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Friday, December 21, 2012

A Charlie Brown Christmas: 1965

Release date: December 9, 1965 (initial release)
Director: Bill Melendez
Running time: 25 minutes
DVD release date: September 12, 2000
Sequel: A Boy Named Charlie Brown
   Well, the Christmas Season is upon us yet again. I guess now it's time to review a Christmas-ish movie, and this year I've picked one that I hold very dear. I watched this movie so many times when I was younger, and it has been quite awhile since I sat down with it again. I am also quite glad that I still own this film today on VHS, because in a bit we'll never see the likes of the format again. I know that this film is very different from my last selection, "Santa Clause Conquers The Martians," but who knows, maybe next year I'll have something stranger in store. But now, lets not waste any time in taking a look at a childhood memory of mine, "A Charlie Brown Christmas."

   All my life I've had sort of had a bone to pick with commercialism, and it only just occurred to me that this may be where that originated. This movie, or short film isn't entirely about Christmas (as far as Christmas specials go. You all know how a Christmas special goes! The characters in the show meet Santa and help him with some problem he has, and they take it upon themselves to quote on quote, "Save Christmas," by delivering the presents to all the good girls and boys, but this doesn't happen here. In fact, the characters never see Santa at all, and what's more is that he's not even mentioned! The only thing Christmas-related in the special, is a Christmas tree. And I submit to you, dear readers, that this short film represents the true meaning of Christmas better than any other episode submitted to public entertainment with the similar, if not the same intention. 

   The plot of the short film goes like this. Charlie Brown is feeling a bit down during the Christmas season, but he can't figure out why. While trying to deal with this dilemma, he is chosen by his, "friends" to be the director of the Christmas play they are presenting in their school (with no adults around, of course). Charlie Brown really tries his best in directing the actors and positions to create the play they were intended to present. This, unfortunately does not go over well, and Charlie Brown decides with a complete lack of cooperation, and because the rest of the world is being too commercial, none of the play can be presented. They decide that the thing that the play needs is a Christmas Tree to give the play an authentic look. Charlie and Linus proceed into town to find the biggest tree, but when they get there, they notice that all of the tree's being sold are aluminum (all except one). The only wooden tree left in the lot was the smallest, and overall most unappealing one there. Charlie Brown picks this tree, because he said, "it needed him." It is my belief that the other reason Charlie picks this tree, is because he relates to it. throughout the strips he has been in, Charlie Brown has always thought little of himself, if anything at all. But he always tells the truth, and he does the best that he can in anything he tries to do. The film shows an example of this when Charlie Brown is given the task of directing the school play.

   When Charlie Brown presents the tree to the others, they insult the tree's value, and by extension, insult Charlie Brown's value in their usual fashion. But before Charlie loses all hope, Linus divulges the true meaning of Christmas, plain and simply. Charlie Brown then takes the tree outside (the others following) and tries to decorate the tree with a single ornament, but the tree bends over, and Charlie Brown believes that he killed the tree, and (once again) by extension, the spirit of Christmas. But the theme of the film appears at the very end, when the others decide (supposedly in Charlie Brown's pity) that the tree wasn't as bad as they had originally thought. They decorate the tree and make it look nice, and surprise Charlie Brown with their cooperation, thus reconstructing the traditional Christmas. The End.

      I like this movie, and people in general like this movie and I think I know why. Everyone at one time has felt as though they were not accepted or understood. This is what Charlie Brown goes through in "A Charlie Brown Christmas," among other things.we connect with the character, and since the story revolves around the character, we also connect with the story. So, for a simple 20 minuet long story, it is quite engaging. Every character in the peanut series is a bully to Charlie Brown, maybe with the exception of Linus. This is because Charlie Brown doesn't really stand up for himself, so he's easy to knock down frequently. He is different from the group, and when this is pointed out to him, he feels bad about it and considers changing. On the contrary, one of the character's, Pigpen (my favorite) is also different from the bunch. However, what differentiates Pigpen from Charlie Brown, is due to their tolerance for who they are. In other words, Pigpen is secure, while Charlie Brown is not. In the comics, Charlie Brown frequently became agitated by Pigpen, because he didn't care about the way he looked or did things and the rest of the group (for the most part) accepted him. Pigpen just didn't care what anyone thought, and that's why he is my favorite character in the Peanuts franchise. So, on that note, Merry Christmas, Happy Hanukkah, Happy New Year, and for the more extreme one's Happy D-Day! I've got some more cult favorites coming at ya for the next few months, but for my next review I think I'll take a detour down doomsday lane.


Click here to watch the trailer
Next Review: 2012 2009

Monday, December 17, 2012

The Rocky Horror Picture Show: 1975

Release date: September 26, 1975 (USA)
Director: Jim Sharman
MPAA rating: R
Running time: 100 minutes
Sequel: Shock Treatment

(Note: If you don't care about recent developments regarding "Cult Classic Theater", skip this paragraph.")

