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Showing posts from December 5, 2010

More About Prep & Landing (2009)

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I'm sure Lindsay's writing something about this, too, but I'm going to say my piece all the same.

Prep & Landing is a new addition to the holidays, but it's already claimed a spot.  I know most of you have never seen this - have probably never heard of it - but that has to change.  This is one of the best Christmas specials ever produced.  It can hold its own with just about anything out there.

First, let me give you some background.  A few years back, Disney "bought" Pixar.  The word "bought" is in quotes for the simple reason that, as part of the deal, Disney more or less handed the reins of their entire corporation over to Pixar's leaders.  In other words, Disney paid Pixar a large amount of money to take control of Disney.

This is, incidentally, why Disney suddenly started producing films that don't suck again.  It also left John Lasseter in the position to green light things like Prep & Landing, a half hour Christmas special ab…

Prep and Landing (2009)

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Mission Impossible elves!

I may swoon! I simply adore this, easily the best new holiday special in years.

If you didn't see it last year, go now. NOW. It's free, it's online again, GO. Alternate Link. I'm even including it below. Click already!

If you saw it last year, see it again. Did you notice the amazing music by Michael Giacchino (my current favorite composer)? Did you remember all the amazing details, the gear, the lingo, all the small jokes in the background?

Prep and Landing has the most fantastic Christmas Elves ever. It's sweet and funny, has both action and heart, and features the best sleigh take-off I've ever seen.

I love the characters, I love the humor, I love the story, I just love this special!

See this one. Revel in the warm glow brought into being by the Disney/Pixar merger.


Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

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As something of a Santa Claus aficionado, this is a movie that fascinates me on an academic level, which is a good thing because it's not a very good movie otherwise.
This movie is very clearly emulating (if not outright copying) Blitzen's Superman.  Apologies - I've just remembered that Donner directed the 1978 Superman movie (Blitzen was at one point in negotiations, but that fell through).  At any rate, there's no denying the parallels: the first third of each movie focus on an otherwise unrelated origin story, both film attempt to transport their respective mythologies into a relatively realistic setting, and in each the villain is Lex Luthor.
The only real difference between the two productions is that Superman was a good movie. However, Lindsay is explaining why Santa Claus was crap, and I see no reason to repeat the same points.  As such, I'd like to discuss why it was almost good.
And that, of course, brings us back around to our title character…

Union Square "Holiday" Market

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Every year something, well, not wonderful.... something okay happens in Manhattan.  The Holiday Gift Markets appear.
These are places where you can buy overpriced trinkets while standing with large crowds of people in the cold.  It's surprisingly cheerful at times.  Especially on a weekday morning when relatively few people are there.

You have to remember, these pictures represent the lowest possible population density.

These pictures are of the Market in Union Square.   (There's another one by Columbus Circle, and an unrelated one in Bryant Park.)

Most of what you can buy here falls into just a few categories:
Jewelry, Crafts (especially knitted products), Framed Art, Food, and Christmas Ornaments.

And most items have an additional modifier, like: Sustainable or Green products, Products made in impoverished regions, or Handmade Locally.

Occasionally you find a trifecta, like a booth selling kitchy coin purses that were handmade in Columbia out of recycled candy wrappers.  Actually…

Santa Claus: The Movie (1985)

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Wow, this movie has serious pace issues.

It is slow slow slow.  It switches plot at least three times, and each new storyline is only tangentially related to the others. This makes the movie feel even longer than it is. The plots themselves don't make a ton of sense, and the tone is wildly inconsistent.

The worst part is that every so often there's a sliver of a moment when it is almost a good movie.  You can see where it could have turned away from stupidity (by, say, not changing plots again, or by not making Dudley Moore suddenly the focus) and been something actually good.  Erin pointed out while we were watching it that every time it started to look serious or magical or otherwise interesting, in came the annoying repetitive cartoon music and the slapstick-prone elves.

I should mention that these are some mighty unconvincing elves.  The height and behavior isn't consistent at all.  It also didn't help that all the toys the elves make look ridiculous, so when they…

Card: A Glass of Good Cheer

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The Spirit of Christmas: Frosty Vs. Jesus (1992) and The Spirit of Christmas: Santa Vs. Jesus (1995)

I'm not sure whether the titles for these shorts were inspired by the 1950 Bell presentation, "The Spirit of Christmas," but given Parker and Stone's love of puppetry, I can't rule it out.

If you're not familiar with these shorts, you are familiar with their legacy: cut out of construction paper, these are the first two South Park shorts.

