Wednesday, December 31, 2008

Auld Lang Syne: Leon Redbone



Leon Redbone sings Auld Lang Syne with a little help from Merv Griffin and Johnny Carson.

The Little Match Girl

The Little Match Girl is a 1937 animated cartoon short that is part of the Color Rhapsodies series. Nominated for an Academy Award, it lost to a Disney cartoon.



This film includes the sad ending without sugar-coating the original Hans Christian Andersen tale as so often happens with his work. I remember crying the first time I read this story. It's online on one short page here.

There is a 1977 Japanese animated version at youtube here. It takes place on Christmas Eve rather than New Year's Eve as in the other one. This ending is also true to the original story.

Tuesday, December 30, 2008

While You Were Sleeping

This is another delightful romantic comedy that The Daughter introduced me to. While You Were Sleeping is perfect. It's a feel-good movie from start to finish, and I enjoyed every minute of it. The film was released in 1995 and has Peter Boyle, Jack Warden and Glynis Johns and stars Sandra Bullock, Bill Pullman and Peter Gallagher.

trailer:


EW didn't much like it. The New York Times review says,
This is a formula film, but it has the kind of good cheer and fine tuning that occasionally give slickness a good name.
Variety says,
Its success is a true testament to its cast and to Turteltaub's keen sense of balance.
Roger Ebert closes his review with this:
It's a feel-good film, warm and good-hearted, and as it was heading for its happy ending, I was still a little astonished how much I was enjoying it.

Jethro Tull: A Christmas Song



I remember driving down the road a few years ago listening to Christmas music on the radio. Then there was this flute that sounded so familiar, and I realized that Jethro Tull must have a Christmas CD out. I bought it soon after that and have enjoyed it every year.

It's a Wonderful Life

Definitely one of my least favorite of the traditional holiday films, It's a Wonderful Life is much-loved by The Husband. There's no accounting for taste, but he's not alone is his feelings about this film. It's directed by Frank Capra and stars Jimmy Stewart, Donna Reed, Lionel Barrymore, Henry Travers and Charles Lane.

trailer:



BBC says the film
achieves a fine balancing act between pathos and feel-good that is delivered by an outstanding cast.

Roger Ebert says, "What is remarkable about "It's a Wonderful Life" is how well it holds up over the years," and that it is "not just a heart-warming "message picture.""

I agree more with the New York Times review as it states
the weakness of this picture, from this reviewer's point of view, is the sentimentality of it—its illusory concept of life. Mr. Capra's nice people are charming, his small town is a quite beguiling place and his pattern for solving problems is most optimistic and facile. But somehow they all resemble theatrical attitudes rather than average realities.

The New York Times says the film is
a terrifying, asphyxiating story about growing up and relinquishing your dreams, of seeing your father driven to the grave before his time, of living among bitter, small-minded people. It is a story of being trapped, of compromising, of watching others move ahead and away, of becoming so filled with rage that you verbally abuse your children, their teacher and your oppressively perfect wife. (HT: GreenCineDaily)
I agree wholeheartedly with that reviewer.

Here's the lost ending, introduced by William Shatner:

Monday, December 29, 2008

Christina Rossetti

Today is the anniversary of the death in 1894 of Christina Rossetti, English poet. There is more about her at Victorian Web and at PSU's site on Pre-Raphaelite Women. LiteraryHistory.com has numerous links to further articles and resources.

In the Bleak Midwinter

Her poem In the Bleak Midwinter is a popular Christmas song set to a tune by Holst. See more about the song here. Listen to the tune here.

Mannheim Steamroller: Joy To the World

Mannheim Steamroller's live performance of Joy to the World:



The Husband and The Daughter went to the Orpheum to see Mannheim Steamroller's Christmas concert this year. The Daughter was quite disappointed that Chip Davis was not there (he was recovering from throat surgery, and we hope he has recovered completely). They had a great time and are glad to have had the chance to go.

The Night Before Christmas

This version of The Night Before Christmas is one of the Silly Symphony cartoons from 1933.

Watch it here:


This is the same jolly Santa as appeared in Santa's Workshop. In this story Santa delivers toys. There are a couple of Mickey Mouse toys, but otherwise it doesn't have a very Disney look to it. The Husband thought it was a Fleischer cartoon when he first saw it.

Sunday, December 28, 2008

Equal Rites

Equal Rites by Terry Pratchett is the 3rd book in the Discworld series. This one is lots of fun, better than the first 2, and inspires me to keep reading them. I love Granny Weatherwax.

from the back of the book:
In Equal Rites, a dying wizard tries to pass on his powers to an eighth son of an eighth son, who is just at that moment being born. The fact that the son is actually a daughter is discovered just a little too late...


SFReviews.net says
As always, a trip to Terry Pratchett's Discworld provides a reliably silly holiday from mundane reality, by way of pure reading magic.

SFSignal calls it "mediocre".

Dave Langford's Ansible review says,
Pratchett's ultimate secret lies in the fact that without betraying earth-shaking literary genius, his writing is unpretentious and likeable.

Christmas Gospel

Luke 2: 22-40


22 And when the days of her purification according to the law of Moses were accomplished, they brought him to Jerusalem, to present him to the Lord;

23 (As it is written in the law of the LORD, Every male that openeth the womb shall be called holy to the Lord;)

24 And to offer a sacrifice according to that which is said in the law of the Lord, A pair of turtledoves, or two young pigeons.

25 And, behold, there was a man in Jerusalem, whose name was Simeon; and the same man was just and devout, waiting for the consolation of Israel: and the Holy Ghost was upon him.

