Tuesday, December 11, 2007

You'd Better Watch Out!

Well Superfans, another holiday show has come and gone, and sadly (depending on your point of view) this means it will be another whole year until Can’t Stop the Music returns. For some this will no doubt be a cause to rejoice, but I must confess I am amazed at how much this film continues to entertain upon repeat viewings. Truly, I laughed just as hard this time as I did the first. Furthermore, I always manage to discover new information with each viewing. As an example, this is the first time I was paying attention at the beginning when the ad exec explains that they are planning a campaign to advertise milk. I had always been puzzled as to the origin of the Milkshake dance sequence, and now understand it is tied back to a fleeting scene at the beginning of the film. Up until this viewing I just assumed it was part of the random insanity that is so much a part of CSTM!

On a related note, when checking my email this morning I was notified of a new post by Fantasmo All-Star Craig. The post started as follows: “Just saw this tonight, and I admit that it was a very hard film to watch. I agree that the very real horror of this film . . . “. Up until the word film, I thought he was talking about CSTM : ) Turns out, he’d just seen The Mist! That being said, having heard Craig’s review of CSTM, I’m sure he would start out a post reviewing the Village People epic in much the same way. In any event , as long as you keep demanding it, we’ll keep showing it at the holiday show. Who knows what plot points I will discover next year!

Speaking of the holidays, Fantasmo regular (and founding member of Klaxar’s Focus Group) George Booker recently dropped me a message asking about ideas for “alternative” Christmas films. You know the kind of film we’re talking about here. The film may involve Christmas or be set at Christmas, but is not a Christmas film in the traditional sense (e.g. It’s a Wonderful Life). It was such a great question, I thought it might be fun to share my answer on the blog. So here’s a list (in no particular order) for those of you who need an escape from the likes of Miracle on 34th Street, White Christmas, A Christmas Carol, etc. . . .

1 – Better Off Dead (1985): Set during Christmas, this 80’s cult comedy finds John Cusack trying a number creative ways to kill himself after his high school sweetheart dumps him. An infinitely quotable film, worth seeing for the evil paperboy alone!

2 – Die Hard (1988): An action classic that needs no introduction. Bruce Willis delivers the holiday gift of hot lead to a team of terrorists who take over a skyscraper on Christmas Eve.

3 – Lethal Weapon (1987): Mel Gibson stars as a suicidal policeman coping with the loss of his wife during the “silly season.” Luckily he has Gary Busey to distract him. (Look for a cameo by Fantasmo favorite Tom “The Man” Atkins).

4 – Gremlins (1984): Zach Galligan (Waxwork) receives a mogwai for Christmas and makes the unfortunate mistake of feeding it after midnight. Luckily he has Phoebe Cates to distract him.

5 – Silent Night, Deadly Night (1984): This one caused a major stir in the early 80’s, and is probably the most notorious alternative Christmas film. A young boy witnesses a killer dressed as Santa murder his parents, goes insane, and repeats the crime when he grows up. Not a great film, but certainly the best in this series. (See also: Silent Night, Deadly Night 2-5).

6 – Christmas Evil (1980): Probably the best entry in the “evil Santa” sweepstakes, this one follows another fellow obsessed with Santa. When folks doubt his authenticity, he goes off the deep end. This one plays up the dark humor over the grisly kills (e.g. Silent Night, Deadly Night) and is better off for it.

7 – Black Christmas (1974): One of the first, most effective slasher films out of the gate. Directed by Bob Clark (who ironically would later go on to do A Christmas Story), Black Christmas has a psychotic killer stalking sorority sisters at their largely deserted dormitory over Christmas break. Also features a great cult cast including Margot Kidder (Superman), Keir Dullea (2001: A Space Odyssey), and the one and only John Saxon (Enter the Dragon)! Christmas + John Saxon = Holiday Magic!

8 – Brazil (1985): Terry Gilliam’s futuristic, dark comedy follows Jonathan Pryce as a hopeless dreamer struggling to survive in a dystopian nightmare. The film is set primarily at Christmas, and features some truly inspired gift-giving!

9 – Eyes Wide Shut (1999): Stanley Kubrick’s final film features Tom Cruise undertaking a dangerous odyssey on the streets of New York after an argument with then-spouse Nicole Kidman. Ultimately he lands square in the middle of a cult ceremony that could spell his doom! All during the height of the holiday season!

