Saturday, December 26, 2015

Two Christmas Movies: Miracle on 34th Street, The Snowman

Miracle on 34th Street (Seaton, 1947) Rating: 8/10 Stars.
Disapproves of public drunkenness, single mothers, apartments in the city, overly-serious children, commercialism, capitalists, money in politics, skepticism, psychiatrists, and common sense.

On the other hand, the profit motive, political cowardice, and bureaucratic shortcutting can work together for the good of all.

Reactionary and wonderful.

The Snowman (Jackson, Murakami, 1982) Rating: 10/10 Stars.
Superficially similar to Frosty the Snowman but superior in every respect, this utterly simple, old-fashioned film is one of the great classics of world animation.  Hand-drawn very consciously with colored pencils to imitate the style of Raymond Briggs' children's book--which in its wordless frame-by-frame storytelling is practically a storyboard already--the pictures shimmer and breathe with cel-by-cel crosshatching, every image labored over with human fingers.  (Incidentally, this aesthetic would have fit Chris Van Allsburg's The Polar Express far better than dead-eyed, slack-jawed motion-capture.)  The film is wordless but for Briggs' deep-voiced intro and the central song, but still enthralling for even small children, as Howard Blake's beautiful score guides us through the rhythms of the narrative.  The way the horse moves, the way the fields and towns--not simply background paintings--flow by beneath the boy and the snowman; the whole film has a dreamlike sense of being magicked to life.  And the song, "Walking in the Air," performed by choirboy Peter Auty, endows it all with a sense of the sacred.  So of course it's so beloved in the UK that they have profaned its memory with multiple inferior sequels and licensed the Snowman's image for dozens of commercial products and TV advertisements.  Ah, well.

While it's almost unheard of in the gen. pop. of the U.S., my sister and I watch it every year.  I love few films more dearly.

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