12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 9)

As mentioned in my previous post, you’ll be getting two 12 Films of Christmas entries today. The previous one was technically yesterday’s the I missed. So this here is officially speaking the entry for today. So I hope you enjoy getting two pieces about contrivances today.

So for this one we’ll be talking about “Bad Times at the El Royale”, a 2018 pulp thriller written and directed by Drew Goddard. The movie is about a group of strangers who all converge at the El Royale motel for the night, and how all their pasts come to a head, creating one hell of a tumultuous experience. So what does this have to do with christmas? Well, let me learn ya somethin’.

This movie is a metaphor for family christmas dinners. Think about it. A bunch of differing people coming together and clashing? That’s very much christmas. A kindly grandpa with some skeletons in his closet (Jeff Bridges), a smug sales type who is probably your aunt’s new shitty husband (Jon Hamm), your mom who is ready to defend herself from any bullshit (Cynthia Erivo), your conniving sister (Dakota Johnson), and then there’s the cult leader (Chris Hemsworth). What, your christmas dinners don’t have charismatic yet ruthless cult leaders attending? Oh man, you should give it a try, it’s a blast… except for the one time my cousin got set on fire by said cult leader… that was a bit awkward. So yeah, “Bad Times at the El Royale” can be seen as a metaphor for insane family christmas dinners.

And even without the holiday implications, “Bad Times at the El Royale” is still a damn fine thriller filled with fantastic actors and tense moments.

Have a good one.

12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 8)

Just as a heads up, I missed yesterday’s post, so you’re gonna get two of these today. Apologies for this fuck up if you somehow were looking forward to it yesterday, but didn’t see one. It’s all on me. So let’s not dilly dally, time for the first 12 Contrivances of Christmas post for the day.

So for this post I decided to go with a movie that I actually covered on the blog earlier this year (shameless plug, I know). It is 1987’s “Wings of Desire”, directed by Wim Wenders. It is a slow burn meditative fantasy drama about Damiel (Bruno Ganz, R.I.P), an angel watching over the humans of Berlin, and how he’s going through a bit of an existential crisis. So how am I going to cover a German art drama for this silly series of mine, you ask? Well, just sit back and relax as I contrive a reason.

Now, the first thing some of you might point to might be “Ah, it’s about angels, angels mean christianity, christianity means Jesus, Jesus means christmas!”. Firstly, don’t try to beat me to the punch. And secondly, that’s wrong. I ain’t forcing some christian crap here, it would be a bit disingenuous of an agnostic such as myself. No, I have something else planned.
Despite not exactly being the cheeriest movie around, “Wings of Desire” does tout a certain theme throughout… you know, when not focusing on people going through a personal crisis or two. That theme? Love. As Damiel goes through his crisis, he falls in love with a human woman. You know why the angels exist? To make sure nothing bad happens to the humans they watch over, which is an act of love. And you know what should be spread on christmas? Love! So “Wings of Desire” is a christmas movie because, just like the holiday, it’s all about that love (or that sweet, sweet existential crisis if that’s more your cup of tea).

And even if you don’t want to take it as a holiday feature, “Wings of Desire” is a wonderful drama that, despite its divine protagonist, shows so much humanity. It’s absolutely fantastic.

Have a good one.

12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 7)

That’s right, this series is still going. I am not giving up on it, even remembering to do a post each day is a surprisingly stressful act. Anyway, here’s today’s post.

Based on a book by Ron Hansen, “The Assassination of Jesse James by the Coward Robert Ford” was released in 2007, and directed by Andrew Dominik. It follows a young man named Robert Ford (Casey Affleck) who has idolized legendary American outlaw Jesse James (Brad Pitt) for many years, and then finally gets the chance to join his gang at the age of 19. The movie is a character-driven psychological drama all about demythologizing Jesse James while also deconstructing its central protagonist, Robert Ford. So now you’re probably wondering how I’m gonna contrive this to be a christmas movie? Well, watch and learn, my friends. This is how the pros (read: idiots) do it.

