Christmas Movie Must-Sees and Must-Avoids

Alonso Duralde, author of Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas, provides us with an updated list of some Christmas films that fall under both the must-see and must avoid categories!  Listen for Alonso today on the Frank DeCaro Show on SiriusXM Radio Channel 106.

Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas: Update!

By Alonso Duralde

Christmas is a time when we dig out the old music, the old movies, the old recipes and the old tacky sweaters, the ones we’ve enjoyed our entire lives, that have become part of our annual holiday tradition. But there’s always room to mix things up a little, and that’s the idea behind my holiday movie guide Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas, a book that contains lots of the Christmas movies you already love and that will, I hope, point you toward some new ones. 00332930

New movies keep coming every year, of course, and not just the ones that Lifetime and Hallmark crank out in December. Here are two must-sees (and must-avoids) that emerged since the book’s original publication.

MUST-SEE:

Arthur Christmas (2011): The fine folks at Aardman Animation (the people behind Wallace & Gromit, among many others) crafted this sweet and wildly funny animated adventure about Arthur (voiced by James McAvoy), the younger and most enthusiastic son of the current Santa Claus (Jim Broadbent). When the high-tech and super-efficient gift delivery system of Santa’s older son Steve (Hugh Laurie) leaves a single toy undelivered, Arthur must team up with his Grandsanta (Bill Nighy) and enthusiastic gift-wrapping elf Bryony (Ashley Jensen) to make sure no child gets left behind.

Grumpy Cat’s Worst Christmas Ever (2014): OK, forget what I said about Lifetime: For all the sappy romances they’ve delivered over the years, they at least got this one right. Aubrey Plaza provides the snarky, snippy voice of Internet sensation Grumpy Cat, who befriends a lonely young girl and helps prevent a dognapping at Christmastime. It’s a silly movie, but it knows how silly it is, with plenty of self-aware jokes about the nature of Lifetime films.

MUST AVOID:

The Nutcracker in 3-D (2009): Awful 3-D, terrible dancing, contemporary hip-hop lyrics added to Tchaikovsky music, and Nathan Lane as Albert Einstein. Oh, and did I mention the Nazi-ish rats, filling in for the mice? The pits.

Kirk Cameron’s Saving Christmas (2014): OK, calling this one a “movie” is stretching the word far past its accepted definition; this is more like an extended Sunday School PowerPoint demonstration full of the former child star’s anti-historical and anti-scientific theories. Also, breakdancing, which made me wish I was watching The Nutcracker in 3-D again. Not really.

Merry Christmas!

A True Acting Tip from Larry Silverberg

larrysilverbergLarry Silverberg’s True Acting Tips has become a favorite amongst acting teachers, being used in their classrooms to generate a true conversation about the craft of acting. Larry, known worldwide as a master teacher of the Meisner Approach to acting, has written a book that instigates an exploration of the fundamental roots of human creation and the demands of entering the path towards acting with humanity and soul. Larry, Director of the True Acting Institute (www.trueactinginstitute.com) has trained tousands of actors and acting teachers around the globe and he is the Master Teacher of Acting at renowned Shenandoah University Conservatory of the Arts. Here now, a new “True Acting Tip of the Day” just for you!

Larry’s True Acting Tip of the Day

This morning, I read a lesson from the wonderful teacher, Pema Chodron and I thought of you dear readers and your interest in this thing I am calling “True Acting.” It has become clear to me over the years of working and teaching that the most resistant barrier to great acting is not an acting issue at all, it is a human one. Pema says it in this way, “…to remain open to the present groundless moment, to a direct, unarmored participation with our experience. We are certainly not being asked to trust that everything is going to be all right. Moving in the direction of nothing to hold on to is daring. We will not initially experience it as a thrilling, alive, wonderful way to be. How many of us feel ready to interrupt our habitual patterns, our almost instinctual ways of getting comfortable?”