26 And it was revealed unto him by the Holy Ghost, that he should not see death, before he had seen the Lord's Christ.

27 And he came by the Spirit into the temple: and when the parents brought in the child Jesus, to do for him after the custom of the law,

28 Then took he him up in his arms, and blessed God, and said,

29 Lord, now lettest thou thy servant depart in peace, according to thy word:

30 For mine eyes have seen thy salvation,

31 Which thou hast prepared before the face of all people;

32 A light to lighten the Gentiles, and the glory of thy people Israel.

33 And Joseph and his mother marvelled at those things which were spoken of him.

34 And Simeon blessed them, and said unto Mary his mother, Behold, this child is set for the fall and rising again of many in Israel; and for a sign which shall be spoken against;

35(Yea, a sword shall pierce through thy own soul also,) that the thoughts of many hearts may be revealed.

36 And there was one Anna, a prophetess, the daughter of Phanuel, of the tribe of Aser: she was of a great age, and had lived with an husband seven years from her virginity;

37 And she was a widow of about fourscore and four years, which departed not from the temple, but served God with fastings and prayers night and day.

38 And she coming in that instant gave thanks likewise unto the Lord, and spake of him to all them that looked for redemption in Jerusalem.

39 And when they had performed all things according to the law of the Lord, they returned into Galilee, to their own city Nazareth.

40 And the child grew, and waxed strong in spirit, filled with wisdom: and the grace of God was upon him.
KJV

Saturday, December 27, 2008

A Taste for Death

A Taste for Death is another -the 7th- in P.D. James' Adam Dalgliesh mystery novels. It won the Silver Dagger award in 1986. In this one the murders take place in the church vestry, and religious experience figures prominently in the case.

from the back of the book:
When the vestry of St. Matthew's Church becomes the blood-soaked scene of a double murder, Scotland Yard Commander Adam Dalgliesh faces an intriguing conundrum: How did an upper-crust Minister come to die next to a neighborhood derelict of the lowest order? Challenged with the investigation of a crime that appears to have endless motives, Dalgliesh explores the sinister web spun around a half-burnt diary and a violet-eyed widow who is pregnant and full of malice - all the while hoping to fill the gap of logic that joined these two disparate men in bright red death...


Theology Today has a review.

I've read a couple of these, including the first one, and have enjoyed them. I will continue to pick them up and add them to my tbr stack, but I may start trying to read them in order.

Merry Christmas from Chiron Beta Prime



Jonathan Coulton sings his Chiron Beta Prime in concert. "Did I say "Overlords"?"

HT: Kaedrin

The Fourth Wise Man

The Fourth Wise Man is a 1985 television special re-telling the book The Other Wise Man by Henry van Dyke. It stars Martin Sheen, Alan Arkin, James Farentino and Eileen Brennan.

It's available with Indonesian subtitles at youtube in 8 parts. Part 1:

part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8

This inspirational film would be just as appropriate during Lent and Easter.

The van Dyke story can be read online, or you can have it read to you here.

Friday, December 26, 2008

The Holiday

The Daughter suggested this film, saying it is one of her very favorites. The Holiday is a 2006 romantic comedy starring Cameron Diaz, Kate Winslet, Jude Law and Jack Black. The music is by Hans Zimmer. It takes place during the Christmas holidays as 2 strangers, one from L.A. and one from Surrey, England, agree to a house swap to get away from romantic disasters.

trailer:


The New York Times has a review here. Green Cine Daily has links to and quotes from several reviews.

We liked it as a sweet romantic comedy with a happily-ever-after ending.

Feast of Stephen



Today is the Feast of Stephen, first Christian Martyr. The picture above is of Rembrandt's The Stoning of Stephen. You can read more about St. Stephen here, and you can read the account of his stoning in the Bible in the book of Acts. A portion of that account is here:
Stephen, full of grace and power, did great wonders and signs among the people. Then some of those who belonged to the synagogue of the Freedmen (as it was called), Cyrenians, Alexandrians, and others of those from Cilicia and Asia, stood up and argued with Stephen. But they could not withstand the wisdom and the Spirit with which he spoke. Then they secretly instigated some men to say, "We have heard him speak blasphemous words against Moses and God." They stirred up the people as well as the elders and the scribes; then they suddenly confronted him, seized him, and brought him before the council. They set up false witnesses who said, "This man never stops saying things against this holy place and the law; for we have heard him say that this Jesus of Nazareth will destroy this place and will change the customs that Moses handed on to us." And all who sat in the council looked intently at him, and they saw that his face was like the face of an angel.

Then the high priest asked him, "Are these things so?"

And Stephen replied: "Brothers and fathers, listen to me. You are forever opposing the Holy Spirit, just as your ancestors used to do. Which of the prophets did your ancestors not persecute? They killed those who foretold the coming of the Righteous One, and now you have become his betrayers and murderers. You are the ones that received the law as ordained by angels, and yet you have not kept it."

When they heard these things, they became enraged and ground their teeth at Stephen. But filled with the Holy Spirit, he gazed into heaven and saw the glory of God and Jesus standing at the right hand of God. "Look," he said, "I see the heavens opened and the Son of Man standing at the right hand of God!" But they covered their ears, and with a loud shout all rushed together against him. Then they dragged him out of the city and began to stone him; and the witnesses laid their coats at the feet of a young man named Saul. While they were stoning Stephen, he prayed, "Lord Jesus, receive my spirit." Then he knelt down and cried out in a loud voice, "Lord, do not hold this sin against them." When he had said this, he died. (Acts 6:8-7:2a,51c-60, NRSV)

It is on this day that the events in the Christmas Carol "Good King Wenceslaus" take place. You can read a bit about the author and composer of the song here and hear it sung here:


Good King Wenceslaus looked out on the feast of Stephen,
When the snow lay round about, deep and crisp and even;
Brightly shone the moon that night, though the frost was cruel,
When a poor man came in sight gath'ring winter fuel.

