Posted tagged ‘Christmas’

Classic Chaz: My Favorite Christmas Flicks!

December 24, 2010

Yeah, I'm not writing about any of these.

Way back in the year 2006 A.D., a midst the Hyphy movement and Tower Records liquidation, I wrote a little somethin’ somethin’ about my all time favorite Christmas films. I had forgotten about this until a few weeks back when I saw National Lampoon’s Christmas Vacation for the first time. Yes, I know, I had no business making a list of favorite Christmas movies with such a blank spot in my catalog. Well, here’s the thing, I *thought* I had seen it. The deal is, my Dad’s been a Timberwolves season ticket holder since before the team existed, so during my grade school years while my parents were getting divorced, if the night I was with him fell on the night of a game we spent quality time by cheering them on together. As Christmas approached, they would play clips from Christmas Vacation in-between plays to get us all in a festive mood between Christian Laettner moodswings. After a decade of Clark Griswald repetition, I could have sworn I saw the film. This was not the case. Now that I’ve seen it, I have to agree that it’s a good movie, even if now I think it suffers from not enough scenes of Wally Szczerbiak dunking.

Regardless, I stand by my four-year-old feelings feelings toward the following films. All holiday classics, all warm the 36 chambers of my heart. So let’s look back together on the Christmas movies I could make it through before I was legally old enough to drink Egg Nog!

Killa Season’s Greetings!

Your loyal Facebook friend Chaz here. Tis the season, between Christmas and New Year’s, where the B and C list of Christmas films get shown. Most of these atrocities suck in the worst way, as any combination of the words “christmas,” “deck,” “holiday,” “snow,” “winter,” “Santa,” “present” or “Toyland” usually results in something truly vile to get that Christmas Ca$h.

But some of these are truly wonderful little gems who only see the light of day this time of the year. OK, perhaps that is stretching it, BUT, I can promise you that each of these are worth at least one viewing. So, let’s begin this sleigh ride through the septic tank! Jingle balls!

John Waters' Favorite Christmas Film!

Christmas Evil (1980, Lewis Jackson)

I’ve never really been a huge fan of holiday themed horror films. While there are some certain gems that require annual viewing, but for every Charles Kaufman’s Mother’s Day or William Lustig’s Uncle Sam, there’s a dozen Valentines or April Fool’s Days. Christmas horror films are often the worst of these, with colossal wastes of time like Bill Goldberg in Santa’s Slay and the 1990’s VHS shot Santa Claws.

However, the first two starting off this list are legitimate “entries” in this genre. Christmas Evil, originally titled You Better Watch Out is far and away the best film on this list. A legitimate dark comedy about a toy-maker who has been obsessed with Santa ever since seeing a man in a Santa suit go down on his Mom as a child, he takes his double life as Kris Kringle a tad too seriously, bringing toys to the good unfortunate kids and slaughtering those who are naughty! F*** your miracle, this Massacre on 34th Street brings me FAR more cheer! Mostly because I love seeing a**holes get their come-uppens.

It’s also worth noting that the Santa figure here is played by FIONA APPLE’s father Brandon Maggart! Plus, “Home Improvement” guilty sexual fantasy Patricia Heaton has a cameo as an abusive single mother who SMACKS THE F***ING S*** out of her son! Those fun facts aside, this is a legit great film. Why aren’t you ordering this on Amazon right now? Probably because you are too busy watching…

Jack Frost (1996, Michael Cooney)

Everyone has that one moment in their life they wish they could revisit. For some, it’s their wedding night. For others, the birth of their first child. For me, it’s the cold December night my Freshman year of High School when I first watched Jack Frost.

NOT to be confused with the equally absurd Michael Keaton career killer about a boy whose father is reincarnated in the body of a snowman to help him get r-r-revenge on some bullies, this classic tells the tale of a serial killer who, on the truck ride to his execution, is part of a huge chemical accident where his DNA molecules are fused with snow. This leaves his standard physical form as manipulable as a snowman.

