Tag Archives: Christmas

An Underrated Classic: “Joyeux Noël”

“Joyeux Noël”, I think, is one of the more underrated Christmas films in the oversaturated sea of Christmas specials and movies. A historical fiction film, based on actual events, “Joyeux Noël” tells how human kindness and spirit can happen in areas where even death and misery shroud the setting. Taking place during the Great War, in the awful front-line trenches, we follow German, Scottish, and French soldiers who slowly come to love and respect their enemies despite their prejudices and national identity.

I think one of the reasons why I like the film so much is the stellar production value behind it. The awful scenes of war, death, and sadness are well executed. Life in the trenches is brutal and unpleasant and everyone has a chance of an unglorified death. The stillness of the battlefield, of “No Man’s Land,” is more haunting when we see the very white snow disturbed by frozen bodies and gaping pits caused by artillery shells. The costumes, make up, and props look very realistic and the added bonus of everyone speaking their native language, further pushes the realism of the film despite its fictional narrative.

I think my favorite part of the film is the scene where the soldiers start singing Silent Night and the German tenor got so passionate about the song that he grabbed a small Christmas tree, climbed over the trenches and sang the song as passionately as he could while holding the tree as high as he could.  Definitely a highlight of the film, that’s for sure.

My two favorite characters are Palmer, the Scottish priest, and Audebert, the French Lieutenant although the other leads of the film are likable as well. Horstmayer, the Germany Lieutenant, also grows on you, especially when its revealed he is Jewish. Unfortunately, the minor characters are painted somewhat one-dimensional. In this case, I’m mainly referring to the characters comrades who did not experience the magic of Christmas and still think of their enemies as the Devil’s sons.

The film also weighs a little heavy in melodrama and it’s hard not to get emotional near the end of the film. The song, I’m Dreaming of Home, is sung throughout the film by the Scots and is again sung at the end by the German soldiers as they are shipped to the Eastern Front, certain to face their sad death. Truth be told, I like the men’s choir version more than the children’s choir but either way, this song makes my heart feel heavy and I can’t help but shed a tear or two every time I watch the end.

Despite its heavy-handed nature, this is a great Christmas film that I think should be watched but definitely not in a “Miracle on 34th Street” or “A Christmas Story” mood. If you were in a mood to watch a historical film (or more specifically a Great War film) or you want to change of pace for your overused, annual Christmas films, give this a spin, I guarantee you that you won’t be disappointed. Merry Christmas!

Random Memory Connections: December and Zelda

Many of us have weird memory connections where we associate one item, subject, scent, or taste, to something else that may be completely unrelated.  Seasons are like that for me; whenever a particular season comes along, I become drawn towards certain things that on the whole have no relationship to it.  In particular, whenever December arrives, I usually get in the mood for some Legend of Zelda.

Back when I was a kid, we didn’t have a NES, but my brother showed me the wonders of emulators.  By the late 90s these things had already become plentiful and were able to more than handle the NES’ outdated 8-bit graphics.  Anyway, one game that I played a ton of was Legend of Zelda on the NES.  This game was phenomenal and it was quite fun to play albeit challenging.

I have to stress at this point that playing Zelda on an emulator made the game easier than it was (especially for Zelda II).  Many times, I would makes a save state on the ROM right before entering a boss room, if I failed then I can just quickly reload that save state and battle the boss again and again until I eventually defeat him.

But that’s besides the point.  For some reason, I remember playing Zelda in December.  Perhaps that’s when I first started playing it but it doesn’t matter.  One particular memory I have was when I was in the graveyard battling out with the ghosts and hoping I would eventually find the Master Sword.  After that, my brother and I went to the grocery store and bought multi-flavored candy canes for a Christmas party my parents were hosting.  Outside, it was your typical December day in Kansas, cold and cloudy.

I assume this mixture of strong emotional connections, Christmas+Cold+Zelda, helped me associate Zelda with this month.  It’s pretty funny because when I get a hankering for Zelda, it’s never really new Zelda I want to play, it’s the old games like the first one on the NES or A Link to the Past.  They have such a nice quality to them that its easy to replay them again and again.

I guess that’s the main reason why I like NES Zelda.  I have such a strong fondness to it that I can’t really place it for any other game including Pokemon.  It’s very much a kid’s game in the amount of exploration you do.  Unlike most of the sequels’ strictly linear structure, NES Zelda’s laissez faire style was so endearing you can’t help but feel like an honest Adventurer.   You were, for the most part, not limited to where you can go or who you can fight and provided you saved up enough rupees you can access a good chunk of the map early on.  It again reminds me of my childhood.  While I was growing up, we lived in the still new part of town next to a newly built golf course.  The amount of outside exploration I did was outstanding as I became aware of every part of, what seemed like to me, my large home.    I especially remember thrashing through the woods with my wooden sword and swiping at every branch that stood my way.

As such, the NES Zelda seem to call to me and want me to explore the land of Hyrule all over again.  To rediscover its secrets and defeat the bad guys.  The best part is that my usual confliction between my love for both outdoors and video games is erased when it gets miserable out.  With all qualms aside, I can sit back, relax, play some Legend of Zelda, and let the good times roll.

As many of you have noticed I have updated the website for a new design, I welcome any new opinions on it if you so desire to tell me.