Monday, December 10, 2012

A Christmas Without Snow

I did promise more Cheesy Christmas Movies, did I not?

This one isn't really all that cheesy. It's a made-for-TV movie from 1980 that features a handful of known names (meaning ones I recognized) and a fair number that I didn't. It gets sentimental at times, but it's not on the level of "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians," or even of the last film I posted.

This film doesn't have a whole lot in the way of plot, being more a collection of "day-in-the-life" snapshots. The setting is a generic-Protestant church's choir, where they have obtained a choir tyrant of professional caliber and are preparing for a performance of Handel's Messiah.

(Okay, can I just stop there and say that this alone would have sold me on the film? I frimpin' love Messiah. Back when I was a single father, Wharf Rat and I would see how many performances we could catch every year.)

Anyway, the story centers mostly on a divorcee from Nebraska who is trying to get herself established in San Francisco while her son stays behind with Grandma. But along with her we see a minister who takes his parishioners' troubles as his own, a sweet 30-something spinster who is so lonely she's gone a bit north-northwest, a young black man living with his grandmother who just wants to make his way in a world where skin shade still matters a little bit, and so on. Parallel illustrations of the human condition.

A few things to watch for:

This movie has a plethora, not so much of Christian themes, as of Christian incidentals. Hymns are sung without embarrassment. The preacher is neither a closet pervert nor a platitudinizing milquetoast. The church doesn't make vocal stands on social issues; it's a house of worship first and foremost. Not something we see anymore. (Incidentally, notice that when Reverend Lohman is being pastoral to a newly-widowed church member, the background music is "Comfort Ye My People." Nice touch, that.)

The little one-sided catfight over the soprano solo is fun. There's a self-described opera singer who is miffed that anybody else would even audition, and when a soft-spoken Korean woman gets it, Miss Diva leaves in a flurry of fur. The Korean character, incidentally, is the only listed screen appearance of Daisietta Kim. Her audition piece is "I Know that my Redeemer Liveth," and her rendition gives me goosebumples just thinking about it.

The pastor's son is the quintessential PK, a good-natured young man who just one day can't take it anymore. Preachers' wives get the job they signed on for, but their children often find their identities submerged. This kid fits that to a T. The spinster is worth a cringe every time she opens her mouth. And even for 1980, her dress looks dated to me. Am I wrong, ladies?

Enough. Watch the film and leave your thoughts in the comments.

Also available for streaming and download here.

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