No Such Thing as a Guilty Pleasure–#8

Yeah, totally completely late. But my last film *will* get up before it’s 2012, even if it is after Xmas and a bit after Chanukah.

8) White Christmas (Michael Curtiz, 1954)

Before anyone bitches about how cheesy this film is, I usually watch it as a double feature with my first choice of this series, Black Christmas. It’s a lovely way to put the yin in the yang and give a kick to the sauce, so to speak.

Before you try, there is no talking me out of WHITE CHRISTMAS. First of all, there is Danny Kaye. I have a tiny little altar dedicated in my soul to that man that was erected as a small child when my parents gave me the Hans Christian Andersen (Charles Vidor, 1952) record and I memorized that. Additionally, I watched the film with a regularity matched only by with how much I watched The Court Jester (Melvin Frank, Norman Panama, 1956). In short, I watched the films and played those records a lot. Yes, I’m a Kaye-o-holic.The next thing about this film is that it’s a musical. I’m a musical junkie. Rogers & Hammerstein. Tommy by The Who. They all work for me. I love the singing, the dancing, all of it. But there is nowhere better to be fully entertained than in the old movie musicals where people could REALLY sing and dance. Could you imagine if today’s stars had to have the same kind of training in order to become famous that Kathryn Greyson or Judy Garland did? Exactly. We wouldn’t have so many complete failures and the output would be better. Not that I have an opinion about the subject or anything. But to act, sing, and dance…I love it. People now seem to think it’s “cheesy.” I think that they don’t know what they’re missing. Please pass me the Singin’ in the Rain (Stanley Donen, Gene Kelly, 1952).Finally, there’s the Michael Curtiz thing. I never knew this until I was much older and an educated cinephile, but the director was Michael Curtiz. Hello! UH, Mildred Pierce (1945)! The Adventures of Robin Hood with Errol Flynn (1938), Angels with Dirty Faces (1938), and, of course, everyone’s favorite Casablanca (1942)! So…ya know, it’s not like they just had some hack doing the film.

In any case, one last point I want to make about this film and why I love it. I have to say this at least once a day when I’m out with friends and someone looks up, grimaces a bit, and *oh no* admits to liking something that may not be so popular. They say, “Oh, this is my guilty pleasure.” And everyone nods, laughs, and it gets them off the “hook.”

What hook?

I will state, as my last statement of 2011, that I adamantly do not believe in guilty pleasures. If you find pleasure in it, you should not feel guilty about it and you should never let anyone ever make you feel guilty about liking it. I like this movie. I like it proudly. And I always will. It’s probably my favorite Christmas movie, it probably always will be, and I don’t care who knows it. See, guilt takes away from some of your pride and pleasure; makes you feel bad about what you like. I don’t believe that you should feel bad about art or media. It’s the antithesis of what it is there for.

And with that, I bid you adieu for the New Year, stay safe, stay well, and see more films!

Advertisements

So This is Christmas…–#6

I figured that for Christmas Day I would do a potpourri of sorts. See, alongside all the seasonal-related films that I adore, there are a whole bunch of TV shows, specials and songs with music videos. So this one is a little different from the others.

6) Holiday Audio-visual Mixtape

The first in all of this madness is a song I cannot go without hearing at Christmas time. It’s by one of my favorite bands, The Pogues, and features vocalist Kirsty MacColl. I have a special memory around this song, actually, related to the holidays. Sad, but Christmas-and-song-specific. I was in Ireland in December of 2000, spending my holiday break there. I was at University in England at the time, but I figured, “Hey- Christmas in Ireland, New Year’s in Scotland, sounds good to me!”

As I was walking around (I believe I was in Kilkenny at this point although I may have been in Galway– when I relocate those journals, I will correct this part of the blog), I was hearing a goodly amount of Christmas music and every place I went to seemed to be playing this particular song. While I didn’t think much of it, when I went into Supermac’s (the Irish McDonald’s, essentially), it seemed a little odd that these places were all playing the same exact song at the same time. At first I shrugged it off, and then, upon passing a newsstand, I saw the front of the newspapers: Kirsty MacColl had been killed in a very tragic swimming/boat accident in Mexico. I was devastated. Thanks to a friend I’d had since an early teen, I’d been a fan of her solo work as well, so this was just awful news. But at least I understood why every place was playing this song at the same exact time.

On the other hand, it was December, it is a Christmas song, and it has always been pretty popular so…who knows? It may have been playing anyway. In any case, I love Fairytale of New York, and you should too.

Another piece of music that I am highly tied to is one that came out in 1984, at the very height of when I was buying most of these individuals’ albums. It was a collaborative effort put together to combat famine in Africa and it was released around Christmas time. I remember that they blasted the living hell out of it when it came out and, hilariously enough, they still do. I remember being insanely excited about the video primarily (burgeoning archivist that I was, even then) because I wanted to make sure that I could name every single person singing in the video, and if I couldn’t (ie I didn’t know who it was), I wanted to find out more about them. Aurally I could identify almost everyone when I first heard it on the radio. Then matching it up visually was so. Much. Fun! At that age, I’m not sure if I was overly concerned about the kids in Africa as much as the fact that I owned an album from almost everyone on the Band Aid team (except, strangely enough, U2).