"Hither, page, and stand by me, if thou know'st, telling,
Yonder peasant, who is he? Where and what his dwelling?"
"Sire, he lives a good league hence, underneath the mountain;
Right against the forest fence, by Saint Agnes' fountain."

"Bring me flesh, and bring me wine, bring me pine logs hither:
Thou and I will see him dine, when we bear them thither."
Page and monarch, forth they went, forth they went together;
Through the rude wind's wild lament and the bitter weather.

"Sire, the night grows darker now, and the wind blows stronger;
Fails my heart, I know not how, I can go no longer."
"Mark my footsteps good, my page. Tread thou in them boldly:
Thou shalt find the winter's rage freeze thy blood less coldly."

In his master's steps he trod, where the snow lay dinted;
Heat was in the very sod which the saint had printed.
Therefore, Christian men, rejoice, wealth or rank possessing,
Ye who now will bless the poor, shall yourselves find blessing.

St. Wenceslaus was himself a martyr. There is more information about him here.


(above photo from wikimedia commons)

youtube provides a video of this song which does a great job of telling the story visually:

The First Noel


This is Celtic Woman singing The First Noel in concert, preceded by a violin solo of In the Bleak Midwinter.

Santa's Workshop

Santa's Workshop is one of the Silly Symphony cartoons from 1932.



Now that's a jolly Santa!

Thursday, December 25, 2008

The Christmas Story

Tennessee Ernie Ford provides an introductory narration to this animated short, using the Christmas story from the Gospel of St. Luke, and the Roger Wagner Chorale sings What Child Is This against the Eyvind Earle animation:



And it came to pass in those days, that there went out a decree from Caesar Augustus that all the world should be taxed. (And this taxing was first made when Cyrenius was governor of Syria.) And all went to be taxed, every one into his own city. And Joseph also went up from Galilee, out of the city of Nazareth, into Judaea, unto the city of David, which is called Bethlehem; (because he was of the house and lineage of David:) To be taxed with Mary his espoused wife, being great with child. (Luke 2:1-5)

Merry Christmas in Ten Languages


Santa's Grotto:How To Say Merry Christmas In Ten Languages

from a school for Santa's Helpers.

Wednesday, December 24, 2008

Silent Night, Holy Night

This was my last post about this video:
"Silent Night" is an old VHS, an animated Happy Face Video, that lasts 27 minutes. We have been unable to find it on DVD. From the back of the box:

This is a unique animated film about how the song "Silent Night" came to be written in Oberndorf, Germany, in the late 19th century. The characters are beautifully created, the colors come alive and the beloved melodies known to all of us are threaded throughout the story.


The Daughter found this on a DVD this year, and we are delighted to have a replacement for the old, tired VHS. I can't find anything online about this little film, but I think this is the IMDB entry. I can't find any clips from it at google or youtube.

O Little Town of Bethlehem


Sarah McLachlan plays guitar and sings O Little Town of Bethlehem. We have the Wintersong CD this song is on. Pretty.

Reginald Owen's "A Christmas Carol"

This 1938 version of A Christmas Carol stars Reginald Owen as Scrooge and Gene Lockhart as Bob Cratchit. Leo G. Carroll plays Marley's Ghost. The music is by award-winning composer Franz Waxman (Bride of Frankenstein, Rebecca, Sunset Blvd.

trailer:



I remember seeing this version in a school assembly in the cafetorium when I was in elementary school, and it may be the first filmed Christmas Carol I ever saw so I have a special fondness for it. It's probably the one that deviates most from the book, though.

TCM has an overview.

Tuesday, December 23, 2008

Miracle on 34th Street (1947)

Miracle on 34th Street is a 1947 movie starring Maureen O'Hara, Natalie Wood, Edmund Gwenn, William Frawley, Gene Lockhart and Jack Albertson.

I guess I had just gotten tired of this one after years of annual viewings, but seeing it again after several years away from it was fun. I remember now all the things I liked about it back when it was fresher to me, and I'm glad The Daughter suggested it tonight.

The New York Times review calls it "the freshest little picture in a long time, and maybe even the best comedy of this year."

The BBC says
this is a clever and deeply original story, that remains true and confident in direction, while delivering considerable charm all the while.

In reviewing one of the remakes Roger Ebert says
There will never really be a movie to replace the 1947 "Miracle on 34th Street," nor a performance to replace Edmund Gwenn's

trailer:



"Faith is believing in things when common sense tells you not to."

Alastair Sim's Scrooge

The 1951 Alastair Sim Scrooge is another film adaptation of the Dickens classic. Sim makes one of the best Scrooges ever.

It's at youtube in 9 parts, with embedding disabled: part 1, part 2, part 3, part 4, part 5, part 6, part 7, part 8, part 9

The New York Times closes its review this way:
In short, what we have in this rendition of Dickens' sometimes misunderstood "Carol" is an accurate comprehension of the agony of a shabby soul. And this is presented not only in the tortured aspects of Mr. Sim but in the phantasmagoric creation of a somber and chilly atmosphere. These, set against the exhibition of conventional manifests of love and cheer, do right by the moral of Dickens and round a trenchant and inspiring Christmas show.

Foster on Film declares:
This British, B&W version of the well-known story is generally considered to be the finest version by critics and viewers alike, and I agree.

