Wednesday, December 21, 2011

Christmas Movie Update!!

Just got back from seeing a film that needs to be inserted in my top ten best Christmas movies of all time list that was published last year (along with the top ten worst Christmas songs - I like to provide balance). This year I offered the opposite - the ten worst movies and the ten best songs - and I haven't seen anything to change my mind on that side of the equation. But the Ten Best Movie List has to make room for a newcomer. Here's what it used to be:

10. Elf (Will Ferrell at his best)
9. Holiday Inn, or White Christmas (either one will do)
8. Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer (classic TV special)
7. How the Grinch Stole Christmas (classic TV special)
6. Miracle on 34th Street (original)
5. It's a Wonderful Life (Jimmy Stewart; how can you go wrong?)
4. The Bishop's Wife (Cary Grant; how can you go wrong?)
3. A Christmas Carol (1984 version with George C. Scott)
2. A Christmas Story (movie perfection)
1. A Charlie Brown Christmas (TV special perfection)

But there's a new kid in town. Rich with colorful detail, amazing animation, witty and clever storytelling, charming characterization, delightful humor throughout and an absolutely lovely story that will entertain children for many, many years - meet Arthur Christmas:




This is a classic Santa story re-imagined by writers, animators and actors who must actually love what they're doing. It shows. Arthur Christmas is Santa's son - the younger son who is not in line to take over the family business, so to speak. And what a business it is! Big brother Steve Christmas is running a state-of-the-art shop up at the North Pole, including using the latest in (hacked) military technology to "make the magic happen."

The scenes that depict the North Pole operation are breathtaking and imaginative. I am quite sure I could watch this several times (on a big screen, please!) and find new and amusing detail every viewing. There is simply too much to take in all at once. This is one of the most visually pleasing animated movies ever. Like wandering through a giant eye candy store.

The characters, from the entire Claus family to the zillion or so elves who inhabit the Pole, are utterly enchanting, and many of them could probably carry their own Christmas movie. But this one's about Arthur - a very, very good person who has to decide what to do when just one little thing goes wrong in an operation of global proportions. How important, after all, is just one child? Arthur knows the answer to that all along, although some of the other characters have to be reminded. What a splendid message for a holiday movie, by the way - that the feelings of just one little child are indeed of great importance.

I'm inserting Arthur Christmas at the #4 slot on the list. It earns that spot because Charlie Brown's unabashed embrace of what Christmas truly is all about must remain at the top, and A Christmas Story is a movie where each scene outdoes the one before it, culminating in the most perfect ending to a Christmas movie ever. I would have put Arthur at #3, but the filmmakers made the horrific choice of including a Justin Bieber version of "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" which will make you want to kill yourself. That misstep means I'm keeping George C. Scott's exquisite version of A Christmas Carol in 3rd, and Arthur slips in just behind. All this, of course, knocks Elf off the list - but that's somewhat deserved, as the last 15 minutes of the Will Ferrell movie offer none of the charm or humor of the rest of the film, and quite frankly are kind of painful to sit through. So off with you, Buddy the Elf. And welcome, welcome, to Arthur Christmas.

Wednesday, December 14, 2011

Christmas! MOVIES we hate, SONGS we love - Another Top 10 List for the Ages!


Last year, I chronicled the ten best Christmas movies ever made… juxtaposed against the ten most annoying, banal, and downright horrific Christmas songs ever inflicted on unsuspecting holiday music lovers. I was asked on more than one occasion – why the hate on Christmas music? And surely there are Christmas movies that suck, too?

Why… yes, Virginia… there certainly are.

As with my list last year, there are candidates who didn’t quite make the cut, but certainly are contenders. For instance, Nat King Cole’s “The Christmas Song” isn’t on this list – and yet how could we fully enjoy the holidays without “chestnuts roasting on an open fire”? On the other side of the spectrum, there are plenty of bad movies just outside the confines of this top ten list – a sorry remake of “The Bishop’s Wife” (“The Preacher’s Wife,” with Whitney Houston) comes to mind.

