Showing posts sorted by date for query alastair. Sort by relevance Show all posts
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Wednesday, December 25, 2019


Tidings of comfort and joy. I've unlocked another newsletter issue (my newsletter makes a lovely LAST-MINUTE GIFT HINT HINT) about how Christmas should be good even if you don't believe in or even like Christmas. For one thing it's one day our fuckwad bosses can't squeeze out of us (most of us anyway). And though DC is of course even more stupefyingly dull today than usual, the movie theaters are open! Think I'll go see Cats. It's already given me more pleasure than most pictures through the reviews.

But I do have a more sentimental side. Maybe I'll watch The Only Scrooge That Matters, A Christmas Carol with Alastair Sim, a movie that makes me cry roughly once every seven minutes. I will certainly spare a thought for Jesus Christ, whose message has been so badly garbled and misused by American God-botherers; what a irony (though not surprising) that it's the allegedly godless liberals who demand America live up to Christian principles while fundies howl for vengeance and authoritarianism! Finally I invite you to raise at least one glass to the best of hymns from old Alex Chilton. Wassail!

Tuesday, December 25, 2012


Most of you have seen it, but if you haven't, this is the real thing:

All honor to Mr. Magoo's Christmas Carol -- the recent replay of which was sadly truncated to remove the theatrical framing device. (Did NBC think revealing it to be a stage production starring trouper Quincy Magoo would limit its appeal? Maybe they worried somebody would find the fun over Magoo's blindness offensive.) And there are things to like in many other versions.

But this production with Alastair Sim is in a ripe melodramatic style that I imagine Dickens would have appreciated. It is decidedly not modern. Michael Holdern's Marley's Ghost is eerie as much for his Delsarte presentation as for his predicament -- moaning, keening, "Lon Chaney big." (He even presses the back of his wrist to his forehead and he's not kidding.)  The lower- and middle-class characters are perfect expressions of type, individuated only by the ingenuity of the actors, who have this sort of thing down cold.  And Sim is for me the only Scrooge. His style is big, too, but so is his insight: That Scrooge is at bottom a terribly frightened man whose unsociability and hardness were formed as defenses against pain. He spends half the film in abject terror and dejection. In some versions Scrooge seems to be educated by his Spirits, with some shocks thrown in to underline the lesson, but Sim is emotionally flayed by his, and the Scrooge that's revealed is wonderfully child-like ("I'm as light as a feather! I'm as giddy as a schoolboy!"); in fact, he's sort of a jokester. (The little fright he gives Mrs. Dilber by ruffling his hair on the staircase is one of many sublime moments.) This is redemption through repentance, and appropriate for the feast of Christ.

If that's not your style, there's always Kurtzman. Or have both -- what the hell, we embrace multitudes. Merry Christmas!

Saturday, December 24, 2005

AND WE'RE GONNA GET BORN NOW. I am a Christmas crank from way back. As recently as last year I was collecting negative Xmas carols. Old-time fans may even remember my 2000 Charlie Brown Christmas parody, now lost to the internet, in which Linus and Good Ol' Roy Edroso predicted with malign glee an oncoming war and the opportunity for satire it would present (Join the old Jim Baker chorus/"Fuck the Jews! They don't vote for us!"/Pundits shake their tiny fists/What a time for satirists!/Hark the hare-brained George Bush reign/Government without a brain!).

The Christmas scam plays to my strong suit, namely intolerance of nonsense. Let's face it, no one knows when Jesus was born, and anyway it would seem, from the way modern Christians observe the holiday, that it has far less to do with Jesus than with Santa and (as with all big events in this country) with money.

So, when the War of Christmas was declared unilaterally by crackpots, I with grim pleasure volunteered myself to the Santa sniper squads. Christmas has become an obvious racket meant to goose Western economies, shove unhappy families together, and force into the general consciousness the image of Jesus, who in our depraved era is no longer the revolutionary bringer of the New Law of Love, but an avatar of reactionary politics. And, by that reading, what a perfect guise in which to bring him to view -- in his infancy, before he could manage any inflammatory talk of exalting the humble!

