Manic Mondays – 18th December 2017

‘Yes there’s a scream inside we all try to hide/oh we hold on so tight/I don’t wanna die/I don’t wanna die’

Bird Set Free

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Best Actor – 1972

Official Nominations: Marlon Brando. Michael Caine. Laurence Olivier. Peter O’Toole. Paul Winfield.

The 1972 saw at least two of who most critics consider the ‘best actor ever’ going toe to toe – with Brando coming out on top for The Godfather – one of the single most famous performances in history. Olivier, already a Best Actor winning an million time nominee is typically brilliant in Sleuth, and yet he is overshadowed by Michael Caine who delivers a performance good enough to win any year that he doesn’t go up against Don Corleone. Peter O’Toole can make a claim for appearing on any Best Actor Ever list, here picking up one of his many nominations and certainly his most bizarre. I can’t see a film like The Ruling Class ever being made outside of the weirdest Indie House, never mind it being featured at The Oscars. Nevertheless, it leaves an impression and O’Toole is great – you can’t help but wonder if Jack Nicholson had starred instead, would he have won? Finally, Paul Winfield has a more wholesome nomination for Sounder – a little film completely lost to time but one worthy of catching, not least because Winfield gets a deserved nod.

One other notable thing to mention is that each of the nominees this year made other notable performances in different films, some of them worthy of nominations themselves – Brando has Last Tango In Paris, Winfield had Trouble Man (maybe not..), Caine had Pulp, O’Toole had Man Of La Mancha, and Olivier had Lady Caroline Lamb. There’s not many years these days where the many or any of the nominees have multiple notable movies in a single year.

My Winner: Marlon Brando

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My Nominations: Marlon Brando. Michael Caine. Robert Redford. Bruce Dern. Bruce Lee.

The five officials are good enough to be on any list, but I’ll switch things up a little more and keep the only two genuine official contenders. I’d also be tempted to include Pacino here rather than the supporting category, but lets give someone else a chance. Robert Redford had two hits this year, with Jeremiah Johnson where he stars as a veteran and mountain man and The Candidate as a Democrat asked to enter a political race against the Republican powerhouse. Both these films are wonderful Redford showcases but feel as if they have been left behind in time. Although Dern deserves a shout for The King Of Marvin Gardens it is Silent Running which gets my vote. Dern gives a one man show for much of the film, growing steadily more manic and desperate, though his wide-eyed behaviour may be too much for some. Finally, Bruce Lee also appears in a couple of hits this year – while there doesn’t appear to be a lot of difference between the two characters he plays – both are moral and driven to rage and revenge by tragedy – but you’d be hard-pushed to find anyone who commanded the screen with such vitality than Lee.

My Winner: Marlon Brando

Let us know in the comments who you pick as the Best Actor of 1972!

Night Of The Living Dead

*Originally written in 2004

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The beginning of the modern horror film, and along with Psycho, the most influential horror movie ever. Drawing on many of the early monster movies of the 1930s, with a seemingly unstoppable beast tracking down prey, it enhanced the atmosphere of those films for the new wave audience. Aside from that, NNOTLD is a breed apart from anything else released at the time. Tonnes of gore, shocks the cinema goer had never experienced, unexpected twists and turns, downbeat, scary, with unusual protagonists and new ways of story telling, the world didn’t know what had hit it.

It was the late sixties. The Vietnam War was proving that North America was not all-powerful, and asking questions about who were the good guys, about motivation, about the human race as a whole. Anti-war protesters were being beaten and gassed for what they believed, while America was attempting to destroy another place…for what they believed. Hippies were spreading a message of love, new ideas were flourishing in all areas, from making peace to making war, and technology was becoming more important and influential. The result was that the good guys were often over-looked, good deeds were mostly forgotten, and many lives were thrown away aimlessly and without purpose. Those who survived wondered why, and had no clue why they were still here. It seemed like outside, bigger forces were at play, and that unseen beings were controlling the public. NOTLD was released.