So anyway, as I said last year…
“…grab a cup of cocoa and settle in for a whirlwind sleigh ride through the heights – and depths – of Yuletide entertainment…”

The 10th worst Christmas movie of all time:

SANTA CLAUS: THE MOVIE

Once upon a time, more than a quarter of a century ago, some filmmakers set out to create the definitive Santa Claus movie. They failed. Miserably. This movie was a big budget blockbuster minus the block and the buster. An enormous flopperoo which you’d be hard-pressed to find on American TV… however, for some unfathomable reasons, it apparently gained some traction in England, so you if you’re spending your holidays with Will & Kate, you might catch it.

A lot of that big budget may have been spent on the scenes of Santa’s workshop, which are indeed visually rich. However, there is so much more that is wrong with this flick. First, the screenplay hopelessly mangles the real Christmas story (you know, the star and the manger and all) and offers up Santa as the savior of the world, for all intents and purposes. Second, it stars Dudley Moore as an elf. (I know, kids, you don’t even know who Dudley Moore is. There’s a good reason for that.) Third, it features an EVIL CORPORATE TYCOON who will DESTROY CHRISTMAS. That theme is just as fascinating as it is in every other Hollywood movie about EVIL CORPORATE TYCOONS, and about as appealing as an unwashed Occupier.


The 10th best Christmas song of all time:

HAVE YOURSELF A MERRY LITTLE CHRISTMAS – JUDY GARLAND

Okay, I’m cheating just a little bit, because this is actually a movie song. It was written for the film “Meet Me in St. Louis,” where it was first performed by Judy Garland. But the song has continued to speak to generations of folks who are “muddling through” and looking ahead to better Christmases. A true American classic, and in my opinion never done better than the original.


The 9th worst Christmas movie of all time:

FRED CLAUS

We stay right here at the North Pole as more modern filmmakers take another swing at the legend of Santa. Like the 1985 dud, this version purports to give us the backstory on Santa, and in this case his big brother who always felt like the black sheep of the family. Vince Vaughn is both annoying and grating as possible in this unfunny role, which involves an EVIL EFFICIENCY EXPERT (filling in for the corporate tycoon) who threatens to DESTROY CHRISTMAS. Another eggnog-gagger.

There is ONE marginally amusing scene near the beginning, where Vaughn visits a “brothers anonymous” meeting for guys overshadowed by their more successful brothers. Real-life siblings of Bill Clinton, Sylvester Stallone and Alec Baldwin make cameo appearances. I’ve included it here, but it’s all you’ll want to see of this movie, which after this scene goes downhill faster than an overloaded Grinch sleigh.



The 9th best Christmas song of all time:

WHITE CHRISTMAS – BING CROSBY

I’m pretty sure that I am legally required to include this song on any definitive “best Christmas songs” list. Talk about an American classic. The Christmas song so wonderful that, although it was written for a movie called “Holiday Inn” (yup, I’m still stuck on movie music), it spawned its own movie called (what else) “White Christmas.” Little-known fact: Before this tune was recorded, people used to dream of all different colored Christmases. 



The 8th worst Christmas movie of all time:

FOUR CHRISTMASES

We leave the North Pole, but we don’t leave Vince Vaughn, who earns the distinction of starring in two of the very worst holiday movies ever. There are really only two themes in bad Christmas movies (and, to be fair, in quite a few good Christmas movies). The two films we’ve already discussed are of the “Saving Christmas” category… this begins our look at the “Christmas is all about family” category (although Fred Claus contained a few nods to that one as well.)

In this big Christmas turd, an unmarried couple, played by Vaughn and Reese Witherspoon, try to take a tropical vacation instead of spending time with their four dysfunctional families (all four of their parents are divorced). When they’re “outed” at the airport by a TV reporter, they’re stuck making the rounds. Much hilarity ensues. I mean, how can you go wrong with making fun of blue-collar and/or religious people, babies throwing up (comedy GOLD), and the always-charming Hollywood staple, oversexed post-menopausal women. Oh, and a guy falls off a roof. Har har har.