As a show, I have conflicted feelings about South Park.  On one hand, I've seen some episodes I absolutely love.  At its best, the show is clever, cunning, and subversive in a way that's both original and shocking.  The thing is, whenever I've tried getting into the series in any serious depth, I always stumble across an episode containing images or ideas I can't stomach.  The fact they manage to disturb or offend me using what amount to paper cutouts is something the show should be commended for.  Still, it limits my interest.

At any rate, while I've never gotten too involved with the series, I love thes…

About Plastic Trees...

As Erin said, our conceptions of 'proper' Christmas decorations differ because we both have strong memories of what was done in our parents' homes.

I just don't understand what he has against multicolored lights.  I'm with him on the Victorian all-white look: it's kind of bland and boring.  But all blue makes the room look cold.

There's another issue at play here, though: 'real', i.e. dead tree, or fake tree?

My parents had a fake tree that they hauled out every year, and my mother had me convinced that this was the environmentally and morally responsible thing to do.

But here's Slate.com's take on the environmental impact: http://www.slate.com/id/2180086/

Sum-up of the article: Many fake trees can break down and release nasty chemicals into your air, but years and years of real tree transport is more polluting than shipping a fake tree once from China. So it's almost a wash, with a slight advantage toward real trees because of disposal …

About Dead Trees....

Among the many aspects of Christmas Lindsay and I don't see eye to eye on is what decorations belong on a Christmas tree.  She seems to think that Christmas trees should look the way they did from her childhood, while I, being far more open and objective, hold that decorations should mirror the look of Christmases from my childhood.

The real crux of the issue comes down to the lights.  She's a fan of a traditional assortment of multicolored lights, while I'd rather a tree have nothing but blue lights.  At present, our debates are mainly theoretical: we don't have space for a tree in our Queens apartment, so the issue is largely rendered moot for the time being.

Growing up, most my family's trees were trimmed in this style.  We had a good sized place in Maine, with a dining room who's primary purpose was to house the tree (it went largely unused the rest of the year - more often than not, we ate in front of the television in the living room, like any well-adjust…

X-Men: Have Yourself a Morlock Little X-mas (1995)

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My recent experiences with this show gave me doubts about this episode, and while I don't enjoy the series as wholeheartedly as I did in 1995, I was sucked in for this episode.

Jubilee is excited about her first Christmas as an X-Man.  But when she is out shopping with Wolverine and Storm, they run into some Morlocks stealing medical supplies.  They learn that Leech is sick, and the Morlocks resent that Storm (their putative leader) hasn't been there for them.  So they go to try to help, and possibly hope for a Christmas miracle.

Overall it's a cute episode. It's fairly well written, though some of the jokes fall flat. I couldn't resist the silliness of Jean Grey and Gambit fighting over holiday cooking, although I would completely understand someone cringing at those scenes.

The animation is oddly static in places compared to what is commonly done now, particularly in characters' faces.  It wasn't too distracting, but it is sometimes hard to see much emot…

Rudolph, sort of

This is video is freaking hypnotic.  Thanks to Nils for the heads up.

Babes in Toyland (1961) - A Second Opinion

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This one hurt a bit.

I don't think I've ever actually seen this before, at least not in its entirety.  It's not exactly a bad movie, but it's got a lot of problems, starting with the pace.  This movie crept along at a painfully slow pace, and I was ready to slam my head into a brick wall before this was a third of the way through.

Unfortunately, that wasn't part of the deal.  I said I'd watch it, so watch it I did.  Through the slow-moving songs, the cheesy villains, and the entire swirling technicolor nightmare.

The sad thing is that I can actually respect this.  Sure, it's slow and tedious, but it's also quite beautiful.  The sets are incredibly inventive (even if they do look like a closed-down amusement park), and the ingenious use of animation to weave comic-book like sound effects into the imagery predates similar techniques in movies like Scott Pilgrim Vs. The World and Speed Racer by half a century.  On some level, this represents a…

Short Fiction: The Real One

The Real One
By: Erin Snyder


This is the North Pole.  Or it might as well be.  It's a tundra, desolate, empty.  Cold.  The heat's barely on during the month before Christmas.  A week ago, there were so many shoppers it was eighty-five.  Day after Thanksgiving, ninety.  But now, tonight, Christmas Eve, it's freezing.  Even under this coat and white polyester beard, it's freezing.

My legs are stiff from sitting all day, from kids jumping up and down on my lap or kicking me again and again while they swung their feet.  It hurts to walk, but at the same time it feels good to be on my feet, to be moving.

