Sunday, September 20, 2015

Children of Men (2006)

I've seen Children of Men twice now, and I'm still not sure whether or not it qualifies as a Christmas movie. It's essentially a post-apocalyptic version of the nativity, complete with numerous references, some in world, but there's none of the usual connections - no decorations, no mention of the holiday, nothing. Still, there's more than enough thematic resonance to tie it back (plus it shows on several lists of Christmas movies). Oh, and it was also released on Christmas in the US, not that that means anything.

Children of Men is often considered one of the best science fiction movies of the past decade. It was nominated for several awards, and it's currently at 92% on Rotten Tomatoes. It's not hard to see why: the movie was brilliantly shot and edited, and it's quite engrossing. It's just... it's also kind of boring and pretentious. And the premise doesn't make a damn bit of sense. I'm not talking about the "no humans have been born for 18 years" part of the premise. Actually, that's kind of absurd, too, but I'm completely willing to suspend my disbelief for the genre elements. It's the socioeconomic aspects that drove me up the wall.

The movie takes place in the near future. The youngest human alive just got stabbed outside a bar: he was eighteen. For some unknown reason, the human race stopped being able to have kids and is now on track for extinction. Again: no problems with the premise yet.

Basically, every country on Earth except for England has collapsed. It's not really clear why this occurred - there were scattered references to wars, disease, and other factors. Again, it's a little odd that England alone survived, but I'm mostly with them so far.

The government routinely rounds up immigrants and ships them to massive refugee camps, which are essentially concentration camps. This is at the core of the movie, and it gets to the heart of what the director's trying to say. While I'm with him on politics and ethics, I'm calling bullshit on the SF. The premise is built around a steep reduction in population, which should result in an increased demand for labor. Shouldn't England be importing workers from countries with high birth rates to look after their aging population? This is assuming they can lure anyone - the decreasing population density should reduce the incentive to flee agrarian areas.

A quick glance at the Wikipedia page for the novel this is based on makes me think these elements were better thought out there. I respect the director's desire to speak out on xenophobia, but I wish he'd actually built a science-fiction story around his ideas. This felt forced and contradictory.

Maybe this was the point, that the decreasing population was meant to reflect that of the first world (without immigration, most developed countries would be declining). If so, I'd have liked to see some of this in the movie: the absurdity of hunting immigrants despite the high percentage of elderly. It was something of an oversight that we rarely saw extremely old individuals. There were a handful, but not the huge number you'd expect.

Fortunately, the vast majority of the movie was better constructed. It was shot to evoke handheld footage, which gave the film a sense of realism. Likewise, the design was gorgeous. The actors were also phenomenal.

The characters are a little harder. The movie is surprisingly inconsistent when it comes to realism versus surrealism. There are a few minor characters who feel like they stepped out of a Terry Gilliam film, and they're completely out of place here. Likewise, we never really have a good sense of the major characters. The main character's backstory and relationships make no sense (his ex-wife is the leader of the resistance, his cousin is a major fixture in British politics, and neither of these facts is provided until they're relevant to the plot). His ex's feelings for him seem to shift from scene to scene, making her rather abrupt exit from the film more baffling than shocking.

From a Christmas perspective, the movie constantly evokes the birth of Christ. The iconography permeates the film, from the surrounding animals to the faithful gazing upon their savior, who is born at the end. I'd love to say that occurs on December 25, but the movie isn't specific on that count. The opening sequence occurs on November 16, 2027, which I believe is the last time we're given a specific date. There are a few brief points early on where time could be passing, but I think the math is more likely to take us to Black Friday than Christmas (though a case could be made - we don't really get a sense for how long it took the main character to get those important documents that never really came up).

This is absolutely a beautiful movie, though I think it's more than a little overrated. The film has a great message, but it stumbles trying to deliver it.

Thursday, June 18, 2015

Self-Promotion: A Count of Five Now Available

Let me just get this out of the way up front: this doesn't have a damned thing to do with Christmas. The wreath was just a cheap attempt to obfuscate that fact: sorry for the deception.

A Count of Five is my new novel, which is now available on Amazon. You can pick up the Kindle version here for just $2.99, or you can buy a paperback version for $9.99.

This is the first book in The Citadel of the Last Gathering, a new series blending fantasy-adventure, science fiction, and quite a few other surprises. We're planning on releasing the second novel in the series this November.

This represents a lot of work from both me and Lindsay, who edited and laid out the novel. We're extremely proud of the finished product, and hope you'll pick up a copy and give it a read.

Saturday, May 16, 2015

Bat-Santa Photos

Better late than never, right? Here are some action shots from Bat-Santa wandering around Emerald City Comic-Con. Also, read about how the suit was built here!

Bat-Santa prefers the cold, too.

Kryptonite from his utility belt, tied with a bow.

Just a couple of dark anti-heroes hanging out.

Bat-Santa remains on patrol, and we at Mainlining Christmas 
are relieved to have him on the job.

Thursday, December 25, 2014

2014 Draws to a Close

It's that time again. Time to cut down the Christmas lights, knock over the tree, and throw out whatever mistletoe didn't get eaten before it goes bad. It's Christmas again, and you know what that means: it's time to say good-bye to Mainlining Christmas for another year.

Granted, the next year starts in a week, and we typically post reviews whenever the hell we feel like it, so it's not like we'll be out of your lives entirely. But we'll be out of holiday-mode, so the 3 to 10 posts a day pace is over and done with for the foreseeable future.