Message? Even if all your relatives are horror show freaks, Christmas… it’s all about family.



The 8th best Christmas song of all time:

PLEASE COME HOME FOR CHRISTMAS – THE EAGLES

So I am finally leaving the theater with this choice. This has become a modern-day Christmas classic, without being written for a film – although I am guessing it’s probably been used in some. The Eagles’ soulful take on a lonely holiday makes a nice break from the general cheeriness of most holiday tunes.



The 7th worst Christmas movie of all time:

SURVIVING CHRISTMAS

As reviewers noted at the time this came out, when a studio dumps a Christmas movie before Halloween, that’s a good clue that it’s probably more Horrible than Ho-Ho-Ho.  This movie was released in October 2004. ‘Nuff said.

Ridiculous plots are what one expects in the “Saving Christmas” theme category, what with the necessity for flying reindeer and all that jazz. But in the “Christmas is all about family” category, ludicrous plotlines are not a plus. So, there’s this rich handsome young man who can’t find anyone to spend Christmas with (including his pretty girlfriend). He decides to visit his childhood home and offers the family currently in residence a quarter of a million dollars to pretend he’s their beloved son. Much hilarity ensues. Of an entirely predictable nature. Oh – hilarious plot twist: the preteen son is addicted to computer pornography! Har har har. Warm family holiday fun for all.



The 7th best Christmas song of all time:

SANTA BABY – EARTHA KITT

I will not accept your hate mail on this one. I know this song is despised by many Christmas aficianados, but I find it charming. Plus, she’s been such a good girl, skipping out on all that fella-kissing – and she wants a ring! What could be more pure than that – after all, “Christmas is all about family,” as we have painstakingly learned. However, only the Eartha Kitt version qualifies. Having Madonna perform the song adds the yuck factor. I don’t think she’s skipped many opportunities to kiss any fellas (or, whatever).



The 6th worst Christmas movie of all time:

HOW THE GRINCH STOLE CHRISTMAS

NOT the classic animated version, which made my list of the top ten best Christmas films of all time. This big budget live-action remake of the charming cartoon, while visually fun to watch, was a bust. Jim Carrey was flat in the title role, the storyline was contrived and vastly inferior to the original Dr. Seuss book, and the movie featured one of the most nauseatingly stupid songs ever written for a Christmas movie (yup, that made the list last year as well). The original book and animated feature were examples of how the “Saving Christmas” category is done. This version, not so much.



The 6th best Christmas song of all time:

SANTA CLAUS IS COMING TO TOWN – BRUCE SPRINGSTEEN

Okay.

This. Just. Rocks.



The 5th worst Christmas movie of all time:

JACK FROST

Did I mention that Christmas is all about family? And what better way to bring that lesson home than to kill off a beloved father at the beginning of the movie, so that he can come back (courtesy of a magic harmonica) as the hands-down creepiest snowman ever? A Christmas miracle envisioned by screenwriters on acid. They were on something, that’s for sure, because this turkey includes witty repartee like: “You da man! You da snowman!” Or, “Snowdad is better than no dad.”

Let’s see… what could we do to make this movie suck even worse… I know! Let’s include music from the Spice Girls and teen band Hanson! PERFECT.



The 5th best Christmas song of all time:

JINGLE BELLS – Barry Manilow

I will not accept your hate mail on this one, either. I liked Barry Manilow when I was 14 and I like him now. But that’s beside the point. The point is, this is the rockin-est, hoppin-est, most fun version of this most famous Christmas song. I love the whole 40s-flavor and the pretend Andrews Sisters. You can’t sit still for this one.



The 4th worst Christmas movie of all time:

JINGLE ALL THE WAY

Pull on your big boy Santa cap, dear reader – we’re venturing into some real stinkeroo territory now. Unlike the previous films mentioned, the rest of them on this roster have absolutely no redeeming qualities. This pre-governor Schwarzenegger outing pairs the philandering ex-bodybuilder with… Sinbad? Uh, yeah. And the entire point of the movie is that Dad’s in big trouble if he can’t get the one toy that junior wants for Christmas. Great message, there. So, these two buffoons pratfall and mug their way through this holiday monstrosity, reinforcing every idiotic stereotype about how fathers, in particular, are stupid fools. Nobody outside of the governor’s maid could have enjoyed this pile of reindeer poo.