I give them everything I've got.  All that energy, all that time.  For what?  Ten bucks an hour?  A month's worth of work.

I reach the food court and stumble over to Starbucks.  The clerk smiles out of one side of his mouth and calls me Nick.  I force a grin and ask for a coffee, taking out my wallet.  He waves his hand and tells me to put my money away.  "Merr…

Card: Something for the Heart

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The Spirit of Christmas (1953)

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This goes beyond "so bad it's good" into the land of "so horrible it's great." This half-hour, made-for-TV special is brought to us by Bell Telephone, a fact that's reiterated by the Bell representative, who introduces the two segments while standing in front of a brigade of grinning phone operators.

The first half is described as telling the tale of how Twas the Night Before Christmas was written. Turns out, this guy had an idea on Christmas Eve and wrote a poem in his study using paper and ink.

This riveting tale is interrupted by the poem brought to life. When I say "brought to life," I'm lying outright, because there's no similarity whatsoever between the cold, dead marionettes on screen and anything alive. In fact, in spite of their bright paint, these resemble the walking dead, both in appearance and in movement. When Santa tilts his head to one side and looks through those cold, empty eyes, you can sense his hunger for the…

Babes in Toyland (1961)

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Oh, I love old technicolor musicals. I love the silliness, the energy, the big dance numbers.  If you do not love old technicolor musicals, then by all means skip this one.

This is particularly surreal, even for a holiday musical.  The whole thing takes place in Mother Goose Land, or something, in which Mary (quite contrary) has a lot of foster kids and a big secret inheritance.  There is a sappy love story and a mustache twirling villain, but first there is a ridiculously long song and dance number.  Overall there are a few too many songs, and many of the dances go a little too long, even for me. Plus one really odd scene that is apparently about the tragedy of a single woman not confident in her math ability.  Very odd.

After about half the movie, the action moves to the Forest of No Return, the plot gets simpler, the music more fun, and the whole thing more enjoyable.  My favorite part might be the menacing singing trees.  The costumes and sets are a lot of fun throughout.

While t…

Mega Man X-Mas

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Check out this Mega Man inspired Christmas Tree I spotted over at Sprite Stitch!

More pictures at the original post at 8bitfix.

Makes thematic sense to me, I mean in Christmas you defeat the 8 reindeer, then move on to the boss...

The He-Man & She-Ra Christmas Special (1985)

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Growing up, I always hated He-Man.  Everything about the show repulsed me; I'm not entirely sure why.  I certainly liked other bad cartoons, but something about He-Man just felt wrong.

Well, I'm older now, and am no longer disturbed by the program.  Actually, I really enjoyed the 2002 reboot.  Sorry - I'm getting off topic.

The point is, The He-Man & She-Ra Christmas Special wasn't part of my childhood.  The first time I saw it was at a Christmas party a few years back.  The second was last night on Hulu.

Placed firmly in the "so bad it's good camp," I have to admit this is really entertaining.  I mean, yeah, it's awful.  Really, really awful.  But it's also hilarious.

The story - to the extent the term applies - follows the misadventures of Orco, as he accidentally teleports a few children from Earth to Eternia.  The kids tell everyone about Christmas, which pisses off Horde-Prime, who seems to be the overlord of an evil empire.

Horde-Prime …

Babar and Father Christmas (1985)

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We found this episode on an old VHS tape while visiting Lindsay's family for Thanksgiving and popped it in.  I don't know about Lindsay, but I was expecting this to make me want to find something hard to bash my head against.

But, much to my surprise, I wound up liking it quite a bit.  Lindsay described it as "charming," which I think wraps it up nicely.  While it's not about to become one of my all-time favorite specials, it was well worth the half-hour it took to watch.

Sure, it was aimed at a young audience, but the jokes were well orchestrated.  The story had a decent number of twists and turns which, while simple enough for five year-olds to follow, didn't feel stupid or random .

The music, which I'm assuming appears in every episode, complimented the children's book animation style.  What really made this stand out, was the depiction of Santa and his shop.  I haven't seen this take before, and it feels simultaneously original and…

The Stranger

Good God.  This mash-up from Gratuitous Art Films goes too far.  And yet, it goes there with such style, such grace, that it's impossible not to admire the twisted brilliance that made this:



A new classic? Perhaps.

The Tick Loves Santa! (1995)

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Ultimately, "The Tick Loves Santa!" is on par with most episodes of the animated series, which is to say it's absolutely phenomenal.

