Friday, December 02, 2005

Merry Christmas from 2005

Welcome to another Christmas Spectacular.

This year I plan to watch 25 Christmas movies (films, shows, cartoons, nudie loops) during the month of December. That is one a day until Christmas. Then I will toss my tree to the curb and go back to watching films where ninjas get revenge.

As I watch 'em I will take notes and then post them up here. I won't be updating daily, but I will have 25 films by the time the baby Jesus blows out the candles. I shall rate them on a scale of 1 to 4 stars.

December 1: Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer
This is a classic, and therefore a great way to start things off.
Simple story of Rudolph, Hermey the Elf and bunch of misfits. Things get a little creepy towards the end when Hermey takes a pair of pliers and viciously removes all of Bumbles (the Yeti) teeth.
It's like Marathon Man with Santa Claus.
Is it safe?
Rating ****

December 2: Santa vs. The Snowman
This one is in 3D and directed by Steve Odekirk. It tells the story of a snowman that wages war against Santa and eventually captures the guy in the big red suit and locks him in a cage.
The 3D worked well on my TV. The elves looked so real I made sure to keep my hand on my wallet the whole time.
Rating ***

December 3: Surviving Christmas
In 2004, two mainstream films were released with "Christmas" in the title: Surviving Christmas and Christmas with the Kranks.
Only one was a hit. Sadly, it wasn't Surviving Christmas. Nothing against Kranks, but Surviving Christmas was awesome.
Starting off with footage of an old lady committing suicide by sticking her head in the oven, the film seems slightly off kilter the entire time (in a good way.) Ben Affleck is at his goofy best as an eccentric millionaire who hires a group of strangers to be his family for the holidays. Hysterical.
Rating ****

December 4: Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July
When I first read "Rudolph and Frosty" I thought it was about Giuliani's senate race against Hilary Clinton. Instead, this is a 'stop motion' sequel follow-up to the previous Rudolph and Frosty films.
Unlike the shorter Frosty the Snowman (which was not 'stop motion') and Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer. This film WAS feature length. It may have been a bit too long. Still, it has lots of charm.
Frosty and Rudolph are tricked by Winterbolt into joining the circus. Winterbolt is a pretty cool villain (despite his absurd plan.) Winterbolt has the voice of Paul Frees who is "The Ghost Host" narrator of Disneyland's Haunted Mansion. He uses the same voice here.
My favorite scene is when Frosty says he wants to get back to the North Pole before the Fourth of July fireworks.
"Aren't you patriotic?" someone asks.
Frosty responds that his is patriotic, he just doesn't want to melt... AND HE'S NOT AMERICAN! The writers seemed to forget that the North Pole isn't part of the U.S.A.
Rating **

December 5: Christmas at Walt Disney World
In this 20 minute promo DVD Santa is answering his mail (all of which has to do with Walt Disney World, oddly enough.) During the next 20 minutes we see how WDW celebrates. Included are Epcot's global celebrations of Christmas (China has a Monkey King, that HAS to be cooler than a fat old guy in a red suit.) Also we see the parade, learn about the holiday food, the big Christmas tree and the lights. Plus Goofy falls down no less than 4 times.
Rating **

December 6: A Christmas Story
I taped this off Turner Classic Movies last year so I got to watch it with host segments from Robert Osborne. If you aren't a TCM subscriber, you should call your cable company. But make sure they don't accidentally give you TMC, that’s "The Movie Channel" and all they show is bad Traci Lords films.
Anyway, Robert Osborne makes me laugh. He said that Jack Nicholson was the first choice to play 'the father' in this film.
I know it doesn't sound funny now, but imagine a sassy guy with a lisp saying that as he walks around a set and smirks like the Cheshire Cat.
Anyway, the movie is great and in keeping with the accidental Walt Disney World theme that these films have; the film's narrator is Jean Shepard (voice of the dad in the Carousel of Progress.) Oddly enough Jack Nicholson was the first choice to play that part too.
Ha ha ha ha! Forgive me; I just pictured Robert Osborne saying that.
Rating ***

December 7: Reindeer Games
The second Ben Affleck film this month! Wow, it feels like Christmas already. This is a fast paced thriller directed by the legendary John Frankenheimer. Full of explosions and plot twists, this rocks from beginning to end. Affleck is a bit miscast as a car stealing thug, but it is the season of giving so I give it a pass on that.
The bulk of the film takes place right around Christmas with a climax where 5 guys in Santa suits rob a casino. I think I might watch 3000 Miles to Graceland tonight. In that film 5 guys dressed as Elvis rob a casino. Then I might watch Bea Strong where a casino is robbed by five guys dressed as Bea Arthur.
Rating **

