A Chradvent Carolendar: FINALE

Merry Chrimbus everyone.

Advent may have finished yesterday but Chradvent, my friends, has only just begun. Every day for the last 24 days I have watched and written up a different adaptation of Charles Dickens’ classic story A Christmas Carol. So demanding was this stupid, pointless waste of time project that I had to structure my entire month around it. As of yesterday, I have written 34,244 words, much higher than A Christmas Carol’s paltry 28,000. Of course, a picture’s worth a thousand words so with 29 hours and 9 minutes worth of film watched at 24 frames a second that’s 2,518,594,244 words, making Chradvent the single longest work in all human literature.

Picking the 24 films I’d watch out of the literally hundreds of other adaptations was no easy task. I knew I wanted Scrooged, Muppets, Blackadder and Albert Finney but I did not go in expecting the second straight-to-VHS sequel to All Dogs Go To Heaven or whatever the fuck this was. I’ve had everything from A Christmas Carol to A Carol Christmas. Very sad to have missed Christmas! A Carol, Christmas Carol-a and Carola Christmas (feat Adam Carola).

I am now more intimately familiar with the story of A Christmas Carol than any human being on this earth deserves to be. I will never watch it again. But there falls to me one remaining task; to correctly identify which is Superior.

Before we jump into that, I’d like to go over some data. I have been timing my average working day and would like to share with you my schedule and what I mean by “having to structure my month around Chradvent”.

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On average, on a day when I’m not working (weekends) I’ll sleep for about 10 hours until the early afternoon then wake up and start editing the Chradvent post I wrote the night before that will be published this afternoon at 4pm. A couple of hours to live and eat and get dressed and live and live my life and be alive and then I watch the film, sometimes sped up and sometimes very slowly over the course of several hours. Then I’ll crack on and write between 650 and 2700 words over the next 2 to 8 hours. Everything else will be squeezed into those green segments, including washing, cooking, shopping, eating and other tasks connected with being alive such as breathing deeply through my mouth.

On a day where I am working, this changes dramatically.

routine2

There’s no time to edit for tomorrow because it’ll be up before I can get home to edit it, so I have to edit immediately before going to sleep. There’s no time to cut anything else out of my working day so I have to reduce my sleeping hours from a healthy 10/ 13 to a paltry 7. Who can live like that? To save time I’ll often eat while watching the Chradvent film but this proves difficult with some of the more disgusting looking ones like 2000 or 2009. It’s also difficult to eat while dying Japanese children are suffering on screen. The trick is to start eating only when the Turkey appears at the end. You can try it when Scrooge is eating his gruel/ bread and cheese but you get one bite into a sandwich then a bloody ghost appears.

These graphs are averages of course; some days, like with Ms Scrooge, I’ll spend maybe an hour or two writing but some, like An American Carol, will take over 10. I mentioned in Patrick Stewart’s entry that I had to turn down work to do Chradvent and while this is partially true, my schedule was organised enough for it to not be too much of an issue. The first and last priority was with Chradvent though, as it should be.

One thing I have not touched upon in my reviews but will mention now and then hopefully forget forever is how much Dickens loved puns. Every single one of these Chradvent films has avoided them, save maybe the grave/gravy line, but he makes them constantly. In the last but one sentence in the book, Dickens says:

“[Scrooge] had no further intercourse with Spirits, but lived upon the Total Abstinence Principle, ever afterwards.”

The Total Abstinence Principle as in, not drinking spirits. So fucking lame. Turns out the worst adaptation of A Christmas Carol was the original A Christmas Carol.

Before we get into the murky realms of ratings and Superiority, I’d like to give some special commendations to the runners up. These are the completely arbitrary but also totally objectively correct Benjamin Alborough Awards For Outstanding Contribution To Chradvent.

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Most Faithful Adaptation

It’s been a great month and this decision has never been tougher. We’ve seen some wonderful stuff from all the nominees and whatever the results are, we know that they’ll all go on with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart. Here are the nominees:

2009 with Jim Carrey

1939 with Orson Welles

1999 with Patrick Stewart

1971 animated by Richard Williams

And the winner is…

1971 animated by Richard Williams

An award for animation there, having an advantage over the rest for actually being able to show ghosts doing ghost things. Zemeckis’ CGI fuckfest comes closest, weirdly enough, but odd comic moments from Jim Carrey completely ruins it.

