Monday, November 29, 2010

Macca Christmas-y songs

As some of my readers will know, I am a bit of a fan of the Beatles. Hence, I figured I'd throw in some bonus blog material. This will probably become a once a week thing during the next month or so.

So today, I figured I would start with some solo Beatles material, specifically, some Christmas-y music videos courtesy of Sir Paul McCartney.

First, we have the ubiquitous 1979 chestnut "Wonderful Christmastime" which seems to have no middle ground (or not much anyway), people seem to either really like it or really REALLY hate it. I reckon it is slight (especially where work from a former Beatle is concerned), but fun. Here is the video (my advice to the haters is, don't click the play button!):

Here are a couple of fun facts about the song:

* The pub you see in the video is the Fountain Inn in Ashurst, West Sussex.
* The synthesizer riff was played on a Sequential Circuits Prophet-5.
* The song did not crack the U.S. Billboard Hot 100 in the year of its release, but did chart at #6 in the U.K. singles chart.
* The song can be heard in the 1998 animated film "Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer: The Movie," as well as all over your local pop radio station during the holidays.

The second video from Sir Paul that I am including is for "Pipes of Peace." Written for the 1983 album of the same title (released October 31, 1983), the title song was released as a single on December 5, 1983. Although it is not explicitly a holiday song from a lyrical standpoint (except in a "Peace on Earth, Goodwill to All" sort of way), the video is most definitely Christmas-y. The video depicts the famous WWI Christmas truce between British and German troops. Macca plays soldiers on both sides of the trenches who meet up in No Man's Land while other soldiers fraternize and play football.

* This song was Paul McCartney's first and *only* number 1 single as a solo artist in the U.K. (!)
* The single (with "So Bad" as the B-side) reached number 23 on the U.S. charts.
* The video was my introduction to the WWI Christmas truce of December 1914.

The Christmas Truce is also dramatized in the film Joyeux Noel, about which more later (hopefully).

So there you have some Beatle-y Christmas-y music videos for your viewing and listening pleasure. I plan to post a few more of these as the holidaze progress.

Tuesday, November 23, 2010

Mouse On The Mayflower

Originally aired on NBC, November 23,1968
Directed and Produced by Arthur Rankin Jr and Jules Bass.
Written by Romeo Muller
Original Music by Maury Laws
This special tells the story of the Pilgrims voyage from Plymouth,England to North America in1620 and their struggles to set up their settlement in the New World. The famous courtship of Priscilla Mullins by John Alden is also covered. It’s narrated by a church mouse named William who’s voiced by Tennessee Ernie Ford,who also sings the theme song.
J A Morris says:
Not a very good special. And especially disappointing considering this is a Rankin-Bass production. This special came just a year after the R-B classic ‘Mad Monster Party’.
Even though I grew up in the 70s, I’d never seen Mouse On The Mayflower until now (I don’t remember it being broadcast during my childhood).  I often watch specials like this and try to imagine what I would have thought if was a child. I don’t think I would’ve enjoyed Mouse. The primary characters aren’t very interesting, and I thought the singing voices were obnoxious. And the songs themselves aren’t so great either, this is not the best effort from legendary composer Maury Laws.
I guess the biggest problem with Mouse is there’s just too much going on. There’s the brutal voyage across the Atlantic, the relationship between John and Priscilla, a pointless subplot involving criminals who infiltrate the Mayflower. Plus, fantasy sequences where John imagines he’s a knight and Priscilla is a Princess that seem like they belong in another special.
On a positive note, voice acting god Paul Frees (best remembered as the voice of Boris Badenov from Bullwinkle cartoons) does not disappoint.  Frees seemed to voice about half a dozen characters, and managed to make this special somewhat enjoyable at times. Otherwise, not much to recommend here, unless you’re huge fan of Tennessee Ernie Ford.
My Rating:

 2 pumpkin pies.

Monday, November 22, 2010

Buffy The Vampire Slayer: "Pangs"

"To commemorate a past event, you kill and eat an animal. It's a ritual sacrifice. With pie."

As we call this blog "Holiday Film & TV Reviews", I see no reason why we shouldn't branch out into more holidays than Christmas.

As Thanksgiving is just around the corner (and as I just watched it a couple days ago), today I would like to talk about the Thanksgiving episode of the cult-tv classic Buffy The Vampire Slayer. This particular episode is entitled "Pangs" comes from Season 4 of the series and first aired on November 23, 1999.

Summary: Buffy (Sarah Michelle Gellar) and the Scooby Gang are spending Thanksgiving together rather than with family and Buffy is determined that everything will be absolutely perfect. Buffy's perfect Thanksgiving is interrupted by the emergence of a bloodthirsty Native American spirit called Hus (Tod Thawley) who is bent on revenge for wrongs done to his people in the past. Meanwhile, Angel (David Boreanaz), Buffy's vampire ex, has secretly returned to Sunnydale to help protect Buffy.

