I am one of those who will watch A Christmas Story marathon on TBS more than once today. Watching it last night while I wrapped presents got me thinking about the process of making that movie. When it was on a few weeks ago, I did some internetting and read all about the movie on Wikipedia, IMDb and Rotten Tomatoes. Without spending too much of my Christmas morning recapping those three websites, the point I want to address is that the movie was set in a floating period of 1939 through 1942 (it was intentionally not specific) in a made up city that really was Hammond, IN (a Chicago suburb). The movie was released in 1983 - 25 years ago... and set 40 years earlier
Let's say there was no movie made in 1983 that pretended to be 1940. Could any filmmaker do this movie in 2008 in the period of about 40 years earlier? I don't think there would be any chance.
The beauty of A Christmas Story is that there is no hint of any conflict other than within the family as it relates to BB guns, dirty words and a lamp. Sure, there was political and economic strife in the early '40s... Germany, Japan and Italy were trying to drag the USA into a world war, and the country was just pulling out of the Great Depression. But had Dad been unemployed for years in the movie? No. Did any charachters start a preachy-discussion about Hitler or Mussolini? No. Were there any Jewish or Muslim kids in the school hollering that you can't call it "Christmas"? No.
But this being 2008, I don't see any scenario where the problems of the 60s wouldn't overpower the picture. The draft and the war in Viet Nam, free love, Haight/Asbury and the Civil Rights movement would surely find their place in the movie. For example, while reading the paper in the morning, Dad wouldn't mention a non-descript Chicago White Sox player that had been released, he would instead complain about the damn college students protesting the war (and then the on-the-way-to-liberation Mom would comment about how horribly oppressive the draft is). Another example is that the school would be integrated by then, and some black kid would want to know why Santa wasn't black, or instead of Flick, we would have Goldberg who gives the teacher eight gifts.
Movies just can't be fun anymore. The conflict of a child wanting a BB gun and the world seemingly stacked against him wouldn't be enough for a movie these days. Without sending a message (whether subtle, implied or amplified by flashing neon lights) a 21st century filmmaker couldn't pull it off.
So I am glad that A Christmas Story was made when it was, set in the period it was. The movie still makes me smile, and has quotes ("I found that Palmolive had a nice, piquant after-dinner flavor - heavy, but with a touch of mellow smoothness") that are on par with classic quotes from movies like Caddyshack ("Gambling is illegal at Bushwood, sir, and I never slice") and Airplane ("Have you ever seen a grown man naked?").
Merry Christmas to all.