A brother and sister are travelling to their parents’ graves in the countryside, a trip that has become an annoyance rather than a mark of respect. Johnny taunts his sister Barbara like he used to as a kid, scaring her, saying the infamous line ‘they’re coming to get you, Barbara’. A man walks towards them and attacks without warning. Johnny is killed and Barbara flees to a nearby farmhouse,entering a near comatose state. Another man arrives, Ben, and begins to board up the doors and windows, telling Barbara that he too was attacked by a number of people, and witnessed a town coming under siege. The attackers seem to have no regard for their own safety, and feel no pain. Soon people who had been hiding in the basement appear, and together the group try to figure out what to do. The TV says the attackers can be killed by a heavy blow to the head, and seem to be scared of fire. It seems that, inexplicably, the dead are coming back to life and eating the flesh of the living, who in turn become zombies. The group argue over the best solution, tensions arise, and all the while, the number of zombies outside grows, waiting.

The film has great depth and terrific acting from amateurs. No-one is safe from harm here, and it seems that the group’s downfall is because they are human and cannot work as a group – personal interest and opinion always interferes. The zombies do not argue, they will happily wait for their chance and strike with stunning force, as a unit. If you take down one, there are 10 more closing in. The group could have escaped earlier, by running past the few zombies, but it seems the house will become their coffin. If they had not fought among themselves they may have had a chance but even then, where would they have gone?

Ben as the main character is seen as revolutionary because he was an African American, but this was not in the script -he just happened to be best for the part. Romero has since become a champion of the disenfranchised – women, children, other races. Duane Jones’s performance is strong. Judith o’ Dea as Barbara does not have much to do, but is good, and the other stand out is Karl Hardman as Cooper. Cooper has a wife and injured daughter and feels Ben is endangering them with his schemes. Tom and Judy are a local farm couple, innocents who try to think clearly and are punished for it. Indeed it seems that when a good plan comes around, it is stopped in its tracks with devastating results. Though human error is the major mistake in a darkly ironic twist.

Although it was filmed in BW, the gore is there. People are eaten and burned, flesh is chewed on the full screen, bullets are driven through chests. The shocks are genuinely shocking, and the film’s atmosphere is claustrophobic and we sense the dwindling of hope. The overall tone of the film is stark, and it seems the future only holds violence – the news reel footage echoing what American housewives and kids were starting to be exposed to on the news. The film struggled to find distributors, and was shown in matinées to unsuspecting youngsters – we can only imagine their reactions. Truly a horror classic, and one of the most nightmarish films ever made, with a view of the world as a terrible place filled with pain and stupidity. We cannot overcome creatures which cannot think. Death is shown as a creeping inevitability, and the good guys almost always lose.

Hmm, for one of my old half-assed reviews, that was actually pretty good, and reminds me again how prescient the film is in today’s world. Almost fifty years since its release and we still haven’t learned. Let us know in the comments what you think of Night Of The Living Dead!

Best Picture – 1972

Official Nominations: The Godfather. Deliverance. Cabaret. The Emigrants. Sounder.

1972 largely continued the successful changes which 71 started with the new breed of actors and directors coming to power. This is highlighted by The Godfather which introduced the world to some of the most powerful figures in Hollywood for the rest of the century. Many still cite this as the greatest film of all time, it is easily my pick for this year’s best film, and its influence can be seen today in a wide range of media. It is epic in every sense of the word, groundbreaking, genre-defining, and timeless. There isn’t much else I can say about it here so I’ll move onto the competition.

Boorman’s Deliverance at another time could have won the award, a deeply unsettling and frankly accurate look at one of America’s darker underbellies and at how modern civilized man can be hopeless when confronting nature or something outside of their experience. There are several monumental scenes, an effective, evocative soundtrack, tight direction, and a cast who give possibly the best performances of their careers.

On the opposite end of the scale, the dreaded Musical is still hanging in there. It even attempts to be more modern and seedy to cash in on the shifts in society and Hollywood –  to its credit Cabaret at least looks the part – Bob Fosse and Liza Minelli run the show. However, looks are one thing, music is another and here the songs are hideous. Add that to the fact that the story doesn’t do anything for me personally and it’s not a film which is going to do well in my rundown of awards.

The other two options this year stood no chance against the top three – The Emigrants and Sounder are both films no-one remembers and in addition they seem like odd nominations; the former being a Swedish film which appeared in the previous year’s Best Foreign Film category, while the latter is a very good, but small drama.

My Winner: The Godfather

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My Nominations:  The Godfather. Deliverance. Fist Of Fury. The Getaway. The Last House On The Left. Way Of The Dragon. Last Tango In Paris.