   Finally! After almost a year of writing, I have summoned the strength to tackle the strange and misunderstood realm of film known as, "cult classics." I would be remiss,  if I did not look into such a genre in the time that I have dedicated towards building upon this blog. To be honest, I never really understood what it meant, "Cult Classic." What I mean is, I never really understood it when coming up with the name for the blog. I thought it would just be a nice sounding name to call a hobby. At the time, I never really gave the title's meaning much thought. Now that I know, I feel rather stupid when recalling previous conversations with others. "So what do you like to do with your free time, Albert?" "Well, I like to review horror films on a blog I have called 'Cult Classic Theater'. The reason that I have brought up this inconsistency, is because I have been thinking about changing the title of the blog. I have recently introduced this website to a friend who will be, from now on, reviewing films with me. Look for "2001: A Space Odyssey" in a bit. That's all I really have to say, so now, here's "The Rocky Horror Picture Show"

   Directed by the strange and wild Jim Sherman, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" is a musical about a couple that wander into a mansion after their car breaking down to use their telephone. This is the only part in the film that isn't strange. What is strange, comes after they are let inside. Now, what I should remind you, is that up until this point the pacing for the film has been very...regular. A couple, different from the one in the story that we follow, is married. After we see that they come out of the chapel awaiting the guests that are ready to shower them with rice and praise, we are to assume that these are the characters that we will be following. This, however, is not true. It is instead false foreshadowing for stranger events to take place. After the bride and groom leave the scene, we are introduced to Brad Majors (Barry Bostwick) and Janet Weiss (Susan Sarandon), who sing the second song. 

   I liked the song very much, and I figured that this being the very first official song of the film, that it would establish the mood for the rest of the movie. It did not. It in fact, the mood became increasingly stranger until the conclusion of the film. And you also become increasingly uncomfortable while everything is happening around you because you cannot stop it. You cannot stop Brad and Janet from going to the mansion, and then entering the mansion and by extension their demise. And when it's finally over you know you can't un-watch anything. You saw it and you can never again say, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show? Never heard of it!" But this is where it gets interesting. Because once you finish the film, you come out of the theater or your living room as either one person or another. You either hated this movie, or you really liked it. And...what the @#!*% , I really liked this movie!

   I really did! And it wasn't that I connected with the film  on any level whatsoever, but it was that somebody was actually allowed to make this film! It took a lot of guts to film what awhile ago would have been identified as un-filmable. It's like if you were to take a look inside of any one's mind while they were daydreaming alone in a closet with the door shut and the lights out...under the covers...and under a bed. Don't ask me how you would do it, because it probably couldn't be done. Just ask how okay you would have to be with yourself to film it! And one of the reasons that some people don't particularly enjoy the film is because they aren't okay with themselves and what their mind does when they are alone. Some people are too old, and others need some foundation in a film. That's another thing too; the plot is just frightening. And I'm not saying that in the sense that things in the film are scary (there are many scary things in the movie), but I'm saying that the plot is driving on a dangerous path. I'll try to explain this the best that I can, but you really need to see the film in order to understand where it is I'm coming from. 

   Pretend that you and your family are all in one car driving to your uncle Joe's house simply for the purpose of auctioning his used lawn chairs and broken china to his only neighbor's pet dog and cat. Pretend that you were the only one in the car that didn't know that this was what you were doing when you got to your Uncle Joe's place, and you simply thought that you were paying him a visit. Pretend that your Uncle Joe's house is precariously placed on the very top of a steep cliff. Pretend that you figured it would only take you an hour to get from the bottom of the cliff to the top of the cliff, but it actually took three hours. Now pretend that the music on the radio in the car you were in was really good, but your family wouldn't stop talking long enough for you to actually listen to it. Pretend that your car starts swerving because your going so fast you can't see anything. Pretend that the cliff around you begins falling off, and now everyone in the car is wearing fishnet stockings, and wearing funny hats, and singing and although you judge that they are singing well you cannot tell what it is they are singing about and you just want an explanation of what's happening around you and you try to ask a question but no-one can hear you and now pretend you are suddenly at the house and everyone in the car simultaneously tells you at the same time that the reason that you are at your Uncle Joe's house is to auction his used lawn chairs and china to his neighbor's pets. And now your thinking to yourself, "Should I freak out right now? Or, should I accept these events that are now unfolding before me?" And that, is to me what, "The Rocky Horror Picture Show" feels like. It's a train wreak you can't take your eyes off of, but you have a feeling that there was a reason that the train had to crash and you just don't know why. 

   The Rocky Horror Picture Show is riddled with shocking visuals, that put you at the edge of your comfort zone. The music is very well composed (in my opinion), and there is room for interpret-ability when it comes to the meanings of those songs, and even the film in general.  I can't really stress how much you have to see this movie. Who knows? You might hate this movie so much, that you'll never be able to look at Tim Curry ever again. But maybe you'll like it, and if you do you're not alone. Even today there are extra screenings of the film in select theaters. People dress up as there favorite characters, and sing along with the movie. If that sounds fun to you, try looking to see where the next screening will take place, and bring your friends. You just might have some fun. After all, it's true what they say, "You may have seen many movies, but you've never seen anything like 'The Rocky Horror Picture Show'." 


Next Review: A Charlie Brown Christmas 1965