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Celebrations on film

Ros Hull

Every movie that ends in a note of triumph is a celebration.

Many that end on a downbeat are celebrations too. Merry Christmas, Mr. Lawrence and Slumdog Millionaire are both tragic and triumphant.
So what is celebration on film?

There are many films that feel
 like a celebration because of the story. Like the two above, these celebrate the triumph of the human spirit, or the depth and meaning of true friendship, or finding our identity. Toy Story, Marley and Me, The Breakfast Club and even Beaches spring immediately to mind. Bette Midler singing ‘The Glory of Love’ is both a celebration and a eulogy.

Therefore, almost every dance movie would fit into this category too – who doesn’t dance around the lounge room for the final scene of Footloose? Who hasn’t had the time of their lives with Baby? I remember seeing Strictly Ballroom the first time – the whole audience stood, cheering and clapping, as everyone dived onto the dance floor.

However, if we look at celebrations depicted on film, we are in different territory.

Often it is the very difficulty of making these special celebrations happen, the disasters, the undercurrents and the humour, which makes a good movie. Such disasters can be taken to the extreme – imagine your Christmas being ruined by German terrorists (Die Hard) or uncooperative public transport (Planes, Trains and Automobiles). Steve Martin’s run-in with the car rental woman makes me laugh every time.

However, for humour leavened with sadness, The Family Stone has it all. The mix of characters involved in a family Christmas with adult children, the stress of the celebration and ultimately love and loss make this a rich story.

Which brings me back to question of: what is a celebration? We in Australia do not go mad
for St Patricks Day, Halloween or Thanksgiving but the number of films based on those particular celebrations are legion. New Year’s? I’m still waiting for a decent film about 
that celebration!

A wedding? Notwithstanding the disastrous ones, the best (yet darkest) of these are: Muriel’s Wedding, The Wedding Crashers and Four Weddings and a Funeral. For style and humour it is hard to beat The Philadelphia Story but the wedding film I watch again and again is Mamma Mia. Because it makes me want to dance.

A party? Babette’s Feast is deliciously dark yet joyful. Life definitely changes for everyone at the party at the beginning of the intense sci-fi Cloverfield and frat parties were never the same again after National Lampoon’s Animal House. If that party is a reunion, then Grosse Point Blank is the standout for me. If it’s a wake (the party for you that you can’t ever attend), then I have to give a shout out to The Big Chill.

Is it Christmas? No movie celebrates the wonder like Miracle on 34th Street, not even It’s a Wonderful Life. However, the pain, the joy and the love of Love Actually is my favourite.

Still, what about Joyeux Noel? This is why I don’t make lists.

You can read this article in full and more in our latest edition of Magazine: The Celebration Issue. Available for free while stocks last. Click here to find your closest stockist. 


Image of ‘women in costume…‘ via Shutterstock

Ros Hull

Ros saw Star Wars and immediately wanted to fly the Millenium Falcon. Unable to do that she became a Jill-of-all-trades as her army husband whirled her around the world – and back to Canberra 10 years ago. She has worked in public programs and museum education ever since. She gained an MA in writing whilst getting two daughters through high school - both are now at university and undeniably fabulous (according to her). She can worry as an Olympic sport so she sees lots of movies instead. More about the Author

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