We have a couple of quibbles with this one -mainly the big, healthy-looking Tim, whose only claim to frailty is to use a crutch while holding one foot up behind him and hopping along on the other.

Here's a short clip from near the end of the movie:

Mary, Did You Know?



Mark Lowry, who wrote the words, sings Mary Did You Know in this video.

Santa and the Three Bears

The first half of Santa and the Three Bears is on a DVD The Husband picked up recently, but the last half is missing.

You can watch it via hulu:



Those are cute enough bear cubs, I guess, but a more permissive Mama bear would be hard to imagine. I was afraid the poor bears would starve to death once they did finally decide to hibernate.

I kept expecting Yogi to show up.

Monday, December 22, 2008

Enya: O Come, O Come Emmanuel



This is Enya's version of O Come, O Come Emmanuel as it is on her new cd And Winter Came...

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians

Santa Claus Conquers the Martians is a 1964 movie that involves Santa getting kidnapped by Martians. This is Pia Zadora's first film.

via youtube:



Moria says the movie "is recognized as one of the all-time stinkers." The BBC goes even further, saying,
To sum up, this is quite possibly the worst film ever made. Throughout, one felt an urge to hurl buckets of foetid offal at the screen. Avoid, unless you collect bad films or have a strong stomach.

Kiddie Matinee sees an underlying subversive message.

I like the Santa fine. Other than that....

Sunday, December 21, 2008

The Bells of St. Mary's

The Bells of St. Mary's is a 1945 film starring Bing Crosby, Ingrid Bergman, Henry Travers and Una O'Connor. The music is by Bobby Dolan.

It's hard to believe how long it's been since I last saw this film. We finally got a DVD of it last year but didn't watch it then. This is one of my favorite Christmas movies. I can't find a trailer for it that can be embedded (though imdb has it online) and the television ad I had embedded has been removed by a clueless rights holder, but here is an excerpt from the film:


Variety calls it "warmly sentimental". TCM has an overview. Time praises Bergman:
As Sister Benedict, Ingrid Bergman manages to combine beauty, great good humor and saintly dignity even while swinging a baseball bat. Taking her role seriously, Actress Bergman played it without make-up (with no damage to her good looks), visited parochial schools to see how nuns actually behave, wore ballet slippers under her robes to perfect a gliding step.

The Monkey's Raincoat

The Monkey's Raincoat by Robert Crais is the first in the Elvis Cole series of detective novels. This book won 2 awards in 1988:

Anthony Award for best paperback original
Macavity Award for best first mystery

It's on the list of 100 Favorite Mysteries of the Century as selected by the Independent Mystery Booksellers Association.

from the inside of the book:
When quiet Ellen Lang enters Elvis Cole's Disney-Deco office, she's lost something very valuable - her husband and young son. The case seems simple enough, but Elvis isn't thrilled. Neither is his enigmatic partner and firepower Joe Pike. Their search down the seamy side of Hollywood's studio lots and sculptured lawns soon leads them deep into a nasty netherworld of drugs and sex - and murder. Now the case is getting interesting, but it's also turned ugly. Because everybody, from cops to starlets to crooks, has declared war on Ellen and Elvis. For Ellen, it isn't Funtown anymore. For Elvis, it's just a living. He hopes.

I liked it for the most part. It was an enjoyable read, and I got a kick out of the characters.

Here's a piece of music the book specifically mentions Cole listening to:

Advent Wreath 4


There is an Advent devotion for today here at the United Methodist Church General Board of Discipleship site. EWTN has an Advent wreath at their site where you can use a virtual match to light the candle online.

Advent Gospel

Luke 1:39-56

39 And Mary arose in those days, and went into the hill country with haste, into a city of Juda;

40 And entered into the house of Zacharias, and saluted Elisabeth.

41 And it came to pass, that, when Elisabeth heard the salutation of Mary, the babe leaped in her womb; and Elisabeth was filled with the Holy Ghost:

42 And she spake out with a loud voice, and said, Blessed art thou among women, and blessed is the fruit of thy womb.

43 And whence is this to me, that the mother of my Lord should come to me?

44 For, lo, as soon as the voice of thy salutation sounded in mine ears, the babe leaped in my womb for joy.

45 And blessed is she that believed: for there shall be a performance of those things which were told her from the Lord.

46 And Mary said, My soul doth magnify the Lord,

47 And my spirit hath rejoiced in God my Saviour.

48 For he hath regarded the low estate of his handmaiden: for, behold, from henceforth all generations shall call me blessed.

49 For he that is mighty hath done to me great things; and holy is his name.

50 And his mercy is on them that fear him from generation to generation.

51 He hath shewed strength with his arm; he hath scattered the proud in the imagination of their hearts.

52 He hath put down the mighty from their seats, and exalted them of low degree.

53 He hath filled the hungry with good things; and the rich he hath sent empty away.

54 He hath helped his servant Israel, in remembrance of his mercy;

55 As he spake to our fathers, to Abraham, and to his seed for ever.

56 And Mary abode with her about three months, and returned to her own house.
KJV

Saturday, December 20, 2008

Joseph's Lullaby



I've been hearing this on the radio a lot this year. It's Joseph's Lullaby by Mercy Me.

Good Will to Men

Good Will to Men, nominated for an Oscar for best cartoon short, is a 1955 Hanna Barbera remake of the 1939 Peace on Earth.

via youtube:



We upgrade to nuclear weapons in this one.

"Too bad they didn't practice what they preached."

