Saturday, December 17, 2011

Halfway Out of the Dark

The holiday season is once more upon us, prompting much retrospective contemplation over the events and the media from the past year.  Once again I feel ill-equipped to provide any sort of educated list of the best movies that have come out as there are so many people providing them that have had much more opportunity to see a great variety.  The majority of the things I've seen have been through classes or my Netflix account so I'm pretty out of the loop in terms of what's current.  Instead I've decided to brush off a few of my favorite old chestnuts and take a look at a few things I'm looking forward to seeing in the coming year.  (Hopefully I'll see them, at any rate.  I still haven't seen many of the films on my "looking forward to it" list from the last time I did this exercise.)

First off, it just wouldn't be the holiday season if I weren't nose-deep in Christopher Moore's hilariously blasphemous novel The Stupidest Angel: A Heartwarming Tale of Christmas Terror.  Having read nearly all of Moore's writing (save for his last few books I've been too buried under school work to get to), this one shot to the top of my favorites for two reasons: it's one of his funniest and it's a giant crossover.  I love crossovers to the pit of my sickly fangirl heart and this is a doozy.  Taking place in Pine Cove, CA it combines at least one character from nearly every book he'd written up until that point, save for a few that just wouldn't fit in.  It stands well enough on its own legs, providing enough back story for everyone so new readers wouldn't be too lost without bogging things down for the people already familiar with them.  It's the one book I go out of my way to re-read every year-- eggnog just doesn't taste the same unless I'm reading about a broadsword-slinging former B-movie actress, her stoner constable husband, an angel who wants to be Spider-Man, a pilot with a talking fruit bat, and a group of zombies obsessed with DIY Swedish furniture.  Like everything Moore writes, there's a biting ribbon of dark humor underlying the surface-level silliness-- there's considerably more homicide, cover-up, blackmail, mental illness, recreational drug use, middle-aged romance and zombie attacks than your traditional Christmas story-- so it's more like an interesting cross between black comedy and broad slapstick.  If it sounds like your cup of tea, I'd highly recommend picking a copy up if your shopping takes you anywhere near a bookstore.

There also seems to be talk of a movie adaptation in the works which might be interesting provided they can get that pesky tone right.  According to Movie Insider the cast includes Milla Jovovich, Crispin Glover and Cloris Leachman so it sounds like they're on the right track.  (Personally I think Alex Skarsgard would have made a pretty good Archangel Raziel since he's tall, blond, ridiculously gorgeous and able to do mind-bendingly stupid and uncomfortably inhuman with a straight face.  But that's just me.)

The Doctor Who Christmas Special from 2010 is a recent but most likely permanent addition to my annual tradition.  The title of this blog entry is taken from the opening and closing narration of Michael Gambon in this very cleverly self-conscious retelling of Dickens' A Christmas Carol, only in addition to the familiar bah-humbugging miser learning how to not be miserable it also features time travel, a crashing spaceship, a frozen opera singer, the most sympathetic celluloid shark possibly ever, and a very cool bow tie.  Setting aside my ardent adoration for anything that shows a shark to be anything other than evil or terrifying, this is still a really smart, witty, funny, touching production that I cannot recommend highly enough.  But seriously, sharks and time travel, come on.

The Hudsucker Proxy isn't one of the Coens' more highly praised movies but it's definitely one of my favorites.  It's a tip of the hat to Frank Capra and the screwball comedies of the 30s, featuring some beautiful cinematography, a snappy script and some fantastic performances from Tim Robbins, Jennifer Jason Leigh and Paul Newman.  Also keep an eye out for John Mahoney, Bruce Campbell, Peter Gallagher and the late Anna Nicole Smith.  Considering the economic climate over the past few years, maybe a good laugh at the antics of big corporations shooting themselves in the foot is something everyone could use.  I've seen this movie too many times to count over the years and it never ceases to be fun.  It's also currently streaming on Netflix, so if you have an account check it out.

Tokyo Godfathers, along with anything else the late (and still sorely missed) Satoshi Kon ever did, has been written about several times on this blog already, but it's still very much a holiday tradition for me to pop this in the DVD player at least once a December.  Not many holiday movies-- or non-holiday movies, for that matter-- feature three homeless people in a dysfunctional surrogate family as the three protagonists and as funny as this movie is it also doesn't pull its punches when it comes to showing some of the harsher realities of being homeless and of life in general.  As grim as the reality can be, this is a film that is unflinchingly optimistic, at times even over the top in terms of the sheer number of coincidences that occur on this quixotic quest to return an abandoned baby to her mother.  It's heartwarming without being cloying or too treacly which can be nice this time of year.

Moving past the nagging certainty that I've left something important off this list, it's time to look ahead to the movies I'm anticipating in the coming year.  Not all of them, of course, just the ones that have trailers up.  Some of them are already out but I haven't seen them yet, so on the list they go.

Mission Impossible: Ghost Protocol

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