28 December 2008

Christmas Vacation

The December movie of the month, as chosen by a horde of Sticht family voters, is National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation! This is a favorite of mine and I watched it a week before the poll went up. So I'm ready to go! 

This is the story of the Griswold Family and the attempt of Clark to pull off the perfect family Christmas. This sets the film up for lots of disasters of course. The crux of the story is that the Griswolds are hosting Christmas at their house to include both sets of grandparents. Clark has a big surprise for everyone. For the big Christmas gift he plans to use his annual Christmas bonus to pay for a swimming pool. However, in order to get the work order submitted in time he had to write a check that would have no funds to back it up until the Christmas bonus is deposited. The whole world comes crashing down when on Christmas eve he receives a letter from his boss which for the first time in 16 years has no bonus but a membership to the Jelly of the Month club. As cousin Eddie puts it, "that's the gift that keeps on giving." Clark goes crazy and upsets the family. He says that he wishes his boss was right there right now so he could tell him what he thinks of him. Eddie obliges, kidnapping his boss. When confronted not only does his boss not fire him, press charges etc. he reinstates his bonus and adds 20%. All's well that ends well.

What I love about this film is that everything that goes wrong has happened to each of us on a much smaller scale. But it's all relatable. Visiting family that we have difficulty getting along with, enormous effort put into Christmas displays that don't work (check every light again), having your Christmas tree dry out (we had a tree one year where the lady didn't know what a fresh cut was. After one week we were afraid to even be angry in the same room as the tree in fear it would burst into flames), and the big one: spending money you don't yet have for that one great gift. Most years we manage to have our tax return mostly spent before December is over. So it's all relatable and you just feel so bad watching Clark try so hard to just make the best Christmas ever. Sometimes when we try that hard it is inevitable that there'll be disappointment. Some of the best Christmas memories are the ones that just happen and were not the result of planning at all (I learned that from "Deck the Halls," one of the worst Christmas movies I've ever seen). 

Favorite line : Clarke - Hey, kids, I heard on the news that an airline pilot spotted Santa's sleigh on its way in from New York City!
Eddie: You serious, Clark?

Anyway, I hope you all enjoyed it. Please tell me what you thought.

The category for the January movie of the month is Buddy Cop Films. It is too bad that so many good buddy cop films are Rated R. My favorites are Lethal Weapon and 48 Hours. Sigh. I thought I was going to go with Starsky and Hutch but I think I'll pick a real american Classic and submit In the Heat of the Night with Sidney Poitier and Rod Steiger. Even if this film loses (I'm sure it will) you should watch it anyway. Great movie.

13 December 2008

How to Stuff a Wild Bikini!

Hey hey hey! Jon was fortunate enough to be able to see the winner of the November Movie of the Month! Here's his wonderful review!

Don't let the name fool you. "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini" is not what it sounds. Sure, it has has lots of girls in bikinis and it's plenty offensive, but the actual stuffing of the wild bikini is just one minor mindless song out of seemingly hundreds of mindless songs in the movie.

The action starts with Frankie (who isn't even in the opening credits) on military assignment in an island somewhere in the South Pacific. His duties are to think about his girl at home -- Dee Dee (Annette) and make whoopee with the native girls. One of these girls plants the idea in him that Dee Dee may be just as unfaithful as he is. Initially he blows this idea off, explaining the sexual double-standard of men and women, but then he gets worried. He goes to the island witch doctor (played stereotypically by Buster freaking Keaton!) who is able to see what Dee Dee is up to. Dee Dee proves to be faithful -- for the time being. Just to be sure, Frankie and the witch doctor concoct some kind of black magic woman to teleport back home. In the witch doctor's words: "she's a creature so beautiful -- no boy will look at your girl."

So the temptress appears at home beach, initially as a floating bikini. Then the beach gang sings a song about filling said bikini, which i guess is where the title comes from. Part of the song is explaining that the perfect "filler" should be 36-22-36. Eventually, the bikini is filled by Cassandra (Beverly Adams). Cassandra is pretty cute. She's got a red color of hair that I'm pretty sure only existed in the 60s. She isn't, however, far and away cuter than all the other girls on the beach. Nevertheless, every single guy on the beach gives full attention to Cassandra. These guys obviously have never seen "A Beautiful Mind."

In the meantime, Dee Dee is just sitting on the beach reading and throwing smiling glances to her debauched friends. Not only is Dee Dee fully clothed on the beach, but she appears to be wearing a business suit. Good thing, because two ad-execs show up. They're looking for the perfect girl to model for something and also go on some cross-country bike race or something. One of the execs is played by Mickey Rooney and he decides on Cassandra. The other exec, the one who will actually go on the bike trip, is smitten with Dee Dee. His name is Ricky and he's played by Dwayne Hickman. Dee Dee, of course rebuffs Ricky and asks him why he just doesn't go for other girls like Cassandra or any other girl at the beach who will give it up all at once. Ricky explains that it's a lot funner to work for it.

In the meantime, all the girls are trying to get cozy with Mickey Rooney because they want the gig over Cassandra. They even sing a song saying they're "chicks who know all the tricks" and that they're "ready and willing."

Eventually Dee Dee discovers Frankie's infidelity and consents to wholesome dating with Ricky.

Oh yeah! There's also this motorcycle gang and the lead biker wants to win the advertising biking spot. The lead biker is the goofiest, dopiest, oafiest, nerdiest, oldest character in the movie. It was as if Jerry Lewis was the leader of a motorcycle gang.

