This was the last book that I read in 2019. It was something that I’d been dipping in and out of for most of the month along with The Penguin Book of Christmas Stories. I knew I’d never get all the way through the Penguin collection so I made the choice to focus on this instead. Anyone who had read my review of Emma Thompson’s film Last Christmas will know that I didn’t like it. Really didn’t like it. However, I was all in favour of the accompanying book. I thought that it was a really fun idea and the fact that it was helping to raise money was an added bonus. I had to buy this book because so many great people were involved. I’m a fickle person after all. Emma Thompson, Stephen Fry, Richard Ayoade, Olivia Colman, Billy Bailey, Meryl Streep: all people I adore. I was genuinely excited to see what they had written. We all like getting a glimpse at the private lives of people we see in the media and this was like being invited to their house on Christmas day. Who wouldn’t say yet to that?
I can’t remember exactly when I bought Adam McKay’s first book This is Going to Hurt but I do know that it’s been sat on my TBR pile for a pretty long time. I always meant to read it but, if you’ve paid any attention to my Sunday Rundowns over the last few months/years, then you’ll know I have a book buying problem. At least I’ve become slightly better at reading this year so there’s hope that the pile will decrease but that all hinges on me being not quite so spend happy in 2020. We’ll see how long that lasts for. The fact that his first book has remained unopened meant that I had every intention to ignore Adam McKay’s Christmas themed book. However, on a Christmas Eve shopping trip during my lunch break, I found a copy of it for a fiver and thought I’d get it. If nothing else it would be another quick read to get in before the end of the year and it might encourage me to read its predecessor. So, when I found myself ill and inexplicably awake at 5am on December 26th, I decided to go for it. A couple of hours later, I was still ill, still awake, but I was one more book ahead of my 2019 reading goal. Something that currently stands at 57/50 thanks to my festive flu.
Non-religious Christmas films tend to follow the same basic stories depending on what genre they are. Those based on A Christmas Carol are pretty self-explanatory. Then you have the romance: a young workaholic realises that love and happiness should come before their career thanks to the interference from an elderly relative/something magical. Or the family film: a workaholic parent realises that they should be putting their family first so runs out of the big presentation just in time to see their child perform in the Christmas show. Both of these will inevitably end with the whole cast standing near a piano with their arms around each other and singing ‘Have Yourself a Merry Little Christmas’. Finally, you have the Santa Claus origin story: in which a kindly but childless man is chosen/decides to spread joy to other people by leaving presents under their tree at Christmas. We get it. We’ve seen it. So, I wasn’t sure what Netflix’s new animation Klaus was going to bring to the table besides a dreamy cast of voice actors. Still, I needed a break from all of the A Christmas Prince and Vanessa Hudgens nonsense.
So, the BBC and FX have made a new adaptation of A Christmas Carol. This one isn’t like the rest though. It’s by the guy who did Peaky Blinders and has Guy Pearce playing the youngest looking Scrooge ever seen on-screen (probably, I can’t be bothered to fact check). And it has Andy Serkis playing the ghost of Christmas Past. Although, no matter how stylised or different the story might look, every adaptation of A Christmas Carol is the same as the last. I mean the story never changes and there are only so many new ways to interpret it. Yes, I think it is an apt tale for modern times when the gulf between the rich and poor is bigger than it has been in decades (again, probably, I’m neither an economist or a sociologist). But I do have to ask “do we NEED another one?” And I say that as someone who bloody loves the book. Also, I’m not alone. I read a story that suggested Andy Serkis said the exact same thing when he was offered the role. I’m sure it’ll be a great adaptation but, no matter how many times people say it’s the most original adaptation we’ve ever seen, I’m still not convinced it’ll be that groundbreaking. And I should know. I’ve watched a lot of adaptations in the past few weeks in preparation for this list. I’m still nowhere near seeing all of the various ones but I’ve got a good idea of what’s out there. And, it’s safe to say, I’m bloody bored of hearing the same lines over and over again. Well, until I watch the new one on 22nd December. Read more
I watched the first Daddy’s Home film because I have a secret of Mark Wahlberg. And by love, I mean I appreciate how much he’s willing to make fun of himself. It must have been after watching The Other Guys, the first film he did with Will Ferrell. It was so much better than I ever would have believed and Wahlberg was a big part of that. Although, I can’t pretend that I enjoyed the film. I didn’t. I just think the pair were super funny together. Funny enough to make me want to see their next team-up Daddy’s Home. Once again, it failed to do anything exciting and was a big disappointment. So, I decided to skip the festive follow-up when it was released.
