Tuesday, January 06, 2015

Mandatory Merriment



I can’t just ‘not watch’ holiday specials during the holidays!  It just feels wrong!

This leaves me with no other option than to marathon all the important holiday specials in a couple of days, before I take the decorations down! 

I’ll need an excessive amount of holiday cheer to make it through all these and still be sane, so I’m raising the stakes a bit: every time I legitimately learn a new Holiday lesson, I’ll drink a shot.

(Editor’s note: this is all pieced together from notes taken down ‘during’ the excessive holiday cheer, so they get a bit…odd toward the end. The views here do not necessarily represent the opinions of ‘Sober Max’.)


RANKIN & BASS, 1974, 22 minutes

If you don’t remember this one, just envision mice in human clothes, and one particular nerdy mouse in glasses and a Gryffindor scarf ruining Christmas for everyone.  Do anything for you?  How about this song:

“You hope, and I’ll hurry…you pray, and I’ll plan. We’ll do what’s necessary, ‘cause…even a miracle needs a hand!”

If this doesn’t ring any bells, the whole thing's here: https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=qf1ozCbTF_4

VERY loosely based on poem of the same name…in that at the end (spoiler alert) Christmas is saved, and Santa shows up to do his ‘jolly old elf’ and ‘deliver presents to needy children' shtick.  It's sort of like what Firemen do every Christmas season, only without the usefulness or heroics.

Sorry, I may have started off with a drink already.  

Basically, the cartoon's your typical ‘people don’t appreciate Santa anymore, so Chirstmas is cancelled’ sort of movie, albeit with a bit of an Orwellian twist.

You see, everything that goes wrong in this special is a direct result of an ‘intellectual’ voicing unpopular opinions, and poking his nose where he's not supposed to.   The lesson being that we can't have peace and happiness if people say things they shouldn't, things like, for example: ‘Santa is a myth’, or ‘our improper 1800’s sewage system is spreading disease’, or ‘women should have human rights’, etc, etc…

Anyway, here's the real lesson I learned:  

Very few Christmas cartoons and movies have minority characters in them.

In just 22 minutes, this cartoon has 5 minority characters in it, which is more than what all the other holiday specials I watched this year had COMBINED.  Apparently, Hollywood feels that only white people should be out of their homes in December.  Say what you want about the horrible stereotypes in the movie Santa Claus (1959, the one with Pitch the devil in it), at least non-white children EXIST in that film. 

Unfortunately, any points gained were immediately lost because of this.

Anyway, let’s keep a running tab of how many (non-offensive) minority characters we have in each movie.  And it doesn't count if they walk by in the background, the camera has to at least focus on them.  Trust me, you will not be overburdened by their number.


1984, 107 min, 1 minority (Chris Columbus movie)

First of all, I’m not counting either of the Chinese characters because of how stereotypical they both are and…wait, is that kid actually wearing a Yankees ‘short round’ hat?

Holy crap!  Neither movie even takes place in New York City!  I'd say Gremlins was ripping off Temple of Doom, but the two movies literally came out within 2 weeks of each other!  Is ‘stereotypical Chinese kid in Yankees ballcap’ an 80's trope I wasn’t aware of?

Anyway, I also listed ‘Chris Columbus’ there because his holiday movies go exceptionally out of their way to not have any non-sterotypical minority characters.  Hell, even the one non-stereotypical black character in this movie conducts painful experiments on animals, and is then killed.  Not exactly a positive representative there, Chris.

"Great, now have the character do something evil, and then kill him." -Chris Columbus

Gremlins also follows the kids movie tradition of ‘all inventors being despised by everyone’.  There was a time in the late 90’s/early 00’s where almost every kids movie had a character who tried inventing things, and was mocked and despised by everyone outside the family who knew them.

An automatic hammer?  STONE HIM!

Hell, the trend still continues today, with the Cloudy With a Chance of Meatballs, Meet the Robinsons, Despicable Me, and others.  Personally, I think it all stems from creative people (for example, like ones that create these movies) not feeling appreciated enough.  Of course this somehow translates into characters developing MURDEROUS RAGE for anyone who so much as files for a patent.

Well, enough with that, let’s watch this heartwarming puppets and JESUS CHRIST!

GOOD LORD IS THIS MOVIE VIOLENT!  I remembered it being bad, but not THIS BAD!  (I must have seen it edited for TV when I was young)

Gremlin in a blender!  Now they’re stabbing one to death!  Beheading!  Burning the severed head!  Oh Lord…NOT THE MICROWAVE!!!

(Spoiler Alert: YES, the microwave)

Wow.  Apparently, the filmmaker’s goal was to traumatize children for life.  I mean, not only is a man dressed as Santa mauled by Gremlins, they actually reveal (spoiler alert) there is no Santa!  (see original first blog post for further details).

Also, to continue this movie's crazy train, our hero’s a complete idiot.  The man tried to hide his dog under his desk while at work!  What was even the point of that?!

Okay, women love dogs. There is that.

He goes on to CONSTANTLY break the Gremlin rules, leaving us to wonder if the Chinese boy had said ‘also, never point a loaded shotgun at your own head and fire’ if we would’ve had a much shorter movie.

I know there was SOMETHING I was supposed to do with this gun...

All this said, the movie is highly entertaining, albeit not because its a holiday movie, but because it's a very fun horror-comedy.

Also, it leads to "Phoebe Cates" Google searches

Well, time for another drink!  Let’s toast it over the movie’s most important lesson:

Gizmo must die for the greater good. 

Sorry little dude, but you have to go.  

Taking both movies into consideration, this cute little guy’s existence costs at least 100 lives a year.  Our heroes need to accept that protecting Gizmo is more or less negligent homicide.  It’s time to give the little fur-ball the ‘Interview with a Vampire’ treatment.

