Movie Mom

Movie Mom


Dana Stevens on the Melancholy Beauty of the Charlie Brown Specials

posted by Nell Minow

Slate’s Dana Stevens has a lovely essay on “Why I love the melancholy Peanuts holiday specials,” in honor of a new holiday collection dvd set.

Those specials–at least the big three: the Halloween, Thanksgiving, and Christmas shows that were recently released in a “deluxe holiday collection” by Warner Bros.–have a mood unlike any animated film for children made before or since. For one thing, they’re really, really slow–slow not just by our ADD-addled contemporary standards but also next to the programming of their own time. Just compare the meandering pace of A Charlie Brown Christmas
(in which Charlie tries, and fails, to direct a single rehearsal of a Christmas play) with the generation-spanning epic crammed into Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer
(1964). But what really sets the Peanuts specials apart is their sadness. Even digitally remastered, with the background colors restored to their original vivid crispness, the Peanuts holiday specials have a faded quality, like artifacts from a lost civilization. As Linus observes of the wan, drooping pine sprig Charlie Brown eventually rescues from a huge lot of pink aluminum Christmas trees, “This doesn’t seem to fit the modern spirit.”

My favorite is this beautiful scene with the children skating to the bittersweet music of Vince Guaraldi.

Stevens talks about the insights from the extras on the new DVD set, which reveal that it was Schultz who insisted that there be no laugh track and that real children provide the voices. But the highlight of the piece is her lyrical descriptions of what made those early specials so, well, special.

Here I could write an epic poem detailing the multiple felicities of the Peanuts specials: the van Gogh-esque night sky that dwarfs Linus and Sally as they wait in the pumpkin patch for the Great Pumpkin, Linus’ stirring reading from the Gospel of Luke at the end of A Charlie Brown Christmas, the impossibly hip “Little Birdie” song that plays in the background as Snoopy and Woodstock prep for their Thanksgiving feast.



Previous Posts

The Other Woman
The latest in a female-centered revenge comedy genre that extends from "9 to 5" through "She-Devil," "The Other Woman" is intended to be a merry little tale of female empowerment and grrrl power.  Instead it is soggy, haphazard, poorly paced slapstick mansplained by director Nick Cassavetes from a

posted 6:00:59pm Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Finding Vivian Maier
Vivian Maier was a Chicago-area nanny.  Only the children in her care knew how much she loved taking pictures.  After her death, the possessions she had in storage were auctioned off and a man named John Maloof bought some boxes of negatives, thinking he might finds some images for his research ab

posted 6:00:24pm Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Walking With the Enemy
Why do we keep making movies about the Holocaust? Because we are still trying to understand one of the most shocking, inhumane tragedies in history. Because it is the essence of heightened, dramatic storylines, with the most depraved real-life villains, the bravest heroes, and the direst moral di

posted 6:00:01pm Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Ebertfest Kicks Off With "Life Itself"
Steve James ("Hoop Dreams") presented "Life Itself," the documentary about Roger Ebert, last night at the majestic Virginia Theater in Roger's home town of Urbana, Illinois, where Roger watched films as a boy and as a college student at the University of Illinois.  He told us he had always thought

posted 9:28:24am Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »

Cameron Diaz
Cameron Diaz stars in the revenge comedy, "The Other Woman" this week, so it is a good time to look back at some of the highlights of her remarkably varied career. Director Charles Russell said he wanted to give Diaz the full movie star glamor treatment in her first feature film appearance in "Th

posted 8:00:04am Apr. 24, 2014 | read full post »




Report as Inappropriate

You are reporting this content because it violates the Terms of Service.

All reported content is logged for investigation.