I vividly recall that wonderful night. The blizzard of 2000. Stars in my eyes as this waddling clunky snowman took his revenge on the family and friends of the cop who sent him to the chair in the first place. While Christmas Evil hones most of the truly clever inventiveness in terms of plot and character development, Jack Frost opts to keep concept simple with diverse execution. Christmas lights, Christmas trees, sleds, and just about every icon of the season is utilized in the barrage of over-the-top Mortal Kombat style Christmas fatalities. Did I mention Shannon “American Pie” Elizabeth is in this?

Cooler than 'Tomcats?'

Yessa, she plays the Police chief’s daughter who meets her hilarious end in one of Cinema’s all time greatest love scenes:

This image also happens to be my family crest.

Long story short, see this film! Even if you can only get the VHS with the fabulous hologram cover. But if Snowman-Rape is a little too intense for you this holiday season, than may I recommend:

Season's Beatings!

Santa With Muscles (1996, John Murlowski)

Cabin Fever, the fine people who brought you Hulk Hogan as a toy store owner/assassin in Secret Agent Club, comes the immortal Santa With Muscles. Here, Terry “Hulk” Hogan stars as an evil billionaire who suffers memory loss, believes he’s Santa Claus, and befriends an orphanage that stands on the verge of being shut down by another evil entrepreneur and his evil team that even includes (their words, not mine) an “evil geologist.”

SNL alum Garrett Morris appears, as does Brutus “The Barber” Beefcake in YELLOW FACE as a kung-fu sumo. But the celebrities don’t stop there! Inexplicably, half of the future cast of “That 70’s Show” appear, including a cutie sexy 11-year-old Mila Kunis. Not-to-mention megastar Clint “Ice Cream Man” Howard. There’s some resolution at the end involving exploding crystals beneath the orphanage, but this flick is pretty brutal and I honestly doubt you will last that long. You’re more than welcome to prove me wrong, but please remember the tagline was “He went from Naughty to Nice, and now he’s putting Bad Guys on Ice!”

But perhaps you survive Christmas with the Hulkster and need some more steroid guzzling holiday entertainment, well then let me remind you of probably the most known film on this list:

LOL, Foreign!

Jingle All the Way (1996, Brian Levant)

Like everyone else who grew up in the Twin Cities, I claim to be in this film. Here, the unfortunate governor of California stars as a work-obsessed terrible father whose wife wants him to get the latest hottest toy, “Turbo-Man,” for his son as the most important Christmas gift of his young life. Putting off the shopping until Christmas Eve, Arnold becomes competitive with a rival father, a mailman (Sinbad, who won a Blockbuster Entertainment Award for his performance) and hi-jinks ensue!

As an added bonus, Phil Hartman plays Arnold’s neighbor who covets his wife HARD. You’ve never seen such Christmas coveting! Martin Mull also appears as the racist bigot host of KQRS-92 FM, Tom Bernard. If you’re from Minnesota (and if so, please bring me some Davanni’s) you’ll see this film as the perfect snapshot of what downtown Minneapolis looked like in the mid-90s.

Just remember as you watch Arnold stumble and bumble around, that this man gets to decide who lives and who dies in California. Yep, that guy punching out a reindeer had the final say in whether Tookie Williams was executed or not. That in mind, this film could someday be used as the greatest anti-voting propaganda ever created. That is, except for:

McRibs Hath No Fury!

The Clipse’s Christmas in McDonaldland (2003, Craig Witte)

OK, this film doesn’t exist. I just really wanted to post this picture. But until you NYU film cadets choose to create this masterpiece, our only hope for some crack-centric Holiday fun is:

I swear, by the moon and the stars and the sky, this is real!

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964, Nicolas Webster)

Every Christmas film on this list owes a debt of gratitude to this, the grandpappy of all questionable Christmas flicks. Santa Claus Conquers the Martians, involves the martians kidnapping Santa so he can bring Christmas to the children on Mars, until Santa (with the help of two small children) finally conquer them.

Originally introduced to me via the homies as Mystery Science Theater 3000, this film is astronomically bad. If any station you watch chooses to air this, you’re better off cutting your cable provider and committing suicide as you were born into a world no child deserves to live in. The aliens are annoying, the polar bears are CLEARLY people, and I think the select few who think Christmas should be about that Jesus guy may have the right idea.