The two big shots transfer to my list, joining a quintet of classics. The Getaway is a perfect match for McQueen and Peckinpah but was a film which the critics did not love at the time. The only one of my picks I could see getting an official nomination is of course Last Tango In Paris. Perhaps it was too controversial, but either way it wasn’t going to win against The Godfather – the film would go on to receive two nominations for Best Actor and Best Director the following year. My last three choices are personal and stand not even the remotest chance of being nominated for such things, but regardless, each is a defining moment for their respective genres and a prime example of their art.

The Last House On The Left is mean, repulsive, cheap, and brilliant – gotta love those Keystone cops. It’s as shocking as The Exorcist would prove to be and while most of the performances are forgettable the violence and action will stay in your soul and stomach forever. It’s essential viewing for horror fans. Essential viewing for action movie fans are Fist Of Fury and The Way Of The Dragon – both Bruce Lee classics. In Fist Of Fury, Lee deals with racism, rival schools, and local authorities, taking them out with honour and rage in a variety of fantastic fight scenes but haunted by fatalism and futility. In Way Of The Dragon the action is moved to Rome where racism and mobsters rule and again Lee must defend those he loves and his own identity. The fights in The Colosseum are superb, Lee (who also writes and directs) commands every scene he is in, whether fighting or not. It may be the best Martial Arts movie of all time.

My Winner: The Godfather

Let us know in the comments which film you picked as the Best Picture 1972!

TTT – Top Twenty-Two Christmas Songs

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Greetings, Glancers! It’s the festive season again, that most wonderful time of the year when we open our chimneys and beckon Good Old St Beardy McBuldgingsack into our homes so he can spurt joy all over our hearth. That run up to Christmas may be getting earlier each year, and as we grow older and more cynical it’s increasingly easy to aim a sneering ‘humbug’ at the whole tinsel-draped event. But ‘fie’, says I. Fie, to all the naysayers, scrooges, sadsacks, and seasonally-challenged. Fie to those who would rain on our snowy parade in a vain attempt to wash away our once a year spending spree in a moaning puddle of sleet. Who could deny the smile and wonder of the wide-eyed child when they stumble out of bed to find a Winter Wonderland frosting up their windows? Who could hold back a tear and an oh so human warmth when seeing the innocence and excitement of finding a half-munched carrot in the living room and bags upon bags of toys and treats just waiting to be discovered? Dicks, that’s who.

Growing up in the turgid 80s wasteland of Northern Ireland, where a large snowfall usually meant having to spend longer on your hands and knees checking for car-bombs each morning before heading to school, Christmas was nevertheless something unimaginably special. The lights, the music, the parties; the end of school, the Television specials and adverts, and of course the presents. Even though Christmas as depicted on screen, in such far-flung places as England and the USA looked like an impossible dream, where everything was bigger, brighter, and even more snow-packed and gift-wrapped, in our wee corner of the globe we still shared in the united glory and tradition.

A very large part of that tradition – one that has been going of course for centuries, but at least as part of modern culture, is the Christmas song. I’ll say this about the USA – as impressive as their Christmases looked, their Christmas music is wank compared to ours. This list therefore is going to be primarily British. What list? Why, this list of my favourite Christmas songs! This selection of songs never fails to bring back memories, nostalgic feelings, and the fact that they have been enjoyed for so many generations and continue to be passed from parent to child each year will ensure that even as our descendants are old and frail, they will still be taken back to a place of happiness and wonder upon hearing them. I hope you read, enjoy, and comment with your favourites, but above all I wish you a safe and happy Christmas.

22. A Winter’s Tale – David Essex

Slow. Dreary. These are things that are not reflective of Christmas, yet so many Christmas songs, particularly US ones strike me as being such. This song I feel skirts dangerously close to falling into that category, but avoids it due to the warmth and comfort of melody. The horns work, the violins hit the mark, and the sentiment ripples outwards.

Did it reach Number 1 in the UK: Nope, but it did get to number 2

Is The Video Terrible: Yes, just David meandering through various depressing snow-covered fieldsand hanging about near a shed

21. Lonely This Christmas – Mud

Firstly – this is NOT Elvis. Okay? It sounds like Elvis, but this has nothing to do with him aside from the fact that the band are deliberately trying to sound like him. I always assumed it was him when I was young, and when I saw the video I assumed Mud were covering him. It’s slow too, but it has always struck me as funny – that along with the harmonies keeps it from being dreary. It could absolutely do without the spoken section.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Yes, and it was a Christmas Number 1.

