Happy holidays, everypeoples. When I started writing this journal entry, I was going to thank those who wished me a happy birthday, but two months have gone by since then. I know how much people enjoy reading my witty and insightful impressions of books and movies /s, but it seems as though I’ve had an increasingly harder time concentrating. I blame the internet for wrecking my attention span.
I’ll tell you how I spent my birthday anyway: I treated myself to McDonald’s and ate it at the park. While I was there, some lady approached my car and handed me religious literature, which is something that’s never happened to me at the park before – and on my birthday no less – so I guess that was the universe’s way of telling me I should become a Jehovah’s Witness.
On Christmas, I had breakfast with my dad and his wife and then I had dinner at my neighbor’s in the early afternoon, which was kind of a nice, low-key thing, and then I had the remainder of the day to myself. The rest of my immediate family spent the holiday in Oregon because they live there or were visiting. I kept expecting one of them to call to wish me a Merry Christmas, but no one ever did. That probably just means that nobody loves me.
Franny and Zooey by J.D. Salinger
I read this for a couple reasons: For one, I thought it couldn’t hurt to expand my knowledge of this author beyond Cather in the Rye. Also, I read that it served as partial inspiration for The Royal Tenenbaums, which remains on my list of my top ten favorite movies.
The plot concerns a couple of grown siblings from a family of former-child prodigies, Zooey, an actor, and his younger sister, who is fed up with the phonies in college and seeking some sort of spiritual enlightenment. I could relate to her to a certain extent. I never considered myself a genius… in fact, I usually think I’m stupider than most people (though sometimes I think I’m simultaneously stupider and smarter, if that’s even possible). But when I couldn’t seem to make a success of college, I spent some time trying in vain to glean some meaning to existence. Maybe that’s why this book caused me to tear up slightly.
Nine Stories by J.D. Salinger
Dragon Ball Z: Broly – the Legendary Super Saiyan
I never thought I would like a cartoon where there was so much fighting in it – I didn’t usually care much for action cartoons growing up - but I have a real fondness for Dragon Ball Z, partly due to the cartooniness of it and the heavy fantasy elements. That said, I didn’t enjoy this movie. It didn’t help that I paid a full ticket price to see it – thinking it would be a treat to see a Dragon Ball Z movie on the big screen – but it was not worth the cost of admission. Maybe a rental. What really ruined the experience for me was two girls in the back row who seemed to have been dragged there unwillingly by their dates. They wouldn’t stop laughing and talking all the way through the movie… when they were there, that is. They came in late and then walked out at least two or three times. It was super annoying, but at the same time, I felt embarrassed about caring enough to feel annoyed because I could see how those girls found it all so hilarious. What was supposed to do? Turn around and shush them for disrupting this stupid, cheaply animated action cartoon with the yelling and punching, punctuated by moments unfunny comic relief? Even so, it doesn’t excuse that type of behavior.
The Canterville Ghost
I watched this mainly because Patrick Stewart is in it. I think I must have seen at least one other adaptation of the story at some point in my life (possibly the one with Richard Kiley), but I hated this version. I hated Neve Campbell’s bratty character (at least in the beginning), I hated her bratty brothers pretty much all the way through the film and I hated her dad, who is written as a total strawman of a scientist who pigheadedly refuses to believe his kids’ insistence that the castle they’re living in is haunted and prefers to believe that his offspring are all a pack of liars. I’ve said before that it’s a little strange to me how in fiction with supernatural or preternatural elements, the person who is skeptical about some sort of fantastic claim is usually presented as delusional or the bad guy when they would be the reasonable one in real life. Clearly, the screenwriter wanted to deliver some sort of message about reliance on science vs. faith, which I’m pretty sure was not in the original story by Oscar Wilde. The dad in this movie talks like how someone with no knowledge of science thinks a scientist would talk.
Peter Hyams directed 2010: The Year We Make Contact, which may not be the masterpiece that Kubrick’s 2001 is, but I’ve always considered it to be a pretty solid sequel. A few years earlier, he directed this movie, about NASA faking a mission to Mars. At the time, it probably seemed like a neat idea for a movie, but now I mostly just find it sad that there are people who actually believe this concerning the moon landing. I’ve previously stated that I’m less entertained by stories about far-fetched conspiracies now that I’m aware that there are a frightening number of idiots who actually take them seriously in real life (including at least one who holds high political office). Even so, I thought the movie was okay, though most of the characters weren’t super well developed.