The 4th best Christmas song of all time:

ALL I WANT FOR CHRISTMAS IS YOU – Mariah Carey

Judging by the amount of play this gets on the radio over the holidays, I can’t be alone in finding it delightful. Like some of the other songs mentioned, this one rocks along at an irresistible pace, tempting you to dance along (which is a far better temptation to indulge than eating the last of the Christmas cookies). And although I really can’t stand anything else Mariah Carey has ever done – the soul-inspired intro to this song is a perfect showcase for her considerable pipes.



The 3rd worst Christmas movie of all time:

DECK THE HALLS

I’m guessing that sometime in early 2006, at a weekly meeting of the crappy filmmakers’ club (such a thing must exist; there’s just too much evidence in favor of it), a light bulb went off over someone’s head and they said, “Hey… it’s been ten years since that pile of crap ‘Jingle All the Way’ movie… let’s do another one with pretty much the same story, and this time let’s make it REALLY blow!”

And that, my children, is how we got “Deck the Halls,” with Matthew Broderick and Danny DeVito filling the not-inconsiderable shoes of Schwarzenegger/Sinbad. This time, it’s not one toy the dueling man-children are after. They’re fighting over who gets to be known as “the Christmas guy” in their quaint New England-ish town. Men making fools of themselves? Yes. Pratfalls? Of course. Cringe-inducing behavior? I’ll say! Especially the scene where both men are lusting after girls in skimpy Santa outfits. These “happily married” men with children are yelling out “Who’s your daddy” to the dancers until the girls turn around and – guess what? The dancers turn out to be their teen daughters. Hilarious!

A good part of the storyline revolves around DeVito’s character wanting to outdo everyone else on his outdoor Christmas display. This idea was executed in “National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation” – but with actual HUMOR.



The 3rd best Christmas song of all time:

CHRISTMAS EVE-SARAJEVO – TRANS-SIBERIAN ORCHESTRA

Of all the musical selections that I’ve characterized as “rocking”… none can hold a candle to this. It’s big and dramatic and lush. Did I mention BIG? It’s so big that when Dwight wanted to make a bold Christmas statement in last week’s episode of “The Office” – he rocked out to this.



The 2nd worst Christmas movie of all time:

THE CHRISTMAS SHOES

Okay. So last year the song that inspired this movie won my highly competitive and coveted Worst Christmas Song of All Time award. Clearly, a movie based on said song is going to rank right up there (down there) as well. This maudlin, sorry excuse for moviemaking is an embarrassment to all things Christmas. The asinine original story/song, about a boy who needs SHOES for his dying mother, apparently wasn’t manipulative and banal enough – the filmmakers had to add another layer of crappy by giving us a lawyer (of course) whose marriage is on the brink. But the well-known phenomenon of Christmas SHOES will bring a happy, poignant ending to all. You’ll cry and cry. If you’re a complete moron.



The 2nd best Christmas song of all time:

SLEIGH RIDE – BOSTON POPS

No piece of music captures the sheer child-like joy of Christmas like this instrumental masterpiece. And it wouldn’t be complete without the musical “neighing” of the horse pulling the sleigh. I love this even when it’s performed by mediocre junior high school bands. Under the baton of John Williams directing the Boston Pops, it’s pure Christmas magic.



And… the absolutely, positively worst Christmas movie of all time:

CHRISTMAS WITH THE KRANKS

Incorporating virtually every objectionable element in all movies previously mentioned, this Tim Allen vehicle is fatuous and determinedly unfunny from beginning to end. (Tim Allen isn’t funny in the Santa Clause movies, either, but this makes those look like Oscar material.)

