by Tess Lynch
If, when Chad proposed that we do this Christmas-themed week, he meant “any movie that reminds you of Christmas, by way of your own tangled synapses,” then I’m right on target with this essay. If, however, he meant that the movies on which we’re writing this week are supposed to be about Christmas, I’m in trouble. Oh well! I guess I’ll find out after I publish this!
As a matter of fact, I was kind of stumped by the prospect of writing about a movie that was explicitly about the holiday we call “Xmas.” I really like A Christmas Story (especially the part when Randy gets in the kitchen cabinet and his mom is like, “Do you want to come out?” and Randy shakes his head, and then his mom goes “Do you want some milk?” and Randy’s all yeaaaaah girl) and I really, really liked the first two Home Alones. Of course I love It’s A Wonderful Life and Christmas In Connecticut (because I’ve spent a couple of dozen Christmases in Connecticut and I’m a very literal person), but I’m too silly to say anything about them. I have Christmas-movie-specific writer’s block. I think I realized why: since I got Sadie, EVERY SINGLE DAY IS LIKE XMAS.
when you piss her off, her eyebrows do this
So I’ve decided to share a story about a movie I saw on Christmas eve last year at the Arclight. Last Christmas, my parents were in town. It was the second Christmas that they had come out here to see me, instead of the other way around. My folks and I are really close, and it’s hard for us all to be so far apart, so since I’ve moved away Christmases can easily become extremely weepy. We usually all overeat, usually because I make way too much food and serve it in a bossy way, and then when we toast I will begin to cry, and then my mother will begin to cry, and finally my father. I hear that this is an Irish thing. Isn’t it weird when you try to attribute feelings to your ancestor’s country of origin?
Anyway, my parents and Peter and I got in the mood to see a movie. We wanted to show my dad the Arclight, which is mad luxurious, especially compared to the theaters where my parents live. We decided to see Gran Torino, which we all assumed was a movie about Clint Eastwood being a badass. We got to the Arclight and the three of us who are related paused for a cigarette. We all, I think, felt that guilty camaraderie: “You should quit, you know,” “I know.” We went in.
“Isn’t he some sort of racist renegade?” I whispered to my mom.
“Oooh,” she said, with a hang-on-to-your-hat kind of lilt.
“I love Clint Eastwood,” said my dad. The thought bubble over his head said “CARS! IT’S A MOVIE ABOUT CARS!”
Peter did a Clint Eastwood impression and we all laughed. Ha-ha-ha. So naïve.
I desperately want to avoid spoiling this movie for you, because it is a great movie. Consider this warning, instead: Gran Torino is not a movie about Clint Eastwood being a badass.
Gran Torino is not a movie about CARS!
You will rue the day you ever mocked Clint Eastwood for his racial slurring in a growl that made you go “ha-ha-ha.”
The lights went up. The movie had ended. Everybody in the house, which was pretty full, was silent. There was a giant thought bubble over all of our heads. The thought bubble contained a large, bold emoticon. The emoticon was a sadface.
The whole idea behind Christmas movies, from Kevin McAllister and the pigeon lady to George Bailey and Clarence the angel, is that people find an occasion to connect with each other. It occurred to me that presents are a kind of sweet bribe you make, needing a reason to get together with the people you care about and offering a reward. Getting one in exchange. Reassuring yourself of your own importance and reminding your family and friends of theirs. In this sense, Gran Torino is the most triple-x treme Christmas movie, because it’s really about a person who inadvertently gives a stranger a gift, and what they give him in return.
My dad left the theater. My mom followed. Peter staggered out. I was puddled on the floor like a weeping jellyfish, and slid out into the lobby a few minutes later, red-mustachioed because that’s what happens when I go bananas and cry about mortality. I’m at the age (maybe you’re at the age) where I’m caught in between enjoying my parents’ Christmases and throwing my own Christmas for some kidz. You can almost feel the torch passing to you, can’t you? One day, you might have to eat Santa’s cookies. There’s excitement and dread there. You want your parents to keep eating the cookies. If they don’t have to eat them for your sake, will they even bother? Will they start getting a wreath instead of a tree? Will they become like Clint Eastwood’s Walt Kowalski, cynical and hanging out in a rocking chair looking cranky? You feel a sense of urgency that Christmas must be special, for everyone, and seeing Gran Torino makes you realize why doing that might actually be what the Christmas spirit is when you’re in your 20’s. You are now the enforcer of Christmas.
When my parents and I congregated outside of the entrance, we looked like we had been beaten by a gang of Clint Eastwoods. In a sense, it was the wrong movie to see on Christmas Eve. I immediately went home and got drunk off of PBRs and chain-smoked, because watching Clint Eastwood do it onscreen gave me a jones. But it achieved some kind of midnight-mass effect (speculation. I don’t go to midnight mass) on my brain. It reminded me that, bribes aside, it’s nice to have a period of time where everything shuts down and forces you to stop hustling your “art” (your blog art) and hang out with your family. It’s nice to be reminded of how great it is to get presents, and to give them, even when nobody’s got any money. It’s kind of fun to try to wrangle your own weird adult Christmas out of what you’ve absorbed from your own life and TV, and pretend that that’s a normal thing to do. Even old grumps like me try to muster some enthusiasm. And after what for a lot of people was the worst year ever, all of that is especially nice, and comforting. It’s always good to smell the tree, to yell at the cats when you see that they want to pee on the drop cloth, to crave Chinese food because sometimes they’re open, to get a little sentimental. No matter how bad things are, you don’t let yourself give up on Christmas.
Well, I did give up on one Christmas, but that Christmas was terrible. Let’s not even talk about it.
Tess Lynch is the Lynch who stole Christmas.
…after more than 24 hours of traveling. I was hot, sleep-deprived, and cranky because baggage claim took forever and I couldn’t find my dad, who was supposed to pick me up at the airport.
Then a man next to me suddenly bolted forward, and from the massive crowd two small kids ran into him screaming “DADDEEEEEEEEE!!!”
He dropped both his bags to hug them, and I was surprised at how affected I was.
This year the King holiday will be celebrated on Monday, January 18, 2010 and we urge faculty, staff and students to devote at least a part of the holiday to some community service. According to Dr. King,If you want to be important—wonderful. If you want to be recognized—wonderful. If you want to be great—wonderful. But recognize that he who is greatest among you shall be your servant. That’s his new definition of greatness.
And the thing that Dr. King liked about giving that definition of greatness is that it meant that everybody can be great, because everybody can serve. King stated that “You don’t have to have a college degree to serve. You don’t have to make your subject and your verb agree to serve. You don’t have to know about Plato and Aristotle to serve. You don’t have to know Einstein’s theory of relativity to serve. You don’t have to know the second theory of thermodynamics in physics to serve. You only need a heart full of grace, a soul generated by love. And you can be that servant.”” —email I got from Dean of Multicultural affairs about Martin Luther King day. I just thought it was a nice way of putting things.
…activity has been slow as of late, and probably will be even more so in the coming month. Partly because I have finals, but mostly because after finals I will then enter into one blissful month of not being a foreigner, if you get what I mean. <3
Happy holidays, everyone!