A Christmas Cartel


Did you ever notice how all the classic Holiday movies are about capitalism? Not surprising given the fact that the season is the epitome of consumer culture, an annual shopping spree which, this year more than ever, sustains our economy.

And so we have It's a Wonderful Life (1946), the Frank Capra perennial which centers around a systemic financial failure, the distraught and suicidal owner of an insolvent building and loan company, and a conniving capitalist eager  to reap profit from the misery of others. Sounds timely.

Or "Holiday Inn" (1942) and its remake of sorts, White Christmas (1954), in which holiday spirit, the crooning of Bing Crosby, and the music of Irving Berlin prove a money maker in the hotel resort industry.

Or "Miracle on 34th St" (1947), in which St. Nick's honesty and charity turn out to be a brilliant marketing concept for a giant New York City department store.

But maybe the ultimate expression of the capital/labor class struggle is the beloved Charles Dickens's chestnut "A Christmas Carol" in which the ultimate ruthless capitalist squeezes dry Bob Cratchit, the epitome of the exploited proletariat, and gets a supernatural comeuppance for his trouble.

For how this works in the real world you might take a look at "American Casino," which is kind like Michael Moore's "Capitalism: A Love Story" without the humor but with facts (it plays this week at the Brattle Theatre).

Otherwise you can dip into the endless catalogue of "A Christmas Carol" movie adaptations - over two dozen since the first one in 1908. I'd recommend "Scrooge" (1951) with Alastair Sim. "Mister Magoo's Christmas Carol" (1962)  is pretty good too and also the much maligned  "Scrooged" (1988) with Bill Murray.

But steer clear of the new one from Robert Zemeckis.  Save your money and read the book aloud to your kids instead.


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