Is The Video Terrible: Of course – a live version taken from TOTP where the band sit about looking depressed in front of the world’s most 70’s Christmas tree. They are wearing gaudy suits and covered in tinsel and bauble accessories, yet rather than appearing festive they look like  four local low-grade thugs who have broken into your home and demanded a warm plate of turkey and ham – and they’re not pleased about having to wait.

20. Thank God It’s Christmas – Queen

It’s another slow one, and it has terrible 80s drums, but it does have Mr Mercury belting out the vocals – particularly the title – so it’s immediately worth hearing. It’s far from being exciting, nothing really happens, yet it somehow still works.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, not even close

Is The Video Terrible: There isn’t one.

19. Stay Another Day – East 17

Many people argue that this isn’t a Christmas song. Yes, there’s very little Christmasy about it, except for the fact that the video has fake snow and the boys are wearing hoodies. There is some timpani or bells or something which gives it the edge, and the fact that is was released in December and was such a massive hit means it has become associated with the period – that’s fine with me. On a serious note, the lyrical content bears mentioning as it was written about the suicide of one of the member’s brothers. It’s unusual subject matter for a boyband, it’s unusual for a boyband member to actually have any input into a song’s creation nevermind write the whole thing, and it’s unusual that it actually ends up being pretty good.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Yes. It was apparently their only UK number 1 and it was a Christmas Number 1.

Is The Video Terrible: It’s a boy band, so obviously the video is terrible. It looks like it was put together on Media Player by a child, and it consists almost entirely of the group in various poses shooting around the screen or giant close-ups of their faces panning across. It’s doubly terrible because of how the group were portrayed as ‘bad boys’, so they have all these looks that aren’t so much smouldering or heartfelt, but rather come across as ‘I’m going to stab you and then ram your nan’. Also, did you ever notice how whenever a new boy band becomes popular, within months an alternative appears and they are ALWAYS – without exception, portrayed as bad boys? It’s hard to take any of it seriously when the songs are wafer-thin love-letters or requests for sex. Aimed at 10 year olds.

18. In Dulci Jubilo – Mike Oldfield

The only hymn on my list, the only instrumental, and the only song that’s over 500 years old. You have to hand it to Oldfield – he’s a musical beast, playing all the parts himself and using roughly 500 instruments too. It doesn’t feel like a Christmas song at all, except for the fact that it’s always played around Christmas. It’s also repetitive as hell but remains dynamic throughout thanks to the gradual building of instruments and the occasional little twist on the standard.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, number 4 only.

Is The Video Terrible: Yes, it is kind of terrible, but that’s mainly due to the age and hair and fingernails and clothes, yet it apparently influenced every Youtube video ever made with it’s grid based format showing Mike playing each instrument.

17. Do They Know Its Christmas? – Everyone

The ultimate ‘get together a bunch of famous people to sing a song’ song. It has also been re-recorded and released with diminishing returns numerous times, but there’s not getting away from the original. It’s not the most complex song – it’s not supposed to be. It’s meant to be a message to the world, delivered in an earnest and easily digestible, commercial way. It worked, becomes one of the biggest selling songs of all time.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Yes, and was a Christmas Number 1.

Is The Video Terrible: Yes, given that it’s just a bunch of famous people singing into the camera or walking around in slow motion. It’s interesting now though as you try to work out who each person is and what the hell was wrong with the world in the early 80s to make some of them so famous in the first place – to be fair, each version of the song has featured mostly unremarkable artists and the odd diamond.

16. Walking In The Air – The Snowman – Peter Auty/Jones/Nightwish

I’ve no idea how popular this, or The Snowman is in the USA – let me know in the comments, I guess. Over here though it’s a must for Christmas viewing – the timeless story of a boy and his adventure one night with a snowman. In some ways I wish this hadn’t been such a choirboy vocal as those are almost always unlistenable. It works though, although I will say the Nightwish version gives some much needed oomph – I don’t think the best version of the song has yet been recorded, or if it has I haven’t heard it. I do love the quiet instrumental version which is played over the end credits – beautiful. I’ve given three links above – the original by Auty, the Aled Jones version (yes folks, it’s not him in the movie), and the Nightwish one.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope.

Is The Video Terrible: The Snowman is excellent – everyone should see it. The Aled video is fairly bad, unless you’re into watching Welsh boys traipse around barren mountains, while the Nightwish version was not a single and had no video.

