The annual onslaught of forced conspicuous consumption and fake ostentatious piety known as The Christmas Season is now in full swing, this year made more grotesque than ever by the efforts of neo-fascist propagandist L. Brent Bozell to not only “Put Christ Back in Christmas” (a long-standing “Conservative” whine), but verbally pistol-whip any Jews, Muslims or athiests who might object. The “mainstream” media, duly cowed as always, have given considerable traction to this claptrap. And pathetic sob-sisters like Don Wycliff have fallen right in line as expected.
Happily there’ve been unintended consequences as well. But the real story, as the recession comes ever-closer to the edge of full-out depression, is that despite best corporate efforts, sales are so “off” that many stores have started their “half-price” jamborees before the celebration of the birth of the world’s most famous bastard.
Depressing, ain’t it? Well this is the season for depression, which is why our wise Pagan forebearers invented Saturnalia — a holiday designed to cheer us all out of the annual slump with a rousing bout of ritual phallus-worhip, that has sadly “tastefully” degenerated over the years into decorated fir trees — or plastic equivalent of same.
Television being the glue that holds this psychopathic hodge-podge of a culture together, annual screenings of It’s a Wonderful Life, Frank Capra’s 21-gun salute to bi-polar self-pity were for many years de rigeur . Happily its been replaced by the bracingly sane A Christmas Story , Bob Clark’s imaginative re-enactment of Jean Shepherd’s childhood recollections. But as lovely as that film may be, it still doesn’t capture the dark heart of a “Holiday” that persists, even in Pagan form, in clinging to the notion that feigned cheer conquers all.
There are, however, a number of films that do — going beyond the screamingly false happy ending of Capra’s cornfest, thereby metaphorically shoving George Bailey into the drink where he belongs. Consequently a tip of the cyber – chapeau to –
Few recall that Terry Gilliam’s masterpiece was set at Christmas time.
As Jonathan Pryce’s put-upon office clerk, longing for anonymity yet struggling to pursue dream girl Kim Griest, goes afoul of the authorities his misadventures in a cityscape awash with “Happy Christmas!”-yowling revellers is more timely than ever. Back in 1985, Brazil appeared to be a comic variation on 1984Now it’s a documentary about life under the Patriot Act.
Lovely title, is’t it? And the stars are Gene Kelly and Deanna Durbin –with songs by Frank Loesser. A Big Bucket O’ Treacle, right? Well what
if I were to tell you that it was directed by Robert Siodmak from a script by Herman J. Mankiewicz adapted from a Somerset Maugham story?
Deanna, as usual, plays a Sweet Young Thing. However Kelly’s Boy Next Store who she falls for is a “mother-fixated” (ie. queer) homicidal maniac. Forced to abandon what would have been a top-flight concert and opera career, our heroine is discovered singing in a “Road House” (ie. whorehouse) where through tremulous lips she intones “Spring Will Be a Little Late This Year” –which was writtten expressly for this film. An on-the-lamb Kelly shows up, the cops close in, and he goes down in a hail of bullets expiring in Deanna’s arms. Then she picks herself up and trots off to Midnight Mass to sing “Ave Maria.”
Now why isn’t this one a Christmas perennial I ask you?
Joe Dante’s demonic puppet show about the evil, and perpetually multiplying, offspring of a loveable furball of mysterious origins, is not only set at Christmas (Darlene Love’s “Christmas, Baby Please Come Home” cheerily blasting over the opening credits) it’s highlight is Phoebe Cates unforgettable monologue about why she hates Chrstmas. It seems one year her father dressed up as Santa and got stuck in a chimney he tried to climb down — his body not discovered until some time after the holidays. The Warner Bros. brass wanted the scene cut, but executive producer Steven Spielberg, to his everlasting credit, backed Joe up. And thus a scene that to this day challenges audiences like precious few others, remains to confound and delight us all.
Nothing says “Christmas” like Nazism. And Marcel Ophuls’ 1988 prize-winner consistently reminds us of that fact, with Christmas Carols ringing on the soundtrack in scene after scene. He didn’t plan it that way — it’s just that so many of interviews he was able to set up with those tracking — and those aiding and abetting — the noted mass-murderer were at Christmas time. Timely in quite a different way are the scenes featuring Judy Miller whose journalistic exploits would make an excellent subject for the Ophuls treatment.
