12.06.2011

citizen kate: day two

day two of the queue is wall-to-wall holiday cheer!

actually, that is a filthy lie. beginning the day with gil junger's abc family production, christmas cupid (2010), we have arrived at an all new nadir. this now replaces whatever used to be at the bottom of the list as the single worst thing i have ever had to endure courtesy of the queue. this dreck is a retelling of a christmas carol updated for millennials, a description which already makes me want to vomit. christina milian plays a shallow, conniving publicist who must see the error of her ways before it is too late. the jacob marley to her scrooge is a vapid starlet in the lindsay lohan mold who can't seem to not shoplift expensive coats or drunkenly roll on the floor in the most public of ways. instead of marley's chains we have the incessant clink of her martini glass sounding in our ears as she introduces us and the aforementioned publicist to the ghosts of x-mas - they're all ex-boyfriends, get it? - past, present and future. she has her eleventh hour epiphany, finds true love and her dead, superficial, alcoholic client gets her wings. oh my god, this is insipid garbage. there is no way to emphasize how many ways this is terrible. it looks like a commercial, it smells like make-up and was quite obviously written by a computer program. i would say television can go to hell but it looks like it's already there. 3.4 million people tuned in to this when it originally aired last year. i hope at least a few of them noticed that in their abc family-approved production no lessons were learned. in a christmas carol ebenezer scrooge learns magnanimity, generosity, a love for one's fellow man and sympathy for their plight. this character, sloan is her name, is motivated by her desire to not be alone, so when she "changes her ways" in the grand finale it is simply one more strategy she adopts to achieve what she wants. she doesn't learn anything and i learn only that television is often even worse than i think. i kind of want to quit now.

so thank jeebus for jim henson and his magnificent emmet otter's jug-band christmas (1977).

this li'l charmer was jim henson's first real attempt to branch out from the skit-based, full-tilt zaniness that was the muppet show into longer narrative work and it is both a fine family outing and a nice little time capsule. like the previous film, it is a twist on a classic christmas tale, in this case o. henry's the gift of the magi. unlike the previous film, it doesn't make me hope christmas never comes so i don't accidentally stumble across it ever again. the story is a simple one: ma otter and her son emmet live on the river, scraping by on odd jobs, taking in laundry and the kindness of other river folk since pa otter died a few years back. they get wind of an upcoming talent show and each make secret plans to participate, hoping to use the prize money to buy each other christmas gifts. the hitch is that emmet has to put a hole in ma's washtub to make his bass for the band and ma has to sell the tools emmet uses to buy fabric to have something presentable to perform in. they both rock the house but ultimately lose to the shady last-minute entry, the riverbottom nightmare band, a muppet explosion of edgar winter, alice cooper and felt. ma and emmet's band soon discover that they are a natural fit, though, and land a gig at doc bullfrog's with regular pay and all the mashed potatoes an otter can eat. turns out all they needed was each other. it is a sweet, homespun tale from back when the state of the art was still an actual puppet and if you don't like it, well, i'd venture to say you're just broken inside. the puppetry is, of course, wonderful and expressive. not to keep harping on our disastrous beginning today, but do you know what a testament it is to henson and crew (and an indictment of every living being in christmas cupid) when an inanimate object exhibits an array of feelings that not one of the actual human beings in that first movie seemed capable of? the elaborate sets are a marvel and, being the seventies, paul williams provides his usual batch of snappy tunes. most importantly, it manages to tread a delicate line of being sentimental without tipping over into maudlin. it comes dangerously close a time or two, i'll admit, but always manages to pull back just shy of it so what we end up with is a simple fable, heartfelt and warm. we should all be so rich.

we end the day with the mixed holiday blessing of warren p. sonoda's cooper's christmas (2008).

originally titled cooper's camera but changed for subsequent dvd release, it is a simple idea: a man accepts a camcorder in lieu of payment for a debt and, using this cutting edge technology, he records the chaotic family meltdown that is christmas, 1985. i was surprised at how much i ended up liking this. it is a peculiar mix of high concept and lowbrow that caught me off guard now and then. it's essentially a one-joke bit stretched out to feature length, that joke being family dysfunction over the holidays, and i'm not saying it's great, but sometimes they nail it. sometimes boner jokes, getting punched in the pills or dad on the toilet is just plain funny. sue me. they actually deliver this kind of material in a way that doesn't seem tired. it's more than that, too, though. it's weird family secrets that foster ill feeling and distrust. it's pushing up just to the edge of improper (and going over) with your hot cousin. it's being comfortable enough with the people you love that you are more apt to lose control in front of them. you shouldn't lump it into national lampoon territory. it trafficks much more in the comedy of discomfort that is so prevalent these days, rather than set-up/punchline type humor. they certainly aren't afraid of being unattractive or taking chances. it takes a little while to get rolling and it suffers now and again from trying too hard (it also suffers from dave foley's penis being introduced in the first five minutes, but that's a different story) but there are a number of oddball moments like gord trying to hit the high notes during caroling that make it worth your while. i suspect this is one of those that twenty different people will laugh at in twenty different places, depending on what their family and holiday experiences have been like. i do wish they would have had the guts to stick with the weird darkness and not have their version of the "everything's going to be o.k." ending. it severly undermines the preceding eighty or so minutes, in my opinion. too bad they couldn't take it all the way. they might have really had something. as it is, if you like christmas not so holly-jolly, you could do worse than this.

so i have fulfilled my abc family christmas tv movie obligations as of today, right? tomorrow is a new day and all that jazz, right?

aw, hell. can you just point that over here? consider it an early christmas gift.

4 comments:

  1. I honestly can't decide which of the above zingers I enjoyed the most. Tears. Oh, and I will be watching Christmas Cupid sometime this month.

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  2. i am glad you enjoy watching little pieces of my soul wash away with this shitty tide.

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  3. a) when i first heard jimmi hendrix, my first thought, not kidding, was "it's like a cartoon version of the riverbottom nightmare band!"

    b)in my fantasy world, EVERYBODY watches Emmett Otter for christmas instead of the insipid Christmas Story.

    c) those other movies sound like bunk. i don't even think THE NEW CAMP* can justify them









    *THE NEW CAMP being my just created term for the type of movies chosen for some of my queue

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  4. a christmas story has suffered greatly from overexposure in the last decade or so.

    you might actually enjoy cooper's christmas. there are some inspired bits in it.

    the new camp is all yours and i will stand on john waters' coffee table in my cowboy boots and say that.

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