First time watching this in high-def… oh my.
First time watching this in high-def… oh my.
The Night Before Christmas (1933, Wilfred Jackson)
Classic color Disney short. Santa does his thing at a poor family’s house, repairs their torn stockings, dresses their tree with the help of many pre-Toy Story living toys, laughs a LOT, then wakes them up with all the noise and runs. We saw the uncensored version where the youngest boy gets sooty and blackfacey. Jackson directed about fifty Disney shorts while still in his 20’s.
Peace on Earth (1939, Hugh Harman)
Meanwhile, they’re having a post-apocalyptic Christmas at MGM, with talking woodland creatures who started wearing pants after an encounter with a bible. I remembered this short well enough to recall the “good will to men” line kicks off the backstory, when a kid asks his squirrel grandma what men are, but did not recall that they sing that line a hundred times in the first two minutes. Inspired by WWI battles the animators lived through, this is a hell of a movie, rightly acclaimed.
Santa’s Workshop (1932, Wilfred Jackson)
And tonal whiplash, as we return to the predecessor to the other Jackson/Disney movie, Santa pre-delivery-day building all the toys for tots. Some of the assembly line stuff was cute, anyway.
Bedtime for Sniffles (1940, Chuck Jones)
This was rough going – Katy was already tired, and it’s eight minutes of a mouse struggling to stay awake. A few puns (Haxwell Mouse coffee) and mouse-in-human-world gags (eyedroppers for water faucets) can’t compete with the movie’s desire to make us sleepy. Still better than the Disneys, at least. Katy asked why rival studios would make a mouse their lead character – we didn’t realize there were about ten more Sniffles shorts.
The Snowman (1982, Dianne Jackson)
Storybook-looking animation of a non-Frosty snowman who comes alive at midnight, gets invited into the house by his creator, becomes the boy’s friend and goes on a flying adventure, meets Santa Claus, then melts in the sun the next day. It’s all perfectly nice, but I think more for six year olds (or grown-ups who first watched it as six year olds). Oscar-nominated against a Will Vinton claymation short and winner Tango. The same producer made a sequel thirty years later, and he and Snowman codirector Jimmy Murakami made a feature based on the same author’s story of nuclear devastation.
Pluto’s Christmas Tree (1952, Jack Hannah)
We put on a 2000’s Disney special which was just unbearable, throwing every character from every movie into a room with nonstop dialogue and incident, so we skipped ahead to the classic shorts contained within. This featured Chip & Dale vs. Pluto, with Mickey intervening to protect the chipmunks at the end. A huge improvement over the Santa shorts and the House of Mouse framing story, so we’re happy.
Mickey’s Christmas Carol (1983, Burny Mattinson)
Maybe the only version of A Christmas Carol named after the “actor” who plays Bob Cratchit. Mickey Mouse had inexplicably been sitting in Disney’s Vault for thirty years, and Scrooge McDuck, named after the Dickens story, had been a Disney comics feature for decades, when some corporate genius realized they could use the two characters to profit off some public domain literature. Goofy plays Marley, Jiminy Cricket is Christmas Past, the rest are characters from Robin Hood, Mickey & The Beanstalk, and Wind in the Willows (not Great Mouse Detective, which was my guess for the charity collectors below). In 26 minutes it’s all a bit rushed, and no match for the Muppet version. Burny worked on everything from Lady and the Tramp to Big Hero 6. Codirector Richy Rich followed up with The Black Cauldron before forming his own studio to make an animated Book of Mormon.
Katy found us a new Christmas movie. Aloysius McKeever (Victor Moore, star of Make Way for Tomorrow) is a squatter who lives in mega-rich Michael O’Connor’s summer house during the winter (and his winter house in the summer). He starts inviting other unfortunates to stay with him during a post-war housing shortage, leading to a More The Merrier situation where roommates Jim (Iowan Don DeFore, who somehow played a German later in a Douglas Sirk movie) and Trudy (Gale Storm of some Joseph Kane westerns) fall in love. Jim is blandly unmemorable, so fortunately there’s more going on – Trudy is the homeowner’s daughter pretending to be down on her luck, and she invites both divorced parents (Lubitsch actor Charles Ruggles and Ann Harding of Double Harness) to play along – I forget why they go along with it, but Ruggles eventually reveals himself to Jim, donating land to his housing-crisis alleviation project, after all the family togetherness somewhat unscrooges him. They never clue in McKeever, who heads merrily to another mansion in the new year.
