Watching Christmas on TV

I love the Christmas season and many of the things that come along with it, like the music, the decorations, and the movies.

When it comes to the movies though I like the classics; Miracle on 34th Street, It’s A Wonderful Life, A Christmas Story, Emmet Otter’s Jug-Band Christmas, among others.  My wife on the other hand – well, she likes those too but she also can spend countless hours watching those awful, made-for-tv, Lifetime & Hallmark channel holiday movies.  I often watch them with her, half-heartedly, playing on the laptop or Kindle. (I mean, those green pigs aren’t going to knock themselves over, are they?)

We watched one this weekend on GMC called “Christmas Angel” – and while I am certainly not implying that it was “good”, or that a movie starring Teri Polo, Della Reese, & Kevin Sorbo is fine cinema in any way, shape, or form – it did teach a moderately important lesson.

The lesson was that watching absolutely anything other than Lindsay Lohan in “Liz & Dick” was probably a good idea.

(Just kidding… kind of.)

No, the lesson was not so much stated outright as it was implied – and maybe I read too much into it – but it’s something that I strongly believe.  The lesson I took from it was that maybe we should spend less time looking for angels or praying for miracles, and more time BEING angels; HELPING those in need, PUTTING our hands & feet where our mouths are, FEEDING the hungry, CLOTHING the naked… BEING the change we want to see in this world!

Don’t get me wrong – praying for miracles has its place.  But sometimes we need to get off of our rumps and do those things that we can take care of ourselves.  Sometimes we can be the answer to other’s prayers just by putting out the effort.

But that’s just my opinion.


A Plethora of Pinatas

At some point today, I challenge each and every reader of my blog to perform the Three Amigos Salute for a random audience.

You know the one: Shoulder, Shoulder, Hips, Head-Turn, Thrust!

You can do it!

I only bring this up now because I have already done it once today…

in front of basically every person that works in the office and factory…

first thing this morning.


It wasn’t until after that I thought to myself, “perhaps that was a bad idea.”

May the Fourth Be With You

Nearly everyone that knows me also knows that I am a big fan of the Star Wars franchise.  I was a mere six years old when the first movie was released. Granted, I was too young to understand most of it. All I knew for sure was that it was the first movie that I had ever seen that absolutely blew me away. I instantly fell in love with the whole Star Wars universe. I wanted a lightsaber, a landspeeder, a pair of droids and an old to dude to mentor me and tell me lies so bad I could taste it.

These needs could only be fulfilled with an assortment of plastic dolls… *cough* I mean, “action figures” and whatever other toys and accessories I could talk mom or grandma into buying me. I must’ve been pretty good at it though, because I ended up with a ton of great stuff. My pride and joy was an AT-AT (All Terrain Armored Transport) that was as big as a dog. It wreaked havoc on countless miniature villages and stuffed animals, and was destroyed in a thousand fiery explosions. But it always came back the next day to try it all again. The Empire never gave up!

It was awesome.

Yes, I was a geek before being a geek, for whatever oddball reason, became cool.

George Lucas has been quoted as saying that Star Wars has three distinct generations of fans. The first (which I am obviously a part of) that fell in love with the original trilogy, the second who were captivated by the second trilogy, and the third that the Clone Wars animated series caters to week after week. A fourth generation might have their own piece of the universe too if a rumored second animated series is released for younger fans, based on the Galactic Heroes line of toys.

But for me, that’s part of the magic.

I remember in 1997, when Star Wars was re-released as a Special Edition in theaters on its 20th anniversary, sitting in the back of a theater in Fairview Heights and watching all of the dads bringing their young kids in to see it for the first time. It was a sentimental moment; one generation sharing something that it loved, something that changed it in a significant way, with the next generation. It was a very cool feeling.

Some dads may share a love of baseball or football with their kids. Some may share fishing or hunting. Still others may share… I don’t know… glass blowing or something. But the geeks of my generation got, and continue to get these opportunities to share with their kids a story that happened long ago, in a galaxy far far away.

Let the Wild Rumpus Start!

Tomorrow, the movie adaptation of Maurice Sendak’s 1963 children’s book Where the Wild Things Are opens in theaters.

maxOur house is torn.

On one hand, it looks awesome! Spike Jonze appears to have done a great job capturing the spirit of the book. And the monsters look like updated versions of Sid and Marty Krofft characters combined with Jim Henson’s creatures in the Dark Crystal, not to mention remaining very true to Sendak’s original drawings.

It’s safe to say that it’s receiving mixed reviews. But out of the 46 compiled by Rotten Tomatoes, 63% are positive. Most of the negative comments say something about whether or not Sendak’s nine sentence picture book was substantial enough to merit a feature length film.

Which brings us to the other hand…

One of the things that my wife is passionate about is children’s literature and how important it is for parents to read to their kids. We both have claimed for years that Where the Wild Things Are ranks high on both of our lists of favorite children’s books. We have bought it for friends that were expecting and own multiple copies ourselves. It is simply a wonderful book.

Yes, it is only nine sentences long. Yes, it is classified as a “picture book”. But the story is deep and nuanced, dealing with topics that hadn’t really been touched previously in the medium. What’s not spelled out on the pages is just as important, if not more so, than what is. It’s about how children deal with difficult situations, anger, and the reality that life isn’t always rosy. How sometimes we deal with our emotions by escaping into fantasy and our imaginations. But at the end of the day we have to come home to the warm embrace of someone who loves us.