This episode contains many awesomely quotable lines (witness this blog entry's pull-quote, which is in reference to ex-demon Anya's (Emma Caulfield) summation of what Thanksgiving is).  It's an interesting postmodern take on the holiday and its place in U.S. history. Willow (Alyson Hannigan) takes the side of the Native Americans maybe being justified in wanting revenge for what was done to them by white settlers in the name of progress. Giles (Anthony Head) and Spike (James Marsters) argue from the other side. Giles citing the futility of symbolic revenge (Hus's victims are innocent and not responsible for their forbears' crimes against Hus's people), while Spike justifies his arguments based on the futility of guilt. ["You won. All right? You came in and you killed them and you took their land. That's what conquering nations do. It's what Caesar did, and he's not goin' around saying, "I came, I conquered, I felt really bad about it." The history of the world is not people making friends. You had better weapons, and you massacred them. End of story."] Buffy is conflicted about the whole thing and busy stressing about putting her perfect Thanksgiving meal together. ["And the thing is, I like my evil like I like my men - evil. You know, "straight up, black hat, tied to the train tracks, soon my electro-ray will destroy Metropolis," bad. Not all mixed up with guilt and the destruction of an indigenous culture. "]

Aside from containing vampires, spirits and demons the episode really follows an interestingly traditional arc for a Thanksgiving themed show dealing with holiday stresses such as family, travel and preparations that is given additional metaphorical significane by the stresses brought on by the spirit Hus's depradations. That plus the great dialogue and the humor make this an excellent addition to one's Thanksgiving themed viewing.

I'd give it a 3 1/2 pumpkin pie rating.

Actually here's some more great quotage (from near the end of the episode) from Buffy and Xander (Nicholas Brendon) that really sums things up:

Buffy: Wasn't exactly a perfect Thanksgiving.
Xander: I don't know, seemed kind of right to me. A bunch of anticipation, a big fight, and now we're all sleepy.

For some bonus fun, here's a link to a blog post featuring very old-school balloons from past Macy's Thanksgiving Day Parades:

Saturday, November 20, 2010


Well hello there, internet folks! It's been rather a long time since I've posted on this blog, but I (and Jason) intend to return to it with gusto thanks in part to a wonderful chance encounter that occurred earlier this week.

As you may (or may not) know, I recently began a new job at the Edgar Allan Poe Museum and I was sitting on the front desk greeting visitors and minding the shop, when a nice woman (close to me in age) came in to check out the museum. In the course of chatting with her, I learned she is holiday tv expert, Joanna Wilson and that she is on a book tour and is promoting books she has written about Christmas tv shows and also has a blog on the same subject!!!! I was delighted to learn this and asked lots of questions and mentioned that my husband and I had a (sadly neglected of late) blog on a similar theme. We chatted about assorted holiday shows and she mentioned an ep of Northern Exposure called "Seoul Mates" which was not only a Christmas episode, but also had an Edgar Allan Poe/raven theme. (Somehow I've never seen this particular ep, but Jason and I intend to remedy this asap, it is now at the top of our Netflix queue and we shall hopefully be reviewing it very soon.) I was intrigued by all of this and got info on a signing that Joanna was going to be doing at Chop Suey Books, one of our favorite local purveyors of used and new books later in the week.

Well, knowing full well that I was interested in her books and armed with the knowledge that she was doing a signing at our local book store of choice, I sent Jason on a mission this past Thursday afternoon to meet her. We acquired a signed copy of The Christmas TV Companion: A Guide To Cult Classics, Strange Specials & Outrageous Oddities and have been happily dipping in and out of it for the past couple of days. It is a fabulous compilation of some of the more off-beat Christmas offerings out there in tv land and also includes great "Make Your Own Marathon" suggestions and encouragement to try your own marathons. It also has discussions of kid-friendly selections as well as more adult oriented material and has given us LOTS of inspiration for new shows to check out as well as inspiration to get holiday film and tv special blogging again.

If you love the holidays and are a pop culture geek, this book is a wonderful resource and an extremely fun read!

Ms. Wilson also has another (just-published!) book called Tis The Season TV, which is an encyclopedia of Christmas-themed television episodes, specials and made-for-tv movies which I strongly suspect we will be picking up a copy of in the not-too-distant future.

You can get these awesome books for yourself at your local bookseller or via Amazon
or 1701 Press. You can even talk to the lovely Joanna Wilson herself on her book tour which is going on for the next couple of weeks. She's an awesome person and would love to see you at a signing!

So huzzah for renewed inspiration and huzzah for excellent Chrismas pop culture books. Be seeing more of you soon!

P.S. It turns out Joanna has given a plug to the Poe Museum and Chop Suey (and a thank you to Jason and myself) on her blog! Yay!