The score is the only saving grace/final blow. “He’s fat and round and jumpin’ jimminy / he can fit down any chimminey!” goes “Hooray for (sic) Santy Claus.” Future star Pia Zadora also appears as a martian child, so if Pia Zadora’s your thing, I’d give this film my full recommendation. The MST3K version mentions my fallen mecca the Apache Plaza as well.

At any rate, I hope this exercise in season favorites has proven enjoyable for you. Please savor these season treasures while you’re still on Earth, because in Heaven they just play the first three Jaws movies all the damn time.

paz,
chaz

Let’s Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas…and other MST3K X-Mas fun!

December 16, 2010

Christmas on the Satellite of Love!

Being a Minnesotan, I’ve had the tremendous fortune to grow up surrounded by the unhinged awesomeness that is my state’s contributions to the arts. Believe it or not, my Midwest abyss is home to Prince, the Replacements, Louie Anderson, The Mighty Ducks and X-Pac. I’ve also been lucky enough to grow up at the perfect age to have my entire cognoscente understanding of the world around me shaped by a show called ‘Mystery Science Theater 3000.’ If you aren’t familiar, it’s a program about a guy and his two robot pals who make fun of actual movies while you watch them in their entirety. A brilliant concept, I came for the puppets and stayed for the web of pop culture references I’m half-certain only I get. Also catering to me is their delightful Christmas specials where they hurled insults at the Mexican film where Santa Claus fights Satan known as Santa Claus (available to watch RIGHT NOW on Netflix streaming by clicking here or anywhere in this sentence) as well as the self-explanatory Santa Claus Conquers the Martians. Along with the fun in the theater were the host segments that featured some of my new favorite Holiday standards.

Let’s Have a Patrick Swayze Christmas

Having seen Road House twice in the past week, this song is particular relevant to my topical interests. It’s catchy, fun and uplifting, everything a seasonal carol should be.

Merry Christmas (If That’s OK)

Like I mentioned, MST3K hit its stride as a product of the 90s, a time of overbearing political correctness. Now, I know the past decade has seen the backlash to “political correctness” become tied to people who want to feel justified in any xenophobic comment or unfounded argument they would like to believe as an undisputed fact, but let’s remember that the mid-90s had things getting really out of hand. For example, and I’m not making this up, my grade school was worried the red checkmarks by incorrect answers on tests were hurting the student body’s self-esteem so they were replaced with red “L’s” and the motto “we don’t make mistakes, we make learnings.” Wretched, eh? Well, this sentiment is perfectly captured and made the best of with a Seasonal romp that’s sure to delight you no matter what you celebrate, which I fully respect and support.

MST3K Christmas Essays

I’m convinced this one sketch where the everyone shares their Christmas essays is the precursor to Tumblr.

It’s always good to spend Christmas with some guys in space!

We give Mystery Science Theater 3000’s Christmas Endeavors a Five Out of Five

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

Five Classic Christmas Commercials (I Got 5 Honest)

December 10, 2010

Tis the season...for Commercials!

There are few things in the world that I love more than the Christmas season. From the chaos of Black Friday through the anticipation of Advent leading to that wonderful week between Christmas Eve and New Year’s, no one time fills me with more joy. Is it the caffeine, the presents, the milligrams of Holly? The lights decorating every street? The promise of Christmas Vacation which, now that I’m a high school music teacher, is still a huge deal? I’d wager it’s the combination of all these things that not only bring out the best in all of us, but rose tints my world with everything I love about being alive. And, like all great things, this sentiment can be boiled down into 30-second long commercials. Therefore, I give you my picks for five modern Christmas classics.

Coca-Cola Santa Packs Are Coming

This is always the first Holiday commercial to air, usually the week of Thanksgiving, signaling the beginning of the Christmas Season. Coca-Cola was on a roll with some pretty cutting edge marketing in the mid-90s. One year after their unforgettable Halloween Monster of the Gridiron promotion, they did a complete 180 and went from ‘cool’ to ‘warmth’ with a Polar Express for the Consumer Generation. Originally airing with the lyrics “Holidays are coming,” the spot was retooled to emphasize the more Coca-Cola-centric aspects of the season: the Santa Packs. As a loyal Pepsi drinker*, this is the one time of the year I’ll go out of my way to see jolly ole St. Nick smiling back at me. FUN FACT: Contrary to urban lore, Coca-Cola did NOT create the modern image of Santa AND anyone in 2010 who still believes so is an ill-informed fun-hating miscreant.