Friday, December 19, 2008

Holiday Inn

Holiday Inn is not one of my favorite Christmas movies -perhaps because I got tired of it- but The Husband has a special fondness for it, and we found it on when we got home from running errands. He was watching it while he made our traditional Friday pizza, so The Daughter and I watched the rest of it with him. It is a 1942 film and stars Bing Crosby and Fred Astaire "singing and dancing" to music by Irving Berlin.

"I've Got Plenty to Be Thankful For":


The New York Times has a review. Variety's review is here. Bright Lights Film Journal has an article which doesn't glow with admiration. BBC's review says,
Music is definitely the key here, as the plot is distinctly thin

The Beach Boys: Little Saint Nick



The Beach Boys are singing Little St. Nick on the tv show Shindig, Christmas of 1964.

The Christmas Visitor

The Christmas Visitor is a 1959 retelling of A Visit from St. Nicholas.



This one was fun, and I enjoyed the segment where the toys came to life and played while Santa was enjoying the wine and cigar the family had left for him. We found this online after watching it on a DVD The Husband picked up.

(12/1/2009:: I've replaced the dead video link with one that works right now.)

Thursday, December 18, 2008

R.I.P. Majel Roddenberry


This came as a shock. Majel Roddenberry has died. I saw the news at /film where it says she
died today of leukemia at her home in Bel-Air at the age of 76. She went peacefully and was surrounded by her son Eugene “Rod” Roddenberry Jr and family friends.

I remember her from my elementary school days when I was a beginning fan of the first Star Trek series.

video tribute:


Obits:
Arbogast on Film
NBC
AP
MSNBC
E! Online:
In a more enlightened age, Majel Barrett Roddenberry might have rated a Federation command. As it was, she helped rule the Star Trek universe.

Wired:
There is very sad news today in the Star Trek world. Majel Barrett-Roddenberry, widow of Gene and known to fans as Nurse Chapel, the original Number One, Lwaxana Troi, and of course the voice of just about every Federation computer in every show and movie, has passed away at age 76.

Entertainment Weekly
SFSignal
SFScope
SyFyPortal here and here
FeministSF
io9
TrekWeb
Wil Wheaton
Biology in Science Fiction
William Shatner

The photo at the top of the post is from Wikipedia.

25 Best Christmas Movies of All Time

Moviefone chooses these as the "25 Best Christmas Movies of All Time":

1. A Christmas Story (1983)
2. It's a Wonderful Life (1946)
3. Miracle on 34th Street (1947)
4. Scrooged (1988)
5. White Christmas (1954)
6. Elf (2003)
7. Christmas in Connecticut (1942)
8. Home Alone (1990)
9. Babes in Toyland (1934)
10. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation (1989)
11. A Christmas Carol (1951, Alastair Sim)
12. Holiday Inn (1942)
13. The Nightmare Before Christmas (1993)
14. The Bishop's Wife (1947)
15. Love Actually (2003)
16. Die Hard (1988)
17. The Shop Around the Corner (1940)
18. The Dead (1987)
19. Bad Santa (2003)
20. The Santa Claus (1994)
21. Gremlins (1984)
22. Joyeux Noel (2006)
23. The Muppet Christmas Carol (1992)
24. We're No Angels (1955)
25. The Polar Express (2004)

Ones I've seen are in bold print. Ones I've blogged about are linked to the post.

Elvis' Blue Christmas

Santa's Surprise

via youtube:



Santa wakes up to a nice surprise in this 1947 Seymour Kneitel cartoon. Santa's Surprise has Little Audrey as a main character in what may be her first cartoon appearance. This is on a DVD the Husband bought recently.

Wednesday, December 17, 2008

Bachelor Mother

Bachelor Mother is a 1938 comedy starring Ginger Rogers and David Niven.

trailer:



TCM has an overview. The New York Times says,
With Ginger Rogers showing the way and setting a devastating pace a troupe of expert comedians has come prancing into the Music Hall with "Bachelor Mother," a merry jape which deserves something more than farce classification.... It is comedy, simple if not always pure, and we must call it one of the season's gayest shows.

Is Zat You, Santa Claus



This is the Big Bad Voodoo Daddy cover of Is Zat You, Santa Claus from Everything You Want for Christmas, one of my favorite Christmas CDs.

Rudolph the Red Nosed Reindeer (1944)

This 1944 Max Fleischer cartoon short is on a DVD The Husband bought a few days ago. I think we have it on another DVD also, but it's a cute video.



It's based on a story written in 1939 by Robert May.

Tuesday, December 16, 2008

The Carpenters: Christmas Songs

Beyond Tomorrow

Beyond Tomorrow is a 1940 Christmas ghost story (who is it who was telling me they'd never heard of such a thing...). And you can't go wrong with a film that has Maria Ouspenskaya. This was unusual, and I liked it.

via Youtube:



TCM has an overview.

Wild Realm Reviews has a fairly detailed description of the characters and plots and says,
A minor classic, it's relatively unknown compared to such Christmas fantasies as Miracle on 34th Street (1947), It's a Wonderful Life (1946), A Christmas Carol (1938), but sometimes it's really pleasant to watch something a little less familiar in a similarly vintage vein.

The New York Times doesn't like it, ending its review with this:
All of it has been affectionately produced, handsomely photographed and sincerely performed.... It was in the story department that the ghosts played havoc with the script. "Beyond Tomorrow" should have gone no further than Christmas Eve. Even a hot toddy wears off when one travels into the chilly interstellar spaces.

I like it fine, as it makes a good alternative to those movies we watch every year. I do get a bit tired of the limited choices.... And this has an interesting view of the afterlife. And it has Maria Ouspenskaya.