This is the Sandra Bullock Netflix movie about an outbreak of mass suicides caused by some mysterious force. In hindsight, I realize the obvious comparison to Shyamalan’s The Happening, though I’ve seen clips from The Happening that made the movie look pretty laughable, whereas I found Bird Box to be an effective thriller. I was tense pretty much all the way through it, so I’d say it did its job. John Malkovich is probably the weakest part of the film. He plays an amalgamation of clichéd jerk character traits: a selfish, alcoholic lawyer. There are probably people like that in real life and someone of that nature is somewhat obligatory in order to introduce conflict, but he maybe didn’t have to be such a stereotype.
The Christmas Chronicles
I watched a lot of classic Christmas movies and specials this December, but I decided to try my luck with this new Netflix movie where a pair of siblings accidentally cause Santa’s sleigh to crash and then have to run around Chicago trying to save Christmas. Yep, it’s basically Adventures in Babysitting with Santa Claus in it (there’s even a scene in a chop shop and one in which Santa sings the blues), but not nearly as much fun. Kurt Russel is surprisingly good as a somewhat unorthodox Santa Claus, and the kid actors are also good, and I can appreciate some of the movie’s unique Santa-lore (like how Santa’s bag is a wormhole to the North Pole), but it’s maybe the story is a little schmaltzier than I can comfortably tolerate, plus there just doesn’t seem to be enough story to justify its running time. I dunno, maybe it’s good enough for younger viewers, but I don’t see it becoming a holiday classic.
When I saw Terry Zwigoff directed Bad Santa, my hopes were raised, since he directed Ghost World, another one of my favorite movies. However, at the risk of sounding like a prig, I don’t find anything amusing about an angry department store Santa Claus swearing in front of kids. How does he not get fired the first day on the job? In the past, I’ve thought that asshole characters who say outrageous things can sometimes be humorous, but the character that Billy Bob Thornton plays is such a total shambles, he crosses the line from funny to horribly tragic. I didn't laugh once. Just to prove I’m not necessarily against edgier Christmas fare, a movie I recall enjoying is Denis Leary’s The Ref (even though I now kind of despise Denis Leary as a person and a comic). Bad Santa wins the prize for the worst movie I've watched this year. I regret watching it.
To get the taste of this movie out of my mouth, afterward I watched The Twilight Zone’s one Christmas episode, “Night of the Meek,” starring Art Carney. Now there’s a story about a depressed, alcoholic department store Santa that I really like.
I saw The Prophecy on TV years ago, and for some reason really wanted to watch it again. I didn’t remember it as being a great movie, but when I first saw it, I thought the writer/director, Gregory Widen (who also created the Highlander franchise), had a relatively novel concept about a war between angels and its impact on Earth, back when I think audiences were more accustomed to angels always being presented in fiction as benign, helpful figures like Cary Grant in The Bishop’s Wife.
Unfortunately, I was more aware of the weaker aspects of the film this time around. Also, I was kind of bothered by how religious the script is, which seems like a weird thing to say regarding a movie about angels, but just like I assume Marvel can do stories about Thor without pandering to anyone who might happen to worship the Norse pantheon, I’m sure it’s entirely possible to do a story about angels without resorting to Touched by an Angel-style claptrap. It’s a Wonderful Life (which I like so much I watched it twice in one week this season) is less religious/preachy than this movie. Clarence could just as easily have been a magic genie or a six foot rabbit and the story would be essentially the same. But The Prophecy wouldn’t be that out of place alongside a movie like Left Behind.
Viggo Mortenson has a small part as the devil, and even though the movie is a little unique for its time by not making the devil the antagonist (Christopher Walken’s Gabriel fills that role), his creepy, malevolent portrayal feels pretty cliché, especially now that I’m more accustomed to the kinder, gentler version of the character from the TV show Lucifer. Even before that, though, I couldn’t help thinking that automatically equating the devil with evil was somewhat lazy storytelling.