Veep season 4 (2015)
I’d planned to watch this right after Girls season 4, then wasn’t in the mood to hear anything about politics for a while, so postponed with more than a few seasons of Archer. Finally I returned to Veep, and you know it’s sorta about politics, but mostly just 30-minute episodes of nonstop insult humor, and I love it. Meyer has become president, and during her re-election campaign almost everyone resigns or is fired over scandals and personality conflicts.
Rick & Morty season 3 (2017)
It’s hard to love Rick & Morty while trying not to be one of those people who loves Rick & Morty, but it’s also impossible for me not to love Rick & Morty. This is like my TV Tarantino.
1. A series of mind transfers and brutal killings lets Rick escape from insect jail, rejoining Morty in a mad quest for fast-food szechuan sauce.
2. Dad moves out, Summer is alienated, Rick takes the kids to a Mad Max dimension, Morty gets a super-arm.
3. Pickle Rick nearly avoids going to family therapy with Beth and the kids.
4. R&M join the Vindicators, an Avengers knockoff, for an adventure in which Drunk Rick is the master villain.
5. “Rick & Jerry episode!” Rick takes Jerry on an adventure, admits to breaking up the family, Summer has body image issues.
6. R&M are addicted to adventures, while on vacation Toxic Rick and Ideal Rick get separated.
7. Set on the Citadel of Ricks, a sort of Godfather, Chinatown, Willy Wonka mash-up.
8. Morty’s Mindblowers is the new Intergalactic Cable.
9. Beth revisits the world Rick created for her as a kid, finds a friend who disappeared there, while Jerry is dating a warrior alien.
10. While Rick duels the President of the United States, the rest of the family reunites.
Superjail season 2 (2011)
I watched this entire season (under two hours long) whilst scanning book pages and probably drinking, and can’t recall any of it to mind. But it was great, and I took some screenshots. A+, would watch again.
Wet Hot American Summer: Ten Years Later (2017)
A satisfying conclusion, if that’s what it turns out to be, with the ex-campers grown up (sort of) and employed (somewhat), reuniting in 1991 among current campers to save the camp from an evil and somewhat confusing Presidents Bush & Reagan nuclear plot. Nearly everyone from the series and movie returned, in one way or another, plus Adam Scott, Alyssa Milano as a suspicious nanny, Sarah Burns (Enlightened) and Dax Shepard (Idiocracy).
Black Mirror: White Christmas (2014, Carl Tibbetts)
Snowed into a cabin at the end of the world: chatty Jon Hamm and another dude who has barely spoken in years (Rafe Spall, Life of Pi, an Andy in Hot Fuzz), so Hamm tries to draw him out by sharing his own backstory, being paid to give live social/dating advice to awkward people while others watch on a shared party line, until one call ends in a client’s death. Since this was a longer, special episode, we get a second technology, demonstrated by Oona Chaplin of The Hour: the ability to copy your own consciousness into a “cookie,” like an Alexa or Echo run by a second self instead of a computer program – but the copied self considers itself the Original and its spirit has to be broken by manipulating time in the cookie, making it sit idle for years with no stimulation until it’s happy to perform menial tasks. This being Black Mirror I’ve now caught on that Hamm and the quiet guy are in some kinda interrogation device, which is why the circumstances of their years trapped in a cabin together have never been explained, and Rafe finally tells his story, of how he got “blocked” by his wife, who moved away and had another man’s child, and after the wife died in an accident, Rafe busted her dad’s head with a snowglobe. After a job well-done, Hamm is pulled out of the simulator, and a cop spontaneously speeds up the cookie clock, sentencing Spall to a near-eternity alone in the cabin.
