Wise: Merry Christmas, Werth!
Wise: You still believe in Santa?
Werth: Ssh! Children may be reading this. And nothing makes the wait for that jolly old elf more enjoyable than—
Wise: More vodka.
Werth: Than watching a classic Christmas movie.
Wise: There are so many to choose from—Miracle on 34th Street, It’s a Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story.
Werth: Nope. Those flicks are holiday amateur hour. When I want to watch a movie about the true spirit of Christmas, I watch The Lion in Winter.
Wise: This I gotta hear.
Wise: They don’t sing carols or have snowball fights?
Werth: To quote Good King Hank, “What shall we hang? The holly or each other?” Before the un-silent night is through, everyone’s stabbed someone in the back to get a piece of Henry’s kingdom. Eleanor tells Henry she screwed his dad, and King Phillip lets it slip that he and Prince Richard have been doing more than hunting wild boar together.
Wise: Oh, I’ve used the old boar hunting excuse myself.
Werth: It’s historic melodrama at its Grinchiest. James Goldman’s dialogue crackles more than a yule log with the verbal barbs flying very faithfully to the 1966 play on which the film is based. Although they did cut Prince Richard’s insult about his dufus brother’s birth. “No, it’s the midwives’ fault. They threw the baby out and kept the afterbirth.”
Wise: What happened to, “Children may be reading this?”
Wise: She won the Oscar® that year, right?
Werth: She actually shared the Oscar® that year with Barbra Streisand for Funny Girl . It was the second and last time a tie has occurred for the coveted kudo.
Wise: Who deserved it more?
Werth: I actually think Funny Girl is Streisand's best film performance, so I say neither of them should have to give back their statuette.
Wise: No one should have to give back an Oscar® on Christmas.
Werth: Except Halle Berry. What Christmas movie lights up your tree, Wise?
Wise: Well, it combines three of my favorite things: elaborate musical numbers, heart-tugging sentiment, and puppets.
Werth: Is it Team America: World Police?
Werth: So, it’s not a movie?
Wise: It’s a TV movie.
Werth: It’s a holiday special and therefore not a movie.
Wise: Need I remind you of your post about the Judy Garland television show last week?
Werth: You need not. Continue.
Wise: I’m not normally a fan of stories that exploit a familiar character’s backstory, but I find Baum’s departure from the standard version of Santa Claus intriguing because he transforms the commercialism holiday gift-giving into a profound act of good. Baum was interested in Theosophy which was a 19th Century spiritual movement and its influence gave depth to his literary world, connecting his fairy tales to larger themes.
Werth: I’m not sure if I can handle being taught spiritual lessons by stop-motion animated puppets.
Wise: Actually, I think it’s some of the most subtle film making ever produced by Rankin Bass. The puppets express complex emotions and the writing addresses Baum’s most compelling ideas. The lovely and fantastical design is clearly influenced by Alphonse Mucha, and there are plenty of funny elves and catchy tunes that stick in your head long after the hour is over. Plus, the Master Woodsman is voiced by long-time Broadway star Alfred Drake who played opposite Katherine Hepburn in Much Ado About Nothing.
Werth: Was that your attempt to connect Adventures to a movie?
Werth: Nicely done.
Wise: Thank you. And to our readers, Merry Christmas to all—and to all a good gab!