A Wonderful Life in Christmas Films


One of my fondest memories of my childhood Christmases is watching The Wizard of Oz while grown ups snoozed behind me on a 70’s “three piece suite” in brown velour. There I’d sit on a trippy patterned brown and orange carpet watching Dorothy as her horizon shifted from the dusty grey of the Kansas plains to the Day-Glo world of munchkins, nauseously green faced witches and fabulous ruby shoes. As I got older I’d make a point of grabbing the “bumper” 2-week edition of The TV Times before the staples fell out to check when it was on. As I got older I relished in the messages behind the story. The idea of going on a journey to find your heart’s desire and my own young theory that the scarecrow was always a genius he just needed something or someone to endorse it. That’s me, thought I! I’m still waiting actually – someone? Anyone?

Then as I got older my best friend and I discovered Trading Places. This followed a weird but enduring crush on Dan Aykroyd. We’d sit there loading a bulky VHS cassette tape into a now prehistoric top loading VCR. We’d laugh our selves silly screeching “Merry New Year” in an exuberant fashion and offering each other pretend Beef Jerkys having no clue what they were. Whenever a day isn’t going so well I can always conjure up a vision of Winthorpe’s misery as he stands in the rain in his toxic looking Father Christmas beard with a dog doing his doo-da up his leg.

There are so many festive filmic moments imprinted on my brain from all stages of my life so far. There’s Chevy Chase in his exterior fairy light frenzy, oddly prophetic of my current street in early December, hopefully without the blowing of the grid. There’s Bridget Jones in her big pants smooching Mark Darcy under the soft light of a London street lamp with snow gently falling around them. And who can forget Hugh Grant as the Prime Minister snogging Tiffany from Eastenders behind the scenes at a Nativity play while Liam Neeson’s film son chases his older woman around an airport?

The thing that unites the Christmas films I love is the hope they offer, the redemption, possibilities that are open to you when all is calm and all is bright. It even all worked out for Chevy.

The memory I re-make every single year without fail though is “It’s a Wonderful Life”. Oh George Bailey, how I love thee. He saved his little brother, stopped the grieving pharmacist poisoning someone and got his poor little bad ear boxed for it. He gave up his dreams for the buildings and loans of Bedford Falls, dodged the advances of the local saucepot and nearly lost it all. But no! There’s that redemption again and that spirit of Christmas beneath fairy lights and baubles as angels get their wings.

Now I’m a Mum I’m watching my own children form their memories. Of course no VHS tapes for them, but The Polar Express, Frozen and even that wonderful old wizard will be downloaded or streamed from what might well be the land of Oz itself directly to our lounge.

It was with this in mind that I was excited to hear of the Backyard Cinema’s Winter Night Garden, a cinema screening Christmas films, (many of my old favourites) in an indoor enchanted forest accessed by a magical wardrobe. Screenings split into categories of Proper Christmas, Family Films, Cult Christmas and Comedy and include It’s a Wonderful Life, Home Alone, Frozen, Cinderella, Elf and Love Actually. I’m certainly taking my daughter along which means her first Christmas movie memory could be of Elsa freezing things as we sit in an enchanted garden. I’m thinking this could be a slight departure from the 70’s décor of a semi-detached council house near Basingstoke and a television the size of a large dog that you had to walk right up to in order to change channels.

I guess I’ll just have to LET IT GO. Time moves on, and none of us are really in Kansas anymore, are we?

  • Find out timings and more details on The Backyard Cinema at www.backyardcinema.co.uk/. Screenings run from 18th November to 6th January 2017 at Mercato Metropolitano, SE1.
Jackie Wilson

Jackie started writing for Belle on her return to the UK after 3 years living in Kuala Lumpur. Formerly a Marketing Manager of British institutions such as Cathedral City Cheddar and Twinings Tea, she wrote columns and web content in KL for several local and expat magazines and sites and was a contributing author for the book Knocked Up Abroad. Jackie is now back on the expat beat living in Cincinatti, USA where she is engaged in a feast of writing projects while desperately clinging to her children’s British accents and curiously observing the American way.

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