Most Fun

It’s been a great month and this decision has never been tougher. We’ve seen some wonderful stuff from all the nominees and whatever the results are, we know that they’ll all go on with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart. Here are the nominees:

The Muppet Christmas Carol

1970 with Albert Finney

Blackadder’s Christmas Carol

Mickey’s Christmas Carol

And the winner is…

The Muppet Christmas Carol

1970 is fun but a bit too dark, Mickey’s is too short and Blackadder’s is the best written but ultimately an original sitcom episode. Muppet has the great musical elements of 1970 and the calculated wit of Blackadder. It wipes the slate with them.

Most Pathetic Tiny Tim

It’s been a great month and this decision has never been tougher. We’ve seen some wonderful stuff from all the nominees and whatever the results are, we know that they’ll all go on with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart. Here are the nominees:

Mary Lou Retten as a backflipping Tiny Tim in Scrooged

Awkward “God Bless Us” from 1949 with Vincent Price

Tiny Tim Who Never Looks Into The Camera from 1954 with Basil Rathbone

Truman Capote

The Tiny Tim who has a “Slow Growing Congential Tumour” from Ms Scrooge

And the winner is…

The Tiny Tim who has a “Slow Growing Congential Tumour” from Ms Scrooge

There is not even a question here.

Best Candle on a Little Plate

It’s been a great month and this decision has never been tougher. We’ve seen some wonderful stuff from all the nominees and whatever the results are, we know that they’ll all go on with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart. Here are the nominees:

candle4candle3candle2candle1

And the winner is…

candle1

This is just one of those things that animation can do so much better than live action.

Chirpiest “Why Sir”

It’s been a great month and this decision has never been tougher. We’ve seen some wonderful stuff from all the nominees and whatever the results are, we know that they’ll all go on with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart. Here are the nominees:

“Why Sir” from 1951

“Why, Sir!” from 1970

“Why! Sir?” from 1984

And the winner is…

“Why Sir” from 1951″

Most Shittest Version of The First Noel

It’s been a great month and this decision has never been tougher. We’ve seen some wonderful stuff from all the nominees and whatever the results are, we know that they’ll all go on with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart. Here are the nominees:

Tuneless garbage in 1935

Pre-Orson filler in 1939

Off-screen hijinks in 1949

Screenwriter Noel Langley in 1951

And the winner is…

Screenwriter Noel Langley in 1951

In addition to not being totally shitty unlistenable garbage, Noel Langley wrote one of the better screenplays of Chradvent. I’m just glad he wasn’t the second or third Noel in the crew, otherwise he’d be conpletely ineligable.

Best Impression of W. C. Fields

It’s been a great month and this decision has never been tougher. We’ve seen some wonderful stuff from all the nominees and whatever the results are, we know that they’ll all go on with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart. Here are the nominees:

Rich Little, Rich Little’s Christmas Carol, 1979

And the winner is…

Nominations Re-opened

Best Liz Smith Character

It’s been a great month and this decision has never been tougher. We’ve seen some wonderful stuff from all the nominees and whatever the results are, we know that they’ll all go on with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart. Here are the nominees:

Mrs Dilber, 1984

Mrs Dilber, 1999

Joyce, 2000

And the winner is…

Us all, for Liz Smith’s presence in our lives.

I wish she’d played Ms Scrooge.

Scrooge Most Oblivious to the Fact that he Dies in the Future

It’s been a great month and this decision has never been tougher. We’ve seen some wonderful stuff from all the nominees and whatever the results are, we know that they’ll all go on with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart. There aren’t any nominees because the obvious winner is 2004 with Kelsey Grammer.

Actor Who Should Never Have Been in A Christmas Carol

It’s been a great month and this decision has never been tougher. We’ve seen some wonderful stuff from all the nominees and whatever the results are, we know that they’ll all go on with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart. Here are the nominees:

Dom DeLuise as Itchy in An All Dogs Christmas Carol

Gary Coleman as himself in A Carol Christmas, An American Carol and Ghosts of Girlfriends Past

Whoever the fuck played Fred in the 1954 version

Rich Little

And the winner is…

Unquestionably Rich Little

Actor Who Has Most Inexplicably Not Played Scrooge

It’s been a great month and this decision has never been tougher. We’ve seen some wonderful stuff from all the nominees and whatever the results are, we know that they’ll all go on with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart. Here are the nominees:

Ian McKellen

Ian McDiarmid

Ian Richardson

And the winner is…

Ian Paisley

Poorest Attempt to Modernise an Element of the Story

It’s been a great month and this decision has never been tougher. We’ve seen some wonderful stuff from all the nominees and whatever the results are, we know that they’ll all go on with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart. Here are the nominees:

Warning us of Nuclear Power by showing half dead Japanese children, 1964

Making it a pro-warcrime conservative comedy, An American Carol

Muppets

Genderswapped, raceswapped, Ms Scrooge

Gangs and the estate, 2000 with Ross Kemp

And the winner is…

Making it a pro-warcrime conservative comedy, An American Carol

Fucking stupid idea.

