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The Holiday Film Dodge

Seth Sherwood guides you through the cinematic sludge for the rest of the year.

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by Seth Sherwood, for outsideleft.com
originally published: December, 2005
King Kong comes CLOSE to that spirit, but ultimately is killed in my opinion by a lack of any sort of editing.

The "Film Dodge" is what I call the time honored tradition of going to the movies with your family over the holidays, so you can avoid having to interact with them, and yet are still spending time with them.

You know you do it. You've been there. Wrapping paper litters Grandpa's house, especially under the tree, creating a fire hazard of explosive proportions. Then, some relative you thankfully only see this one time a year, starts talking about Jesus, her bad knee, how dry the turkey was, your cousin that's in jail or what ever. You have two choices— set off that tree fire, or.HAY EVERYBODY LET'S GO TO THE MOVIES andnottalktoeachotheranymoreplzkthnx.

The next hurdle is spending the next hour trying to get everyone to agree on a film. Something for the kids, something that won't bore you, and something that won't offend grandma. Luckily, you have me. With this handy holiday film guide, you can find what's best for your family with no muss, no fuss and no offended grandparent...

 

Aeon Flux
Perfect for your family if: it consists of boys who play video games, comic book readers, feminists, and/or architecture enthusiasts.
Not suitable for: grandparents, people who don't like the MTV school of cinematography.
Notes: As a film snob, it is hard for me to admit to liking action films, but Aeon has a few things going for it. As a fan of the original shorts, and hater of the regular series, I found myself having fun. Charlize Theron all gothed out and killing lots of people distracts me from a pretty simple plot and story that has been done a dozen times in b-grade sci-fi films.
Of trivial interest: Much of the exteriors were filmed in Brasilia, Brazil, which was designed and built from the ground up in the 50's with futurist/modernist architecture.

 

The Family Stone
Perfect for your family if: you all think all of cinema should be romantic comedies and wacky family dramas.
Not suitable for: men.
Notes: Every Christmas/Thanksgiving there is a film about the wacky family with REAL problems, and how they must deal with one of the children bringing along their NEW LOVE. Sometimes they work, usually they don't. This film is clever in its manipulation, by following up hard family dysfunction with wacky slapstick comedy. I have no doubt this film will work for a lot of people, but those who are uninterested in sentimentality might find it annoying.
Of trivial interest: A lot of directors/writers like to show their tolerant side with family dramas by giving siblings different "problems" that clash with the parent's old-world ideals, or some sort of disability that shows us how patient and great the parents are. Usually, each child has their own small special-interest group audience built in, but this film decided to pack it all into one character. Son- THAD is not only deaf.but he's gay.AND he's seeing a BLACK man.

 

The Chronicles of Narnia: The Lion, Witch and the Wardrobe
Perfect for your family if: there are kids, religious zealots or people who play D&D.
Not suitable for: kids, religious zealots or people who play D&D.
Notes: This film is just a hit or a miss. Some kids will love it, others will hate it because there aren't enough explosions. ?úber-Christians will be torn between embracing the dogma that CS Lewis has adapted and shunning it due to all that pagany magic and junk and talking animals. Hardcore fantasy fans will either love the visuals and action, or be mad that it is so sterile and clean compared to Lord of the Rings.
Of trivial interest: I think the debates over the Christian aspects of this film are overblown. I read the books as a child and certainly didn't come away all Jesusy or anything. At the same time, now older, I can see the iconography and allusions a little more clearly—but it certainly isn't preachy. Personally, I always found this particular story the weakest of the Chronicles of Narnia, so if the franchise continues, it could get better.

 

Just Friends
Perfect for your family if: there are lots of teenagers.
Not suitable for: fat people.
Notes: A cute, but standard, best friends secretly in love story highlighted by Ryan Reynolds in a fat suit. Once NOT FAT he strikes out to get the girl of his dreams because now he's cool! Of course, hijinxs and mishaps ensue as he finds out, deep down.we're all fat.or something. Peppered with moments of pure comedy, the story is pretty typical. In other words, good brainless popcorn fun, but check your brain at the door.
Of trivial interest: Anna Faris gets the most laughs by simply being an amalgam of several REAL female celebrities—namely Paris Hilton, Tara Reid and Courtney Love.

 

King Kong
Perfect for your family if: there are geeks or people who aren't film snobs.
Not suitable for: younger kids, people who hate remakes.
Notes: The original King Kong is sort of a landmark in terms of geek culture. All the Lucases, Spielbergs, Harryhausens, giant monster flick lovers and serial adventure revivalists can be traced back to Kong. The remake tries to be all those things, and at the same time tries to be a big fun adventure film for everyone. Films like that are rare. I wanted this film to be like summer time in the 80's. The Indiana Jones. The Ghostbusters. The pre-suck Star Wars. King Kong comes CLOSE to that spirit, but ultimately is killed in my opinion by a lack of any sort of editing. An hour and half movie (tops) goes on for nearly three as Peter Jackson makes sure we remember he made some epic movies at one time. Every shot lingers an extra five minutes, every CG effect gets repeated "beauty shots," and every action sequence runs several minutes too long. Decent acting for the most part, some irritating plot holes to dodge, overall an "okay" experience.
Of trivial interest: The "love" between Kong and blonde is strong, but since everything in the film lingers, it starts to get creepy after awhile. Eventually you start to wonder how this giant ape plans to nail his little Barbie doll.