Monday, December 15, 2008

The Terra-Cotta Dog

The Terra-Cotta Dog by Andrea Camilleri is second in the Inspector Montalbano mystery series. I'm enjoying them so far. I read the first one a couple of years ago and read the 5th one back during the summer.

from the back of the book:
A mysterious tete-a-tete with a Mafioso, an inexplicably abandoned loot from a supermarket heist, and some dying words lead Inspector Montalbano to a secret grotto in a mountain cave where two young lovers dead fifty years and still embracing are watched over by a life-size terracotta dog. What the Inspector discovers is a fifty-year-old crime that takes him, heedless of personal danger, on a journey through Sicily's past and into a family's dark heart amid the horrors of World War II.

The Guardian has an article on Camilleri's books. The New York Times has an article about him. The TimesOnline site has named him as one of the 50 greatest crime writers and specifically recommends this book.

I'll keep looking for these and will pick them up as I see them.

All I Want for Christmas Is You



Mariah Carey sings All I Want for Christmas Is You from 1994.

Tom and Jerry in "The Night Before Christmas"

via youtube:



This is a Hanna-Barbera cartoon in the Tom and Jerry series. 'Twas The Night Before Christmas, but Jerry the Mouse is stirring, playing with all those fun Christmas toys. This was nominated for an Academy Award but lost to a Walt Disney cartoon.

Sunday, December 14, 2008

Advent Wreath 3


There is an Advent devotion for today here at the United Methodist Church General Board of Discipleship site. EWTN has an Advent wreath at their site where you can use a virtual match to light the candle online.

Advent Gospel

John 1:6-28

6 There was a man sent from God, whose name was John.

7 The same came for a witness, to bear witness of the Light, that all men through him might believe.

8 He was not that Light, but was sent to bear witness of that Light.

9 That was the true Light, which lighteth every man that cometh into the world.

10 He was in the world, and the world was made by him, and the world knew him not.

11 He came unto his own, and his own received him not.

12 But as many as received him, to them gave he power to become the sons of God, even to them that believe on his name:

13 Which were born, not of blood, nor of the will of the flesh, nor of the will of man, but of God.

14 And the Word was made flesh, and dwelt among us, (and we beheld his glory, the glory as of the only begotten of the Father,) full of grace and truth.

15 John bare witness of him, and cried, saying, This was he of whom I spake, He that cometh after me is preferred before me: for he was before me.

16 And of his fulness have all we received, and grace for grace.

17 For the law was given by Moses, but grace and truth came by Jesus Christ.

18 No man hath seen God at any time, the only begotten Son, which is in the bosom of the Father, he hath declared him.

19 And this is the record of John, when the Jews sent priests and Levites from Jerusalem to ask him, Who art thou?

20 And he confessed, and denied not; but confessed, I am not the Christ.

21 And they asked him, What then? Art thou Elias? And he saith, I am not. Art thou that prophet? And he answered, No.

22 Then said they unto him, Who art thou? that we may give an answer to them that sent us. What sayest thou of thyself?

23 He said, I am the voice of one crying in the wilderness, Make straight the way of the Lord, as said the prophet Esaias.

24 And they which were sent were of the Pharisees.

25 And they asked him, and said unto him, Why baptizest thou then, if thou be not that Christ, nor Elias, neither that prophet?

26 John answered them, saying, I baptize with water: but there standeth one among you, whom ye know not;

27 He it is, who coming after me is preferred before me, whose shoe's latchet I am not worthy to unloose.

28 These things were done in Bethabara beyond Jordan, where John was baptizing.
KJV

Saturday, December 13, 2008

The Twelve Days of Christmas

the expanded version:

fun from Straight No Chaser

St. Lucy



Today is the feast day of St. Lucy, a wonderful opportunity for celebrating the drawing ever nearer of the Light of the world in the person of Jesus. When the children were little, this day, like the feast of St. Nicholas, helped us celebrate Advent rather than just focus on how long it was 'til Christmas, and it helped us focus on the "reason for the season" -the coming of the Light into the world. How can you go wrong with a day that starts with sweet rolls, a real treat!

There is more information about this feast here at SchoolOfTheSeasons.com, at the BBC and at Catholic.org. Penitents.org has some historical information as well as recipes, as does SicilianCulture.com. In Mama's Kitchen has a recipe for saffron buns.


'TIS the year's midnight, and it is the day's,
Lucy's, who scarce seven hours herself unmasks ;
The sun is spent, and now his flasks
Send forth light squibs, no constant rays ;
The world's whole sap is sunk ;
The general balm th' hydroptic earth hath drunk,
Whither, as to the bed's-feet, life is shrunk,
Dead and interr'd ; yet all these seem to laugh,
Compared with me, who am their epitaph.

Study me then, you who shall lovers be
At the next world, that is, at the next spring ;
For I am every dead thing,
In whom Love wrought new alchemy.
For his art did express
A quintessence even from nothingness,
From dull privations, and lean emptiness ;
He ruin'd me, and I am re-begot
Of absence, darkness, death—things which are not.

All others, from all things, draw all that's good,
Life, soul, form, spirit, whence they being have ;
I, by Love's limbec, am the grave
Of all, that's nothing. Oft a flood
Have we two wept, and so
Drown'd the whole world, us two ; oft did we grow,
To be two chaoses, when we did show
Care to aught else ; and often absences
Withdrew our souls, and made us carcasses.

But I am by her death—which word wrongs her—
Of the first nothing the elixir grown ;
Were I a man, that I were one
I needs must know ; I should prefer,
If I were any beast,
Some ends, some means ; yea plants, yea stones detest,
And love ; all, all some properties invest.
If I an ordinary nothing were,
As shadow, a light, and body must be here.