The Kranks love Christmas and can’t wait to celebrate it every year with all their neighbors who also overdecorate, overbuy and overparty. But – the plot thickens! Their only child is going off to the Peace Corps and now there’s no reason to celebrate Christmas. Instead of spending $6000 on Christmas (uh… what?) they’ll spend $3000 on a tropical vacation. In preparation for the trip, Mr. Krank gets an overdone fake bake (hilarious, no?), but – the plot thickens! The neighbors won’t hear of this! How can they all celebrate Christmas if the Kranks don’t? (Uh… what?) The neighbors threaten the Kranks and attempt to force them to conform with the neighborhood holiday standards. But – the plot thickens! Daughter, after about two weeks in the jungles of Peru, decides to come home for Christmas after all! How will they ever get ready in time NOW? Comical scenes of chasing after the last Christmas ham in the grocery store hearken back to the glories of “Jingle All the Way”… while comical scenes of characters falling off roofs while hanging Christmas lights hearken back to “Four Christmases.” Really, is there anything funnier than a man falling off a roof? I think not. And, in the heartwarming twist we must have in the best holiday movies, the Kranks’ psycho neighbors all come together to help them finish their last minute Christmas prep. Ugh. Feel like vomiting yet?



And… the absolutely, positively best Christmas song of all time:

MARY DID YOU KNOW – KATHY MATTEA

From the ridiculous to the sublime... or more to the point, from the sublime ridiculous-ness of a Kranky Christmas to the ridiculous sublime-ness of THIS.

The haunting melody of this song stands in direct counterpoint to the cheerfulness of the just-mentioned classic “Sleigh Ride.” But this isn’t about child-like Christmas magic. It’s about the real Child, the real Christmas, and – better than any movie or song profiled this year or last – it’s about what Christmas is really all about. And why we needed Christmas. And how the path that started at the manger ended at the Cross.



And once again... a merry, merry Christmas to one and all.

Wednesday, December 7, 2011

Word Bandits and other Conservative Bad Guys



I certainly am not in the habit of hanging out over at “Crooks and Liars,” a festering cesspool of Leftist rant if there ever was one. But following a link this afternoon I regret to say I found myself lured into an article there entitled “The War of the Words,” in which a leftist, who identifies herself only as the holder of a master’s degree in English (be suitably impressed, less-educated reader!) gets herself all worked up over… well, allow her to tell you herself:
“He who controls the word controls the world. And there are no dirtier, more malicious or ruthless opponents in this vital war of words than the American right wing.”
Yes, you! You bitter clinger. You are not only stupid, greedy, and illiterate, but you are a… WORD-STEALER. (Apparently, “illiterate” and “word-stealer” don’t cancel each other out. We conservatives have magical powers!)

Wednesday, November 30, 2011

Occupiers in La-la Land

Just a few quick and random notes from the Occupy L.A. movement that has (sort of?) finally ended.

Maybe the police unions are right - maybe we don't pay these officers enough:


These officers had to don BIO SUITS to clean up the disgusting mess left behind by the Occupy L.A. cretins.


This officer should file a union grievance - he also was tasked with cleaning up a kind of disgusting mess, and he had to do it WITHOUT a bio suit. Brave, brave gentleman.

The officers (who are hardly part of the 1% now, are they?) also had to put up with these idiots screaming obscenities at them:


Wait -- is that Garth from Wayne's World?

Anyway, a spokesman for Mayor Antonio Villaraigosa (who has coddled these idiots all along and ought to get his ass down there and help the cops clean up the mess) says it will take all day to clean up the giant stinking biohazard (the L.A. Times says "the stench of urine and old food emanated from the lawn"). So here's what these assholes did to our city hall:


Of course, all they are saying, is give peace a chance:



Or possibly they're saying (really loudly, through a megaphone), give peace a chance and also be careful not to run over illegal aliens:


I am so, so over these people.




Monday, October 31, 2011

Special for Halloween... the Most Evil Show on TV Is...

Something wicked this way comes… across the pageant stage, wearing a tiny bejeweled $2000 dress, hairspray-lacquered locks, a spray tan and fake teeth (yes, fake teeth).





