A Christmas Carol Marathon

This post is a bit of a trip down memory lane for me. It’s not about technology in general, or databases in particular. It’s about one particular Christmas tradition that we have in my family. Skip or read, it’s your choice, it’s the end of the year, and it’s time for some nostalgia, some fun, and spending lots of time with family and friends.

I’ve always loved the story of A Christmas Carol. It’s a true classic of English literature, and a great story to get you in the mood for Christmas (assuming of course that Christmas is something you celebrate). I celebrate Christmas and it’s my favorite holiday of the year,… but I’m getting ahead of myself.

Around my house, we love a good movie marathon. We do one every year on New Year’s Eve. Most recently it was the Back to the Future trilogy, which seemed appropriate for finally arriving at the year 2015. We don’t just do them at the end of the year either. We’ve come up with many reasons to binge watch a movie series, such as when we purchased the final installment of The Hobbit or our most recent marathon (Star Wars, just the original trilogy) which ostensibly was to get us ready for the new movie, but really we’ll make up almost any excuse every few months to binge on that, or any, of our favorites.

For the most part, one of our unwritten rules is that marathons must take place (more-or-less) in one sitting. This has bitten us a couple times because of the excessive length of all the movies in a series when played back to back to back (I’m looking at you, Harry Potter). But there’s one marathon that we always spread out over several days, the whole month of December, actually. This marathon, as you might have already guessed, is watching every version and adaptation we own of Charles Dickens’ A Christmas Carol.

When I say nearly, that’s because I have my limits and we don’t have every version. I do make room in my list for versions that aren’t that great, and some are truly terrible, but thankfully many of them are excellent, or at least really good. I’ve been collecting versions off and on for several years now, but there are some I’m just not interested in acquiring — e.g. Bill Murray’s Scrooged — and there are some adaptations I have seen but refuse to watch ever again out of common decency — I’m looking at you, Barbie in ‘A Christmas Carol’.

Between now and Dec 24th, we will be making time to watch the following movies one or two at a time with the goal of watching all of them before Dec 23rd (we try to keep Dec 24th focused on Christ). I’ve organized the list by when they were released and I include who performs the all-important part of Ebenezer Scrooge (essential for telling the various versions apart, since so many of them have exactly the same title). I’ve also linked them to the IMDB, or to Archive.org (the 1910 & 1949 versions are only available there, AFAIK).

Incidentally, the above are pretty much how I have them named on my file server, minus the filetype extensions, mainly so Plex catalogs them properly.

There’s one new addition to the list this year, Scrooge, from 1935 starring Seymour Hicks. I noticed it was available on Amazon Prime Instant Video, and I look forward to seeing it for the first time (it’s also available on Archive.org).

My favorite of all, the one I’m most looking forward to seeing again, is Patrick Stewart’s adaptation of the story. He really gets the character of Ebenezer Scrooge and I love watching him bring the character alive.

There are other versions that I can’t imagine Christmas without, such as The Muppet Christmas Carol with Michael Caine, even though the version we have is the theatrical release which inexplicably does not have the movie’s best song in it. Thank goodness for YouTube:

I am also very fond of Albert Finney’s version because of the music and memories I have of it from when I was a child. Here are a couple of examples:

If you watched the above, I hope it doesn’t get stuck in your head all day. And if it did, you may be thinking this about me right now:

Moving on to other versions in the list, a surprising favorite of mine is the made-for-TV movie, An American Christmas Carol, starring The Fonz himself, Henry Winkler. He plays both the young and old versions of Scrooge too, which is rare. It’s sappy and melodramatic in the way that many movies of the time were, especially made-for-TV movies, but I still love it. If you haven’t seen it, the whole thing is available on YouTube.

As far as versions I don’t like, but I’m seeing anyway, the top one is probably the most recent one in my collection, Disney’s 3D animated A Christmas Carol starring Jim Carrey. I just don’t like it, probably because I don’t like movies with Jim Carrey, and there’s a lot of him in this version. In addition to being the voice of Scrooge at all his various ages throughout the film, he also performs the voices of all the ghosts. I’d much rather see George C. Scott, Scrooge McDuck, Albert Finney, or even Mr. Magoo. However, in spite of my dislike, it doesn’t cross my (rather arbitrary) threshold of no-I-will-not-watch-that, so it’s still on the list. The earliest three versions are also pretty bad, but hey, they’re historic!

One of the end results of watching all of these different versions, apart from all of them slightly blurring together, is noticing how different each of them are. Each version chooses to emphasize different aspects of the original. Details and scenes are left out of all of them, either because their running time is too short to properly tell the story (the 1910 version is only about 10 minutes long!), or just because the writer or director wanted to make some adjustments for the type of story they were telling (drama, musical, comedy, etc…) or the setting they were inserting the story into (America in the Great Depression, Mickey Mouse’s world, Mr. Magoo’s, etc…). It’s also very fun to compare and contrast them. We’ll be having lots of discussions this month about who said what lines best, why certain scenes are essential, what we hate about version X, and on an on, just like we did last year. It’s awesome.

Some years we’ve gone in chronological order, starting from the oldest and working our way up to the present, but I think this year we’ll mix it up a little. I think we’ll start with Jim Carrey’s version first, to get it out of the way, and then work our way through the rest towards Patrick Stewart in rough order of how much I like them.

Merry Christmas!