But I am none ; nor will my sun renew.
You lovers, for whose sake the lesser sun
At this time to the Goat is run
To fetch new lust, and give it you,
Enjoy your summer all,
Since she enjoys her long night's festival.
Let me prepare towards her, and let me call
This hour her vigil, and her eve, since this
Both the year's and the day's deep midnight is.

There is a short video here:

that shows scenes from her life in art and as represented by youth in tribute.

The painting above is by the Master of the Saint Lucy Legend, named after this altarpiece showing scenes from the saint's life life.

Friday, December 12, 2008

R.I.P. Van Johnson


Van Johnson has died. How sad! I loved him in The Caine Mutiny and Brigadoon. He was 92 years ago and had a career spanning over 50 years.

obits:
Arbogast on Film
Bloomberg
Washington Post
UPI
BBC
Telegraph
Variety
Reuters
Beliefnet
EW
CNN
Edward Copeland
Self-Styled Siren

Diana Krall: Jingle Bells



Diana Krall gives Jingle Bells a new sound, but it's still the same fun.

The Shop Around the Corner

Helpful hint for someone wanting to watch a sweet movie with light comedy, an interesting love story and a happy ending (you know who you are, pal): Watch this one.

The Shop Around the Corner is a 1940 Ernest Lubitsch film starring Jimmy Stewart, Margaret Sullavan and Frank Morgan.



Time has it as one of their best 100 films. EW says it "may be the wisest romance ever put on celluloid". The New York Times says,
So there it is, and a pretty kettle of bubbling brew it makes under Mr. Lubitsch's deft and tender management and with a genial company to play it gently, well this side of farce and well that side of utter seriousness. Possibly the most surprising part of it is the adaptability of the players to Mr. Lubitsch's Continental milieu whose splendid evocation is one of the nicest things of the picture. But they all have become natural figures against a natural background

TCM has an overview.

Thursday, December 11, 2008

Theatre Memphis Christmas Carol

We went to see Theatre Memphis' production of A Christmas Carol tonight. We don't go every year, but we've gone many times and enjoy some years more than others. We like this year's play. Our favorite characters this year are Fred, Christmas Present, Scrooge and Peter. There seems to be more music in this one than usual, and the entire thing seems shorter. The music is a wonderful touch, with the actors providing musical interludes and some background for scenes. The Christmas pageant scene is static and short with none of the emphasis that has been placed on it in some years, but that is a good thing as it doesn't distract from Scrooge's story.

The Commercial Appeal review is positive, singling out a few select performances, including this bit of praise
R. Joel Pinkston gave a precise and nicely shaded performance as Scrooge's nephew.
and concluding with this:
All in all, fine work throughout, so if you've been waiting for a good traditional version, grab the kids and go to this one.
That reviewer noted
There was a problem with the music occasionally drowning out the performers
but the theater must have corrected that because we had no problems with the sound.

It was a pleasure. The little girl in front of us hid her head in her mother's shoulder during the scene between Scrooge and Marley, but the play captivated her and her older brother as well as appealing to the adults in the crowd. The folks, young and old, sitting around us laughed and applauded and said complimentary things. Hoorah for a job well done!

Tony Bennett Christmas Songs



Tony Bennett is still going strong. I recently bought a copy of his Christmas cd Snowfall, first released in 1968. His newest cd is another Christmas release: A Swingin' Christmas. In this video he sings I'll Be Home for Christmas and My Favorite Things, though what makes that latter song a Christmas perennial is beyond me.

The Great Rupert

The Great Rupert stars Jimmy Durante and Rupert the (mostly animated) squirrel.



TCM has an overview. The New York Times says, "within its acknowledged limitations of the modest, low-budget comedy, it is a wholly ingratiating item" and
there is a wholesome ingenuousness about t—a brisk enthusiasm—that makes it unimpeachable. Talk about good, cheap "family pictures": "The Great Rupert" is definitely one.

Wild Realm Reviews calls it
a hoot, a great family film that will by no means bore the adults of the family. Even the crappy stop motion animation for the squirrel was a hoot.

Wednesday, December 10, 2008

Come to Lapland and See Santa


It's better than Norway.

I can make the actual footprint of the embedded video smaller, but the resulting display doesn't show the whole picture. And I don't like that the embedded video autostarts. Hmmm... I'm just linking to it. That's not as much fun as actually having it here, but the video is hysterical. Go there. Watch it!

Peace on Earth cartoon

Peace on Earth is a 1939 post-apocalyptic Christmas cartoon.



"What are men, Grandpa?" ask the little squirrels, and Grandpa tells them the tragic story, describing the terrible monsters and wars that look like a replay of WW1.

The Wise Owl finds a good book of rules that the Men must not have followed and reads this from it: "Ye shall rebuild the old wastes." Isaiah 61:4 says
And they shall build the old wastes, they shall raise up the former desolations, and they shall repair the waste cities, the desolations of many generations.
The animals obey and name their new city "Peaceville".

It was nominated for an Academy Award but lost to a Disney cartoon.

Tuesday, December 09, 2008

Winter Wonderland: Andy Williams



This is Andy Williams singing Winter Wonderland with his brothers in one of his many television Christmas specials. We used to watch those shows every year, but it's been a long time since I last saw one.

Little Theodore and the Green Candy Piece



Poor misunderstood Theodore!

This is a Cool Cricket video, which can also be viewed at their site.

See more Christmas movies here.

