Showing posts from December 18, 2022

Star in the Night (1945)

Star in the Night is a 25-minute film that won an Academy Award for Short Subject. It's not hard to see why - despite a simple premise, it's sweet, clever, and surprisingly touching, even 75 years later. That's not to say it doesn't contain a few aspects that aged poorly - they cast a white actor as a Mexican character, and an Italian character's accent is comically bad - but if you can overlook these issues, it's remarkably progressive in several respects. The story is a modern (well, modern for 1945) retelling of the nativity in a motel in the middle of a desert in America on Christmas Eve.  It starts with three cowboys riding across the desert at night. They're carrying a bunch of toys they just bought on a whim. Then, in the distance, they see a star. Not a literal star, mind you: a gaudy, light-up display advertising a model. The main character is the owner, who's having trouble getting the star to work. He meets a hitchhiker, and the two argue abou

Christmas Eve [aka: Sinner's Holiday] (1947)

As you can see above, this has had a couple different titles, depending on the country. The original US release was "Christmas Eve," while it was released in Britain under the less generic, "Sinner's Holiday." The British version sets a more accurate expectation for what you're getting. I'm not sure if the US version went with "Christmas Eve" to avoid confusion with a movie from 1930 called "Sinners' Holiday" or to appear more upbeat and festive in the hopes of attracting holiday audiences. If it was the latter, it didn't seem to work: the movie wasn't all that successful and didn't leave much of a cultural footprint, which is a little unfortunate. I had a lot of fun with this one. There's part of me that wants to tell you to just stop reading and watch this movie. It's not so much that this is good - aspects are great, while others are lacking - as it is... well... bonkers. This movie is bonkers. And more than

Love, Death & Robots: Volume 2: All Through the House (2021)

Love, Death & Robots is an animated science-fiction anthology series on Netflix that leans towards R-rated fare. Like most anthologies, the quality and style vary from short to short. Some of these are absolutely fantastic, while others are fairly mediocre. None are what I'd call awful - even the worst feature jaw-dropping visuals, almost always of the computer-generated variety. My largest criticism of the series is it's prone to excess: the first volume, in particular, contains so much unnecessary nudity and sexual content I found myself wondering if there was a mandate only lifted for a couple shorts. This short doesn't have that issue. In fact, I'd describe it as impressively restrained and tonally balanced, particularly given the premise. It's also the first of only two stop-motion installments to the series, as is appropriate for the holiday theme. Let's get to the story, though at only five minutes, "scene" might be a better descriptor. The

A Christmas Karen (2022)

There are two main problems with A Christmas Karen, a new streaming adaptation of Dickens's classic set in modern-day Florida with a stereotypical "Karen" replacing Ebenezer. The first problem is that the premise felt dated before the movie even came out - the whole "Karen" thing has mostly come and gone. The second problem is that the movie is kind of good. Conceptually, this should basically be a farce in the vein of comedies from the early '00s and before. The first fifteen minutes or so embrace this, with over-the-top exaggerated humor designed to distract the audience rather than draw them in. But as the ghosts start showing up, the jokes become more and more sporadic, so this can focus instead on character and story. Because - and here's what's surprising - this really is an adaptation of A Christmas Carol, rather than a parody or homage. Sure, the names are different and there are quite a few changes (we'll get to that in a moment), but a

My Little Pony: Winter Wishday (2022)

Here we are, back in Equestria for the holidays again, but not the same holiday we knew from Friendship Is Magic . This special is from a series of follow-ups to the 2021 movie that rebooted the My Little Pony continuity with a huge time jump (MLP: A New Generation). I saw that movie, and I remember it being enjoyable enough, if not amazing. All you need to know about this new special is that it's not terrible, but it's so bland that it's just sort of a time waster for kids.  Ok, all you need to know to follow the plot of the new special is that in the movie a group of young ponies met and became friends: earnest earth pony Sunny, ditzy artsy unicorn Izzy, neurotic rule-following earth pony Hitch, and the princess pegasus sisters Pipp (bubbly pop star) and Zipp (sardonic tomboy). They ended up working together to restore lost magic to Equestria. By the time of the special, people are still figuring out what that means.  The ponies have been living together in Sunny's l

Mickey Saves Christmas (2022)

Well, this is the worst thing I've seen this year. I mean, okay, the year isn't over yet, and I'm playing a little fast and loose with the term "worst". They poured time, money, and effort into this stop-motion special, and the finished project reflects that. It's just... that's part of the problem. If you're going to invest in this art form, I expect something notable about the end result. And this... it's just empty. Soulless. Pointless. It feels like executives went over the script with a magnifying glass and meticulously removed anything anyone could conceivably find objectionable. What's left is less a story than a branding exercise showcasing the studio's intellectual property in the least interesting way imaginable. To the limited extent it matters, let's talk about the plot. This special starts with Mickey decorating a cabin for Christmas and picking up his friends, who have been celebrating in town. Through it all, Mickey's