15. Don’t Let The Bells End – The Darkness

Back in that brief period when The Darkness was a popular band, they cranked out an impressive number of hits. This is arguably their widest reaching song, aimed directly at the Christmas market and ensuring annual rotation. Good marketing, sure, but it’s also a fun, festive song with all the hallmarks of other British classics. There’s a wry sense of humour, heapings of cynicism, and plenty of double-entendres. Musically it has everything you would want from a Christmas hit – big chorus ripe for a drunken singalong, hefty verses filled with festive lyrics and traditional instruments, a choir of kids etc. It doesn’t take itself seriously, just like most of the best hits for the time of year.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Unfortunately not, just like a bunch of other better songs. It was held off the top spot by the absolute wank cover of Mad World – one of the worst songs of all time.

Is The Video Terrible: It’s fine – deliberately cheesy, it fits with the rest of the band’s visual output and humour while also harking back to a few previous Christmas videos. It’s mostly the band unwrapping presents in front of a roaring fire inside a log cabin, but done with plenty of panache and larfs.

14. Mr Hankey The Christmas Poo – South Park

Nothing says Christmas like squeezing out an enormous yuletide log of your own, and this song continues the grand tradition of animated characters recording a Christmas song. The song appears in the episode of the same name, along side other classics like Kyle’s Mom Is A Big Fat Bitch and A Lonely Jew On Christmas, but this is the winner. It’s as ridiculous as it is ridiculously catchy as well as being endearing and funny.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Of course not.

Is The Video Terrible: Of course not.

13. Wonderful Christmastime – Paul McCartney

It’s another one that reminds me of Christmas parties as a child, ones we had at home, or the more organized group ones in my town. This was always one of a number of songs which seemed to be played every day of December and therefore it’s intrinsically linked to toys, snow, and good times in my mind. The song has a lot of weird synth stuff going on meaning it doesn’t feel inherently Christmas-like, but it does have those bells and the video is festive as hell. It’s super repetitive and simplistic, but still good.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, it only got as high as number 5.

Is The Video Terrible: It’s certainly dated, with a lot of weird effects and fashion, but the setting of the pub in the midst of a party is a great idea – all the locals are hammered, everyone’s dressed up in cosy garb, the booze is flowing, and Paul keeps bouncing about in every shot like he’s snorted a snowball right off Rudolph’s red nose.

12. A Spaceman Came Travelling – Chris De Burgh

The most unusual song on the list – weird considering the list includes a singing turd. De Burgh posits that the Star of Bethlehem was actually an alien spacecraft. The lyrics are interesting and the song feels both ethereal, somehow faith-driven, and otherworldly. I love the organ/keyboard.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: When it was first released in the 70s it failed to chart, but it had better success when re-released in the 80s with a more Christmas themed arrangement.

Is The Video Terrible: There wasn’t one, so I’ve linked your standard live version.

11. Hazy Shade Of Winter – The Bangles

Okay, this one isn’t necessarily very festive – it does have those jingle bells though and if you play it each Christmas it’ll soon sink in to your annual festivity. There aren’t many Christmas songs which rock as well as this one, so you should stick it in your playlist.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, only number 11.

Is The Video Terrible: It has Susanna Hoffs in it, so it couldn’t possibly be terrible. It’s just the band playing with clips of Less Than Zero in the background.

10. Mistletoe And Wine – Cliff Richard

It seems weird that soon we’ll have kids (actually, we already do) growing up in a world without Cliff Richard’s music. I’m hardly a fan, but he’s nevertheless a British icon. Cliff has always been no stranger to Christmas songs, but I think this is his most well-known and best, and you can’t pass December without hearing this at least five times. Cliff took a rather sordid song and made it more religious, more Christmasy. It’s all about the kids, as Christmas should be, but hopefully it doesn’t take on a more dubious meaning given recent rumours about Cliff. Again, though I’m not a fan, it’s pretty shocking that many people don’t recognise his influence and impact. Back on topic, this is a super-happy song with lyrics about presents, Santa, hymns, fires, baby Jesus et al. It’s great.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Of course, one of the four times Cliff has had a Christmas Number 1. Speaking of Christmas Number Ones, looking at the list the last one I’ve actually heard is 2009’s Killing In The Name. Sad.

Is The Video Terrible: Depends on you really. It’s just Cliff and a bunch of extras roaming around a set filled with fake snow, singing carols and swinging their arms.