It is always difficult when someone wants to take something so beloved by so many, and update it for a younger and more modern audience. People like us are adamant that these things don’t really need updating. The next generation simply needs to be exposed to it in the same way that we were. The book itself is a brilliant work of art and shouldn’t be perverted by making it into something that it was never intended to be for the sake of making another buck.

I understand these arguments and for the most part agree with them. But every time I see a preview or a trailer for the movie adaptation, my heart beats a little bit faster and I can’t fight the desire to see it.

Like I said before, it looks awesome!

Now, convincing my strong-willed, traditionalist, Kindergarten teaching wife to see it with me is a whole other story!

Howlin’ At The Moon

dvdcadillac-recordsSo I finally watched Cadillac Records over the weekend. To be honest, I wasn’t sure I wanted to. I guess I had mixed feelings, mostly because of the casting of Beyonce Knowles as the legendary Miss Etta James. It just seemed wrong for a woman who I generally don’t like and have little respect for to play a woman I love, who’s music I have listened to basically my entire life. But I got over my disdain for the choice and rented it anyway.

It was a good movie, as long as you’re not a stickler for facts. I think I liked it more than the wife, probably because Willie and I were raised on much of this music. The story was good. Nobody was put on a pedestal or portrayed as a mystic figure roaming around in the shadows (I’m looking at you, Elvis in Walk The Line! By far the silliest part of that movie was how the king was presented). But nobody was hung out to dry either. The acting was excellent. Even Beyonce didn’t do a bad job. She wasn’t nearly as distracting as I thought she was going to be.

I really thought that once I watched it I would have an overwhelming desire to listen to my old Etta James music. But I was wrong. More than anything, it made me want to listen to Howlin’ Wolf! He’s only a minor player in the story, but a very interesting and very well-played one. Add that to the fact that I am battling yet another round with the common cold, chest congestion, cough, etc. which makes me feel like I sound like the Wolf myself, and I just can’t help it…

Friday Five – Graphic Novels

Here’s a bizarre Friday Five topic with which to kick off the new year. We went to see the new movie adaptation of Will Eisner’s comic book The Spirit last week. It’s a genre of movie that I tend to like, especially when they’re based on really good books and stories.


Sin City – Flying Burrito Brothers: Frank Miller’s Sin City graphic novel series is one of my favorites, and I was equally impressed by the movie. Miller is a master at weaving multiple plot-lines together into one cohesive story when you least expect it. He is also responsible for 300 and creating much darker themes and story-lines for both Daredevil & Batman. Speaking of which…

Dark Night – the Blasters: First of all, the movie The Dark Knight was NOT based on the acclaimed Frank Miller graphic novel The Dark Knight Returns, (unfortunately). It is a brilliant book that not only started a darker, more adult themed comic book revolution, but also heavily influenced Tim Burton’s Batman.

Gentleman – The Afghan Whigs: The League of Extraordinary Gentlemen is not my favorite Alan Moore book or movie, but it was the easiest to find a song for. Both V for Vendetta and From Hell were better movies and Watchmen is one of my all-time favorite graphic novels. I am also looking forward to its film adaptation later this year, the trailer for which is linked to from the picture above if you’re interested.

Spirits in the Material World – The Police: Will Eisner’s the Spirit is a campy, funny, noir comic that often pokes fun at its own genre and medium. But it is often celebrated as introducing us to the first middle-class hero. He is often rumpled and disheveled, get’s beat up a lot, and is constantly womanizing.

Ghost in This House – Allison Krauss: Daniel Clowes’ cult-classic comic series Ghost World was adapted to the screen in 2001. Both were praised for their realistic, slice-of-life examinations of two recent high school graduates trying to adapt to adulthood. It’s cynical, funny, and heart-breaking. I know it’s a departure from the rest of the list, not being action, mystery, or about super heroes; but I highly recommend it anyway.

Favorite Christmas Movie/Special Moment, Part 4

The Year Without A Santa Claus

sick_santaI love all of the classic Rankin/Bass stop-motion animated holiday shows, even Rudolph with all of the evil and reprehensible supporting characters, but TYWASC is one my all-time favorites; in part because of those two bizarre random characters, Snowmiser & Heatmiser, Mother Nature’s sons. The live-action remake was terrible and I cringe when I see the commercials for the new “sequel”, but the original is fantastic.

Friday Five – Creature Feature

I love classic monster & horror movies, which could be a contributing factor to my love for Halloween in general. And this time of year makes me want to watch them even more than usual. I at least partially blame AMC’s MonsterFest (now called FearFest) for solidifying that tradition back in the 90’s, and my brother Willie who keeps buying the collections for me from my Amazon Wish List for perpetuating it.

This week’s five (or seven actually) is one song for each of some of my favorite classic horror movies.

Dracula (Bela Lugosi’s 1931 masterpiece):
Blood & Roses – The Smithereens

Frankenstein (Boris Karloff, 1931 – not the first Frankenstein film, but certainly the best in my opinion):
So Alive – Love & Rockets

The Mummy (1932, more Boris Karloff):
Wrap It Up – The Fabulous Thunderbirds

White Zombie (1932, Bela Lugosi in what is considered to be the very first “Zombie” movie ever):
Wake Up Dead Man – U2

The Invisible Man (1933, Claude Rains- based on classic H.G. Wells novel):
Have You Seen Me Lately – Counting Crows

The Wolfman (1941, Lon Chaney Jr. – much better than Universal’s first film on the subject, Werewolf of London, in 1924):
Bark At The Moon – Ozzie Osborne

Creature From The Black Lagoon: (1954, starring Ben Chapman on land and Ricou Browning in underwater scenes):
Swamp – Talking Heads