Monday, December 08, 2008

Elf

I don't know how we managed not to see this before, but The Elder Son has seen it several times and recommended it so The Husband bought it on a recent store trip. It's great fun -a human Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer. We think it's perfect. It could have so easily been dreadful, but everything that could have been done right was done right. Mistakes were not made. I look forward to Elf as an annual holiday tradition.

The movie is directed by Jon Favreau and stars Will Ferrell as the human brought up as an elf, James Caan as Buddy's biological father, Mary Steenburgen as Buddy's step-mom, Zooey Deschanel as Buddy's love interest Jovie, Bob Newhart as Buddy's adoptive elf papa and has Ed Asner as Santa.

Elf is at youtube in 10 parts with embedding disabled. Part 1 is here. (Not anymore, as I check on 12/1/2009)

trailer:


Here's Buddy and Jovie singing a duet: (Gone, as I check on 12/1/2009)

Slate calls it "a heartwarming homage to Christmas movies past". The New York Times calls it a "charming" success. Roger Ebert says,
This is one of those rare Christmas comedies that has a heart, a brain and a wicked sense of humor, and it charms the socks right off the mantelpiece.

R.I.P. Fred Cook

Fred Cook has died. I spent many a sunny summer afternoon listening to The Zero Hour on the radio when I was a teenager. What fond memories!

obits:
Memphis Daily News:
Memphis broadcasting legend Fred Cook died this morning of heart failure. He was 83. Cook was best known for a 50-year career in Memphis radio

Mediaverse

12/9/2008:
Left Wing Cracker marked the sad occasion:
For those of us of a certain age, his is a deep loss, and a sign that radio as we once knew it is gone forever.

The Commercial Appeal has a quote from John Powell:
"He thought of radio as an art form," said John Powell, the long-time co-host with Mr. Cook of the popular WREC shows "Zero Hour" and "The Cook and Powell Show," which helped inform and entertain audiences with everything from news to music to scripted comedy skits to urbane banter.

Joe Larkins:
Some might say he was a bit of a curmudgeon. Maybe it’s a trait of all former newspeople. Anyway, Mr. Cook left his mark on the news business in Memphis


12/10/2008:
Commercial Appeal editorial:
Fred Cook had the voice for radio and the believability for television. But more than anything else, he had the humor, the style and the sheer likability that made him an authentic Memphis media legend.

Marshmallow World: Dean Martin



Dean Martin sang It's a Marshmallow World in the Christmas show of his TV program one year (maybe in 1967?). We watched that TV series when I was a child, and I remember parts of it -like when Dean Martin would go to the couch.

[see note below: this particular video is from one of the Bob Hope Christmas shows.]

A Charlie Brown Christmas

We watched A Charlie Brown Christmas this past Saturday evening. It's a long-standing Christmas tradition, and we watch it every year. I remember when it first came out and was shown on television once annually. It's fun to be able to choose my own time to see it.

Here's Linus explaining what Christmas is all about:


You can watch the entire show online here, but the DVD is a must-have. No home should be without it.

Sunday, December 07, 2008

Advent Wreath 2


There is an Advent devotion for today here at the United Methodist Church General Board of Discipleship site. EWTN has an Advent wreath at their site where you can use a virtual match to light the candle online.

The Curt Jester has added a Christmas Countdown in addition to the Advent wreath graphic. You can get them both here.

Advent Gospel

Mark 1

1 The beginning of the gospel of Jesus Christ, the Son of God;

2 As it is written in the prophets, Behold, I send my messenger before thy face, which shall prepare thy way before thee.

3 The voice of one crying in the wilderness, Prepare ye the way of the Lord, make his paths straight.

4 John did baptize in the wilderness, and preach the baptism of repentance for the remission of sins.

5 And there went out unto him all the land of Judaea, and they of Jerusalem, and were all baptized of him in the river of Jordan, confessing their sins.

6 And John was clothed with camel's hair, and with a girdle of a skin about his loins; and he did eat locusts and wild honey;

7 And preached, saying, There cometh one mightier than I after me, the latchet of whose shoes I am not worthy to stoop down and unloose.

8 I indeed have baptized you with water: but he shall baptize you with the Holy Ghost.
KJV

Saturday, December 06, 2008

And the Ass Saw the Angel

The Elder Son suggested And the Ass Saw the Angel, Nick Cave's first novel. I have trouble with it for 2 main reasons: 1) the accent is so odd, "sounding" to me like it is trying to be Southern, but it doesn't sound like any kind of Southern accent I'm familiar with; 2) the language is obscure. Now I like unusual words, but this book reads as if the author wrote it with one eye on a thesaurus. I ended the book with mixed feelings.

from the back of the book:
In a word of Southern moonshine and madness, he followed his vision of vengeance.

Euchrid Eucrow - outcast among outcasts. Born mute to a drunken mother and a father who spends his days building vicious traps and his nights building delicate towers of cards, Euchrid has a mind that seethes with words to express his vision of the world around him.

It is Euchrid alone - ever hidden to escape the town's self-righteous rage, finding more compassion in the family mule than in his fellow man - who will grasp the cruel fate of Cosey Mo, the beautiful young prostitute in the pink caravan on Hooper's Hill. And as years pass and events unfold, it is Euchrid, driven farther and farther from the human fold, deeper and deeper into his mad angelic vision, who will both redeem the town and its people with his pain and sacrifice - and wreak a terrible vengeance.

The review at The Modern Word says,
Thoroughly exploring the histories and damaged psyches of his characters, he spins a rich, highly nuanced tale of small-minded religious hypocrisy coming into violent confrontation with one man’s rapidly spiraling insanity – the results of a catastrophic plan indeed.