Fruity Pebbles – Tis the Season to be Sharing, Fred!

I absolutely loathe it whenever people use the term “’nuff said,” largely because it’s a way for people to boast that their opinion is so perfect, it requires no justification or critical thinking. However, this commercial seems almost like the rare case where such a statement is justified. You have a standard holiday theme rewritten, the finest animation ever used by the Post corporation, and the one time when Fred willingly shares his beloved Fruity Pebbles with Barney. Such kindness was never shown to the Trix Rabbit, the Cookie Crisp Theif, Sonny or even the Hamburgular. Barney’s grateful response wraps the whole thing together a great way to introduce the concept of generosity to children. It saddens me to think that Madonna’s television-deprived daughter Lourdes grew up without it.

12 Days of Christmas on Fox Kids

My senior year at NYU, I took a class on sitcom writing under the great James Felder. One of the rules for the class was that we couldn’t write Holiday-themed episodes as they were often easy-to-write cheap one-offs for series to just coast on and not really try for a week. This is a truth of the trade so known that shows such as ‘The Office’ and ’30 Rock’ have spent the last decade deliberately cranking out legitimately great Holiday episodes that rank among their respective seasons’ best, just so the staff writers can show just how good they really are. Of course, being fortunate enough to be both a lover of Christmas and one of the elite few selected to become a member of the Fox 29 Kids Club, my passion for the seasonal sentiment was enough to hold my attention for their entire Saturday Morning Christmas line-up. The ’94-’95 season was undoubtably the best, boasting not only returning favorites like ‘X-Men,’ ‘Mighty Morphin Power Rangers’ and ‘Animaniacs,’ but the debuts of ‘The Tick,’ ‘Spiderman’ and on this particular Christmas weekend, ‘Life with Louie.’ I would always tape these Saturdays and (thanks to the magic of 8-hour Extended Play Videocassettes) I’m sure I still have them in my basement back in Minnesota. While my college thesis on children’s television of the 80s and 90s sufficiently killed off any and all of my interest in nostalgia, the Tree-side wins again as this spot still brings me back to that 3rd Grade Holiday season.

M&M’s ‘They Do Exist’

This classic M&Ms spot airs year-after-year for the simple reason that it’s that darn good. Both the Santa Claus and Red & Yellow are beloved omnipresent characters of modern lore. One is a Seasonal icon, a staple of traditions and cherished by all ages. The others are corporate mascots, a staple of traditions and cherished by all ages. When the two side of the same wonderful coin are squished together on the train-tracks of life, only magic can ensue. It’s a Christmas magnet miracle!

The Coca-Cola Bears

I think everyone remembers where they were when they first saw the original Coca-Cola polar bears commercial. If they don’t, they at least remember how the commercial first made them feel**. At a time when commercials were beginning to be all about in your face screaming, it was a mostly music-less feat of computer animation, packaged with genuine subtlety and a reminder of the warmness of family through the celebration of Coca-Cola. Sequels each year opted to up the cuteness ante and introduce a baby penguin and a baby seal, all making adorable baby animal noises. Sadly, these now air overdubbed with the music of Phil Collins, significantly tarnishing what made them so soft-spoken and endearing in the first place.

Hershey’s Christmas Kisses

A timeless, unaltered classic. Funny, disarming and direct, the Hershey’s Christmas Kisses is the one Holiday commercial that has aired every year since its 1994 debut and gone completely unaltered. Next time you watch it on a High-Definition television*** look for the clear untouched video lines. Is this laziness on the part of the Hershey’s Corporation? I don’t believe so, rather I think they want to let this particular spot be the one perfect gem you can always go back to without any unnecessary bells or whistles. It’s grandma’s turkey recipe in the form of a chocolate company’s ad campaign.

HONORABLE MENTION – CAMPBELL’S SOUP SNOWMAN

This one airs all winter long. DISQUALIFIED!

