Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
This movie was "Approved." Take your Christmas themed tomfoolery somewhere else! This is a wholesome Miracle on 34th Street.
DIRECTOR: George Seaton
i never saw this one before. The film class yesterday said that many of the movies they watched over Christmas break didn't count because they had seen them before. Maybe that's what is so appealing about Christmas movies. They are comfort food. Meat loaf is meant to be delicious, not surprising. We watch the same movies year after year. (I missed my annual viewing of Scrooged. If I spiral into a crippling depression, chalk it up to the fact that I'm a needy manchild.) But watching a Christmas movie from fresh eyes was a pretty good time. I enjoyed it more than my wife did, who seemed annoyed that the Christmas movie I wanted to watch was Miracle on 34th Street.
I keep beating a dead horse dressed as Santa Claus, but it is weird watching Christmas movies from an adult's perspective. Weirdly enough, Miracle on 34th Street is almost more aimed at adults rather than children with its message of growing up in a cynical world. Of course I wanted Santa Claus to be real in the movie, but I also acknowledge that idea is selfish and I would completely be on the side of the prosecution in reality. When talking about film's purpose, Miracle on 34th Street talks about being vulnerable as an audience member. It is wildly annoying when someone says, "Well, that wouldn't happen in real life." That is the attitude --perhaps passively --that Miracle is trying to break down. Everyone in the story, children included, understand that Santa is a myth. But the movie never really goes into an exploration for the cultural purpose of Santa. Rather, the story takes a childlike attitude to the need for Santa being real as an inherent thing.
Since I am an abomination made out of eggshells at Christmas, I have to tell you what scene destroyed me. The little girl who only speaks Dutch. Santerklass? That's right, Kriss Kringle speaks every language and that's all that little girl really wanted for Christmas. I think writing this review and thinking of that little girl might give me insight into the necessity in believing in Santa Claus. Gifts are great and the idea that Santa is incorruptible is special. But even more so, the idea that the world isn't a mundane cash grab is almost more important. Understanding religion is something that is called upon at Confirmation, but that isn't about magic. That is believing in something when the world is telling you that there is nothing to believe. Santa, in a weird way, presents (pun intended) evidence everywhere we look during the Christmas season. He is something larger and bigger than anything else we look at as children. The idea that adults don't believe robs us of something special. It's why teenagers look at me scornfully when I ask for vulnerability and passion. The world is no longer special for them. Thanks, Miracle on 34th Street.
I have to acknowledge that this is a special movie to many people. I often discuss how our environment affects the specialness of a movie. I liked this movie a lot, but I really think I'm a bit too old for it. This movie might die out with many of the movies that my generation thought were classics. It's a classic in terms of old Hollywood cinema, but it might be a bit too second tier. I would be amazed if my grandkids will ever hear about this movie. Well, I'll obviously tell them about it, but they'll think I'm senile and smell funny. In terms of movie making, it hits a lot of the right beats. I am always thrown out of movies when marketing takes a step front and center. Macy's wins this one. Macy's somehow owns Christmas and this movie really locks it in place. Gimbel's gets to peek its head in, but they are simply painted as exploiting Christmas for their own financial gain. Mr. Macy, of course, would never intentionally do that. I kind of want to punch this story in its holly-jolly face for kowtowing so hard to Macy's, but whatever. The movie works for the most part.
Yeah, it's silly and it really overteeters on saccharine, but I think that's allowed at Christmas. (Yet, I refuse to watch Hallmark Christmas movies. Go figure.)
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Film is great. It can challenge us. It can entertain us. It can puzzle us. It can awaken us.
Mr. H has watched an upsetting amount of movies. They bring him a level of joy that few things have achieved.