But while in public I have always blown the raspberry, in truth I have always been a closet Christmas fan. Privately, every season, I have watched It's a Wonderful Life crying like a child, and the Alastair Sim A Christmas Carol blubbering like an infant. ("Forgive me, Fan! Forgive me!") I even take a moment each December 24th to contemplate the meaning of that invented nativity scene: the despised and outcast family that nonetheless brought forth a child who became a Prince of Peace and the Light of the World. Though the wonder Christmas brought me as a child has long since been burnt to cinders, I have yet guarded a tiny flame preserved from its holocaust. But I would not expose it to public view, lest the fart-winds of our discourse blow it out.

This year, I can't say why, when the Christmas season came upon us (was that Thanksgiving? Or Halloween?), I found myself less grouchy about it. The inflatable snowmen and snowflake arches that graced Greenpoint were less noxious to me than they had been. To even the aggressive, obnoxious commercials ("Happy Honda Days!") I had no objection. It may be that, in the course of maintaining this site, I have witnessed so much stupidity, venality, and crassness that the Christmas variant seems too innocuous to guard against. Or it may be a kind of fatigue. Or it may have been something else. Human hearts, even one's own, are a mystery. In any event, I hunched my shoulders less against the pine-scented incursion.

I started shopping early for presents, which allowed me to space out some of my spending on them, and also allowed me to put more thought into my purchases. This is really new; I usually follow my traditional barroom romantic behavior, and get busy at last call to sort through leavings. But now I threw myself into the fray, and got more enjoyment than anxiety from it. I experienced some wonderful commercial-Christmas moments, too, like the skinny back guy in a Santa suit outside Island Cellular in downtown Brooklyn, singing into a karaoke machine to a Caribbean steel-drum soundtrack, "We wish you a Merry Christmas/We wish you a Merry Christmas/We wish you a Merry Christmas/Come get your free phone!" Or the Macy's saleslady who, upon hearing that I didn't know it was a coupon day (I don't really know how to shop), took a coupon she had lying by the register, swiped me a discount, and flashed me a beautiful smile.

Though I hated, as always, the force-feeding of carols via public address speakers, I let myself remember the pleasure those songs gave me as a boy. I even allowed a tiny, metal tree to grace my bedside bureau, hung with little red globes. And do you know? This Christmas is not such a bad thing.

Everything that is inane about it remains so, of course. But unto you I say, that the ridiculous public hijacking of this old holiday by the lowest scum need not keep one from keeping Christmas, or whichever of the cleverly-disguised solstice festivals you prefer. As has been known since long before there was a Christ, the deepest part of winter is a natural time at which to consider the coming invigoration of spring. Even so, as our own government sinks to new depths of rapaciousness, cruelty, and stupidity, it is worthwhile to remember that seasons change, days lengthen, the exalted may yet be humbled, and the humble exalted.

I'll be playing my favorite Christmas carol -- on vinyl, if you please -- when I get up tomorrow morning. Alex Chilton for y'all. Peace out.

Sunday, September 19, 2004

EMMYS. I spent most of Garry Shandling's monologue adjusting the color on my TV. It's amazing they found him a tux that fits so well, since he's been obviously been living on a sidewalk in L.A. for a couple of years. He's still pretty funny though.

Since I don't have cable and just watch the same few things over and over again (mostly test patterns, infomercials, and that episode of "Seinfeld" with Molly Shannon), I can't possibly judge what's going on here. I see they're sticking skits in between awards. I don't know about that. We'll see if the tabloid coverage tomorrow includes big pictures of the skits.

UPDATE. I kind of like the skits. It's you're going to be derivative, derive from quality. Speaking of "The Larry Sanders Show," it was nice to see Jeffrey Tambor up there. I really believe Hank Kingsley was one of the greatest comedy characters since Tartuffe -- an immediately recognizable type and completely unique and idiosyncratic at the same time.

Hey, is that Jon Stewart theme really "I Feel So Good" by Richard Thompson?

UPDATE 2. Elaine Stritch has the music people scared. Well, who wouldn't be? There goes the big flourish -- they have a trap door, I assume.

UPDATE 3. I think the Democrats should have nominated Jon Stewart. And while we're on the subject, I should be writing for his show. I make lots of jokes about politics. Perhaps I'll send them some of my humorous meditations on Professor Glenn Reynolds and Roger L. Simon, with a letter of introduction from Kevin Drum. Pure comedy gold!

UPDATE 4. I've got to see that Sopranos show sometime. I hear it's pretty good.

UPDATE 5. I can't wait for the tearful farewell episodes of "World According to Jim" and "CSI Miami."