Happy!: Season 1 (2017 - 2018)

I vaguely recall hearing some positive buzz when this came out, but because it premiered on a cable station as opposed to streaming, it wasn't really on my radar. I'm honestly a little surprised it took this long for someone to point me towards this. Setting aside the fact the tone and style are right up my alley, the first season is entirely set at Christmas, which is obviously why we're discussing it here. I'm glad I finally got a chance to watch this - it'd rank this on my list of favorite genre TV seasons in recent history. As to what genre... well.. that's where things get complicated, because the first season of Happy! isn't easily described. It's an adaptation of a Dark Horse comic book written by Grant Morrison, who also seems to have been heavily involved in the show. I've never read the comics, but I might have to track them down, if only to confirm or falsify some theories. There's sort of a vein in comics that plays with the fact the

Hanukkah on Rye (2022)

Okay. Going to need a big old disclaimer for this one. I'm Jewish. Also, I'm not Jewish. Depends on what you mean by "Jewish", really. My mother is Jewish and grew up in a Jewish household. My father was raised Christian, though I don't believe he ever identified as such in my lifetime. I was raised celebrating Hanukkah and Christmas, both in a secular context. I grew up thinking of myself as Jewish. I even got to experience some antisemitism in grade school in rural Maine (lucky me). I never learned to speak Hebrew, I didn't have a Bar Mitzvah, I wasn't raised in a Jewish community, and I've only stepped into synagogues for weddings and funerals. When I was a kid, I didn't think these were relevant as far as my identity was concerned. And depending on who you ask and what the term means, they may not be. However, from a cultural perspective at the very least, I am most certainly not Jewish. The reason I'm bringing all this up is I'm about

A Flintstones Christmas Carol (1994)

This seventy-minute TV movie falls in a microgenre in which preexisting characters are acting out a version of A Christmas Carol as part of a play or movie. The original is of course the Mr. Magoo special, though Looney Tunes, Disney, and The Muppets all attempted a similar premise, with varying levels of fourth wall breaks. I'd argue this is a distinct approach to homages in which characters are visited by spirits or in some other way put through a Dickensian trial as themselves. In this case, the characters are treated as actors playing the cast of A Christmas Carol. Well, sort of. Flintstones Christmas Carol alters the formula very slightly in a couple ways. First, it embraces the play-within-a-play motif to a far greater extent than its predecessors. Magoo's Christmas Carol acknowledges the play mainly in an introduction and conclusion, but makes few references throughout. Mickey's Christmas Carol includes no explanation whatsoever for the casting choices (though I'

Marți, după Crăciun/Tuesday, After Christmas (2010)

This is the second Romanian New Wave Christmas movie I've seen, though there's a good chance we'll run the review for this one first. Given you can strike the word, "Christmas," from the previous sentence and still have it be accurate, it should be noted I'm a novice to the genre. On top of that, anything I have to say about this should be filtered through the understanding I'm an American watching the film with subtitles and am therefore likely to miss nuances and subtext the intended audience would be expected to pick up on. But that's the case with virtually any translated work I review here. "Tuesday, After Christmas" is centered on Paul, a middle-aged man with a wife and child having an affair with a younger woman, who's also his daughter's dentist. The movie plays out over a few days leading up to Christmas. By then, he's confessed the affair to his wife, who throws him out. The movie concludes with them meeting up at Paul&#

Carry On Christmas (1969)

This is one of those times where I find myself a bit lost. Ostensibly a comical retelling of A Christmas Carol, this is really better described as a farcical sketch special loosely tied together with a frame story about Scrooge. The key word here is "loosely," in that the majority of the sketches have nothing at all to do with the story or its characters. Also complicating matters is the fact it's part of a franchise of comedic British films with what I assume is a similar style of humor. That style, incidentally, is a longstanding British tradition utilizing innuendo, absurdity, and intentional shock. While I suspect this is a form of comedy deserving of respect, it's also kind of the forerunner of what would eventually turn into things like Scary Movie. In short, I didn't like this, but I'm having a hard time parsing out whether that's because it's bad, it's dated, or I'm simply lacking the context necessary to appreciate what they're doi

So You're Planning to Remake A Christmas Carol...

If you've been following along, you know I've been watching adaptations, remakes, homages, and reimaginings of A Christmas Carol in bulk this year. As you might expect, I've got some thoughts about what makes an adaptation work and what doesn't. I figured I'd pass on my notes to whatever studio executive thinks it's a good idea to remake Scrooge for the [checks notes] I have no idea what number time we're up to. As a sidenote, this article is mainly going to concern itself with adaptations of the original book. I might turn to quasi-sequels like Scrooged and Spirited for guidance, but that's not what this is about. Do We Need Another Adaptation? I thought I'd start with some thoughts on whether there's even a point in doing this again. You may be surprised to hear my answer is, "Maybe." One takeaway from this whole project is that while there are a lot of versions out there, there isn't really a single definitive one that meets all