Now, one or two of you might assume I’m gonna use the scenes set in snowy landscapes for this. Well, as I’ve probably established earlier in this series, I’m not that fucking shallow. That’s not contrived enough. No, I got something else.
What we see in the movie after Bob joins Jesse’s gang is how much he notices what a psychotic, paranoid disappointment Jesse actually might’ve been, and not this awesome cowboy legend you might read about and enjoy following in a dime novel. So one of the basic messages one can sort of get out of this movie is “Don’t meet your heroes, because you’re just gonna be disappointed”. And that works as our christmas analogy, because as a kid you might be celebrating the holiday with your family, both immediate and extended. And all of a sudden Santa Claus shows up, lets kids sit on his lap, and give them presents. But then one of your dumbass cousins decides to tug at Santa’s beard and find out that it’s just your uncle in a cheap costume, and it turns out there is no actual magical lobster man. Bob getting to know Jesse is kind of the same thing. Instead of this magically awesome being he thought he knew, it turned out to be something a bit more disappointing. So “The Assassination of Jesse James” is a christmas movie in the sense that the truth about the legend is a fucking disappointment, just like Santa Claus.

The movie on the other hand isn’t a disappointment, it’s fucking fantastic. One of my favorites.

Have a good one.

12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 6)

Holy shit, we’re already halfway through this silly series of mine. Time sure flies when things happen. So let’s get into it.

Some of you might recognize the movie from the image up above. Today we’re talking about “Overlord”, a 2018 action-horror movie directed by Julius Avery, and produced by J.J. Abrams. It’s about a group of American soldiers who fall behind enemy lines during World War 2, in an attempt to make a difference in the tides of war. This might sound familiar to some of you, as I have talked about this movie on the blog before… twice, as a matter of fact (and about a kajillion other times on twitter). So now I hear you groaning “Markus, how can a grim World War 2 horror movie possibly be associated with christmas?”. Well, strap in and make yourself ready for my reasoning.

What’s one of the most important parts of christmas? Bringing joy, right? Well, you know what brings me a whole lot of joy? Seeing nazi punks get blown the fuck up, shot to shit, absolutely annihilated, and other delightful synonyms for that situation. Sure, there are parts where our heroes are stuck or pinned down, struggling with their mission. But that just makes it even more satisfying and joyous to see them destroy god damn nazi assholes. Call me a sick son of a bitch if you want, but with our world being what it currently is, this kind of violent escapism is important, especially during the season of joy.

Have a good one.

12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 5)

It’s time for part 5 of this goofy series of mine. More contrivances, here we go. And today we’re actually talking about a movie from my own country for once, I know, my mind is as blown as yours.

Today’s movie is called “A Summer Tale”, directed by Ulf Malmros, and released in 2000. Set in 1958, it follows two kids (Anastasios Soulis and Rebecca Scheja) as they get sent to live with a cantankerous funeral director (Kjell Bergqvist) for the summer. So now… now… now… I hear what you’re thinking. “Markus, you dumb bastard, how the hell are you gonna get a movie with SUMMER in the title to fit within the christmas category?”. Well, my impatient friend, let me sit your ass down and tell you.

When the kids first meet this funeral director, their relationship to him is stale at best, and tense at worst. He’s not abusive and horrible towards them, but he’s not exactly someone I’d wanna send my theoretical kids to. But as one might expect from this setup, these two parties of course start to warm towards each other, all the while the funeral director tries to get a local teacher he has a crush on to go out with him. So while yes, the movie is set during the summer, it’s still all about family and finding love. You know what part of the year is often associated with family and love? Christmas. Everyone always talks about how that holiday should be spent spreading love and being with your family. And since this movie is all about that shit, you’d imagine it could fit within that.
While “A Summer Tale” isn’t one of the greatest movies ever made, I found myself surprisingly entertained by it. It’s a heartwarming little dramedy that made me really care about the characters, all of whom are very well acted by the actors involved (yes, the kids too). It’s a good flick.

Have a good one.

12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 4)

Howdy. 12 Films of Christmas, contrivance edition. The fourth part. Y’all ready?