Jon Hamm controls the cookie:
One Punch Man (2015)
Saitama is a young bald guy who enjoys acting like a superhero in his spare time, and is incidentally the most powerful man in the world. He attracts an android sidekick named Genos and they sign up to the league of heroes, the jokes being that the league members are mostly interested in themselves and their press and official hero positions, and that Saitama just wants a good fight but ends up defeating all foes with a single punch. A great assortment of heroes and villains which recalls The Tick, and a damned good opening theme song.
Genos vs. Mosquito Queen:
Currently stalled or proceeding slowly: The Deuce, The Knick, Mystery Science Theater 3000, Master of None, Unbreakable Kimmy Schmidt, Atlanta, The Thick of It, Blackish, Key & Peele, Futurama, Fullmetal Alchemist Brotherhood, Enlightened, Review, Documentary Now, Lady Dynamite, Louie (yikes), Assy McGee and Steven Universe.
On the heels of A Bay of Blood, here’s another godfather of slasher films. I’d heard and heard that this was good but still wasn’t anxious to watch it because sometimes the most highly recommended movies turn out to be losers (ahem, The Changeling), but surprise, it was good. Sorority house is gradually emptying due to holidays and also because the remaining girls are being murdered and stashed in the attic, the bodies never found so the survivors don’t know to be afraid. And unusually, no crazed killer backstory – we never find out who’s murdering people, or why. So, suspense is generally higher than in most of these kinds of things.
Argento covets this shot:
Kidder ain’t kiddin’:
I was surprised when Margot Kidder was killed, but I guess Sisters wasn’t a mainstream hit and the Superman movies wouldn’t start for a few years. Instead, Olivia Hussey (of 1968 Romeo & Juliet) makes the last stand with her semi-crazed boyfriend Keir Dullea. Victims Ms. Mack (Marian Waldman of Phobia) and Phyl (Andrea Martin, who’d play Ms. Mack in the remake) and Claire (Lynne Griffin of Dream House) are dead in the attic while Detective John Saxon (between appearing in Enter The Dragon and Mitchell – the man had a strange career), his moron assistant Doug McGrath (Ghosts of Mars) and Claire’s guy Art Hindle (his third 1970’s horror I’ve watched in two months, after Body Snatchers and The Brood) uselessly look around campus not realizing the calls are coming from inside the house.
Saxon spends most of his time on the phone:
Those calls feature some of the dirtiest dialogue I’ve heard in a non-porno 1970’s movie. Also surprised by the abortion debates between Olivia and Keir, and the amount of comedy in the movie. Director Bob Clark is better known for his other holiday movie A Christmas Story but he did a couple other 1970’s horrors I might check out.
The best Christmas movie we could find on netflix at the time. Katy had never seen this, did not know the joys of a flipper-fisted Danny DeVito and leather-suited Michelle Pfeiffer and fright-wigged Christopher Walken and Burton’s light-and-shadows pop-color photography and Elfman’s huge soaring music all stealing Micheal Keaton’s own superhero film out from under him. Batman has an undeveloped love interest in Pfeiffer, some last-minute heroism (diverting DeVito’s city-destroying rocket penguins into the zoo), obligatory Batman/Bruce identity crisis, but no major personality or emotion or story developments. And that’s fine with me – Batman movies could’ve gone on forever like this.
Totally missed noticing Paul Reubens as Penguin’s father, damn. Doug Jones (Abe Sapien in Hellboy) played a clown, and Jan Hooks (just-deceased SNL actress) Penguin’s mayoral campaign handler. Happy to see Michael “Tanner ’88” Murphy as the mayor and the great Vincent Schiavelli as Penguin’s monkey man.
Also watched the first 15 minutes of the first Burton Batman movie. Forgot that Jack Palance plays the crime boss who sends Nicholson into the Joker-backstory factory. Billy Dee Williams plays Harvey Dent, who does not get two-faced in this one.
Christmas double-feature in theaters with proper Turner Classic Movies intros (though it was only Ben Mankiewicz, not Robert Osborne) and hideous, blinding trivia cards in between movies.
