When it comes to music or movies, Christmas sucks up almost all the oxygen. Winter itself can hardly get a word in edgewise. You’ll get the occasional snow-based melody like “Winter Wonderland”, or “Baby, It’s Cold Outside”. But even those are just used to create a little December space between the various carols and the adventures of Rudolph. It’s not like anyone is still playing “Let it Snow! Let it Snow! Let it Snow!” in February, however thick the white stuff may be coming down.
With movies, the Christmas bias is even more pronounced. Hollywood aims everything at Christmas, holiday themed or otherwise. The actual Christmas movies are the worst. True Christmas classics happen along very rarely (and are often recognized as such only in hindsight). In the meantime it’s the latest heartwarming holiday burrito starring Tim Allen, or maybe Vince Vaughn as Santa’s cousin, the loan shark. Meanwhile, studios roll out all the big guns in December. From the next Harry Potter installment to next year’s Oscar hopefuls, it’s all crammed into the holiday season like a big buffet of turkey and fixings. After that, nothing but leftovers. January is traditionally the season of factory seconds and botched jobs, briefly trotted through theatres on their way to DVD and cable. It’s the dumping ground of the cinematic calendar. (January 2010’s lineup included Bitch Slap, 44 Inch Chest, and The Rock starring in Tooth Fairy.)
It doesn’t seem right. When is indoor diversion more badly needed than in the first quarter of the year? With festive dates in short supply, and significant climatic issues interfering with beach barbecue plans, good movies ought to be saved for mid-winter when they will be most appreciated. Instead they are clumped into the two seasons—summer and Christmas—already blessed with the lion’s share of entertainment opportunities. Why release all the best movies just when the weather is best, or the social calendar most crowded, or the house most fully packed with Hot Wheels and brand-new Barbie accessories? (Something similar happens with television—winter recedes, blessed spring arrives, and Canada drops onto the couch for the two-month marathon of the NHL playoffs.)
All of which underscores the enduring value of a little movie miracle released in 1993. Groundhog Day was indeed groundbreaking. Actually released 10 days after the annual event it celebrates, Groundhog Day proved that the holiday movie season need not be confined to a single holiday. The tale of a nasty weatherman (Bill Murray) forced to relive February 2 again and again has become a favourite modern fairy tale, and even turned its title into a synonym for frustrating repetition. Not only did this Harold Ramis film prove that the coldest winter months could inspire filmmakers, Groundhog Day also ranks today as the best holiday movie of any kind released over the last three decades.
Although, a couple of years back we did get My Bloody Valentine 3-D. I didn’t see that one, but I imagine it was pretty good too.