December 8: Santa Claus is Coming to Town
More stop motion fun from the folks at Rankin Bass. This one shows us the journey of a young Santa Claus from birth to red suit.
As a lad, Santa is red headed and looks like a young Conan O'Brien. Of course I think all redheads look like Conan.
Conan... uh... Santa ends up with some elf toymakers. They make toys and then throw them away because they can't get past the Winter Warlock. So eventually Santa flies the toys to the kids of Sombertown- AND GIVES THEM AWAY. Great way to solve a problem, Conan.
I can imagine other circumstances where he has used this tactic.
*MR. BESTBUY(owner of Best Buy Electronics): Conan, we have thousand of copies of that Triumph the Cranky Dog CD. No one wants to buy them! I will never make my investment back.
*CONAN: No problem. I will just give them away free.
*MR. BESTBUY: You know, Mr. Nobodybeatsthewiz was right, you ARE a jerk.
Anyway, the film ends with Santa finding love and getting married to a hot gal named Jessica. Of course, we know that they both REALLY let themselves go after that, so it was kind of depressing. Sorta like seeing video of a crippled person back when they could walk. Or, like listening to that Cranky Dog CD. Really depressing.
Rating **

December 8: The Best Christmas Pageant Ever
This was interesting. It was a TV special that first aired in 1983. For about 10 years afterwards it would run at least once a year during the holidays, often on Christmas Day.
With no such airing scheduled this year I decided to buy it. This wasn't exactly easy. The DVD is rather hard to find and in the end I found it at an online Christian bookstore.
The film does have strong Christian overtones, but so did most of the Christmas films. Even the Rankin Bass stuff. For every Frosty the Snowman they did a Nestor the Christmas Donkey (he carried Mary to the Bethlehem- we'll get to that flick soon.)
This special is 45 minutes long and tells the story of a group of rotten kids named the Herdmans. In search of free cookies the Herdman bully their way into playing all the leads in the local churches Christmas Pageant. By the end, the Herdmans are (somewhat) reformed and the pageant is -you guessed it- the best Christmas pageant ever.
As I do with all films from the late 70s and early 80s I played "Spot the Meathead." It's an easy game. You just have to scan all crowd shots looking for guys that look like Rob Reiner. Particularly if they look like him during his "All in the Family" days. The Best Christmas Pageant Ever has 6 young Meatheads and 1 older fat Meathead.
Viva la Meathead!
Rating ****

December 9: Santa Claus: The Movie
This was surprisingly good. It came out in the early 1980s and was from the producer of the Superman films. In fact, the film plays very much like a superman film. It starts by telling the origin of Santa and then gives some awesome flying sequences. I say awesome in the sense that they were probably awesome in 1980, today they look silly. Santa ends up firing an elf (Dudley Moore) for making shoddy toys. The elf then goes to work for evil New York toymaker John Lithgow. Lithgow is completely OVER THE TOP (much like Gene Hackman's Lex Luthor in Superman... or Lex Lugar's performance in Wrestlemania X for that manner.)
The film includes a sleigh race, a kid beating up a cat and a sleigh race. It also includes a lengthy subplot featuring a homeless kid befriended by Santa.
It seems to me that EVER THIRD film made in the 1980s involved the main character befriending a homeless kid.
Rating ***

December 10: Muppet Family Christmas
This is one of my all time favorite Christmas programs. This was no ordinary Muppet flick. It featured Kermit and the gang AND the Sesame Street characters AND the Fraggle Rock characters. Jim Henson appears in the flick as one of only 2 human characters (Fraggle Rock's Doc is the other.)
This is available on home video. Unfortunately about 5 minutes are cut from this 45 minute special on the VHS and DVD release. The cuts included my favorite joke of the film. It went something like:
FOZZIE (to a snowman): Hey snowman!
SNOWMAN: I'm not a snowman, I'm a SNUMAN.
FOZZIE: What's a snuman?
SNOWMAN: Not much, what’s a'snu with you?
Rating ****

December 11: The Veggie Tales Christmas Spectacular
A tomato plays Santa. Need I say more?
Rating **

December 12: John Denver and the Muppets: A Christmas Together
Once again John Denver and the Muppets put on a show. This was full of music and featured plenty of Muppet humor.
My favorite exchange included Kermit making a funny joke about the word "croak." I wish I was a frog, and then I could steal it.
And I could wear a beret and say "wee wee" and "j'mapelle." Get it? Because "frog" is a derogatory name for the French.
Man, I really wish I could have used the "croak" joke there instead.
Rating ****