A Christmas Carol (1938, Edwin L. Marin)
This one has got a real mean, crochety, convincingly horrible old Scrooge for the first half. He’s shitty to Jacob Marley, but starts to melt pretty quickly into the Christmas Past segment, and he’s a sentimental mess halfway through Christmas Present. Short movie with a streamlined story, cutting out bits like Scrooge’s love interest but still finding time to add some scenes, like an intro where Scrooge’s nephew meets Crachit’s kids. Best part: when Scrooge wakes up the next morning and throws cash to the boy on the street, the kid yells “whoosh” as he runs off.
Reginald Owen (Scrooge) was in Red Garters and Random Harvest, once played Sherlock Holmes and Watson in consecutive years. Gene Lockhart (blackmailer of Blackmail) is fine as Bob Crachit, appearing with his whole family of Lockharts. Jacob Marley became a Hitchcock regular. Produced by Ben Mank’s great uncle Joe.
Christmas in Connecticut (1945, Peter Godfrey)
Last time I wrote about Christmas In Connecticut I mentioned that Stanwyck is more sedate than usual but failed to mention how intensely cute she is. The movie starts out ridiculous then gets really good (let’s say more pleasantly ridiculous) the moment chef Cuddles Sakall shows up at the farmhouse and meets his Irish nemesis Una O’Connor. This time instead of focusing on the creepy/handsome soldier (I’d forgotten the intro scene where he’s adrift on a lifeboat, then dishonestly proposes to his nurse in order to get better food), Katy and I discussed Stanwyck’s 1940’s career ambitions. She’s not very good at her job (can’t keep her own invented details straight) and doesn’t care about keeping it (despite being the most famous female columnist in the country), just likes mink coats and strong men.
The Holly and the Ivy (1952, George More O’Ferrall)
A typical holiday family-crisis movie (see also: A Christmas Tale). Bulb-nosed Ralph Richardson (lead butler in The Fallen Idol) is a parson who doesn’t realize his whole family has come to resent him. They trade family secrets amongst themselves, then finally tell off the old man, causing him to proclaim that he’s wasted his life. Merry Christmas!
Ralph and Denholm:
Daughter Jenny (Celia Johnson, star of Brief Encounter) lives at home wishing she was free to marry her (apparently Christmas-hating) boyfriend David and move to South America. Daughter Margaret (Margaret Leighton of The Elusive Pimpernel and Under Capricorn) is a bitter drunk because her secret out-of-wedlock baby died earlier that year. She has towed along some relative named Richard (Hugh Williams of One of Our Aircraft is Missing) – never figured out what his deal was. Michael (a very young Denholm Elliott) is on leave from the military, meddling in his siblings’ affairs, and two aunts are around for comic relief and a teeny bit of wisdom: jolly Lydia and forbidding Bridget.
Celia and Margaret:
A Christmas Carol (1971, Richard Williams)
It’s just not Christmas until we watch some version of the Dickens story. This half-hour oscar-winner from renowned animator Williams (we just saw his work on Who Framed Roger Rabbit) is pretty excellent, with complex and impressive character animation. He recast Marley and Ebenezer from the movie Scrooge, which we watched two years ago, and added narrator Michael Redgrave. Marley is horrifying here, his jaw hanging open while he speaks, his coat-tails like tentacles behind him, and Christmas Past is a white flickering flame.
We also love Scrooge’s blue socks and yellow slippers:
Santa Claus Is Coming Tonight (1974, Pierre Hebert)
Opens with live-action footage of Santa descending by helicopter, the bulk of the movie is animated. A lonely old man full of Christmas spirit decorates his house for Santa’s arrival, while elsewhere an identical man working as a department-store Santa gets fired for stealing. Santa comes to the old man’s house and they party all night, then when Santa wakes up the old man is (I think) dead. Strange.
A surprisingly sweet movie. Will Ferrell is an elf-adopted human in Santa’s workshop who goes to New York to find his real dad, James Caan, falling for toy store drone Zooey Deschanel on the way. Bob Newhart is lovable as Will’s elf stepfather. Everyone learns a little something about the spirit of Christmas, except Peter Dinklage. From the writer of the same year’s Haunted Mansion.