Just tuck him under Kirsten Dunst's arm.

Mr. Hankey's Christmas Classics

1999, 23 minutes, 0 minorities (where's Chef?) aside from Mr. Garrison’s offensive song, but that's pure satire.

If you’ve never seen this one, catch it on Hulu, it’s honestly hilarious, and South Park at its top: http://www.hulu.com/watch/249810

That said, there isn’t much of a holiday lesson here.  You can only milk a poop joke for so long?  Fighting hair frizzies was a lead-worthy news story during the 70's?  South Park used to be funny?

Better just move on, before I lose my buzz.

Emmet Otter's Jugband Christmas

1978, 49 minutes, minorities N/A (Muppets)

An odd, but strangely charming Muppet special, usually forgotten in favor of the later Muppet Family Christmas or Muppet Christmas Carol.  Its most odd feature is its complete and utter lack of anything remotely relating to the holidays.

Nope, the story has nothing to do with Christmas, and neither do any of its numerous songs.  The folksy tunes it does have include topics such as: comically fat Grandmothers, washtubs without holes in the bottom, barbecues, one random love song, general brotherhood, and being really dangerous/destructive/awesome (by the villainous heavy metal band). 

Okay, the song ‘When the River Meets the Sea’ is immensely beautiful, and written specifically for this special no less, but (speaking to Paul Williams here, who did all the music for the special) did a haunting melody regarding death and the afterlife really have a place here?

Let's sing about being reunited with loved ones in death!  Merry Christmas!

Okay, we get it Paul Williams, you REALLY liked folk music.  A lot more than holiday music, apparently...

All in all, it’s more of a Mother's Day special, or just a general heart-warming story for the family.  Calling it a Christmas story just feels weird, since the most Christmas-y thing about it is snow in the background.

Making it as much a Christmas movie as ‘The Thing’

Which brings us to our next lesson and drink:

To make something a Christmas special, you just need to put snow in the background and add either the word 'Christmas' or 'Holiday' to the title.  Then it’s ‘CA-CHING’, cash city!

(Editor’s note:  at this point, the excessive 'holiday cheer' seems to be getting a bit much for Max.  The notes for the next part is just a rambling list, ranging from random observations to paranoid conspiracy theories.)

Home Alone

1990, 114 minutes, 0 minorities- not even at a major airport! (Chris Columbus again) 

What the hell do the McCallisters do for a living?  They have no apparent skills aside from losing children and screaming.

The wallpaper in their house is an abomination unto the Lord. 

Exhibit A

What the hell is with the random stuff in their basement? Okay, I can accept a record player, but several Mannequins?  A Wheelchair?  An expensive Martial Arts practice dummy?  Who in the family was practicing martial arts?  My money's on the mom. 

Who was going to water their plants while they were gone?  Weren't they going for about 2 weeks?  Those plants would all be dead when they got back! 

At what point do the phones start working again?  How’d Kevin order the pizza?  He calls the cops on the burglars on Christmas Eve, so it was working then.  Did his family really just stop trying after the first day?  

Did a child really just sear the first initial of his last name into a burglar’s hand?! 

That one's a big YES.

Is Kevin trying to outright murder these two men?! 

Again: YES.

Our lesson: 

Seriously, where the hell are all the non-white people in Christmas movies?!

Oh wait, we already did that lesson.  Let’s go with: 

Kevin is enjoying his deadly ‘Saw-like’ traps a little TOO much.  Better get some early psychological intervention.  

I know just the person who can help: Dr. Lucy Van Pelt….

(Editor’s note: At this point the notes get even weirder, with Max drunkenly reading conspiracy in absolutely everything.  

He even went over the past notes in pen, adding annotations to the ‘Twas the Night Before Christmas’ section such as 'why wouldn't they let the clock maker back in the tower? What are the authorities hiding?!')

A Charlie Brown Christmas

1965, 30 minutes, 0 minorities (nope, no Franklin)

All things considered, Lucy is actually a fairly capable Psychiatrist. 

But why did Charlie Brown think that tree was adequate?  Just look at it.

Who the hell are those twin girls? 

Why is everyone so damn mean to Charlie Brown?  We have a completely filthy child getting dirt everywhere, a boy who won’t talk about anything besides Beethoven, and a weird zealous kid that won’t put his blanket down, but we’re going to concentrate all our ridicule on the really depressed kid with the bad haircut?

Now that I mention it, why does everyone accept Linus holding a blanket all the time?  Why don’t his parents get involved?

Does Linus even exist?

Wait, what?

Is Linus just a figment of Charlie Brown's imagination?

No one ever refers to them as a pair, they’re always talking to either one or the other, and Charlie and Linus only talk to each other when no one else is around. 

That would only make sense, of course, Lucy/Sally are the same person too, two aspects to the one girl’s personality.  That would make Sally’s crush on Linus actually just her hero worship of her brother, and her ‘Lucy’ personality a personification of her unstable fits of rage. 

Getting a little weird here.

Does the Red Haired Girl even exist?

Does she REALLY exist, Chuck?

If she's real, then why haven’t we ever seen her?

What’s her name, Chuck?

If she’s real, then WHAT’S HER NAME?   

The Lesson:

Charlie Brown is a lot better when you apply Fight Club theories to it.


(Editor’s note: at this point all the notes turn into indecipherable scribbles.  From what I can tell, it’s about the Dennis Leary dark holiday comedy ‘The Ref’.  I can only make out a few lines.)

REF comma THE!

Large number!  Another large number!  Very small number!


When’s he gonna sing the ‘asshole’ song?

They should torture that teenage kid!


I'm game if she is.


(Editor’s final note: thankfully, the evening’s notes cut off there.  I’ll get to the next night as soon as Max recovers.  Happy Holidays everyone!)