So, if you haven’t seen it before, welcome to the video that started them all…

On the Band Aid tip, there was a video that one of my favorite bands did that, while not Christmas-themed, was meant to parody this, and I would be remiss in my efforts here if I did not include it. I listen to this song every year around the holidays due to the video and its relation to the Band Aid video and also because it’s just a damn good song. Warning: if you hear the recorded version, it will not sound at all like the version you are about to witness, due to the fact that the recorded version is done by the band, and this version?? Well, you’ll see. It’s pretty fabulous.

So aside from the music video stuff, there’s a whole televisual side of Christmas that I dig on, and no, it’s not the Star Wars Christmas Special. While I’ve seen that and it’s…got its points, there are much better things you could be watching. If you want a little bit of the kitsch, I personally think that Peewee’s Playhouse Christmas Special (Wayne Orr, Paul Reubens, 1988) is probably one of my favorites. Anything that involves the Del Rubio triplets, Annette Funicello, Peewee Herman, and Grace Jones singing “Little Drummer Boy” automatically has me, no questions asked.

I’ve always been a Peewee fan, so a Christmas special from the Playhouse will always get my vote, but this one is especially fun. When it came out on DVD, I was thrilled to my eyeteeth. If you haven’t seen it, and that taste of Grace Jones whet your appetite, I would highly recommend it. It really is all that and a bag of chips.

On a more serious note, my favorite television episode having to do with Christmas comes from the mind of Rod Serling. If that didn’t clue you in, it is a wonderful episode of The Twilight Zone starring Art Carney entitled, “Night of the Meek.” Carney plays a man named Henry Corwin who is, for all intents and purposes, a seemingly “bad Santa.” As we meet him, he has just gotten fired for his drunken lateness to his job (playing Santa), and he is at the end of the line.

But, surprisingly for The Twilight Zone, this is an episode that has more of a redemptive stroke than normal and much more optimism (although for Serling, his kind of optimism is not everyone’s optimism). This episode is about what the season is truly about: holiday spirit. And no matter how grim I may seem at times about the holidays, and no matter how Grinch-y I might get, The Night of the Meek renews my soul.

But Rod Serling is the man who truly makes me think. About many things. So, while I love many of the other Christmas specials and films, it is truly Night of the Meek, Season 2, episode 11 of The Twilight Zone that truly makes the holidays a holy and sacred occasion. If you haven’t seen it, I beg of you to give it a chance. It will air this holiday season. Watch out for it. It’s what it’s all about, at the heart and soul of it.

What’s a Nice Jewish Girl Like You Doing in an X-Mess Like *THIS*???–#1

Right. So I missed the first night. In the spirit of the season, you should forgive me. I was busy hanging out with new friends, watching a National Geographic special about submarines in South America that attempt to smuggle cocaine into the US, a mini-documentary by David Schmoeller called Please Kill Mr. Kinski, and a police training film by the Milwaukee Police department called Surviving Edged Weapons.  I have to say that this was a thoroughly enjoyable way to spend the 1st night of Chanukkah, considering there are really no “Chanukkah” movies.

So, aside from that wondrous evening, I realized that I really enjoy Christmas movies, and being that I have a platform to tell everyone what my favorite ones are and why…I should do so.

In the most Jewish way possible.

So here we go. Starting late (hullo Jewish Standard Time), I shall now give you…

Sinaphile’s 8 Nights of Cinema for the 12 Days of Christmas

1. When I think Christmas, I think: IF THIS PICTURE DOESN’T MAKE YOUR SKIN CRAWL, IT’S ON TOO TIGHT.

Black Christmas

Yeah, When I think Christmas, I think Black Christmas (Bob Clark, 1974).  I can’t remember the first time that I saw this, but I think that it was probably some crazy after-hours screening around the holidays, and it had to have been probably a little under 10 years ago.  I remember being utterly, completely, GLORIOUSLY and GUTWRENCHINGLY terrified. It made me so happy!!!! See, movies don’t scare me. This one did. It’s on the list of the three films that have ever managed to truly creep me out or scare me in my lifetime as a movie-watcher. That experience was the best gift that Clark could’ve ever given me.

Original poster for Black Christmas aka Silent Night, Evil Night

Since that first time watching it, I have watched it many, many, many times over. And the best part? It still scares me. Bob Clark was an amazing filmmaker and a truly talented man. The fact that he died so early and in such a horrible way (he and his son were tragically killed by a drunk driver in April, 2007) still saddens me.

Original Black Christmas film advertisement, "first run" for the Conestoga Four Theaters in Grand Island, Nebraska

Clark had called the film Stop Me initially, but that was clearly not where it ended up. He retitled it to Black Christmas but the film was originally released as Silent Night, Evil Night for the US theatrical release then changed yet again to Stranger in the House for television broadcasts (although that ended up getting nixed due to it being “too scary” for TV). As shown, Black Christmas had a very indirect route to its title. Shot in Canada, it managed to do pretty well on release. While the critical reviews at the time were poor, it has since gotten to be more of a popular title, even spawning a remake a few years ago (which I categorically refused to see).

While Christmas time may seem like a time of happiness, joy and giving, jingle bells, snow and cider-y goodness, it warms the cockles of my heart to know that there’s always a good ol’ piece of classic slasher cinema there for me to dig my eyeballs into and get creeped out by. It makes me happy.

And if this trailer doesn’t get you…well, I’d do something about that skin.