Okay. In all fairness, what came across the stage isn’t wicked. Her parents, however… another story. A somewhat malevolent story. So what better time than this Halloween season to turn our minds to the dark… the hellish… the evil. Yes, I’m talking about Toddlers & Tiaras, that reality show ode to child beauty pageants from the folks at cable channel TLC. TLC, by the way, stands for The Learning Channel. But with programming like Sister Wives (reality show about polygamy), LA Ink and NY Ink (reality shows about people who tattoo pretty much every square inch of skin), and I Didn’t Know I Was Pregnant (reality show about morons), they really ought to change the name to TFC – The Freak Channel.
Amidst this video onslaught against all that is right and good, Toddlers & Tiaras should seem relatively innocent. After all, you may well ask, what could be so wrong about a bunch of little girls playing at Miss America?
Oh, dear reader. There are so many ways it is wrong – dreadfully, revoltingly wrong. Allow me to enumerate. But I caution you – this journey is not for the faint of heart, nor weak of stomach. And if you make it through this, an even more chilling fate is in store at the end, where a commercial-free 45 minutes of Toddlers & Tiaras – the Halloween Bash pageant edition, awaits you. Menacingly.
You have been warned. Here then, ten reasons why Toddlers & Tiaras is yet another ominous omen of the end of civilization as we know it. Let the horror be unleashed:
Read more here.

Monday, October 10, 2011

California's Clown King Jerry Brown Unleashes His Special Brand of Lunacy

Everyone knows that clowns are downright scary.


Not funny. But definitely a clown.

Ahhh… California. You never, ever fail to amaze. I’ve written about you before – how you resisted the tidal wave of Tea that broke over the rest of the country like a wave of good sense and allowed it to come to a crashing halt at California’s eastern border, ensuring another few years in the loony-bin. You brought back Governor Moonbeam, who has now really outdone himself in the bats**t crazy department, as he spent the past few days clearing his desk of the final bills sent to him by his equally barking moonbat legislature. It’s such an overwhelming display of ignorant arrogance that I almost don’t know where to begin.
Almost.
Read more here.

Sunday, September 25, 2011

Elitists - Almost as Distasteful on the Right as on the Left




Leftists, as I have pointed out before, get all giddy and excited about the royal family. Any royal family. They love royals because they see themselves as royal. Leftists are by definition elitists. They believe they know better than the rest of us how things should work. They’re wrong, of course, as has been proven over and over. But nevertheless, they wish, more than anything else, to rule over the great, unwashed masses – the bitter clingers, the non-Ivy Leaguers, the flyover country inhabitants… you know. The people they believe to be not as smart or beautiful or sophisticated as they are. The little people. In other words, you and me.

Yup, we’re used to this from the Left. From the President who travels with an entourage to rival that of an Arab sultan. From the former Speaker of the House who considered U.S. military jets her own private taxi service. From the Secretary of the Treasury who considered himself far, far above the bourgeois classes who actually PAY taxes. We know exactly what they think of us.

But it’s a bitter pill to swallow when one of our own turns on us. Someone who, philosophically, adheres to some of our principles – but then doesn’t mask his contempt for us.

It's not the greatest, but it is the latest example of this - it happened today on Fox News Sunday. Bill Kristol, who blogger Jim Hoft refers to as an “east coast elitist,” says the Florida Straw Poll is proof of the “weak” field of candidates on the GOP slate.

As Hoft points out, the current field includes:

“…a Texas governor who has created half of the jobs in the U.S. these past two years; a former Massachusetts governor who has a strong business background and saved the Salt Lake City Olympics; a former CEO of Godfather’s Pizza; a popular Minnesota Congresswoman; the former Speaker of the House of Representatives…”

Among others. Yeah, that’s an incredibly weak field.

I don’t know who’s going to stay in the running, join the race late, drop out, or win the nomination. But I know that elitists like Kristol are doing us any favors by insisting that these people are not up to par with the arrogant socialist currently residing at 1600 Pennsylvania Avenue.