December 13: Winnie the Pooh: A Very Merry Pooh Year
Despite the title, this is all about Christmas and Santa. It's feature length, but is actually three short films strung together with a common theme. That theme is Christmas. My favorite short is the one where Rabbit decides he had enough and is movie.
This is the first time I realized that Rabbit was a male. He's so fussy and feminine I just thought he was a cranky old broad. No, I guess he's just an old queen.
Anyway, He decides to leave because Tigger is too bouncy, Piglet is too scared, Eyeore is too depressed, Pooh is too much of a glutton and owl is too... uh... I guess he wasn't in this one. Come to think of it, he wasn't in that Heffalump flick either. Did he die? I hope not.
So in the film Rabbit is leaving (for Hawaii or San Francisco, I assume.) So to try to get him to stay they all stop being themselves. Tigger stops bouncing, Piglet becomes brave and so forth.
The most interesting change was Eyeore. He became happy.
At then end, Rabbit decides that he likes them they way they were. So they all revert to their normal personalities. Including Eyeore who goes back to being depressed.
It must be tough to live around a depressed donkey. I wonder if Owl shot himself. Or is it herself? I wonder that, too.
Rating **

December 14: Nestor the Christmas Donkey
Another Rankin/Bass flick, this one tells the story of the donkey that carried Mary to the manger when Jesus was born. Like Rudolph, Nestor has one unusual feature: big ears. This story is actually a bit sadder than most of the others. Nestor's friends are taken away to be slaves and his mother freezes to death, but the story is punctuated with a bit of humor and the cutest donkey I have seen since... uh... last night's movie.
If you were like me, you probably always found the donkey to be strange accessory to your family's manger set. Watch this and you will never think him strange again - you just might wonder why his ears are so short.
Rating ***

December 15: Christmas with Gumby
The good people at Goodtimes Video took the leap into DVD a few years back. They still offer the same inferior product; you just never need to adjust the tracking. This 30 minute DVD was actually a couple of Gumby shorts edited together to seem like one story. Also, in the Goodtimes tradition no music rights were secured. The means that a few times the characters appear to be singing as generic Christmas music is played over top of the scene.
Still, if Gumby and Pokey are on the TV, it IS a good time.
Our heroes are detectives at the start of the picture. They end up walking in and out of books to hear stories. One of the stories is about a poor idiot who wanted to buy his girl a partridge in a pear tree for Christmas. Someone fools him into buying a pigeon in a plum tree instead. The town’s people laugh and laugh "His girl friend is going to leave him." they cackle.
Luckily an elf turns the tree and the bird into gold. I guess a golden pigeon in a golden plum tree is better than a regular one.
Still, the bird’s blood and heart were also transformed into gold. That has to be a painful death.
Poor pigeon.
Rating ***

December 16: Vernon's Christmas
Released in 2003, this 30 minute DVD stars those lovable 1980s dolls: The Cabbage Patch Kids. Here they are presented in stop motion animation. The medium is PERFECT. The look just like dolls come to life.
The story isn't bad, either. A doll named Vernon promises the younger dolls that Santa Claus will deliver them Christmas presents. Then, he begins to worry that Santa might be getting "old" and "forgetful." So he dresses up as Santa for the kids.
There is also a nifty snowboarding subplot. If only Vernon mooned the camera to reveal an Xavier Roberts tattoo on his butt it would have been the greatest Christmas special ever.
He didn't, so I give it 2 stars.
Rating **

December 17: The Cabbage Patch Kids First Christmas
This was a half hour TV special from the hey day of the CPKs. A bunch of the kids travel to NYC to find "the Christmas Spirit."
They end up running into a bunch of pickpockets and a couple that wants a child. For some reason this couple didn't know adoption was possible until the Cabbage Patch Kids tell them about it.
Before that, they just roam New York moping around saying "I wish there was someway WE could have a child."
Then they jump at the chance to "adopt" as if it was some kind of new technology.
They were really stupid.
I bet they cut out a scene where the kids explain "sex" to the couple.
Rating ***

December 18: Santa Conquers the Martians
This is the notoriously bad flick about aliens that kidnap Santa so he can make toys for their kids.
Oddly enough Santa never actually conquers the martians. He just sorta goes along with them.
It should have been called Santa Pacifies the Martians.
Also notable is that a young Pia Zadora is in this film. I know who she is and that she's famous, but I don't know exactly why.
Rating *

December 19: Jingle All the Way
A fun and funny flick where the Governor of California has to find an action figure on Christmas Eve. The movie moves fast, but seems to operate on an impossible time line. I WISH I could get so much done in one day.
The ending is absurd, but for this film it's perfect.
Rating ***