Smallest Hat

It’s been a great month and this decision has never been tougher. We’ve seen some wonderful stuff from all the nominees and whatever the results are, we know that they’ll all go on with a grateful prayer and a thankful heart. Here are the nominees:

Fourth man from the back on the left in Christmas Day parade, 1951

 Asian man in product placement Tab advert in Scrooged

Bam-Bam’s from Flintstones (possibly a smudge on the animation cel)

Hat as described on radio by Orson Welles “It was a tiny, ugly hat that Scrooge wore with a dark frown”.

And the winner is…

All of them! (Hats exactly same size within margin of 0.1mm)


Enough of that, they were all rigged anyway. 

We’re almost there, folks. Soon I shall reveal what is the Superior adaptation of A Christmas Carol, now being the foremost expert on the matter in all of the world. But first, for those who don’t have the time to go back and read all of Chradvent, let’s remind ourselves of what we’ve watched so far:

Scrooge (1935)

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Sir Seymour Hicks is Scrooge in our first outing. It’s low budget to the point where they had Hicks just point at where the ghost was meant to be instead of doing any special effects. Charming, creepy but ultimately mediocre. 5.5/10

A Christmas Carol (1939)

1939

Orson Welles bellows his way through the only radio version on this list. This is quite a difficult story to do on radio as you need to rely heavily on description and one hour simply isn’t long enough to convey Dickens in words alone. Ads for Campbell’s soup lift it, though. 6.5/10

The Christmas Carol (1949)

1949f

Bad acting, bad direction and simply terrible production design make this a so-bad-it’s-funny-Christmas-Carol. Vincent Price is barely used and there are typos everywhere. Ebenezer Scrooge is twice referred to as Ebeneezer Scrooge. 3/10

Scrooge (1951)

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Alastair Sim is Scrooge in this masterpiece made at the height of the British film industry. His Scrooge is a real human being who is politically motivated to greed rather than being a comic book miser. We learn more about his family and explore his dark past. Works as its own film independently of the story it’s adapting. Beautifully shot and directed. 9/10

A Christmas Carol (Shower of Stars) (1954)

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Fucking weird garbage that’s ostensibly a musical but only features about three songs all clumped together either side of a 5 minute advert for Chrysler. No-one involved had any understanding of the characters and the man who played Fred delivers maybe one of my least favourite performances in anything of all time. 3/10

A Carol For Another Christmas (1964)

1964c

A dark, contemporary adaptation commissioned by the UN to educate the American populous on its work. It’s cleverly written, well shot and brilliantly acted but is very didactic and incredibly depressing to watch. At one point we see footage of Japanese children who’ve had their faces blown off by the Bomb. It doesn’t have a real ending but it is probably one of the few ones on this list that I would consider coming back to if I hadn’t vowed never to watch any of these ever again. 7/10

Scrooge (1970)

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Musical fun with Albert Finney as Scrooge and Alec Guinness as Marley. His Scrooge is far more camp than the usual outing but this fits perfectly for the genre. The songs are all great. It’s a bit too dark for a family film and it plays fast and loose with the ending but I’d happily recommend this version for someone wanting to get into the story. 7.5/10

A Christmas Carol (1971)

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Richard Williams is a superb animator and this is a far better animated film than it is an adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Despite being 25 minutes long it’s the most faithful to the original story out of all of them but that is not enough to elevate it to the lofty realms of Superiority. Transliterating the story to film is not enough. It achieved its goals in representing the characters beautifully on screen enough but it is simply not a good enough film in its own right to place it alongside versions like 1951. 6/10

Rich Little’s Christmas Carol (1979)

1979c

I had a mini burnout after this one. It’s just some guy using A Christmas Carol as an excuse to do a bunch of shitty impressions on network television. It’s so cynical it makes my joints ache. The Ghost of Christmas Yet To Come is an impression of Inspector Clouseau. 0.5/10

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)