How simple and profound these words, “Moving in the direction of nothing left to hold on to.” This reminds me of something I heard Rudolf Nureyev say many years ago. He told our group that right before every performance, he would work himself out to the point of exhaustion and then, in the performance of the dance, he would have nothing left to hang on to and he would SOAR!” Yes! And that is exactly the point, to soar in your acting!  This is the thing… to move beyond your old, habitual ways of being, to shift the frozen, stuck, protective armor of the mind to the side so that your creative self can function. My friends, this is no small matter and will demand a complete commitment and a relentless pursuit.  The DESIRE to enter this particular domain, the land of “nothing left to hang on to” is something no one can give to you – not your mother, not your teacher, not your guru – and only you know if it is of true interest to you. But I can tell you clearly, until an actor walks that ground, his work will remain pedestrian and uninspired.

true acting tips cover

John Grant Interview

Guest Author: Below is an interview with John Grant, author of A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir, on Paul D. Brazill’s blog.

PDB: Can you pitch A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Definitive Reference Guide in 25 words or less?

Nope. I can’t. I’ve tried and I’ve tried and I’ve . . . But I’ll see if I can at least keep this short. My latest book, published in October, is called A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Essential Reference Guide. It contains entries on about 3,250 movies, covering roughly a century of moviemaking, from the earliest protonoirs to recent neonoirs, drawn from all over the world.

As a sort of annex to the encyclopedia I’ve created the website Noirish, which is devoted to more expansive entries on a sort of ragbag of movies that are (generally) way out on noir’s fringes — too far out to have made it into the encyclopedia.

PDB: Which music, books, films or television shows have floated your boat recently?

The most recent piece of music to have bowled me over is Tubin’s Symphony #6. For the past few years I’ve been on a classical jag, although playing rock CDs occasionally. Among the latter, Vienna Teng’s Inland Territory stands out in my memory. Another to get played pretty frequently is Earth Opera’s self-titled album — which I bought way-back-when on vinyl, when it (ahem) first came out, and now listen to on CD.

I don’t watch TV much. I guess the last TV show I really liked was the first season of Sherlock. I wasn’t so enthralled by the second, but am hotly waiting for the third to reach these shores.

Books? I recently read Tara French’s The Likeness and loved it: a truly amazing piece of work, and bugger its occasional detractors. Rees Morgan’s The Freshour Cyclinders was good too. I’m currently enjoying the much more light-hearted Swing, by Rupert Holmes.

And movies. Friends – like Sam Juliano at Wonders in the Dark – have recently been talking about their Top Ten Movies lists for 2013. I don’t go in much for that sort of thing — if ever I try to make a Top Ten it ends up being a Top Sixty-Seven, and then I immediately change my mind about what should be in it! And, of course, by far the majority of movies that I watch are old ones, sometimes decades old. But my friends’ list-making activities got me to thinking about which were the movies I’d most enjoyed among the relatively few 2013 movies I saw. Of those, two stood out for me: Robert Redford’s The Company You Keep and Zal Batmanglij’s & Brit Marling’s The East. They have oddly similar themes, both being about radicalization and the difficulties of doing something to change a manifestly unjust, often brutal society without being demonized.

PDB: Is it possible for a writer to be an objective reader?

I think so — in fact, I think writers may be better objective readers than most. I certainly hope so, because I’ve done a lot of book reviewing in my time! (Indeed, there’s even an ebook of my reviews: Warm Words and Otherwise, published by Infinity Plus Books.)

To finish the interview, go to Paul’s blog!

A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir

Featuring rumpled PIs, shyster lawyers, corrupt politicians, double-crossers, femmes fatales, and, of course, losers who find themselves down on their luck yet again, film noir is a perennially popular cinematic genre. This extensive encyclopedia describes movies from noir’s earliest days – and even before, looking at some of noir’s ancestors in US and European cinema – as well as noir’s more recent offshoots, from neonoirs to erotic thrillers. Entries are arranged alphabetically, covering movies from all over the world – from every continent save Antarctica – with briefer details provided for several hundred additional movies within those entries. A copious appendix contains filmographies of prominent directors, actors, and writers.