 

Brokeback Mountain
Perfect for your family if: it is made up of art school students.
Not suitable for: grandparents, Texans, Republicans, people who laugh over calling the film "Bareback Mounting."
Notes: How do you make a film about two gay men, NOT a "gay film?" Remove any presence of gay culture! By setting this film in the 60s, the characters have no language, context or concept of what "gay" is. They are just two people, in love, who cannot be together. Some people will never be able to look past the fact that it is two men making out on screen, but normatively, the issue that they are the same sex is less of a problem as is the fact they are both providing for their own families.
Of trivial interest: What the hell Ang Lee? You can make this and The Ice Storm, and yet, you bust out THE HULK? You got 'splaining to do.../p>

 

Yours, Mine and Ours
Perfect for your family if: you are a bunch of retards or like humping your sister.
Not suitable for: anyone with a brain.
Notes: OMG I have 2431243 kids! OMG ME TOO! LETS GET MARRIED FUCK THE WELFARE SYSTEM!! HIJINX!!!! CALAMITY!!!
Of trivial interest: Who green lights this shit?

 

Syriana
Perfect for your family if: you are interested in politics.
Not suitable for: families made up of opposing political interests
Notes: This is one of those films like Crash, Traffic or Magnolia, where several characters have a similarly involved story and are all connected. The connection in this case, is the oil trade between the US and Middle East. While very complex and confusing, I am pretty sure that is almost intentional— the film eschews traditional storytelling in favor of the confusion and chaos of the real-world oil business.
Of trivial interest: The usually polarizing George Clooney produced the film, but this film actually doesn't preach to either liberal or conservative politics. Instead, it paints both sides, and those in the middle, as equally corruptible and flawed, yet acting on what they think is the best course of action.

 

The Ice Harvest
Perfect for your family if: you're all jaded and say FUCK a lot.
Not suitable for: grandparents, those who think Christmas films have to be "feel good."
Notes: While following the usual black comedy tropes of callous killing, greedy anti-heroes and sleazy sidekicks you can't help but like, The Ice Harvest still manages to tread some new ground by having some great characters played by awesome actors. Much like Kiss Kiss Bang Bang, this film works in a neo-noir space that plays with the clich?©s the genre is known for, by setting them on end. The story follows a mob lawyer who has stolen some money, and wants to get out of town. The only thing in his way is bad weather, some hit men, and his own bad luck.
Of trivial interest: John Cusak's hair never moves. Ever notice that?

 

Fun With Dick and Jane
Perfect for your family if: you can't agree on anything else.
Not suitable for: yuppies with no sense of humor.
Notes: I caught an advance of this several months ago, so it may have gotten tweaks since then. The basic story follows Jim Carrey as DICK. A super-yuppie with all the trimmings, who finds his Enronish company yanked out from under him, which forces him and his cheery blonde wife into a life of crime to support their Sharper Image lifestyle. While having some genuine laughs, it was mostly just a bit to over-the top for me. You know.like every other Jim Carrey movie.
Of trivial interest: The film's ending has been re-written and re-filmed about 3 times because test audiences (like myself) kept losing interest.

 

The Ringer
Perfect for your family if: you laugh at the handicapped.
Not suitable for: uh.the handicapped. Oh and Grandparents.
Notes: Even though South Park did it a year ago, this film stars Johnny Knoxville as an athlete who pretends to be retarded in order to compete in the Special Olympics. This is one of those movies you'll go see, laugh hysterically at, then act like you're above it when talking about it later.
Of trivial interest: All of Johnny's little pals are NOT actors.they are REAL special people!

 

Munich
Perfect for your family if: you all think Spielberg is genius.
Not suitable for: kids, people who want the spectacle Spielberg films.
Notes: Quick—somebody name a movie made by Spielberg in the last 15 years where the main character ISN'T a man with terminal Peter Pan syndrome desperately trying and failing at the same time to make his "family" what the storybooks say it should be. Doesn't matter if he is a Isreali Mossad Agent (Munich) a dock worker running from an alien invasion (War of the Worlds) or a forgery artist (Catch Me If You Can). You have to get HOME to that baby! Spielberg only makes movies about HOME! And by HOME I mean SAP!!!
Of trivial interest: I haven't actually seen this film, but stay tuned for my Speilberg vs Speilberg dissertation.coming soon!!!

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Seth Sherwood

Seth lives in Los Angeles. He is a writer of comic books (and unsold screenplays) and...

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