Letter From London: 'God Bless Us, Every One'

Merry Christmas, America! Too early, you cry? Christmas officially begins tonight, at least here in London, because Jim Carrey says so. Actually, let's not shoot the messenger -- it's officially Christmas tonight because Walt Disney has paid for it to be so. A lot. Tonight's Christmas lights ceremony will be marked by two firsts: the first time an American star has had the honour of flipping the switch, and the first time that the lights in both Oxford Street and the intersecting Regent Street will share a unifying theme: Robert Zemeckis' A Christmas Carol, premiering in Leicester Square right after. "We are delighted that 'Disney's A Christmas Carol will literally light up London with this spectacular holiday event", says Disney Chairman Dick Cook. No sh*t.

The Oxford Street/Regent Street lights first appeared in the 1950s, and only in recent years has this slice of super-prime real estate been bought by Hollywood's highest bidders. Over the years, snowflakes and sleighs have been replaced with less traditional imagery: In 2006, holiday shoppers were treated to the sight of those wonderful, iconic toilet-rodents from Flushed Away leering over their heads; 2007 was the turn of Enchanted. This year, Disney is practically taking over the whole city, with two of the film's other stars, Bob Hoskins and Colin Firth, on hand elsewhere to turn on yet more lights, set off some fireworks, and spread peace and goodwill to all. And to tell us to go and see Disney's' A Christmas Carol - in 3-D! It's all very heartwarming. I went down to the aforementioned intersection this morning to see the wonder of the lights myself, and I can report that only now do I truly understand the meaning of Christmas. Thank you, America. Here's how you've magically transformed the busiest road-crossing in London. Just imagine how glorious it will look when it's lit up!


I don't mean to seem ungrateful. We're happy to have your money. God knows you're happy to have ours. The London Film Festival came to a close last week, and, as I reported, derived most of its glamour from big American films. Some were excellent - although for every Coen brothers, there was a Harmony Korine. (Seriously, I'm jealous of every single one of you who hasn't had to sit through Trash Humpers. 80 minutes of Harmony Korine dressed as an old person masturbating plants?) Naturally, the same applied to Britain's contributions, but the good ones, such as Sam Taylor-Wood's Nowhere Boy (chronicling the early life of John Lennon) and Malcolm Venville's 44 Inch Chest (by the writers of Sexy Beast), were fantastic. And in one instance, America, we came together in perfect synergy with The Men Who Stare At Goats, which was developed by us and funded by you.

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