Near the end, Ricky and Dee Dee enter the big race, along with the biker leader (I think his name is Zipper) and Cassandra and a bunch of other bikers. It's wicked important. It's also fixed. Mickey Rooney and the bike gang have set up traps for Ricky and Dee Dee to fall into, including a tiger in a pit that only eats men. Ricky and Dee Dee totally win, but Dee Dee breaks up with him afterwards. She explains that the moral of this story is that you should be a doormat to your cheating boyfriend instead of fall for someone who's willing to work toward a relationship. Poor Ricky then solicits Cassandra just before she evaporates away.

There are some other random elements that I need to throw in. There's a subplot about Cassandra's clumsiness explained by male-o-phobia. Dee Dee also wears Dr. Evil's uniform in a club scene. There were SO many songs in this movie and it seemed more than anything else that these songs were in because the movie was contractually obligated to have 30 songs in it. The singing was consistently whiny. This movie came out two years before the Summer of Love, but there was a lot of sex in it. I'm also amazed that the movie didn't set the feminist movement back 30 years. Also, sometimes Ricky and Dee Dee would take walks on the beach and it was VERY OBVIOUS that they're WALKING IN PLACE with stock beach footage behind them.

On the plus side, I couldn't take my eyes off this film. I had to respect it because it's not like it was so bad it's good -- it's more like they tried as HARD AS THEY COULD to make it bad. Maybe bad is a strong word. They tried as hard as they could to
make it annoying. None of the actors had any shame. I guess this was a very spazmatic period of our nation.

08 December 2008

Christmas Time!

OK just thought I'd show you how our tree and village shaped up this year. Tree first.

OK so I'm kinda a minimalist (like Yoshi!) for my tree. This is a really pretty, fragrant and very full Grand Fir. In fact I bought it tied up and when I cut the final cord it kinda went poof all over our living room. Anyway when it's lit up it looks real darn pretty. We stuffed the bronze star on top with white lights. That was a really pretty effect. Then the lights "step on." It's kinda like fade in and out but in steps. It's pretty. Trust me. Maybe I should do a video of it at night and post it. We'll see.

Anyway, here's my Department 56 Alpine Village. I decided against showing a picture of the full village. It doesn't work. So here's my two favorite detailed photos.

I decided to go for a mountainous look. It is an Alpine village after all. So here in the hills we have (top to bottom left to right) the Quilt-maker, the Nutcracker Shop, the Wheat Mill, the Game-maker and The Cuckoo Clock shop. Fun stuff!

Here's a shot of the town center. From left to right we see a corner of the Rathouse, the Alpine church in the background, the Alpine Schoolhouse and lastly the Music Academy. If you look up in the background you can see Santa's house and Santa and his sleigh taking off. That cheesemaker had better get his kids to bed cause Santa is on his way!

Anyway, Merry Christmas everyone!

03 December 2008

Back to the Beach and let's Finally Move On

So the winner of last month's Frankie and Annette movies poll was "How to Stuff a Wild Bikini." Unfortunately, HTSAWB was unable to perform her duties as winner (unrentable). Therefore The Vice-Winner "Back to the Beach" was asked to step in as acting winner. It has also proven difficult to rent. Fortunately I saw this film about a million times as a kid. So here goes my review based on having watched it with my mom about 15 years ago.

This is the story of real life Annette Funicello and Frankie Avalon who play themselves. They have a black leather wearing rebellious child named Bobbie and a daughter who lives on the beach in Southern California. Frankie, who used to be a surfing legend called "The Big Kahuna" has not been back to the beach since a monster wave dubbed "The Humunga Cowabunga From Down Unda" nearly killed him many years ago. On their way to Hawaii they a layover in Socal where the decide to drop in on their daughter, Sandi. Unbeknownst to them she is living with her fiance Michael. Frankie is determined to have a terrible time in Socal until he meets an old flame named Connie at her bar. She has erected a shrine to The Big Kahuna which includes his own board. Annette becomes upset at the flirting and they have a fight. Needless to say, the end up missing their flight to Hawaii and the time is spent Frankie trying to win back Annette and Michael trying to salvage his relationship with Sandi. Throughout all this their son is trying to find his own identity and falls in with a group of surfer punks. To win back the respect of his son, Frankie has a surf off with the gang's leader. After a few poor attempts he finds himself yet again confronted with the Humunga Cowabunga from Down Unda. This time he surfs it like a pro. He gets his wife back and his son learns to respect him - going so far as to get an identical Frankie Avalon hair helmet.

Writing this up makes me actually want to see it again. Cursed very long wait! This was a fun film with a lot of good musical pieces by a ska band, music by Dick Dale and Stevie ray Vaughn and a stud named Troy. My favorite line of the whole film is "I dig chicks. Chicks dig me digging them. Dig?" Who WOULDN'T fall for that?

Here's a quick clip of Troy:


It's hard to criticize this film when it makes no attempt at being anything resembling a film that should be taken seriously. So watch it. It's good fun. Jon, feel free to review HTSAWB as soon as you get it in the mail.

As for December, well the category is Christmas movies of course! I'm suggesting Fred Claus. Santa should be the most stressed out guy in the world and Paul Giamati does a good stressed out Santa.

Let me know what movie to put in the poll and quick. I want the poll up by the start of next week. Stay cool everybody and Merry Christmas!