December 20: Simpson's Christmas 2005
Three different stories were told in this year's Christmas episode. In the first, Homer and Marge are Mary and Joesph with Bart filling the role of Jesus. The second features Grandpa shooting down Santa. In the third they do a retelling of The Nutcracker. Man does that song ever get stuck in your head.
Rating **

December 21: Mr. T and Emmanuel Lewis in a Christmas Dream
I talked about this last year. You can read that article here . No list of Christmas programs would be complete without it!
Rating ****

December 22: Narnia: The Lion The Witch and the Wardrobe
This is sort of a cheat because the film isn't really a Christmas film. Still, it features Father Christmas and has a talking lion. I like talking lions.
Rating ***

December 23: Elf
I was really disappointed by this. I thought it was called ALF. I liked how he talked. I think he was a lion. Wasn't he?
I like Will Farrell too. This film is one of the best Christmas films ever. It's original and classic, funny and touching. I loved it.
Rating ****

December 24: It's a Wonderful Life
My all time favorite. The scene I like the best is when Donna Reed screams "He's making violent love to me, Mother." Watch for that part. It's arousing and disturbing at the same time.
Rating ****

December 25: The Muppet Christmas Carol
The songs are amazingly catchy in this Muppet musical. I love it. I also watching Gonzo and Rizzo. Great way to cap off the Christmas season.
Rating ***

Check out last year's Christmas:
Christmas 2004
12 articles of holiday hilarity. Ho ho ho, ha ha ha.(more)


  1. Feel free to comment as many times as you like. But, knowing this bunch I will STILL keep my hand on my wallet.

  2. Anonymous12/02/2005

    What's that over there?

  3. Anonymous12/02/2005

    I can't wait to see what makes it on the list. I've never seen Santa vs. The Snowman but I'm all too familiar with Rudolph. My wife forces me to watch all the Rankin/Bass specials every year. I end up spending December with the Miser brothers songs stuck in my head along with that one about the cat with yellow green eyes (yellow green eyes).

  4. Yeah, I feel your pain... in advance. I bought the 5 pack of Rankin/Bass Christmas flicks. I plan to check em all out.

    Interestingly, I bought King Kong Escapes and THAT was a Rankin/Bass Production!

  5. Anonymous12/05/2005

    I like to watch Rudolph because it reminds me of when I was a little boy. We used to watch it on the couch and I would eat cookies. Or a cake. Or a pot roast... OH GOD! WHY AM I SO FAT?

  6. Anonymous12/05/2005

    Rudolph and Frosty's Christmas in July makes me mad. It always gets shown during Christmas even though it takes place in July! It's like showing a Halloween special for Easter.

    I'm curious where you got the Disney World DVD. I'd love to see how they promote it since I've spent a Christmas at WDW and it wasn't any more magical than any other trip.

    The big parade I always associate with Christmas morning doesn't actually happen in the morning, but every afternoon. The televised version is prerecorded, which is normally done over multiple days but the year we went they did it all on one Saturday and used cast members as the crowd.

    The global celebration of Christmas at Epcot was pretty interesting though. I even got harassed by the Monkey King!

  7. Rudolph is pretty good, but I always wondered why Mrs. Claus seems to be Italian in this one while she is not Italian in later Rankin and Bass specials like Santa Claus is comin' to town and The year without a Santa Claus. I am also bothered as to why Rankin and Bass made Frosty the snowman and Twas the night before Christmas as cartoons instead of doing them like Rudolph and the others. Oh, well, that's probably just me.

  8. Cravipat: Good point about the parade. Disneyland already filmed the Christmas parade for this year. In fact, the Hollywood Christmas parade has also been filmed as well.
    As for the DVD, I bought it at WDW. Shoot me an email and I will see if I can get you a copy.

    Metal Mark: As a kid, it bothered me that Frosty and Rudolph could be in the same universe since one was cartoon and one was stop motion. It also bothered me that Bert on Sesame Street had one eyebrow.
    I didn't notice her to be Italian, though. Was there a scene I missed where she made spaghetti while listening to Tony Bennett and talking about the mafia?

  9. Anonymous12/06/2005

    I don't need the video that bad. I thought maybe it was a free promo from their website or something.

  10. Jenn, I am sitting on Mickey Mouse. And frankly, I love it.

  11. Fragile - Must be Italian

  12. Anonymous12/07/2005

    I auditioned for the lead in Reindeer Games but they said I couldn't play (in any Reindeer Games).

  13. Anonymous12/07/2005

    I've only now noticed that there seem to be some sort of protrusions on your Santa hat in that picture. Are you insinuating that Saint Nick is really some sort of alien insect?

