Friday, December 10, 2010

Camera Obscura: The Worst Santa Claus Movie Ever; 10 Best Unseen Movies of 2010

Before we get into the Good Stuff, a short jaunt into some truly odd and weird moments of the week.

For reasons unknown, this week CNN aired a story on the rather horrible illness of inflammatory bowel disease ... and to promo the story, they aired a clip from the movie "Dumb and Dumber", wherein the character played by Jeff Daniels experiences a thunderous blast of diarrhea. News anchor Ali Velshi was visibly stunned by the clip and said "We didn't just air that one live TV did we?"

Yes, you did. Cinematical has the story and the CNN clip.


What gift this holiday season might satisfy (or dumbfound) the Stanley Kubrick fan in your life? How about a toy version of the Space Monolith from "2001: A Space Odyssey"? Think Geek has one ready for sale (which they call an "action figure").

No word if it also plays the "Thus Spake Zarathustra" theme, but that would be cool. Now if I could just find a toy bone I could throw into the air which would transform into a spaceship. Are there other toys from "2001"?

Well, yes, and all Christmasy ones too -- eBay has the space shuttle Orion Christmas tree ornament: And also for sale, the EVA Pod Christmas tree ornament.


Now on to what is likely the worst Christmas movie I've ever run across - and you can watch it late tonite (around 2 a.m.) on Turner Classic Movies.

It's a 1959 Mexican-made feature called "Santa Claus", which is surely one of the oddest Christmas movies ever made. Forget all that "Santa Claus vs The Martians" nonsense. This feature is truly a bizarre entry, which actually did quite well when released in the U.S. back in the day. TCM's write up explains the tale, where Santa, living in a floating space castle, is trying to help a wee young girl get a doll for Christmas, only to find that Satan (that's Satan, not Santa) sends an envoy named Pitch to Earth to muck up the whole deal. But let's go to that TCM write-up:

Dividing the action between Earth, the heavens (Santa occupies a cloud-straddling castle cum Fortress of Solitude) and deep in the bowels of Hell (where horned demons with beatnik goatees caper like Fosse dancers as the damned trudge mournfully to tarnation), Santa Claus is all the more strange for honoring a holiday not at all native to Mexico.

"St. Nick's anthropomorphic toyshop (whose ordinances include a Nemoesque/Phibesian pipe organ cum communication console, a privacy-violating "master eye" and an alarmingly labial computer voice generator) points to the polymorphous perversity of key 80s era "new wave" productions, notably Stephen Sayadian's
Café Flesh (1982), Richard Elfman's Forbidden Zone (1982), David Cronenberg's Videodrome (1983), Rene Daalder's Population: 1 (1986) and even the popular CBS Saturday morning show Pee-Wee's Playhouse (1986-1990)."

The movie gained much fame one more time when the Mystery Science Theater 3000 folks spoofed the movie, and it is even funnier than the original film. And you can watch the MSTK3 send up for free online via Google video.

And speaking of TCM, the Movie Morelocks blog has an excellent list of movies from 2010 which too few have seen and all of which are very much worth seeking out. These aren't horribly weird movies, these are truly original movies which deserve far more attention and praise than they received.

The full list is here, and I have only seen one of them, which I really enjoyed. It's "The Killer Inside Me", starring Casey Affleck, Kate Hudson, Jessica Alba, Ned Beatty and directed by Michael Winterbottom. Based on the novel by Jim Thompson, it's a crime story like no other. Deputy Sheriff Lou Ford (Affleck) is a casual and brutal killer, who begins to accept the reality that his darkest side is growing and he ponders on how much enjoyment it brings him. The story has been filmed before (badly) and while I was skeptical at first at Affleck's casting, he captures a man of perfectly natural innocence and innate brutality exceptionally well. The movie does not veer much from the novel, which I confess was so rugged it was a gut-wrenching read. The movie doesn't flinch away either, resulting in a movie that boggles the senses and is hardly mainstream fare. But it remains a completely fascinating descent into the darkest of criminal minds. Thompson's genius is brought to vivid and horrifying life.

The full list is chock full of movies which should be on your list of must-sees. One other I look forward to watching is the animated (no CGI here) "The Illusionist," taken from French filmmaker Jacques Tati's last finished screenplay.

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