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Scrooge McDuck stretches into the role of Ebenezer Scrooge in another 25 minute long animated subject. It was fine; well animated but nothing special. Kept expecting there to be an ironic Disney twist but there never was. 6.5/10

A Christmas Carol (1984)

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George C. Scott acts the fuck out of Scrooge in this brilliant made for TV movie. Really cool special effects, great character moments and amazing supporting performances from people like Edward Woodward elevates this above the rest. You can tell Scott was going for a similar Scrooge as Alastair Sim. 8.5/10

Scrooged (1988)

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Bill Murray gives a canned performance as a modern Scrooge who sits at the head of a television company. Lazy, boring humour, weird interpretations of the plot and a confused, stupid ending are not balanced out by a proto-Charlie Kelly Bobcat Goldthwaite and cool 80s special effects. 5/10

Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988)

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Rowan Atkinson reveals himself to be a twink in this sitcom Christmas special that plays fast and loose with the original story. I have seen this version more times than I can count so am heavily biased and, in retrospect, there is almost no way I can justify giving this a higher score than Richard Williams version. But, despite my opinion being completely subjective the scores are objective fact and Blackadder’s Christmas Carol gets 7.5/10

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)

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Michael Caine gives a surprisingly emotionally available performance as Scrooge in the version with which most people are familiar. This film being described as “the best adaptation” was one of the reasons that I did Chradvent. “How could anyone ever really be sure?”. The Muppet version is a fun family romp that sticks closely to the original story without getting too dark. The emotional beats are consistent and work even with lots of crazy Muppet action going on in the background. 8/10

A Flintstones Christmas Carol (1994)

1994a.png

Fred Flintstone plays Scrooge in the Bedrock Community Theatre’s production of A Christmas Carol. This is an incredibly confused version and I’m not sure why they chose to make it the way that they did. It sucked. 3/10

Ms Scrooge (1997)

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A disappointingly unmemorable race and genderswapped version of the story only notable for formally diagnosing Tiny Tim with a “slow growing congenital tumour”. Looks and feels flat and boring. 4/10

An All Dogs Christmas Carol (1998)

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Direct to VHS sequel to All Dogs Go To Heaven. Badly animated, stupidly written and really, really unfunny. If you want to know what it’s like to watch this, imagine having a fatal brain hemorrhage. 2/5/10

A Christmas Carol (1999)

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Patrick Stewart gives a strong performance as Scrooge backed up by an equally strong Richard E Grant as Bob Cratchit. Sadly, they cannot elevate this boring, tired, uninnovative production of A Christmas Carol above mediocrity. Early signs of promises are quickly extinguished by shitty supporting actors, bad direction and poor special effects. It was the late 90s, they had no excuse. 6/10

A Christmas Carol (2000)

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Ross Kemp is a fucking geezer playing Eddie Scrooge, a fucking loan shark on a fucking East London estate. It plays around with the conventions of the story enough for it to be at least interesting but it’s far too poorly executed to be of any value. 4/10

A Carol Christmas (2003)

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Another version where, instead of being a Victorian businessman, Scrooge works in television. They really tried to innovate in this one and mix up some of the plot elements to make more sense in a modern context but the vision was not strong enough to elevate it above being another mediocre Hallmark channel original movie. I don’t really know why it exists. 3.5/10

A Christmas Carol: The Musical (2004)

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Forgettable songs from the otherwise brilliant Alan Menken and a Kelsey Grammer Scrooge who we never really get to know prevent this film from really achieving anything. It’s basically a stage play that they shot and edited together and I’d be very interested to see it live, where I think it could have the potential to be really, really good. But not as a film. 3.5/10

An American Carol (2008)

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An insidiously evil actively pro-war crimes film from one of the minds behind Airplane! and The Naked Gun. Michael Malone, a crude parody of Michael Moore, is re-educated on the values of American paleoconservatism. It’s cruel, ignorant and desperately unfunny. -1/10

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2008)

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I don’t really know enough about Rom-Coms to make a proper value judgement on this as a one, but as an adaptation of A Christmas Carol it serves its own needs. It’s fairly poor and probably misogynistic. Those women sure do like to have sex with Matthew McConaughey. 3.5/10

A Christmas Carol (2009)

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Hideously ugly not-quite-realistic-but-not-quite-stylised motion capture 3D all-CGI Jim Carrey multiroling adaptation of A Christmas Carol. Hits all the right beats with some nice visual flourishes but, for the most part, all the flashy imagery gets in the way. 4.5/10


For those of you who don’t have time to either go back and read all of Chradvent or read my summary of it above, I’ve broken it down even further for you, into three defining words per film.

