1:The annual "best of" I'm Sorry I Haven't a Clue goes without saying. Sadly, the clip show missed out the years best double entendre:
"In the eighteenth century, the rich folk of the town donated money to pay for alms-houses to shelter the poor, the crippled, and the impotent. On the day they were opened, many thousands of the poor and the crippled turned up. But the impotent couldn't come."
2: I saved the double length Christmas Theme Time Radio Hour to listen to on Christmas day. Dylan's selection of music remains eclectic bordering on insanity. The whole joy of Theme Time has been the way it draws my attention to music that would not otherwise enter my field of vision. (Under what other circumstances would I listen to Tammy Wynette? Or The Streets, for gods sake? Or even have known that such a person as Washington Phillips even existed?) Highlight of the Christmas edition was Bob's recitation of Longfellow's "Christmas Bells". But doesn't the poem actually say "black accursed mouth"?
3: On Christmas Eve I watched Jean Luc-Picard and Withnail pretending to be Scrooge and Bob Cratchett in A Christmas Carol which, if the truth be told, I also watched last year and intend to watch next year as well. Unlike most film versions it leaves in the dark-stuff and the wierdo-Dickensian sentimentality, including the two children called "Ignorance" and "Starvation" who crawl out of the skirt of the Ghost of Christmas Present. Best moment is the bit of business when Scrooge doesn't know to take his hat off in church -- although Picard's voice is too beautiful to play a villain. A lady in the Guardian pointed out that Dickens didn't "invent" Christmas, as we're sometimes told -- after all, the child Scrooge is sad to be left at boarding school over Christmas, and as a youth he's pleased when his boss throws an office party. But Dickens did popularize the idea that Christmas was something that a single family could celebrate "just once a year" -- rather than a twelve day festival of Olde Englande in which you said "hey nonny-no" a great deal. Did you notice that the one thing which isn't mentioned is present-giving? Scrooge sends Cratchett a turkey for Christmas dinner, of course, but there is nothing about sending toys to Tiny Tim, and the adults at Scrooge's nephew's party play games, but don't seem to exchange gifts.
4: Not that there is anything wrong with hey-nonny-no-ing, of course. Thanks to the wonders of Listen Again, I have spent Monday evenings in 2007 discovering that Morris Dancing can be sexy.
5: The week before Christmas I got around to seeing The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford which is one of a very few films (it reminded me a lot of The Godfather in this respect) which has the depth and intensity of a grown-up novel. People complained that it was slow moving; but it seemed to me that there was no way you could have made it shorter. It relied on your spending three hours with the characters until you thought you understood them: by the end, I think you knew, without being told, why Bob Ford killed his friend and why his friend let him. Except for a slightly overdone scene when Ford, preparing for the murder, tries to take on the role of Jesse James, there was none of the psychobabble and exposition which often passes for "characterisation". Someone frivolously complained that the title of the film gave away the ending, but actually, the opposite was true. I'm no student of Westerns, so literally, the only thing I knew about the story is that Bob Ford, it was a fact, shot Jesse in the back while Jesse hung a picture on the wall. In the movie, he was dusting it. I assume that, through not knowing the rest of the story, there were a lot more ironies and resonances that I missed.
6: Did I mention that my "film of the year" was This Is England ? Anyone who grew up in the 80s, and anyone interested in the "what-does-patriotism-mean-in-multi-cultural-England" question needs to see it; but it's really a character piece and probably makes sense if you've never heard of either Roland Rat or the National Front.
7: Cranford came to an end just before the Christmas holidays – one of those historical costume dramas that only Aunty Beeb bothers to make nowadays. An old lady loses all her money while she still owes the butcher ten shillings. Everybody rallies round. Judy Dench acts without making it look as if she's acting. There's no bonking, no wet-shirts, and nothing explodes. Well, actually, the steam train explodes, but that results in the poacher's son getting an unexpected legacy. It is a Victorian novel after all. I have never read a work by Elizabeth Gaskell,but that failing will shortly be rectified: this is probably the best compliment you can pay to an adaptation of a novel.
8: I still haven't formed a definite opinion of I'm Not There , and probably won't until I have seen it at least twice more. Clearly a significant, important film. It consistently, almost perversely avoids saying anything obvious: the sound track to "Bob Dylan" meeting "Woody Guthrie" is "Blind Willie McTell" rather than, say, "Song for Woody". The best thing about it is the way in which it expects the audience to think for itself.
9: The Extras Christmas special unexpectedly eschewed (I've always wanted to use that word) farce and offered a clever and touching piece of drama which was actually quite an intelligent meditation on the current fad for "celebrity." The brainless community has complained that it's a bit rich for Ricky Gervais to be making TV shows about walking away from fame when he's got movie contracts coming out of his ears. But surely that misses the point? Gervais said on Desert Island Discs that he's horrified that young people want to be famous – not famous for anything, just famous. He said that what makes a film star happy is the sense that he's made a good movie: the red carpet is just an added extra. He, Gervais, presumably regards his success as the reward for having made comedy shows which he is proud of. So the point of Extras is not that "fame is bad" but that Gervais's on screen avatar has gone after fame as and end in itself, and therefore made himself miserable. Not the most original message on earth, but worth repeating, I would have said.
10: I even giggled a bit at the ****ing To the Manor Born reunion gig, although really, the BBC shouldn't have let such a fossilized bit of 1970s church-hall farce out of cryogenic storage
So at 8pm on December 25th, I think we should all have been able to smile ruefully and say "Well, OK, Russell: you may think that we are all cretins with the attention span of hyperactive eight year olds, that we need ever point of characterisation spelled out and underlined, and that it's okay to set up emotional situations and not follow through with them, but, hell, there are plenty of other people out there who are prepared to treat us like adults."