Showing posts from 2014

what the hell have we gotten into, here?

A few questions must be answered before moving on to bigger things. For example, the obvious one: why Christmas? (And, I need to get my nitpicks out of the way early with this movie because they are actually few.) Shane Black has a tendency, as it were, to set movies around Christmas (from Lethal Weapon to Kiss Kiss Bang Bang to Iron Man 3 ). Ivan Radford at Vodzilla last year, said it like this: In 1987, Lethal Weapon blew Christmas wide open. It turned out that Christmas films didn't just have to be festive and feel-good; they could be both of those things and feature guns, swearing and prostitutes too. Happy fucking holidays. First, a nitpick: Lethal Weapon does not feature any prostitutes. One prostitute, Dixie, has a couple lines at the beginning of the film. That's it. Porn stars and strippers get some screen time, but not really prostitutes. But, moving past that, yeah, a Christmas movie doesn't have to be festive... Except, allow me to nitpick again. Thi

i think i'm an eighties man

Start us off with "Jingle Bell Rock" and we know it's Christmas time. Give us a half naked woman who seems a little high and we know... What do we know? Close on the cocaine she snorts and Christmas lights reflected off the glass of the table, and Christmas becomes a setting for something twisted. And, we don't even have dialogue yet in this, one of the greatest Christmas movies ever-- Lethal Weapon . Character introductions: Roger Murtaugh (Danny Glover) introduced naked in a bathtub, his family comes in to wish him a happy birthday. Martin Riggs (Mel Gibson) also introduced naked. Nakedness is important. Present us with dangerous men at their most vulnerable and we should know there is something a little different going on here than your usual cop movie. I think of movies like the Dirty Harry films or the Death Wish films. The suburban life of one of our leads is one notable difference. The lonely trailer life of the other... I'm trying to remember if we eve

if you want to come back tomorrow, i could—

i have been stabbed, shot, poisoned, frozen, hung, electrocuted and burned . That's the last time I did a recap post, and that was too long ago. As Groundhog Day plays tonight, I shall recap a few entries. For example, back in September, I watched a few romantic comedies, starting with When Harry Met Sally... : Day 395 - men and women can't be friends got into the definition of romantic comedy. Day 396 - write about things that happen to other people gets a little personal because I do that from time to time. Day 397 - sit with someone and not have to talk gets into the commentary track. Day 398 - the only person i knew in new york is me getting annoyed with Annie Hall as a side project in my week of When Harry Met Sally... , and suggests that a romantic comedy needs to be urban. Day 399 - i'm too structured gets into Social Penetration Theory and my general approach to blogging about movies. Day 400 - one of the secrets that no one ever tells you is about the

the soft glow of electric sex

Sticking your tongue where it probably shouldn't be. Fantasizing about how much your teacher likes you. Fantasizing about being the savior to everyone around you. Just another day in the life of an adolescent boy. Yesterday was serious. Today—not so much. Unless, of course, it is. A Christmas Story is a coming-of-age story for Ralphie Parker. As mentioned in the commentary track (and as should be obvious to anyone watching the movie) the one throughline of the film is Ralphie's pursuit of the Red Ryder BB Gun. I've written before about the " cowboy " as the "quintessential man's man" and that comes into play here again. Ralphie, on the brink of not being a child anymore fantasizes about being a cowboy (and also about being a spy, given the Little Orphan Annie decoding bit, but maybe that scene isn't to be taken so literally... more on that below). Ralphie seeks a phallic symbol he can use to demonstrate his manliness. There is not even much

he knows. he always knows

Let us get on with the end of Christmas. Today, let us be serious, maybe a little cynical. The key to any Christmas movie, to Christmas itself, is a year-end assessment of the year leading to it. Particularly, the whole naughty/nice thing. (Meanwhile, by the way, I’ve got the commentary track playing. Director Bob Clark and star Peter Billingsly. Nothing too exciting so far. Currently, after the Black Bart fantasy, Peter is talking about the cut Flash Gordon bit.) As the year comes to an end, we are told (quite explicitly as children) that someone has been watching us all year. There’s no point in being told this after the fact, of course. What matters is that we have the idea in our heads that someone is watching in the future. Like religion, it keeps us in line because of the idea that someone is keeping track of our actions. In my (2014) piece on Plato’s charioteer, I argued that even the simple dichotomy of angels and demons, in the form of that cartoon image of the two tiny o

has anyone seen flick?

No Bob Clark directing, no Jean Shepherd narrating, A Christmas Story 2 is not immediately horrible. Instead of the Red Ryder BB gun, there are cars and girls now because Ralphie is a teenager. His fantasies herein go from being just about one (the girl) to being about both in a matter of minutes. And we get bon mots like this from the Old Man: “Treat the gas like your wife and the clutch like your mother-in-law.” (Adding a punching motion to that last bit.) A little too much farce to this one, Ralphie and Schwartz and Flick like the Three Stooges. And, if this was actually based one stories from In God We Trust, All Others Pay Cash , as it claims, the stories seem even more separate than in the original. And, the Old Man being cheap doesn’t seem to fit the character from the original. There is a nice twist in Mother’s stash of money being revealed just after she learns of Ralphie’s money problem, but then she does not end up helping him; instead she buys fish to save face for t

his true medium

From A Christmas Story From our apartment this morning. One of those truthful scenes in A Christmas Story that I was talking about yesterday is the Christmas morning unwrapping and the chaotic mess that remains afterward. I don’t much like such messes, even though as a kid, once I had my own bedroom, it was often a mess—the room was small enough that I didn’t need the floor anyway, so I would leave books and things all over the floor. Because I don’t like such messes I have made a habit since my first Christmas (2007, I believe) to take the discarded wrapping paper as it falls and ball it up, tuck it all away in a discarded box. Like the Anal Retentive Chef from Saturday Night Live , I clean up as it goes. But, really, you can’t keep up with all of it. Excitement delays attentiveness. Like Daryl Zero leaving that receipt behind in one of my favorite movies (which I do intend to watch for this blog at some point), Zero Effect . Emotion gets in the way of, well, the attachment to