BONUS BEAT – GOTTA BE DOMINO’S!

There’s nothing particularly heart-warming or special about this commercial outside the fact that it’s probably the single most obnoxious thing I’ve ever seen. Hyperbole aside, it’s a spot that looks like it was written by the loudest drunkest belligerent football fan on the back of a bar napkin during a commercial break in efforts to impress a bartender moments before a bouncer removes him as the visiting team scores the winning touchdown. “So, Santa thinks he’s so hot with his reindeer and Christmas and stuff when SUCK MY DUST, KRINGLE the Domino’s guy pulls up in his Buffalo-drawn carriage and totally disses him! Then uhhhhhhhh, what do you call those Christmas teeny-weenahs? Oh yeah, an ELF tells him he’s out-of-touch and so they tell the holiday to f-off and they just get Domino’s and party on some kids roof so yeah, take THAT Christmas!” Gotta love the 90s!

And yes, I know I gave you way more than five. Merry Christmas.

We give these Classic Christmas Commercials a Five Out of Five

So until next time…let’s agree to agree!

*Diet Wild Cherry Pepsi is my weapon of choice on the frontlines of Generation NeXt.

**If they don’t, they are genuine heartless zombie shells of faux-humanity and should be exterminated as such.

*** AKA H-Def.

Know What’s Awesome About Christmas? Christmas TV Specials.

December 24, 2009

I remember, many years ago, I was a youngster. And when I was a younger youngster, I was very young. At this point in a young man’s life, he’s told by every old man around him that time goes by faster and faster with each passing year. When you’re seven, you hear that and reply “Faster? I hardly know her!” Oh wait, you didn’t grow up on a 1920s Vaudeville stage? Then you’re like me and knew no matter how many times you heard that, Christmas was going to take forever to get here.

But the promise of the Holiday season was always on the horizon. Not unlike the Halloween aisle of Target going up the weekend before Labor Day, Christmas promotions would begin running the night before Thanksgiving. It would start with those iconic Coca-Cola “Holidays/Santa Packs are Coming” commercials, which do this day makes a diehard Diet Pepsi drinker like myself consider a Kringle Cola exception for the holidays.

Once we hit December 1st, the Christmas Season was in full effect. Sunday mass, which at that age had been somewhat of a chore, morphed into a weekly Christmas Countdown with Father Michael Joncas (composer of “On Eagles’ Wings” and Presiding Priest over my first communion) lighting me one Advent candle closer to present time! Christmas time at Immaculate Conception School kept the countdown going through the week, with Usher and all around great guy Abe Verbugi dressing up like the actual St. Nicolas and bringing all the students Candy Canes every December 6th. Not to mention the building gingerbread houses with my cub scout troop, the inhabitants we were assured were all heterosexual gingerbread man as this home we were about to eat had to be stable.

But the REALLY incentive on the Road to Christmas, was the promise of all my favorite, not so favorite, and tolerated television shows having CHRISTMAS EPISODES! All my favorite characters were of the same holiday persuasion, and they were going to give me an adventure that made the holiday all the more special! Don’t believe me? Check the Warner Brothers (and the Warner Sister) breaking down the entire Fox holiday lineup:

Fox Kids Christmas Promo – 1994
Uploaded by GarfieldFan2000. – Classic TV and last night’s shows, online.

H*ll yes! Now, in retrospect, the Christmas episode was really just the rite-of-passage for any television show that said “you’ve stretched this long enough to warrant a filler episode, make it an easy week in the writers room and crank this one out overnight over a can of Surge and a bag of Cooler Ranch Dorito’s.” Ofter the half-way point to the 65-episodes required for a syndication run, these episodes would fall into one of three categories: 1) The main character needs to get the right gift for a beloved supporting character, 2) The main character has to make sure everyone’s holiday plans run smoothly, or offer a reasonable facsimile, and 3) a remake of ‘A Christmas Carol.’ Deck the halls with some moderately altered catchphrases (“It’s Clobberin’ Tinsel!”) and there you have 22 minutes of programming you won’t have to think about while you’re tracking down that Power Ranger toy your kid wanted. (The Dinozords NOT the Thunderzords! He already has those!)