The story introduces Multiple Santa, a bank robber who steals a Santa suit from someone on the corner, gets electrocuted, then develops the power to multiply himself.  The Tick, of course, is unable to bring himself to strike the clones out of fear that he might inadvertently be hitting the "real Santa."

Along with brilliantly conceived action sequences featuring dozens of evil Santas (a surprisingly disturbing image, it turns out), this episode offers some of the best one-liners ever to grace holiday programming (personally, I'm partial to the villain's boast, "The streets will run red with Santas").  On top of that, this offers an ingenious and original portrayal of Saint Nick and his elves I'd rather not spoil.

This is easily one of the best Christmas episodes out there.  If you haven't seen it, do yo…

Book Review: The Atheist's Guide to Christmas

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Crossposted from The Blue Fairy's Bookshelf


The Atheist's Guide to Christmas Edited by Robin Harvie and Stephanie Meyers, 2010
I loved this book. I didn't love every last one of the 42 essays, a few covered the same ground and a few I didn't completely understand because they depended too much on British Christmas traditions for the humor.
But I still thoroughly enjoyed this book.
The general vibe is what I expected: Christmas is much more about presents and food and family than anything else these days, and it's okay, as a nonbeliever, to enjoy presents and food and family, and not to be a nuisance unless the other person starts it. Simple. ...by way of summary let me say this: if only practicing Christians can use the word “Christmas,” then only Vikings can use the word “Thursday.”  - Mitch Benn,“How to Stop Worrying and Enjoy Christmas”There are some compelling cases made for everything from why humans have celebrated midwinter since time immemorial to why one m…

Card: The Good News

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Darkwing Duck: It's a Wonderful Leaf (1993)

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This is a cute episode which is unfortunately fragmented.  In general, Darkwing Duck doesn't hold up as well as I wish it did. I still find it amusing, but often it's far too slapsticky for my taste.  (Whenever the writers turn up the seriousness just a little, it becomes a much better show.)

This episode starts out pretty good, but fizzles towards the middle. The main story revolves around Bushroot taking over the town's Christmas trees and setting them to stealing presents. I wished that there was a smidge more explanation of his plotting, or that he were a bit more competent.

It's just too much plot for the episode length.  There isn't enough prep time for the B-plot (Gosalyn switching from being selfish about presents to being charitable) to have any emotional weight. There isn't enough attention paid to the details of what's happening, so following the events gets dicey.

There are some amusing bits, and a few jokes that land.  I wish that I could reco…

A Holiday Melody

Fair warning: some of the language in this song might not be appropriate for all occasions:



I think this little ditty sums up the spirit of holidays better than just about anything I can imagine.

Special thanks to Beth for the heads up.

All that's missing is the popcorn

My favorite fight of the holiday season isn't between parents trying to kill each over the last doll on the toy shelf or crowds ready to push their neighbors on the ground to try and reach a $20 microwave before Walmart sells their last - though both events are immensely fun to watch.  No, my favorite fight of the year is one over semantics:

Merry Christmas vs. Happy Holidays.

Every year, competing boycotts pop up targeting stores on the basis of company policy.  If employees are told to wish customers a "Merry Christmas," secular groups encourage their members to shop elsewhere.  If the rule is to say "Happy Holidays," religious groups take it as an affront to their beliefs and protest.

I can only assume that national chains analyze the demographics of their clientele before making such determinations.  After all, we're really talking about a function of marketing, which is focused on increasing revenue, not making a religious or philosophical statement.  …

Christmas in the DCU

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DC Women Kicking Ass has begun a marvelous series of Christmas-themed Wonder Woman posts.  This is my favorite so far.

From: The most wonderful time of the year: Day 4 of Holiday Wonder Woman

Santa and the Three Bears (1970)

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This is the second Christmas special I've seen from the 1970's that focuses on the idea of bears delaying hibernation in order to learn about Christmas, the first being 1973's "The Bear Who Slept Through Christmas."
This one is quite a bit less surreal.  While the bears can speak, they're significantly less anthropomorphic.  Living in a cave in Yellowstone Park, they're friends with the park ranger, one of only four characters to receive any real screen time.
Like a lot of specials, this is artistically impressive, while still being a complete and total failure.
The story would feel stretched at thirty minutes, making the special's hour-long running time superfluous and tedious.  A significant portion of the special is spent cycling through reused animation while music plays in the background.  In terms of actual content, this is one of the sparsest Christmas specials I've seen so far this year.
Apparently, I should consider myself luck…