The “Christmas Spirit” is everywhere in Billy Wilder’s 1960 Oscar-winner about a big city office patsy (Jack Lemmon) hoping to get ahead by lending his pad to those above him on the corprate ladder for adulterous trysts. Consequently he’s locked out of his own home on Christmas Eve. Meanwhile the elevator operator at work (Shirley MacLaine) that our hero is sweet on is discovered by him in his bed — having attempted suicide because her married lover, the Big Boss (Fred MacMurray) has decided to call it quits. Yes, there’s a Happy Ending, but before we get there Wilder makes the depressive loneliness of Christmas palpable in a way few film directors have ever dared.
Depression is likewise the keynote to this Preston Sturges comedy, whose title serves to remind us all that “Our Savior” was actually born in the Summer. (Christianity — pushy and domineering like all religions — moved it to December the better to subsume Saturnalia. ) Dick Powell, in a foreshadowing of Jack Lemmon, plays an office wage slave. But pimping doesn’t figure here, as our hero thinks he’s won a radio contest and is hot to spend the dough. When told he hasn’t it’s True Christmas Spirit Time ie. Depression (and this was during the Depression, folks!) Oh of course there’s a Happy Ending. But not that happy. For while we learn he’s won the contest anyway, the last sight we see of him is climbing dejectedly into an elevator, going down. Sturges was tough.
Everyone remembers Robert Montgomer’s 1947 Raymond Chandler adaptation for its use of subjective camera position non-stop. We”see” the story from detective Phillip Marlowe’s POV. Consequently director/star Montgomery is on screen only when caught in the reflection of a mirror. All of this is set at Chritsmas time. Even the credits have jungle bells and Christmas card designs. Murder at Christmas? Why not? Think of Scott Peterson.
8) Hail Mary
Jean-Luc Godard’s 1985 salute to history’s most famous unwed teenage mother was (not unexpectedly) denounced by the leader of the world’s best-organized pedophile cult. Clearly the Pope doesn’t favor women’s basketball the way Godard does. Six year-old boys playing soccor is more his speed.
9) The Prodigal
Seeing that it’s a Pagan holiday, why not celebrate it with everyone’s favorite Pagan, Lana Turner? As a High Priestess of the Goddess Astarte she drives Edmund Purdom’s “Prodigal Son” (the film is based on three lines from the Old Testament) wild with desire. And nor just on-screen either. Veteran producer Hank Moonjean was working as an assistant director at MGM back then. Though he wasn’t assigned to The Prodigal, he was called one day to sub for another a.d. It was a fairly simple scene — Purdom lying on a couch with Lana, in full High Priestess regalia — hovering over him murmurring supposedly seductive lines. Then all of a sudden, Lana bolted upright. “The Englishman’s got a hard-on — I’m leaving!” she screamed, and made a bee-line for her trailer. Hank was then informed that it was his duty to go get her back.
“Miss Turner, they want you on the set,” he said gently knocking at the trailer door.
“Tell them to go fuck themselves!” Lana said.
And so Hank returned to the set, and conveyed her message — only to be told to try a second time.
“Tell them to go fuck themselves!” Lana repeated.
Hank returned to the set again, know that this was all a ritual. The third turn-down would mean Lana would be reported to the Front Office. The verdict? Go for the third.
Knock Number Three. The door flies open and there stands Lana — all five feet of her — in Capri pants, but with her headdress still on.
“Got any family? ” the love goddess asks.
“I’ve got a sister,” Hank replies.
“A sister?” says Lana, “Then tell HER to go fuck herself!”
They just don’t make movie stars like that anymore.
Of course we all rememebr “Every Sperm is Sacred” from this masterpiece. But the number I’m thinking of comes from the grand finale, after “Mr. Death” (“the man from the village”) comes to call, and everyone goes into a hereafter that looks exactly like a Vegas night club with topless showgirls in Santa outfits and toothy tenor intoning —
Its truely a real honorable experience to be here this evening.
A very wonderful and warm and emotional moment for all of us
And I’d like to sing a song for all of you.
Its Christmas in Heaven
All the children sing
Its Christmas in Heaven
Hark hark this church bells ring.
Its Christmas in Heaven
The snow falls from the sky
But its nice and warm and everyone
Looks smart and wears a tie.
Its Christmas in Heaven
Theres reruns on tv
The Sound of Music twice an hour
And Jaws one two and three.
There’s gifts for all the family
There’s toilettries and trains
There’s sauded mags and here come tents
And the lastest video games
Its Christmas its Christmas in Heaven
Hip hip and hip hip hooray.
Every single day
its Christmas day X4″
That’s your cue, Tiny Tim.