Scrooge (1935)
Ghost pointing time

A Christmas Carol (1939)
Orson loves soup

The Christmas Carol (1949)
Vincent Price? Who?

Scrooge (1951)
Fucking excellent shit

A Christmas Carol (Shower of Stars) (1954)
Everybody Hates Fred

A Carol For Another Christmas (1964)
Nuclear holocaust, kids!

Scrooge (1970)
Jodorovsky’s Christmas Carol

A Christmas Carol (1971)
Beautiful but boring

Rich Little’s Christmas Carol (1979)
Pointless fucking garbage

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)
Standard Disney fluff

A Christmas Carol (1984)
Powerful Men Acting

Scrooged (1988)
Oh, Bill Murray.

Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988)
Humbug, Mr Baldrick?

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Good clean fun

A Flintstones Christmas Carol (1994)
Yabba Dabba Why

Ms Scrooge (1997)
Slow Growing Congenital

An All Dogs Christmas Carol (1998)
I got nothing

A Christmas Carol (1999)
Patrick Stewart’s good?

A Christmas Carol (2000)
Apples and pears

A Carol Christmas (2003)
Gary Coleman? Shatner?!

A Christmas Carol: The Musical (2004)
Hello Kelsey Grammer

An American Carol (2008)
Goodbye Kelsey Grammer

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2008)
Matthew McConaughey FUCKS

A Christmas Carol (2009)
A Computer Carol

And for those of you who don’t have time to either go back and read all of Chradvent or read my summary of it further above or read my reduced summary of it adjacent, I’ve broken it down even further for you, into a single word per film.

Scrooge (1935)
Creepy

A Christmas Carol (1939)
Soup

The Christmas Carol (1949)
Stupid

Scrooge (1951)
Nice

A Christmas Carol (Shower of Stars) (1954)
Kill

A Carol For Another Christmas (1964)
Gun

Scrooge (1970)
Hell

A Christmas Carol (1971)
Busy

Rich Little’s Christmas Carol (1979)
Cum

Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983)
Normal

A Christmas Carol (1984)
Strong

Scrooged (1988)
Indulgent

Blackadder’s Christmas Carol (1988)
Silly

The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
Fun

A Flintstones Christmas Carol (1994)
Confused

Ms Scrooge (1997)
Disappointing

An All Dogs Christmas Carol (1998)
Hell

A Christmas Carol (1999)
Bald

A Christmas Carol (2000)
Fucking

A Carol Christmas (2003)
Freaks

A Christmas Carol: The Musical (2004)
Who?

An American Carol (2008)
Jingo

Ghosts of Girlfriends Past (2008)
FUCKS

A Christmas Carol (2009)
uuugly


There, that’ll save you about 35,000 words.

A note about ratings: my ratings, despite being totally objectively correct, are entirely arbitrary and subjective. They are no real indication of how good a film is but they will tell you with 100% confidence how good a film is. They take into account a number of factors but mostly it’s just holistic enjoyment on my part. Let’s look at them:

scores

See if you can spot Rich Little and An American Carol.

Things we can extrapolate from this graph:

  1. There was the most variance in quality between 1935 and 1980
  2. The films stabilised in quality around the 80s
  3. Adaptations from the mid 90s onwards have not worked
  4. The best adaptations are ones that work in their own right as a film first and are adaptations second

Maybe it is the 30 year nostalgia cycle come around to haunt me, maybe the films made in the 80s were better, maybe having those films in the back of my mind as I watched the rest led me to make unfair comparisons. We will never truly know the answers to these questions. 

As such, is there such a thing as a Superior version? There are a lot of good versions, 1951, 1970, 1984 and Muppets being the strongest contenders. Muppets holds very dear to many peoples hearts so, despite being not as good a film as 1951 with Alastair Sim, maybe that is the Superior version.

The message of A Christmas Carol is one of family, generosity and charity. As I type this, at half past midnight on Christmas morning, I reflect back on my time over Chradvent and the horrible horrible complications it has brought to my daily routine and think to myself: maybe what makes an adaptation the most Superior is not snazzy lighting or one particularly strong performance or even a carefully constructed impression of Inspector Clouseau. Maybe what makes an adaptation Superior is a deep and profound emotional connection to our own childhood Christmases.

 

In another, more accurate, way Scrooge (1951) is Superior.

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