Anybody who has ever read the name of this blog will probably be able to guess that I bloody love Die Hard. It’s not only a great Christmas film but it is still one of the greatest action movies of all time. It is peak Bruce Willis and it introduced Hollywood to the talents of Alan Rickman. Die Hard is a legendary film that I watch at least once every year. I look forward to watching it before Christmas and I feel like I’d be missing out if I didn’t. What I’ve never done, is read the book it was based on. I’ve had a copy of it for years but never dared read it. As book lovers, we expect the novel to better but, as I’ve said before, there are plenty of contradictions out there. Reading Jaws after seeing the film is crazy but at least that has something going for it. And I love Jaws but it’s doesn’t hold as dear a place in my heart as John McClane’s skyscraper adventure. This year, I decided to be brave and opened the pages. That was at the start of December. It took me until last night to finish it. That should give you enough of an indication about my views on it.
December is probably always my worst month for reading. This year is better because I’ve been a better reader all year. That doesn’t mean I’m at the top of my game though. I’ve been reading Nothing Last Forever since the start of the month and it’s taking me ages. I’ve had to pick some quick reads to make sure I have something to write about. Last week’s The Letters of Father Christmas was one and today’s Festive Spirits is another. What I have managed to achieve this year is sticking to Christmassy reads. I normally try and theme my reading but have never normally managed it. It feels good to be reading appropriate books for a change. Every other December I’ve been madly trying to finish the book I started in October or November and haven’t bothered to get through yet. I’m also normally still a fair way from my reading goal but I’ve already beaten it twice this year. Maybe I’ve finally become a proper adult? Well, it only took 31 years.
I’m not saying I’m her biggest fan but Vanessa Hudgens has done some good stuff, right? Well, she was in Spring Breakers at least. So it does beg the question, how has she got stuck making awful romantic comedies for Netflix every Christmas? You have to wonder what they have over her? Do they know something she wants to keep secret? Or are they holding someone she loves hostage? We’ll probably never know. What we do know, is that she deserves better than that. Last we had her Christmas version of The Parent Trap/The Lizzie McGuire Movie with The Princess Switch. It was dreadful and she was forced to speak with a dreadful British accent for one of the roles. This year, she’s back with The Knight Before Christmas. And I have to say, I bloody love that title. Obviously, I love a pun in any situation but a Christmas pun too? There is a lot of potential in that title alone. But surely, knowing what we do about Netflix Christmas films, it wouldn’t live up to?
My Christmas film advent calendar has been full of some dicey films so far. You’d think I’d try and find the best ones to watch first, right? Nah. I don’t really like many Christmas films. Christmas films don’t seem to be held to the same standards as other films. There is an expectation that they are going to be cheesy and saccharine so nobody cares when there isn’t anything else to them. People are more willing to give a bad Christmas film a pass because it’s about Christmas. Not me. If a film isn’t well made or well written, I don’t give a shit if it’s full of snow and mulled wine. It’s not enough. Which is why I’m one of the seemingly few people who didn’t get all warm and fuzzy watching Nativity. In fact, it was on my list of Worst Christmas Films ever made. I just didn’t enjoy it. It made me cringe. The kind of film that thinks it’s funny just because it’s full of children.
As I said in my Friday Favourites, it would have been amazing having J.R.R. Tolkien as your father. Having a man with such a vivid imagination and a talent for creating new worlds telling you bedtime stories? Amazing. Then there’s his Christmas tradition. My father did the usual parent thing of pretending to send out letters off to the North Pole. This was done in a myriad of different ways: burning them, I’m sure there were fireworks one year, posting, and faxing. It was great at the time. But the one thing my dad never did was write back to us pretending to be Santa himself. Though he did dress up as him one year at the school fair. Being the killjoy that I am, I wasn’t having any of it so it’s probably for the best that he didn’t try and copy Tolkien’s yearly tradition.