I'm relieved to get the holidays behind me, but - as is always the case - it makes me a little sad, as well. Sure, the near-constant barrage of Christmas specials and movies gets a bit much, but it's also tradition.

On top of all that, this has been a pretty good Christmas. We've excavated a whole other level of holiday movies and found a number of unexpected gems. We saw old, forgotten films: Beyond Tomorrow, The Bishop's Wife, Prancer, and Christmas in Connecticut; episodes we enjoyed from Moonlighting, Leverage, and The Flash; and newer, less famous movies we enjoyed: Joyeux Noël, Happy Christmas, Young Sherlock Holmes, In Bruges, I am Santa Claus, Go, and All is Bright. We also finally got around to The Lion in Winter, which deserves to be remembered as one of the all-time great Christmas films. Meanwhile, The Snowman and the Snowdog wound up being an unexpected pleasure, and both Peace on Earth and its remake, Goodwill to Men, were phenomenal shorts that we should have gotten to years ago.

That's not to say it was all great. We endured all three Santa Paws films, the last two made-for-TV Home Alones, and things so bad, I'd rather not list them all here (I didn't initially realize how many awful things we saw).

But let's just put those behind us.

Overall, it was a pretty good year. In addition to an - okay, let's go with "mixed" - assortment of specials and movies, we also put together thirteen Nerdtivities, one of which is, in fact, now officially award-winning. Yup. A pretty good year overall. Can't wait for next Christmas.

No. No, wait. I can wait. In fact, eleven months sounds like a reasonable stretch of downtime.

Damn, I'm tired.

Said The Night Wind...

We’ve come to the end of another season of Mainlining Christmas. This is our fifth year, and we’re running out of pithy things to say to close out the holiday.

However, even now, even year five, we’re still learning new things.

Long-time readers may remember my complicated relationship with Christmas carols. I’ve been sporadically looking for a version of “Do You Hear What I Hear” that matches the ideal version in my head for years. And I’ve always felt especially uneasy about my love for this song. It’s a weird one for me to get hooked on; much of the time I tolerate the semi-religious songs and only really latch on to more secular tunes. But “Do You Hear What I Hear” has always been an exception.

Last weekend, we were in the car, listening to Christmas radio, and a version came on. It wasn’t bad, but it wasn’t quite what I was looking for. For one thing, it had a lead singer, and I really wanted a chorus. But it reminded me that I hadn’t tried to look up my ideal version of the song in a few years, so I pulled out my phone.

And I was startled to discover that this song, that sounds, to my ear, like a classic carol, was written in 1962.

And it’s about the threat of global nuclear annihilation.

The Christmas story, in this case, is being used as a story, a story that shifts as the speaker changes, but one that culminates in a plea for peace among all people.

It was first recorded by the Harry Simone Chorale, and it turns out that arrangement is the one I was looking for. A steadily building harmony of voices, changing to evoke the wind, the song, the people, leading to the final call for unity and light.

Now, don’t be misled. I’m still not Christian, and I don’t find the story of Jesus any more inspirational than most any enduring myth. But to quote one of my favorite holiday specials: “The meaning of Christmas is the idea that Christmas has meaning.”

And it can mean a lot of things. Holiday specials and songs bring us many of the options. Christmas can be about childlike wonder, the end of childhood, forgiveness, compassion, family of origin, family of choice, stress, depression, good fortune, generosity, and more.

We live in a media-saturated age, so let’s embrace it. I hope that all of you find a movie or a song or an animated special this year that speaks to you, that helps you find some good cheer, feel less alone, or brings hope for the future.

You don’t have to be religious to wish for peace on earth. Here’s to goodness and light in 2015.

Father Christmas (1991)

Absolutely charming. Father Christmas is an animated special based on two more of Raymond Briggs’ children’s books. It features a very stereotypical-looking Santa Claus who acts very un-stereotypically.

Father Christmas is exhausted, and decides to take a holiday in the off-season. He first tries France, only to be put off by the food (the resulting bathroom humor, while extremely tame by today’s standards, is not for everyone. Then goes to Scotland, only to be put off by the weather. He finally stays in Vegas for most of the summer months.

This is a very grounded Father Christmas. He’s old and crotchety, and prone to using ‘blooming’ as an all purpose word in every sentence. He loves Vegas because he can swim and tan, gamble, drink and watch the showgirls. But eventually he has to fly his homemade camper (pulled by reindeer, naturally) home, retrieve his pets from boarding, and prepare for Christmas.

The special follows him all the way through Christmas deliveries, with a side reference to The Snowman, as he greet the boy at the snowman party. (Technically this little scene breaks the logic of the Snowman in a not dissimilar way to The Snowman and the Snowdog, but it was just a side note and didn’t bother me nearly so much.)

The main gift delivery sequence features a fun montage and a catchy song: Another Bloomin’ Christmas.

Finally he gets home for some well deserved rest. I found this special so endearing not just because Father Christmas was amusingly grumpy, but because he was so real and also so… Santa. He was grumpy, and annoyed when people recognized him, and cranky, and he cared very much about his work, and about the kids, and his dog and cat and reindeer.

He was a bit lonely and tired, but he had purpose. It’s a very warm feeling, for the dark time of the year.

You can track this one down on Youtube, but BE WARNED, there is apparently a terrible American version loose somewhere. Make sure you’re getting the British cut. (26 min, copious use of the word “bloomin’”).
Related Posts Plugin for WordPress, Blogger...