10 – Tales From the Crypt (1972): Great anthology film with a standout segment featuring Joan Collins being stalked by who else but a deranged Santa! Be sure to stick around for the rest of the movie, it’s terrific!

So there are 10 great cult holiday gems to get you started on your own marathon. Please feel free to post others here on the blog, and share the joy of the season with your Team Fantasmo and fellow Superfans! Also, final details will be coming soon for our New Year episode, which will feature a return to horror movies!!

Happy Holidays!!


george booker said...

i need to throw more half baked ideas at you, because this list is great.

i'm dissapointed that you neglected "bad santa".

perhaps its a bit recent and successful for your tastes, but believe me, this film is timeless.

the best thing terry zwigoff will ever do (not a small honor considering "crumb" and "ghost world").

also, along with a perfect deadpan performance in the coen brothers' "the man who wasn't there" (a recent overlooked classic), billy bob thornton's uncompromising comic powerhouse turn in "bad santa" (produced by the coens) proves thornton to be kind of a genius as a performer. his performance here can stand alongside the best of wc fields in comic misanthropy and late stage alcoholism.

zwigoff gets the comic framing and exaggeration down, and the rest of the cast is great, particularly tony cox, bernie mac, and john ritter.

also, i'm glad you agree with the late 80s action masterpieces being overlooked as holiday gems.

a similar list popped up on the internet and took it a step further, constructing a "shane black christmas trilogy", following up "lethal weapon" with "the long kiss goodnight" and "kiss kiss bang bang" as perfectly grouchy, ultraviolent december entertainments.

humbug indeed.

Jim Blanton said...

Hey George,
I arbitrarily kept it to a top 10 list, but Bad Santa is of course totally appropriate. I also limited it to films I've seen, but Bad Santa will definitely be on my list this year! I didn't realize Terry Zwigoff directed it!! Really loved both Crumb and Ghost World.

As for Billy Bob, he is absolutely a genius at times. I loved him in Sling Blade and Man Who Wasn't There, but have sort of lost track of him due to choices like Armageddon, Bad News Bears, etc. He's great when doing quirky roles, but he seems to end up in generic Hollywood stuff frequently (a paycheck is a paycheck).

Oh man, a Shane Black Christmas trilogy - that is inspired! I'd forgotten about Long Kiss Goodnight being in the wintry season, and have yet to see Kiss Kiss Bang Bang (have to add that to my list this year too : )

Great stuff - keep 'em coming! I also should add Die Hard 2: Die Harder and Curse of the Cat People to that list.

Craig said...


- how about Jack Frost??? Not the Keaton one, but the killer snowman movie? It sells itself! Stay away from the sequel at all costs, tho!

I'm all about some Die Hard for a Christmas film as well. And what about Batman Returns???

Jim Blanton said...

I completely forgot about Jack Frost!! Great suggestion!! I also didn't realize they made a sequel (guess the first one left too may loose threads : ) Yeah right! Actually, although I've never seen it, I always thought the Michael Keaton one looked unintentionally creepy.

And speaking of Keaton, Batman Returns is also a great choice. For my money, it's the best of the Batman films (Keaton or otherwise). It's incredibly dark (as Batman should be), and doesn't delve into so much silliness as many of the others do. I know people really liked the Christian Bale film, but it just didn't do much for me. Despite my initial reservations, I think Keaton did an outstanding job in the role, that no other actor has managed to equal as of yet (end tangent).

george booker said...

total tangeant...

any outkast fans here? i am officially proposing "idlewild" as a fantasmo title.

dismal box office.

batshit ambition.

andre benjamin plays a tortured musician/mortician's apprentice who ends up singing an amazing (and creepy) ballad ("she lives in my lap")to the corpse of the female lead as he is making her up.

very in keeping with the occasional "hugely popular pop musical act makes a misguided pop musical" nights, and this one has the bonus of being a really inspired piece of cinema along with its wacky (southern black prohibition era!) story.

anyway, what led me to this...does anybody, particularly the outkast fans (if the fellow geeks and fanboys haven't gotten into them, just listen to ATLiens in its entirety and then talk to me), remember the first outkast hit, "player's ball"? do you remember it in its first incarnation, as a XMAS SONG?

strange, but true.

and beautiful.