Ghosts of Christmas Past

The nature of art is that it produces an emotional response, sometimes it’s loud and obvious but more often than not it’s muted and internalized.  If an art form resonates or touches us in a meaningful way, it’s likely to create a memory of the time when we first experienced it.  As such, we might associate a particular song or movie with a person we once knew – e.g. a popular tune or film from when we were dating a certain someone – such that hearing or seeing it again will provoke a nostalgic feeling of a time gone by, or of an acquaintance lost.  I’ve also found that many of the more powerful epic films that I’ve experienced can imprint themselves permanently into my consciousness.  Additionally, movies watched when I’ve been emotionally vulnerable have a stickiness factor within my heart and mind.

More than a dozen years ago this holiday season, my father suffered a heart attack; an awful time for such occurrences (as if there is ever a good time for one).  I’m happy to report that he survived it and is now in excellent health thanks to an improved diet combined with a vigorous exercise regimen that he performs religiously.  If I forget the year that it happened, I can always lookup the movie Michael (1996) to mark it because my brother and I escaped the gloominess of that holiday-emptied Texas hospital for a brief respite during the ordeal when we didn’t know that Dad would recover so brilliantly.

Like most of the movies associated with Nora Ephron (she produced, directed and collaborated on this one’s screenplay), it’s pretty average and fairly forgettable except for the fact that I saw it when I was ‘naked’, and thus easily susceptible to manipulation Hollywood-style.  I can therefore still remember much of its plot, even its trivial elements.  While intrinsically this is not unusual for me, I still seem to have a heightened sense of:  the “feelings” of its characters; the over-the-top scenes, like the one in which John Travolta (in the title role), playing an atypical archangel on Earth, has a duel with a bull, still resonate; the essence of Bob Hoskins’ tabloid newspaper editor still ‘bites’; and I remember two rather odd plot devices – Michael exudes a unique aroma for each female within sniffing distance and, of course, the biggest ball of twine.  I don’t know if I’m misremembering this or not, but it also seemed that costars Andie MacDowell and William Hurt shared an onscreen chemistry that Tinsel Town would normally have capitalized on for at least one more picture, especially given this film’s box office (a better than 300% return on investment), but somehow didn’t.  In any case, it’s surprising that I remember so much of the movie given the state (a numbing fog) that I was in at the time, especially since I’ve seen at least 3,000 movies – many of which I’ve completely forgotten – since that Christmas in 1996.  I wonder if my father had passed away that week whether I would be able to recall seeing that movie at all, or whether the memory would be completely blocked by some sort of defensive mechanism in my mind.

While anticipating the arrival of my parents for this year’s holiday, Michael (1996) is perhaps not so curiously in my thoughts.  Movies like this date us; they help us remember the past.  We avoid or seek them – depending upon the memory – for the emotions they provoke, or the solace that they provide.  Art is that way.

Merry Christmas to you and yours, and a Happy New Year too!  May the year 2010 be fruitful and memorable, and God Bless the brave men and women that have chosen to serve and protect our freedoms so that we may enjoy these holidays in peace.

0 Response Ghosts of Christmas Past
Posted By moirafinnie : December 20, 2009 12:29 pm

Oh, what a beautiful memory, HH! I am so glad that your father is well today to celebrate the holiday with you, your family and particularly your mother.

I’m hoping for a peaceful and healthy holiday for all too. I am constantly reminded of the gifts I receive every day. Seeing this piece by you has been one of the better ones. Thank you.

Posted By moirafinnie : December 20, 2009 12:29 pm

Oh, what a beautiful memory, HH! I am so glad that your father is well today to celebrate the holiday with you, your family and particularly your mother.

I’m hoping for a peaceful and healthy holiday for all too. I am constantly reminded of the gifts I receive every day. Seeing this piece by you has been one of the better ones. Thank you.

Posted By NCeddie : December 20, 2009 1:44 pm

Your post also reflects the way cinema personally provides for the Art of Escape. Removing yourself from that gloom-enshrouded real-life holiday scenario for the length of a two hour film probably did your psyche a world of good. Your release/escape must have complete for those two hours, else you would not carry such much intense recall of the film. Though the catalysts differ, your post helps one understand at a more personal level what is meant by a phrases such as, “the glittering movies of the ’30s helped the people ESCAPE the miseries of the Great Depression.”

Posted By NCeddie : December 20, 2009 1:44 pm

Your post also reflects the way cinema personally provides for the Art of Escape. Removing yourself from that gloom-enshrouded real-life holiday scenario for the length of a two hour film probably did your psyche a world of good. Your release/escape must have complete for those two hours, else you would not carry such much intense recall of the film. Though the catalysts differ, your post helps one understand at a more personal level what is meant by a phrases such as, “the glittering movies of the ’30s helped the people ESCAPE the miseries of the Great Depression.”

Posted By Medusa : December 21, 2009 11:17 am

Judging from the photo, you come from excellent stock! What a fascinating account of the filter through which you viewed a movie that might have simply blended into the fabric of your moviegoing history.

My best to you and your family!

Posted By Medusa : December 21, 2009 11:17 am

Judging from the photo, you come from excellent stock! What a fascinating account of the filter through which you viewed a movie that might have simply blended into the fabric of your moviegoing history.

My best to you and your family!

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : December 21, 2009 12:10 pm

“Naked” viewings of movies would be a good subject for a Movie Morlocks blog-a-thon. Merry Christmas to you, too… and that Grim Reaper is awesome!

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : December 21, 2009 12:10 pm

“Naked” viewings of movies would be a good subject for a Movie Morlocks blog-a-thon. Merry Christmas to you, too… and that Grim Reaper is awesome!

Posted By smitty1931 : December 21, 2009 3:49 pm

Interesting picture of Grim Reaper but it is more powerful in Black.

Posted By smitty1931 : December 21, 2009 3:49 pm

Interesting picture of Grim Reaper but it is more powerful in Black.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : December 24, 2009 5:08 pm

I disagree. The gray-robed Reaper speaks to me… but maybe because I once dreamed I was standing in a cemetery and saw it coming towards me at a distance, following a twisty footpath that would bring it after a long span of time but inevitably within striking distance of yours truly.

Posted By Richard Harland Smith : December 24, 2009 5:08 pm

I disagree. The gray-robed Reaper speaks to me… but maybe because I once dreamed I was standing in a cemetery and saw it coming towards me at a distance, following a twisty footpath that would bring it after a long span of time but inevitably within striking distance of yours truly.

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