D too.
Going in, I had heard that some movie-goers who’s seen early screenings got sick and nauseous. This concerned me. I got a little motion sickness watching Cloverfield and also during my first trip on Star Tours: The Adventure Continues at Disneyland.
Then, I had a friend tell me that a friend of his who saw an early screening thought it had a “video quality” and that that made it look to more 3D than usual.
Those notions were on my mind going in to see it for myself and during the film. Here’s my take.
Watching the images of The Hobbit in HFR 3D is a lot like looking at pictures through a View-Master.
Images, especially those in bright daylight, are saturated, sharp, and breath-takingly full of color. And while I noticed more 3D at the beginning, it’s likely my eyes got adjusted to the 3D the longer I watched. I lost all sense of 3D-y heighted depth of field about 30 minutes into the movie. But to be sure, don’t take my View-Master analogy as a negative. It’s just the best way I can describe the HFR look. At the same time, because the imagery was so crisp and sharp and rich in color, there was a bit of a surreal quality to viewing the film too. Not “so real it’s 3D” type of feeling, but just so sharp in image quality that my brain couldn’t understand why it was damn sharp.
The only time I didn’t like the HFR look was at the very beginning of the movie. It’s a prologue scene and it wasn’t until after the scene ended that I knew the scene was filtered to give it a uniquely different look, because the next scenes was gorgeous!
So I enjoyed this HFR presentation. You can imagine the kinds of outdoor vistas Jackson would shoot or create of Middle Earth, and seeing them in HFR was Ah-mazing.
So for those of you who even knew about there being HFR screenings and were curious, these were my thoughts about it. I saw the opening weekend Sunday matinee show at the ArcLight Beach Cities in El Segundo for $17, and I wasn’t disappointed (and my company of friends were definitely a plus as we got into our usual geeky breakdown analysis of what we’d just seen). I don’t know that I need to see every film in HFR either. But I don't doubt the studios offering HFR more, just we have more IMAX and 3D choices today than we did five years ago, if The Hobbit continues to do as well as it’s expected to over the holidays.
All About Me
A fan of Star Trek, Star Wars, Harry Potter, Batman, comic books, Blu-rays, Disney, soundtracks, taking pictures, theatre and...Barry Manilow!