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Marvel Presents Salò

Movies, music, miscellany…

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December 2015

The Fifth Film Of Christmas – A Very Harold & Kumar 3D Christmas

045 A Very Harold And Kumar 3D Christmas

It’s impossible to celebrate Christmas until a couple of estranged stoners, on a mission to replace a Christmas tree, journey through New York City on Christmas Eve and encounter a violent Eastern European drug lord, become claymation characters after drinking spiked eggnog, join a stage performance of The Nutcracker starring Neil Patrick Harris, are saved from certain death by a lovestruck waffle making robot and accidentally shoot Santa. Although this film is puerile, offensive and morally questionable, it is certainly the most fun of any of the Christmas films I have watched so far and probably the one that most successfully contains some kind of Christmas cheer.

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The Fourth Film Of Christmas – A Christmas Tale

045 A Christmas Tale

If anything captures the spirit of Christmas, it’s the angry booze fuelled gathering of a bourgeois family whose bitterness and loathing toward each other is palpable and who use charity as just another weapon to express their spite for one another. I would say that it’s unlikely that Arnaud Desplechin’s A Christmas Tale will replace Bob Clark’s similarly titled A Christmas Story as the go to cheery feel good Christmas movie of the masses, but it is quite an exceptional film, just one that is probably best watched around June. After all, just like pets, loathing and disgust are forever, not just for Christmas. A Christmas Tale is also a film which is impossible to discuss without giving the gift of quite detailed spoilers, so if you think that the passive-aggressive gathering of a French family who are tainted by hatred and betrayal is your kind of thing, you should probably watch the film before reading on.

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The Third Film Of Christmas – Scrooged

045 Scrooged Tree

Christmas is a time for peace on Earth and goodwill to all mankind, a time for giving and receiving, a time to remember others less fortunate than ourselves, but most of all it’s a time for endless remakes, reboots and reimaginings of Charles Dickens’ 1843 novella A Christmas Carol. Richard Donner’s Scrooged is one such adaptation and it’s a hot mess. As with any competent Christmas film, Scrooged opens with Santa and his elves in a battle with armed terrorists, with a voiceover informing us “Psychos seize Santa’s workshop and only Lee Majors can stop them in… The Night The Reindeer Died”. It’s then revealed that we’re watching a television screen, which cuts to Robert Goulet crooning as he paddles along a swamp in the advertisement for Bob Goulet’s Old Fashioned Cajun Christmas. The final ad we see for Father Loves Beaver, is so brutally unsubtle it is basically a single entendre, which makes me laugh every time I see it, of course.

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The Second Film Of Christmas – Meet Me In St. Louis

045 Meet Me In St Louis

What says Christmas more than a movie that is quite possibly the prequel to Blue Velvet and is set over pretty much the course of an entire year? Well probably a lot of things, but Meet Me In St. Louis is the film that was drawn out of the hat, so here we go… Opening on a street with a horse-drawn carriage to let us know it’s ye olde times, we are taken into the Smith family home. Instantly we are drawn into a seemingly endless series of critiques on the flavour and texture of the soup. Rather than view this as some kind of Masterchef style cooking show critique as it seems to become over the course of a few minutes, I prefer to read it as the deeply cynical judgements of an angry screenwriter, bitterly pronouncing their characters as “too sour” or “too thick” and raising their middle finger to the upper middle class… Although I’m probably wrong about that.

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The First Film Of Christmas – Die Hard

045 Die Hard

Nothing says Christmas more than Bruce Willis in a wifebeater surrounded by explosions, shooting a bunch of European criminals. Die Hard is one of my favourite Christmas movies, for the simple reason that it’s a massively enjoyable movie that is coincidentally set somewhere around Christmas. Once you get past being bludgeoned over the head by the 80s anachronisms (in the first five minutes we see a series of terrifying hairstyles and fashion choices, Bruce Willis carrying his gun on the plane, people smoking in the airport, outrageous workplace sexual harassment and Bonnie Bedelia), you can settle into the exposition, which lets us know that we are in “California!” because people are apparently different there, that the Nakatomi Plaza is a state of the art building controlled by computers (which are probably not to be trusted), Bruce’s wife is [gasp] using her maiden name in the workplace and that they may or may not celebrate Christmas in Japan.

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John Grant – Grey Tickles, Black Pressure

039 Grey Tickles Black Pressure

There’s not really any question in my mind that John Grant’s first solo album Queen Of Denmark is the best album of the past ten years. Musically, it is a dazzling 70s AOR masterpiece, which is filled with some of the smartest, funniest and most brutal lyrics you will hear. With his second album Pale Green Ghosts, John Grant’s distinctive baritone and acerbic wit were wonderfully matched to an 80s synth-pop inspired sound with the occasional soaring anthem (“GMF” and “Glacier”).

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Eclipse Series 44: Julien Duvivier In The Thirties

037 Julien Duvivier In The Thirties

The stated aim of The Criterion Collection’s Eclipse Series is to curate a “selection of lost, forgotten, or overshadowed classics in simple, affordable editions”, with each volume “a brief cinemateque retrospective for the adventurous home viewer”. Due to the relative obscurity of the majority of titles in this series, the films are DVD only and with prints of variable quality, however the real goal is to simply make these films available to a wider audience. The previous releases in the Eclipse Series have been divided between collections of lesser known films by important directors (Early Bergman, Silent Ozu, Late Ray, The First Films Of Akira Kurosawa) and collections of films from overlooked directors or movements (Travels With Hiroshi Shimizu, Three Popular Films By Jean-Pierre Gorin, Pearls Of The Czech New Wave, Nikkatsu Noir).

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