There are a handful of Christmas episodes that stand head-and-shoulders above their contemporaries. The third season of “The Office” did just that. With one of the greatest television writing teams ever assembled having one of the decade’s top hot streaks, legend has it writer Jennifer Celotta and director Harold Ramis (Ghostbusters) decided to flex nuts and make the one hour special about Michael Scott getting over his recent breakup at Benihana (which he refers to as “Asian Hooters”) and bringing waitresses to the Holiday party among the best in the series. It became iTunes’ highest selling television episode that month and rightfully so.

Other shows observed the Holiday without mentioning the Holiday itself. Jim Henson’s “Dinosaurs” had the immortal “Happy Refrigerator Day” episode, where (in lieu of Christ’s birth) they celebrate the glowing box that saved their food. On the other end of the spectrum, the unwatchable “Star Wars Holiday Special” observes Chewbacca’s wretched family on “Wookie Life Day.” The less said about that one, the better.

All in all, it was pretty magical being seven years old and having no less than five straight hours of Christmas programming the Saturday before Christmas. As far as Christmas stimulus goes, it was a great appetizer for presents. But what connected point A to point B? CHRISTMAS COMMERCIALS! And on that note, I’ll leave you with one that I’m thankful to say still runs to this day and represents what this season is all about:

Know What’s Awesome about Christmas? Presents.

December 4, 2009

Ahh Christmas. The season of giving. And receiving. And watching people give and receive. And to spit and retrieve cause I give and receive because I wanna. Yes, the good will toward men is great, as is the feeling of togetherness with friends and family. Lights are cool, snow hasn’t worn out its welcome and the meals are like a do-over of Thanksgiving, only highly customizable so you can have whatever you want. Know why? Jesus was born. Happy Birthday Christ, thanks for the turkey and garlic cheese bread!

But seriously, presents are awesome. All the “I don’t like to get presents” nonsense is nothing more than the mantra of people who can’t give good gifts. Stop being a self-righteous sadsack and step your game up, Eeyore! As for the rest of us who openly acknowledge that getting presents is fantastic, we get just as great a feeling when we’ve NAILED that perfect gift for someone.

What makes the perfect gift? I believe it’s something thoughtful that shakes someone down to their Christmas core. It’s what melts their icey hearts into Figgy Pudding and makes them feel like they just ran down the stairs in footy-pajamas to get what they’ve worked hard for all month at school by not being mean to the fat smelly kid. It’s something not necessarily nostalgic, but rather momentarily returns someone to their idealistic Christmas sensibilities.

What I’m talking about is making grown folks do this:

I stumbled on that clip a few years back looking for some awful Power Rangers Christmas special and it has delighted me ever since*. Being a product of the 80s and a child of the 90s, I was fortunate to have the Ninja Turtles Christmas, the X-Men Christmas, the Power Ranger Christmas, the Nintendo 64 Christmas etc., so I had the warm glow of Consumerism to help me hang ten on a Yule Tide all year round. Honestly, that’s a good thing. It’s not that I needed such things to feel complete, rather it was the joy of having cool stuff that gave me hours of enjoyment and, years later, realizing that I had been part of a movement. These cultural snapshots representing who I was and what my generation was into at the time.

As disconnected as we all get from childhood interests and the more independent our tastes become, our wishlists vary more and these snapshots become a lot more personal. These gifts we get, whether a movie, a CD**, a hooded sweatshirt, a car etc., all represent extensions of our interests. And it’s those gifts that will always remind us who, at that point in our lives, observed those aspects and cared enough to cater to them to give us that extra “holly jolly” around the holidays.

Yes, we’ve had it ingrained in our heads that liking presents is somehow “selfish” and “bad,” and we should faux-reject every gift with “you shouldn’t have,” but let’s be completely honest with ourselves:

Know What’s Awesome About Christmas? Presents!

Until next time, let’s agree to agree!

*I’m pretty sure I’m the reason the Fellini/Chesty Morgan clip is a “related video” too. Sorry kid, but when my highbrow meets my lowbrow it also makes for some holiday cheer.

**In 2009? HA! See you in Hell!


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