And What Will You Be Watching This Christmas?

20/12/2010 16:10

‘Tis the season to be merry. ‘Tis also the season of rapid spending and shopping, cleaning and baking and overall seasonal madness. But once we are done with all that, many a person, big or small, loves to curl up on the couch in front of their television sets. If there is a ritual we love to indulge in at this time of the year, it is watching fairy tales. Whether they are of Czech or Slovak or foreign origin; whether they are Christmas-themed or not; for three or so days straight we are willing to watch them for hours on end. However, even if TV channels have a wide assortment of stories to choose from, somehow they keep airing more or less the same movies each year all over again. We do not intend to dispute the evergreen value of some of these tales, but sometimes, somehow one can watch the Home Alone movie or Tři Oříšky Pro Popelku so many times that it gets quite predictable, uninteresting and frankly boring. So for those of you who crave for something new or at least less familiar to watch, quality alternatives do exist:


If you are, for instance, fond of classic fairy tale settings full of ethereal maidens falling from the skies, evil witches pursuing eternal life and ghosts of royal princes squabbling among each other incessantly, you should absolutely see Stardust ( ). Based on a book by Neil Gaiman, this movie has everything an ambitious viewer might look for in a fairy tale, plus oodles of wit and not to forget Robert De Niro in drag.


Another movie that will take you on a breath-taking journey all the way back to Never NeverLand and teach you just why one never should throw away one's childhood is Hook ( ). This 1991 sort of sequel to the story of Peter Pan, directed by Steven Spielberg, is not only well written, but features also some very enjoyable actors. Recommended to anyone who feels that they are becoming too cynical adults.


To add one more movie based on a successful book, we should also mention Roald Dahl’s Matilda ( ). Why, didn’t we all, at least once in our lives, want to telekinetically control our surroundings purely by the power of our minds? Or calculate impossibly large sums for the sheer convenience of it? And you don’t even have to be as gifted as Matilda to be severely motivated by this movie.


But let’s face it – who doesn’t like to be special? Like, let’s say, little Max, who runs away one evening and ends up Where the Wild Things Are ( ). The creatures he meets here crown him nothing less than their king. However, not everything can be measured by the length of a parrot and there are things not even a king can solve by willing it so.


Speaking of traveling from reality and back again – ever seen The Wizard of Oz ( )? While musicals might not be everybody’s cup of tea, you don’t have to live somewhere over the rainbow to actually enjoy this timeless classic. Though one cannot really decide whether it is a pity or a relief, it never got properly dubbed in our region. After all, there is no place like home.


We might say that ever since Alice fell down the rabbit hole, children and young adults entering fantastic realms have become a pretty common motif in contemporary fairy tales. Somehow the more odd a story and its inhabitants are, the more interesting it becomes. But then again, if you wanted reality, why on earth would you be watching fairy tales? And it is also peculiar how, with a few exceptions, these are mostly female-fronted. Three such tales come to mind right away.


One of them is Pan’s Labyrinth ( ). Some might consider it a fairy tale, but it is not exactly suitable for children. While some imagery might be deemed, as mentioned, ‘odd’ , some of it is outright disturbing. But no need to worry, it is nothing that would scar you for life rather than leave a deep impression. Just like another Neil Gaiman story - Mirror Mask ( ), which is not disturbingly surreal, but impressively so. Coraline ( ), his latest adaptation, is especially noteworthy for its dreamy soundtrack, even though the animated puppets might remind the viewer of a completely different storyteller…


… Tim Burton. And surprising as it seems, even he produced a less known, yet still enjoyable fairy tale simply numbered 9 (, which follows a ragdoll on its adventure in a post-apocalyptic world. Untypically for a Burton movie, this one is animated completely in 3D. Hard to say whether this project proved too difficult to create in his usual stop-motion-animation style or whether he was merely following the trend of most movies for younger audiences, which are nowadays modeled exclusively in 3D.


But if you do enjoy animated fairy tales that are also actually drawn, you might want to check out the work of Studio Ghibli and its renowned director Hayao Miyazaki. You don’t need to be an aficionado of Japanese anime. Ghibli do not make their characters’ eyes oversized, nor do they dwell on giant robots or schoolgirls. Ghibli, we could say, are something like Disney. What, however, makes the Ghibly Studio movies so fascinating is the amount of fantasy that goes into each of their titles. For instance, Spirited Away ( ) is filled to the brink with them. Moreover, similarily to Disney, these tales often try to send out a message that goes beyond the usual tale of a saved princess, good overcoming evil and a happy ending. Howl’s Moving Castle ( ) delves in the destructive pointlessness of wars while Princess Monoke ( ) stresses the importance of protecting the environment.


All in all, it is entirely up to you how you will spend your holiday season. As none of these is explicitly Christmas-themed, you might give them a try even later on as well. Or basically anytime you feel in the mood for something more out of the ordinary. Thus, merry watching and Merry Christmas!

Zora Feldsamová