By Jenny Browning, Specialist Content Creator
Some call it the cultural hub of the company. To most it’s the Writers’ Block or where the content creators create. So where better to find Whiteoaks’ answer to Mark Kermode and Mariella Frostrup to discover their favourite Christmas film and book?
I mean what’s more sophisticated than watching the Muppet Christmas Carol with a glass of Baileys in hand?
Tim Burton’s Edward Scissorhands may be dressed up in Halloween attire, but I would argue that it’s a festive tale at heart. [SPOILER ALERT] The film concludes with the idea that the white Christmas is caused by the snow which Edward creates when carving ice sculptures. Pretty festive if you ask me.
The film explores themes which are relevant today, such as an outsider (Edward) trying to find his way in a strange new culture. Edward – an artificial being – is an unfinished creation, so in a way the film also teaches us that those creative ideas we sometimes leave on the backburner can blossom over time, developing into something fruitful when eventually revisited.
Every Christmas I like to remember the story of John Callcott Horsley and his part in developing the first ever Christmas card. A celebrated painter (and inventor of the envelope!). While I’m not entirely certain that ‘JC’ was actually a distant relative, I enjoy the thought of the creative gene being passed down through many generations. Don’t expect an ornately decorated homemade card from me, though – I’ll see you in the queue in Paperchase!
If there is a single Christmas film that I watch at least once every year it is The Muppet Christmas Carol. Although it really shouldn’t work on paper, there’s something about this stuffed animal adaptation of the Charles Dickens classic that reignites the festive spirit inside of me and makes me feel five-years-old again. There’s Michael Caine’s performance as Scrooge; the dynamic duo of Gonzo and Rizzo and who could forget the singing vegetables? A shining example of how talking animals can basically make anything better.
At Christmas time I tend to find myself flicking through the books I’ve received as gifts, but this year I think I’m going to make the time to revisit Before The Fall by Noah Hawley, the man behind the incredible TV series Fargo. It is without doubt the most gripping book I’ve read in a long time; the story of a family and a friend who are flying back to New York on a private jet following a vacation — only for the plane to crash 16 minutes into the journey. The rest of the book is an incredible lesson in character development.
It goes back a long way, but I’d say Dr Zhivago. Snow, more snow, icicles, fur hats, sledges, an ice-cool Julie Christie and a smouldering Omar Sharif. So what if the Russian Revolution didn’t show much Christmas spirit? A beautiful love story, thrilling plot and sobering history lesson all in one.
Staying with the theme of weather – what could be better than a log fire, a raging storm outside, nowhere you need to be and a copy of Wuthering Heights? Re-reading the novel as an adult, it seemed wilder and more gothic than I remembered. But still perfect for those days after Christmas when the visitors have gone. Just ignore that tap-tapping on your window.
I usually go to the Christmas communion service in the village church opposite where I stay, depending on how much I have imbibed in the pub the previous night. Always end up thumbing through The Book of Common Prayer which is full of quaint warnings, brilliant language and the odd repugnant prayer. It was a good example of a single writer (Cranmer) cobbling together a hugely influential text from all kinds of sources while managing to stamp his own authority on it. He was burned at the stake for his trouble, which is not a “challenge” we have to face, fortunately.
Never watched a tinselly Christmas film since I was a child. The Marx brothers’ Monkey Business or Horse Feathers are my idea of Christmas films.
When it comes to my favourite holiday movie — Die Hard — there’s some argument around whether it actually qualifies. I could choose The Holiday (which I love, too) but for me, Die Hard epitomises everything a Christmas movie should be. Yes, it’s about terrorists taking over an office block in Los Angeles, (and yes, it has Bruce Willis flexing his arms and swinging around on fire hoses) but it’s also about redemption, reuniting with family, and going out of your way to do everything you can for your loved ones. But mostly it’s about Bruce 😉
As for holiday reading… I’m going to say Stephen King. At the moment I’m re-reading It (a book about homecoming, loyalty and a scary clown) and trying to stay away from red balloons and whispering drains. And I’m balancing that with King’s non-fiction musings about what he does best – write. For me, King doesn’t write about horror; he writes about people. His insights into human nature are what are truly frightening… something that comes across in every character he’s created. So I’m going to get through On Writing to get some of my own insight.
I’d have to say the original version of A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim from the 1950s . That’s because I love Dickens – and Dickens and Christmas fit together perfectly.
In terms of books, I’m planning to read The Cricketer’s Anthology of the Ashes. Not very seasonal you might think but I hope to sit down with it on Boxing Day while listening to England trying to actually win a test match against Australia in Melbourne.