With coverage of blockbusters and program fillers from Going Straight (US 1916) to Broken City (US 2013) via Nora Inu (Japan 1949), O Anthropos tou Trainou (Greece 1958), El Less Wal Kilab (Egypt 1962), Reportaje a la Muerte (Peru 1993), Zift (Bulgaria 2008), and thousands more, A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir is an engrossing and essential reference work that should be on the shelves of every cinephile.

 

Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas

It’s Christmastime, which means gifts, spending time with friends and family, and watching Christmas movies! Luckily for you, Alonso Duralde, author of Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmashas compiled a list of non-traditional holiday movies for USA Today. He’s also being interviewed on the Turner Classic Movies program A Night at the Movies: Merry Christmas, which is being aired tonight at 12:15 a.m. EST. You can find out more about the program here.

1988

‘DIE HARD’

When he was writing his book, Duralde often heard from people – usually in guilty hushed tones – how watching Bruce Willis storm the Nakatomi Building after terrorists strike on Christmas Eve became a December tradition. “It’s 25 years out,” Duralde says. “People can openly admit, ‘I watch Die Hard every Christmas!’ I don’t think that one counts anymore as being a different one.”

1994

‘THE REF’

The squabbling family members central to the film just can’t stand one another when a cat burglar (Denis Leary) takes them hostage on Christmas Eve and becomes a device to bring them together. As funny and harsh as the movie is, Duralde says, “it holds out the idea that this can improve and the family can fix itself and be better.”

To find out the rest of the non-traditional holiday movies that make up Duralde’s top five, go to USA TODAY

Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas

Don’t waste another second of your valuable holiday time on another boring Christmas movie. Film critic Alonso Duralde highlights the best – and worst – movies of the Yuletide season with this fun and informative film guide. Whether you’re looking for the classics, family favorites, holiday horror, Christmas-themed crime epics, or the most wonderfully awful cinematic lumps of coal, Have Yourself a Movie Little Christmas will point you and your rental queue in the right direction. Whether your idea of a holiday classic is White ChristmasBad SantaDie HardEyes Wide Shut, or Gremlins, you’ll find the right film for you, as well as an exhaustively entertaining breakdown of the various screen Scrooges, from Alistair Sim to Jim Carrey to…Tori Spelling? And get ready to encounter movies you may never have heard of from the gritty noir Christmas Holiday, starring 1930s singing ingénue Deanna Durbin in her first hard-bitten adult role, to the loony Santa Claus, a Mexican kiddie movie in which St. Nick teams up with Merlin to fight the devil! Plot synopses, video availability, and fun facts – did you know the actor cast as Uncle Billy in It’s a Wonderful Life was also in the running to play mean old Mr. Potter? – make this a stocking stuffed with information you’ll turn to every Christmas season.

Crowdfunding Networking Party

Save the dates! Join Gini Graham Scott, author of Finding Funds For Your Film or TV Project, on Thursday, December 5th for a free party from 7-9pm to introduce the Crowdfunding Film Society, http://crowdfundfilmsociety.com, and its San Francisco Chapter, found at http://www.meetup.com/CrowdfundingFilm. On the 6th, from 10-4pm, there will be a program with speakers on crowdfunding, followed by a pitch to select films to be featured in the Film Society’s showcase to be promoted nationally: http://crowdfundfilmsociety.com/category/film. Below is a brief excerpt from Finding Funds For Your Film or TV Project

Creating a Crowdfunding Campaign

Crowdfunding, also known as crowd financing, involves individuals collectively networking and pooling their resources, usually through the Internet, to help the efforts of other individuals or organizations. While it has been used to fund all sorts of activities, from the creative work of artists and musicians to community programs and software development, it has become an especially popular means of funding films. For example, out of the nearly 6,500 individuals and organizations who met their funding goals as of November 5, 2012, about 10% of these were for films, or about 650 films.