speaking in strange tongues

The character of Ralphie Parker has been in no less than six movies. Several were on PBS so they aren’t readily available. I found a couple online, may watch them in the next few days. There was also a sequel to A Christmas Story ... which has a 3.4 on IMDb . For the record: A Christmas Story (1983) currently has an 8.1, The Phantom of the Open Hearth (1976) has an 8.2, Any Friend of Nicholas Nickleby is a Friend of Mine (1982) has a 6.9, The Great American Fourth of July and Other Disasters (1982) has an 8.0, The Star-Crossed Romance of Josephine Cosnowski (1985) has an 8.6, Ollie Hopnoodle’s Haven of Bliss (1988) has a 7.7, and It Runs in the Family / My Summer Story (1994) has a 5.7. The character was also apparently in American Playhouse’s Concealed Enemies: Part I: Suspicion , a “dramatized account of the actual events that led to the 1950 conviction of former U.S. State Department Alger Hiss of perjury before a federal grand jury...” There’s more to the description but I

everybody knows that

Stray observation: The title card for A Christmas Story is all caps (or pseudo-caps) except for the “h”—that is lowercase. Is that, perhaps, because that’s Jesus’ traditional middle initial? OR just an aesthetic choice? Speaking of tradition, there was an interesting note in the BoJack Horseman Christmas special (on Netflix this week). Todd (voiced by Aaron Paul) was promoting Christmas tradition and BoJack (voiced by Will Arnett) told him just because something’s tradition doesn’t make it good. Todd’s response was something like, because something’s good it becomes tradition. In my philosophy of religion class a few years back, my teacher liked to talk about apotropaic practices. By definition, such practices have the ability to ward off evil, but more importantly (as she put it) the key to such practices surviving was that they took little energy and did nothing particularly negative. Nailing a bit of iron, perhaps a horseshoe, over one’s door, took little work, but provided peac

infinitely subtle devices

(Prior to writing this entry, I wrote an entry for my SE7ENTH ART movie blog on the new movie Whiplash —comparing it to a romantic comedy if you must know—and I just finished watching Bad Santa . Despite its blatant disregard for decency, that movie— Bad Santa —has a lot of... heart to it, the kind of thing you expect from a Christmas movie. And, oddly, I think it involves the actual holiday (I don’t mean the literal day, of course, even though Home Alone barely gets to it and Christmas Vacation never makes it there. I mean, the setting is less arbitrarily Christmas... Well, that’s unfair to Christmas Vacation , I suppose, what with its focus on the whole capitalism thing and the Christmas gifts, even if we don’t get the denouement of anyone actually receiving gifts— (Hell, maybe that’s my problem with Christmas Vacation —not to harp on that more as A Christmas Story gets started; it’s not about the giving of gifts, per se, or the receiving of gifts, either. It is somehow about t

best to just let him finish

As National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation begins for the last time tonight, I want to enjoy it. I want to find the family interactions inside this package endearing and pleasant. There are moments that achieve this. Audrey’s support of her father when his lights fail, for example. Clark’s conversation with Ruby Sue, for another. Clark hugging everyone after the lights work comes close, but he (and the scene) overdoes it. The question is not, for now, what is the meaning of Christmas or what is the meaning of a Christmas movie. Rather, what do I want out of a Christmas movie? The problem in answering this one is that I am not the audience for Christmas movies. Most any year, if a Christmas movie comes out, I won’t go see it. Most of them are nice, wholesome, family-friendly comedies, stuff like Jingle All the Way (haven’t seen it), Home Alone (saw it in the theater, seen it many times since), Elf (watched it once on DVD, was entertained but not particularly moved), It’s a Wonderful

the man was... was wearing a blue leisure suit

There’s a formula John Hughes uses when it comes to making the despicable characters seem not so bad as the story goes—he provides somebody worse. In Dutch , for example, Dutch Dooley was a horrible guy, but at least he wasn’t as arbitrarily uncaring as Doyle’s father. Similarly, in Christmas Vacation , Clark’s (and the movie’s, really) reliance on money and capitalism in defining a good Christmas sits next to those yuppies next door. There’s nothing to like about Todd and Margo, right? The thing is, there’s nothing particularly horrible about them. The movie just assumes we won’t like them so all the bad things that happen to them because of Clark Griswold, deliberately or not, are justified. They’ve got money. They’re too good for Christmas trees. They’ve got fancy entertainment equipment (destroyed by the ice) and fancy workout clothes. And, worst of all, they like each other. No one should like these people. Clark, on the other hand, all around good guy, loving (and faithful) hu

you shouldn't use that word

Saer is watching Christmas Vacation with me tonight. Her first comment/question: I don’t get why the intro is animated... It’s weird. As I have already compared the actions in this movie to a cartoon—Clark falling off the roof, the nuclear power plant gag, and so many others—I think the animated intro actually makes sense. It sets the audience up for what is essentially a live-action cartoon. Physics is not going to matter, if the joke works better without. For example, that chunk of ice in the rain gutter—there is absolutely no reason it should shoot out like it does, but it allows for one more assault on the yuppies next door. (More on the yuppies tomorrow, maybe.) Saer thinks the Griswolds, especially Clark and Audrey look very 80s. I told her this came out in 1989. She wasn’t surprised. Then, because I was looking at Audrey right then, I realized something—she’s wearing a beret and in European Vacation the whole family got berets (though Rusty’s was thrown off the Eiffel Tow