So today’s pick is an interesting one. Today we’re chatting about “Deadwood: The Movie”, a 2019 made-for-tv film based on the hit tv show that ran from 2004 to 2006. Set ten years after the season 3 finale, we return to the South Dakota camp, now a small town. And we follow Bullock (Timothy Olyphant), Swearengen (Ian McShane), and all the other cocksuckers of Deadwood as old wounds get opened up in the midst of Dakota becoming a state. I got to the show far after everyone else, only really starting it in late April/early May of this year, and was done at the end of May, right around the time the movie was released. So I didn’t have the same distance of time/nostalgia that a lot of other people did. But I still watched it. So how is “Deadwood: The Movie” a christmas film? Well tag along with me.

Imagine: The year is 2006. You’ve been watching this show, “Deadwood”. You’ve endured the drama, you’ve fallen in love with the characters, you are so excited about a fourth season… but then the show gets cancelled. You’re distraught. Plot threads dangling loosely, no real resolution, your tenure with these characters gets abruptly cut off. Then, 13 years later, you get to see them again, thanks to this movie. It’s a christmas fucking miracle, a god damn gift! And you know who delivers gifts? Santa Claus.

If you are a fan of “Deadwood” and haven’t checked out the movie yet, I highly recommend doing so. It’s a wonderfully acted and written sendoff for these characters we love. I may have been late to the “Deadwood” party, but that didn’t stop it from having a big impact on me. The show is fantastic, and the movie is one of my favorites of the year.

Have a good one.

12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 3)

Good evening, ladies and gents. Christmas is almost upon us, and we are counting down towards that. Your mission, should you choose to accept it, is to read today’s post and hopefully tolerate the contrivance I give for choosing to talk about this movie today. This message would self destruct in five seconds, but we couldn’t figure out how to burn out your device, so when you’re done, just exit the post really abruptly like it’s destroying itself.

“Mission Impossible: Fallout”. The sixth entry in the film franchise based on the old tv show, was written and directed by Christopher McQuarrie, and once again starring stunt-performing madman Tom Cruise as he and his team has to stop some nuclear devices from being unleashed upon the world. It was released in the summer of 2018, to critical and commercial acclaim. You all probably think that I’m using the same excuse as with “Sunshine” yesterday, where it’s all about “If the world isn’t saved, then there’ll be no more christmas”. And you’d be partially right… but I’m not just rehashing old explanations/contrivances. I got something new too.

In this movie, Tom Cruise has to go across the world to stop this nuclear threat from an evil shadow organization. So it’s a globetrotting adventure. And at a point in the movie, we also see good ol’ Tommy boy run across some rooftops. So he sprints across rooftops, while traveling the world. You know who else does that? Santa Claus. Or should I say… SANTA CRUISE!?

So there, Tom Cruise, much like Santa Claus, hops around rooftops all over the world. And even if we discount this clear holiday implication, “Mission Impossible: Fallout” is still an absolutely fantastic action movie that, in my opinion, gets better with every watch. Great chases, great fights, some great shooty-bang-bang, some great acting… it’s just great.

Have a good one.

12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 2)

Well hey there, everyone. Welcome back to the second part in this series that I really should’ve called “12 Contrivances of Christmas”. Ah, fuck it, too late now. So let’s get into it.

So if you’re a bit of a sci-fi buff, or you just watch a ton of movies, you probably figured out from the top image that we’re talking about “Sunshine” today. Released in 2007, the movie was directed by Danny Boyle, written by Alex Garland, and starring a whole bunch of recognizable people. And it’s about the crew of a spaceship set to deliver a big bomb to space in an attempt to try to reignite our dying sun. So you’re probably wondering how I’m gonna contrive my reasoning for this one. Well, buckle up, because I am ready to deliver my reasoning.

Imagine. The sun is about to die. No sun, no warmth. No warmth, no life. No life, no christmas. So really, this non-christmas movie is all about saving christmas! Easy peasy, lemon contrivanceasy! But yeah, that’s my reasoning. Also, there’s a bit in the movie where you see a photo of the ship’s crew, wearing santa hats, clearly celebrating christmas. Double reason, double christmas contrivance! HAHA.
All joking aside, I love “Sunshine”, it’s one of my favorite sci-fi movies. It’s tense, emotional, exciting, visually stunning, and a feast for the ears.

Have a good one.