Until recently, crowdfunding strictly required those seeking funds this way to clearly indicate that any funds received were to be considered contributions in return for rewards or voluntary donations to support the cause and perhaps receive recognition as a result. But on April 5, 2012, President Obama signed into legislation the JOBS Act, which permits equity crowdfunding, in which a company can sell small amounts of equity to a large number of investors. The SEC has been charged with setting forth specific rules and guidelines specifying what kind of investments are possible.

One rule that has already been advanced is that crowdfunding offerings will count toward the higher limit of investors permitted without having to register the offering with the SEC, permitting companies to raise money from publicity and other media such as the Internet. Moreover, crowdfunding offerings will count toward the higher registration threshold that permits up to 2,000 or more accredited investors, or up to 500 unaccredited investors, without registering.

This new equity crowdfunding approach is quite different from the contribution model of crowdfunding used so far, in that a company seeking money through equity financing can sell up to $1 million in securities in any 12-month period to an unlimited number of investors, rather than seeking contributions that involve no company ownership. Moreover, companies using the crowdfunding exemption must make this offering through an intermediary that is registered as a broker (who can promote securities and solicit investors) or a “funding portal” (who cannot) with the SEC. And in contrast to making donations in traditional crowdfunding, these contributors will be investors getting shares in return for their funding.

Generally, the advantage of the crowdfunding approach is that it reduces the risk of starting a company or seeking money for a film. It also helps to filter out the bad ideas, because they won’t find investors – although another big reason for not reaching your goal could be that people don’t know about your offering because you didn’t sufficiently promote it.

Finding Funds for Your Film or TV Project includes a complete overview of the many different ways to get funds for your film – from preparing the materials you need, such as business plans, private placement memorandums, trailers, sizzle reels, and crowd-funding pitches – to how to make effective presentations to prospective funders, from as family members, friends, and business associates, to angels, private investors, established producers, and film financiers. Scott provides a comprehensive introduction to the many options for fund-raising, and includes information on how to prepare the materials necessary, from business plans and Private Place Memorandums to video and PowerPoint presentations to using crowd-funding techniques.

Covered are these key topics:

• The overall film industry and trends in film production

• Deciding what to produce, preparing a script or treatment, determining your needed cast and crew, and coming up with a rough estimate of your budget

• Putting together the needed documents, including creating a schedule and budget, preparing a producer package, business plan, and private placement memorandum

• Creating a crowd-funding campaign

• Developing a trailer and sizzle reel

• Creating your marketing and promotional materials and getting a publicity buzz going

• Developing and presenting your pitch to prospective investors

• Closing the deal and getting your money

Happy Birthday, John Cleese!

John Cleese is 74 today! We’re celebrating with an excerpt from If You Like Monty Python… and a hilarious clip from his television special, How to Irritate People.

A regular recurring theme of British comedy is the effect of annoying personalities on the typically reserved, decorous English psyche. Brits have a cultural obligation to face every difficulty with a stiff upper lip, miles of calm, and a patience so wooden you could build a bridge out of it. While this can be effective in most social situations, difficulty occurs when a true irritant arises: someone so pushy, so persistent, so aggravating that he can’t be ignored, and yet simply punching him inn the face would be considered bad form. A fair amount of Monty Python’s humor came from such a conflict, and John Cleese’s classic farce, Fawlty Towers, is practically the definitive statement on the topic. It’s worth it, then, to see the seeds that would eventually bear such marvelous fruit: Cleese’s 1968 television special How to Irritate People. 

The slightly-over-an-hour-long show is compromised largely of sketches demonstrating various principles of the process of irritation, with Cleese introducing each sketch with a brief monologue explaining the central idea. There are irritating parents, irritating restaurant hosts, irritating party guests, irritating boyfriends, irritating garage mechanics, irritating elderly women, and so on. The special is hit-or-miss, as many of the sketches (especially early in the show) take the main premise too literally, demonstrating actually annoying individuals and behavior without providing much in the way of laughs. It gets better as it goes, however, and How to… is still worth seeking out, for a number of reasons. There’s Cleese himself, who occasionally looks a little stunned during his hosting duties (though this may be intentional), and the presence of Graham Chapman, Michael Palin, and Connie Booth makes this a sort of embryonic Python presentation. Plus, some of the sketches work very well, especially a bit about airline pilots near the end, which has Cleese, Chapman, and Palin all working together.