  14. Yes. He's an Italian insect.

  15. Anonymous12/08/2005

    Thanks for the link to last years articles. BTW, I am getting much more comfortable with my looks through therapy. Lots of therapy.

  16. Santa Claus is comin' to town is pretty cool. I remember Rankin and Bass had an Easter Bunny is comin' to town which was of course very similiar. It's not out on dvd, but I think I have it on vhs somewhere.

  17. Never saw that Easter Bunny one. I did notice the whole Italian accent thing, however.

  18. Anonymous12/08/2005

    I liked Reindeer Games. Especially Charlize Theron topless. Tres magnifice!

    Hot dogs! Get your hot dogs here!

  19. Anonymous12/08/2005

    My favorite parts of the Rankin and Bass specials are the subtle hints that Santa has an anger management problem. In Santa Claus Is Comin' To Town, when he first comes to Sombertown the kids interrupt his song with questions and he yells, "I'm telling you why!" at them. In The Year Without a Santa Claus, he yells at his wife claiming she is up to something.

    Maybe he should get some counseling.

  20. That is absolutly HYSTERICAL. I love the second angry Santa photo.

  21. Anonymous12/09/2005

    This is the second time I've heard about Ths Best Christmas Pageant Ever this year. The name rings a bell but I can't remember anything about it even with that description.

  22. In fairness to the Veggie Tales here is a mini review:

    This tells the story of toymaker that makes a toy that has a buzz saw in his hand. He learns the true meaning of Christmas and about the birth of Jesus.

    The highlight though, were the interstitals which featured a cucumber leaving cookies out for a tomato Santa.

  23. The spell check always want to change Eyeore to Eyesore.

    Did you mean Eyesore?

    Yes, I did. I meant "The most interesting change was Eyesore. He became happy.
    At then end they all revert to their normal personalities, including Eyeore."

  24. Anonymous12/15/2005

    I'm Gumby Dammit!

  25. Anonymous12/15/2005

    I'm a transvestite lovin' hack, dammit!

  26. I still have the Santa Conquers the Martians theme stuck in my head. "Hooray for Santy Claus!"

  27. Every review of Santa Claus mentions that a young Pia Zadora is in this one. However, I was more inpressed that the guy that played Ralph the doorman on the Jeffersons was in it as a reporter.

  28. Mark, Thank you! I was so sure I knew that guy but I couldn't place him.

  29. Anonymous12/29/2005

    Jingle All the Way is an average Christmas movie for kids. Think Walt Disney drinking egg nog and doing freestyle Christmas in Hollis rap with Arnold Schwarzenegger. Christmas family movie basics are here, with Slapstick style and CGI effects thrown in for good measure. Expect these and if you are still interested, you will be entertained. Nothing spectacular here. Just pure family Christmas movie fun. Could have used better screenplay and editing. Throughout watching this film I got the sense that the film makers were perhaps trying to make this unique to the average Hollywood action film. They failed, of course, but you have to give them credit for trying. Peter Hyams actually tried directing this time, instead of just churning out another flat action film. He attempted to inject atmosphere into the movie by darkening the lights and adding tons of blood. This method can work if used correctly (see "Se7en") but here it just feels like a cheap trick to try and scare us. Hyams is a decent action director, and offers nothing more here than basic shoot outs and fight scenes, except for the lackluster, sub par f/x end "battle". As a photographer, Hyams demonstrates actual ability, displaying some good frame work and movement, but it is nothing above solid work.

    At parts, the script actually shows the makings of good religious thriller, and at times it even shows some quasi-intellectual, but these small pluses are choked out by a river of negatives. Generic dialogue/characters, gapping plot holes, and convenient plot points that just happen to point all the characters in the right direction are just a few of the standard Hollywood black holes Marlowe's screenplay falls into. The shadow of the good movie it could have been faded very quickly.

    Hyams looked like he was trying to separate this from the faceless mass of Hollywood action films. He was heading in the right direction, but had neither the script or originality to take it there.

    Only for fans of family semi-slapstick comedy movies and big fans of the lead actors.

  30. I saw that when you first posted the Mr. T/Emmanuel Lewis Christmas special post that someone requested you contact them because they were in it... well, here's another. During that year, I was attending Junior High School WITH Emmanuel... he invited a bunch of us to the taping, and (I think) three of us actually made it into the show! Into the party scene at the end... and of course, as the family sat around watching this masterpiece, no one pushed 'record' on the vcr... and I've been searching for a copy ever since. As such, I respectfully request your assistance in tracking a copy down... ... Thanks!

    By the way... how can you forget 'How the KISS saved Christmas' - Animated... an absolute must see! ~b