12 Films of Christmas 2019 (Part 1)

Season’s greetings, ladies and gents. Alright, enough of that holly jolly shit, let’s get down to business. For a few years now, I’ve had this series on my blog where I do twelve shorter pieces starting on December 13th, leading up to December 24th (AKA the date where us in Sweden primarily celebrate christmas). First two years, I did christmas songs. The next two, I did films. Now, for this year, I’m doing films again. However, I’m throwing a monkey in the wrench this year… I won’t use actual christmas movies. Instead I’m just using 12 movies, and I have to contrive a reason as to why I’m mentioning them in a christmas series. Gotta find some way to switch up the monotony, you know. So without further ado… here we go.

As you probably guessed from the image at the top, I am starting this series off with a classic of sci-fi/fantasy cinema. “Star Wars: The Empire Strikes Back”, released in 1980, sequel to the 1977 super surprise hit “Star Wars”. It once again follows Luke, Leia, and Han (Mark Hamill, Carrie Fisher, Harrison Ford) as they battle against the sinister galactic empire. Most of you probably assume that my contrivance for this is the first act of the movie, which is set on the snow-covered planet of Hoth. And while that adds to it, it’s not my main motivation (twist, motherfuckers). But for my contrivance to work, there will be spoilers. So if you haven’t seen “Empire Strikes Back”, then you’re either lying or you’ve lived under a rock for the past 39 years. So if you don’t want spoilers, go watch it, then come back. Don’t worry, I’ll wait…

Dramatic exaggeration of my long wait.

Welcome back. Now, spoilery contrivance time. If you’ve seen this movie, you should know that it’s all about bringing friends and family together, which is also what the holidays are about. First things first: We see Han get reunited with his old buddy Lando Calrissian (Billy Dee Williams). It seems slightly tense at first, but then there’s a hug and laughter and offers of refreshments.

And then there’s the family reunion. Later in the movie, we have Luke meeting the spooky looking Darth Vader (David Prowse/James Earl Jones). They scuffle a bit, Luke gets disarmed (HA!), and that’s when the classic line happens. No… I am your father! Got chills when I rewatched it yesterday, it’s still great. And isn’t it nice to see a boy and his father get reunited? Sure, it’s a bit awkward at first, but somewhere down the cockles of your heart, there’s still a bit of holiday heart warmth to it.

“Empire Strikes Back” is not only a fantastic movie, but also a nice, heartwarming movie about awkward reunions with friends and family. Perfect holiday analogy!

Have a good one.

 

Great Music #33

Well howdy, ladies and gents. You all doing okay? Anyway, time for me to ramble on once again about music I like. Which I last did in… September. I’m getting better at keeping semi-regular intervals with this series, it seems. Oh well, let’s chat about a tune.

The year is 1967. A group of people come together to form a band. This band was called Soft White Underbelly. This name wouldn’t last too long however, as in 1971 they would change their name into what we know them as today… Blue Öyster Cult. Best known for their legendary super hit “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, from the band’s 1976 album “Agents of Fortune”, the band went on to become fucking huge in the rock/metal scene. But today we’re not talking about that one song that needed more cowbell. We’re talking about an earlier track of theirs. It’s the final track from their 1974 album, “Secret Treaties”. This is “Astronomy”.
The song opens with a little piano piece that makes the listener go “Hmm, what’s this?”. It’s slightly mysterious. Then it gets more mysterious. Then Eric Bloom opens his mouth and starts telling a tale… and by the end, it has given us one of the band’s best songs. Though that maybe doesn’t say a lot considering how many great songs they have. But if it wasn’t for “Don’t Fear the Reaper”, then “Astronomy” would be my favorite song by Blue Öyster Cult. From Bloom’s engaging vocals, to the eclectic instrumentation, to the absolutely perfect structure and pacing. The song is a beautiful crescendo, starting with that simple and mystic opening, to a somewhat bombastic, yet dramatic-sounding finale to cap off the album. Again, this is my favorite song from the band… if you discount the cowbell song.

What are your thoughts on “Astronomy”? And what’s your favorite Blue Öyster Cult song that isn’t “Don’t Fear the Reaper”? Leave any and all thoughts in the comments.
Have a good one and enjoy.