UPDATE 6. Well, I guess Mary-Louise Parker and her dress will be in the papers tomorrow. That's a good combination: serious Broadway actress and vertical cleavage.

So, is the deal with The Forgotten that Julianne Moore is really dead, or that everyone else is dead, or that everyone including Julianne Moore is dead, or that we are all the dream of a sleeping giant?

I don't mean to brag and it's certainly nothing to brag about, but I figured out The Sixth Sense when Bruce Willis first met the kid. After that it was very funny. I kept expecting Willis to say to people, "Oh, so you won't talk, eh?" and "Givin' me the old silent treatment, are ya?"

Boy, I'd hate to be George Lopez' otolaryngologist.

UPDATE 7. Oh, now, that isn't fair -- Tony Kushner wrote that play already. What do they do when a Shakespeare play wins a writing award? Get Larry Gelbart come out and say how sad it is Bill couldn't be here because he would have been thrilled?

UPDATE 8. I don't know anything about reality shows. My Mom likes all of them, so I guess I have to go with the one with the midget, if only as a sort of cryptic tribute to Michael Dunn's great Dr. Loveless on The Wild, Wild West. I will say that the whole show should be presented by ordinary people who don't know what's going on. Or maybe it should be presented, like the craft awards on the Oscars and the Best Musical Program awards tonight, at ceremonies held earlier in San Luis Obispo, and mercilessly excerpted. Then they could run a whole bunch more more Kmart commercials, and Shandling could do improv with people in the first five rows.

UPDATE 9. I'm sure Pacino was great as Roy Cohn (one day I'll see if he was as good as Ron Liebman) but he's a terrible award-winner. He needs some writers, but hell, so does Kerry, what are you gonna do? I'm amazed what a robot Mike Nichols has turned into. Mike Nichols of Nichols and May! I guess that comes from being a one-man major entertainment institution for ninety years; after a while that tan seeps right down into your soul.

UPDATE 10. It's nice that they're talking about Danny Thomas, and so sad that he isn't around today to come out here with a big cigar and say, "Everything on television today is sex! They got 'Sex in the City,' sex in the country, sex in the bathroom, the living room, everywhere except in the bedroom, where it belongs! With two beds! You think Desi and Lucy woulda been funnier if they were sleeping the same bed? They'd both be lucky to wake up alive, lemme tell ya! And don't get me started on that rap music..."

If the cops were doing their jobs the Raveonettes would be in jail for that Jesus & Mary Chain ripoff.

UPDATE 11. Now, it's too bad that Patricia Heaton didn't win because I really had a premonition that this would be the year she just flipped out and started screaming about abortion and what a bunch of murderers everyone in the audience was. Plus, Sarah Jessica Parker isn't that good.

UPDATE 12. Conan is so funny. Not so funny is Kelsey Grammer. It's weird that the new Bob Hope is an actor obviously perfectly suited to play a blowhard, so much so that I'm sorry I didn't see his Macbeth -- it must have been hilarious.

These dead-people things are so weird. First of all, there are the lulls (who is that guy? He's Jack Elam, you stupid fuck, he was in Once Upon a Time in the West). Then there's the added weirdness of film people in the TV necrotribute. It seems almost presumptuous -- like the Fat People of America doing a tribute for Peter Ustinov and Brando. (Glad they showed a clip from "Roots: The Next Generation" though.) And the people who died latest get the biggest claps. In heaven right now, Tony Randall is doing a little victory dance around Alastair Cooke.

UPDATE 13. James Spader kinda walked into TV like a CEO who'd been squeezed out and decided, fuck it, I'll go run a little shop on the boardwalk like I don't give a shit because I don't. And the little shop is a major success.

UPDATE 14. I used to wonder if the absent nominees get to choose the pictures that are shown when their names are called. Emma Thompson convinces me that they do not. Meryl Streep was very charming. Mike Nichols' grin is getting creepier, like a Bond villain's: yes, yes, everythink is going accordink to plan...

UPDATE 15. It must suck to work on a mini-series for thousands of hours and then have "Angels in America" come out the same year. Goldfinger delivers a suitably downbeat valedictory.

Hey, now we're moving. "Arrested Development" lets Opie claim a much-deserved Emmy to go with his are-you-joking Oscar.

UPDATE 16. Thank God, we're almost done. Hey, everybody love-a "The Sopranos"! David Chase is a much more manicured type than I expected. But what do I know about real writers? Thank you and good night!