Posted by Pablo Kjolseth on December 21, 2008
I remember spending one perfectly nice Christmas day in my dark basement watching Cannibal Holocaust. Now, aside for that whole business of eating the body of Christ during the Last Supper, this was clearly not a Eucharist-themed movie spree I was engaged in (although, hey! – there’s an idea)… Nah, this was just a bloody and depressing mistake on my part – but one I was able to indulge in since my family celebrates Christmas Eve together and then leaves me to my own devices on Christmas proper. While I’m not exactly sure what I’m going to watch this December 25th, there’s a good chance it’ll be on the dark side because, to make a cliche out of appropriate movie titles, Bad Habits.. Die Hard. It’s not that I’m a nihilist myself, but I do feel a kinship to those who might smuggle in a copy of Nietzsche to a Sunday mass so as to appreciate the sermon that much more. With that in mind, here are my (unholy) three, in – of course – descending order:
3. I Am Legend
Lots of Christmas themes abound in this recent big budget production. Many of which are exactly why I originally avoided this film. At first, I couldn’t stomach the idea of Richard Matheson’s dark masterpiece being mangled by the inevitable mechanics that would be introduced into a Will Smith project, which would obviously invert the originally ending to make things more palatable for a wider audience. But I finally broke down last week when I was in need of a Blu-Ray to test a new HD projector and all my other choices were checked out. Maybe it helped that my expectations were so low, or that I screened the alternate version, or that the HD presentation itself was fantastic, but either way: I was totally engaged.
Why was this film such an unexpected stocking-stuffer for me? Because I’m a total sucker for scenes of weed-infested and vacated cityscapes. Sure, the original story took place in L.A., but New York’s highly condensed and towering vertical nature have long made it an obvious favorite for the many sci-fi and disaster films that are out there (ie: Vanilla Sky or The Day After Tomorrow). Plus, the zombie rats were great. The zombie dogs were pretty good. And even some of the “sleeping” human zombie-huddles had a chilling effect. Sadly, once they turned into fast-running zombie-mobs the CGI becomes more obvious and reduces things to the artificial level of a video game. There’s a lot of nonsense toward the end that I could have done without, but my mind was sort of doing one of those “Garfield minus Garfield” things where I mentally airbrushed out the characters I didn’t care for and soaked in those existential vistas of the deserted city. (To sample Garfield minus Garfield go to: http://garfieldminusgarfield.net/)
Speaking of existentialism, my next choice for a Christmas Wasteland also has a black heart for New York City:
2. Blast of Silence
I recently wrote a DVD review for this and noted how director Allen Baron almost alienated his investors by creating such a nasty, angry, and bitter protagonist. Despite admonishments:
For the full review go to:
Saving the best for last, and of no surprise to anyone who knows me, is one of my all-time favorites:
I owe the Santa Claus in Brazil my entire livelihood. Why? Because when I first saw trailers for Brazil they included these menacing shots of a guy in a Santa Claus outfit that creeped me out. And yet, when I saw the film theatrically, those shots of Santa Claus were entirely missing from the film. So I saw Brazil again, and again, and – nope – still no creepy Santa Claus shots. And Brazil just kept getting better with repeat screenings, thus deepening my enthusiasm for the film. So then I did some research in the library stacks (yes, kids, that’s right, some people are so old they actually had to do research without the internet or Google), and there I came across Jack Mathews book: The Battle of Brazil (1987).
As a film programmer for a calendar film series I then made it my goal to bring the European version of Brazil to the United States, spending the better part of a year exchanging phone calls and faxes with a Monty Python agent, Universal studio heads, and the nice people at 20th Century Fox (in England). The latter provided me with a mint-condition 35mm print that made its debut in Boulder on March 1st, 1991 – and every screening that I had, in a venue with 500 seats, was packed! In fact, it did such boffo business that Landmark took interest and then secured that same print for a national tour. (A 35mm print of the The Director’s Cut is now easily available from Universal for domestic screenings.) That experience is what cemented my passion for film programming, and I’ve been doing it ever since. It’s the gift that keeps on giving, and it also proved that, yes Virginia, there is a Santa Claus.
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