 

If You Like Monty Python…

From their perfectly insane television show to their consistently irreverent and riotous movies, Monty Python has owned the zany and absurd side of comedy since their debut. Their influence can be felt in every comedy show that followed them, from Saturday Night Live andSecond City television, to The Kids in the Hall, not to mention all the laughs writ large on the silver screen, where their brand of absurdity opened the doors for such people as Jim Carrey who made a name for themselves by pushing the funny even further.

This is the first book to look at everything influenced by the Pythons, but also at those who came before them – from the classic British comedies to the Marx Brothers, and everything in the Python universe, from Fawlty Towers and A Fish Called Wanda to Spamalot and BrazilIf You Like…Monty Python is a book for any fan who has graduated from the Ministry of Silly Walks and wants more.

We Need to Talk About Kevin (2011)

Guest Blogger: John Grant, author of A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir: The Essential Reference Guide, due on shelves at the end of October. Check out Noirish, John Grant’s noir blog that goes above and beyond the Encyclopedia.

In one sense a meditation on the roles of nature and nurture in the emergence of sociopathic individuals; in another an extraordinarily chilling depiction of the noir nightmare told with all the twisty nonlinearity expected of a neonoir.

All we know at first is that something dreadful has happened in the fairly recent past of solitary suburb-dweller Eva Khatchadourian (Swinton), something that causes neighbors to abuse her and even daub her house in red paint, something for which she feels such guilt that she suffers their torments in silence rather than retaliating in any way.

Slowly we piece together her earlier life with good-natured but insensitive husband Franklin (Reilly), their son Kevin (played successively by Duer, Newell and Miller) and their much younger daughter Celia (Gerasimovich). As a baby Kevin screams incessantly, so much so that Eva sometimes pauses beside roadworks so that the jackhammers, drowning the noise of her infant, give her some moments of precious respite. A slow developer, Kevin grows up with one seeming mission in life: to make his mother’s existence a misery. Periodically she snaps under his relentless pressure, on one occasion pushing him with such force that he breaks his arm—an offense which he covers up from others, ever thereafter using it as a means to blackmail her.

Around people other than his mother, notably his father, he’s a charming, affable, ordinary kid; whenever Eve tries to tell Franklin of her concerns he assumes she’s merely voicing her neuroses. Eva is the only one who knows what really happened to Celia’s gerbil, stuffed by the teenaged Kevin into the sink disposal unit, and to Celia’s eye, destroyed when Kevin poured sink-unblocker into it. The sole activity that seems to bring Kevin out of himself is archery; it is this activity that he will use to commit the hideous crime that lies at the heart of Eva’s nightmare.

Keep reading on NOIRISH!

Featuring rumpled PIs, shyster lawyers, corrupt politicians, double-crossers, femmes fatales, and, of course, losers who find themselves down on their luck yet again, film noir is a perennially popular cinematic genre. This extensive encyclopedia describes movies from noir’s earliest days – and even before, looking at some of noir’s ancestors in US and European cinema – as well as noir’s more recent offshoots, from neonoirs to erotic thrillers. Entries are arranged alphabetically, covering movies from all over the world – from every continent save Antarctica – with briefer details provided for several hundred additional movies within those entries. A copious appendix contains filmographies of prominent directors, actors, and writers.

With coverage of blockbusters and program fillers from Going Straight (US 1916) to Broken City (US 2013) via Nora Inu (Japan 1949), O Anthropos tou Trainou (Greece 1958), El Less Wal Kilab (Egypt 1962), Reportaje a la Muerte (Peru 1993), Zift (Bulgaria 2008), and thousands more, A Comprehensive Encyclopedia of Film Noir is an engrossing and essential reference work that should be on the shelves of every cinephile.