9. Merry Christmas Everyone – Shakin Stevens

We’re into the classics now – another song you’ll start to hear in shops around the middle of November. The moment you hear those opening notes you can’t help but grin like a maniac and it’s another which takes me back to my childhood with zero effort.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Does Santa shit in your chimney? Christmas Number 1. Incidentally this, along with a few others in my list re-enter the UK charts every Christmas and generally reach the top 40.

Is The Video Terrible: It’s certainly different, starting out with some kid getting a private jet trip and landing in some far-flung snowy land. From then on it’s as Ultra-Christmasy as the song itself, with snow fights, sleigh rides, presents, Santa, elves, and the rest. That dance remains terrible, as are the rolled up sleeves.

8. Fairytale Of New York – The Pogues

My wife’s personal favourite. I’ve had a love/hate relationship with this one as in the UK it’s held up as this untouchable thing – it’s not, it’s just a decent song. Out of all these songs I feel like it’s overplayed the most and it’s the one I get sick of most easily. Perhaps it’s the whole Irish thing that annoys me given my feelings about that particular brand of music. Yes the lyrics are cynical but that loses its impact after the billionth play and you begin, quickly, to remember how terrible the vocals are. Still, you can’t have Christmas without it!

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, held off the top spot by The Pet Shop Boys. There’s no question it should have made Number 1 though.

Is The Video Terrible: It gets points for featuring a snarling Matt Dillon, but loses points for showing Shane Macgowan. If Shane Macgowan starred in a horror movie it would be banned. The video is mostly a lot of bored, dour, sour faces sitting in bars or walking around New York – it has become iconic, but that neither means it’s terrible nor good.

7. River – Joni Mitchell

It’s arguably the finest rip off/musical homage of all time, with Joni twisting ‘Jingle Bells’ and transforming it into something serene, heart-rending, and timeless. This is likely the finest song on this list and a haunting reminder that Christmas can be rough. It doesn’t go into some of the more important issues we should think of at this time of year – homelessness, starvation, families drifting apart etc, instead fixating on a single relationship. But who cares, it does what it does beautifully, the lyrics and music centre on Christmas, and it’s a gorgeous listen every damn time.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: It was never released as a single, so nope.

Is The Video Terrible: No video.

6. Last Christmas – Wham!

I prefer the James Dean Bradfield solo version as it cuts away most of the chaff, but this is the better of the two in terms of pure festivity. This is Christmas through and through, managing to be tragic and happy at the same time. It’s great, and again you can’t have Christmas without it.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, kept off the top spot by Band Aid – the song remains the biggest selling UK single to never reach number 1.

Is The Video Terrible: It’s certainly a dated relic of the 80s, but it isn’t terrible in and of itself. There’s nothing amazing, just Wham and a bunch of extras prepping for a party and having fun up a snow covered mountain.

5. The Ghosts Of Christmas – Manic Street Preachers

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, it was released free so wasn’t eligible for charts. Damn Capitalism.

Is The Video Terrible: Manics videos are rarely very exciting, and as this never had one we can assume it would have been standard fare. However, given the band’s love of nostalgia we may have had childhood clips and the usual twists on British culture. I can’t even find the song on Youtube, so you know it must be good.

4. Happy Xmas (War Is Over) – John And Yoko

An anti-Vietnam war song, became an anti-war song, became an anti-hate song, and remains a pro-Christmas song. It’s another which doesn’t feature a lot of traditional Christmas sounds or lyrics, but the sentiment is one of hope, peace, and looking towards a brighter future – things we can all support at this time of the year. Musically it’s one of the best post-Beatles pieces of work, and not even Yoko’s wailing can dampen it.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, number 4 in 1971 and then number 2 in 1980, as well as other positions in other years.

Is The Video Terrible: There are a couple of different versions, but they’re both fairly similar. The original features John, Yoko, and Sean and a lot of footage from their War Is Over period, while the newer one is news footage of the aftermath of war, famine, murder etc.

3. All I Want For Christmas Is You – Mariah Carey

A frequent winner of many Best Christmas songs lists, it’s certainly one of the most fun, unashamedly buoyant, and downright joyous Christmas songs. How can you not smile or get excited when you hear this? It makes me want to live somewhere where there’s actually a guarantee of snow each December, not the same grey clouds and drizzle we get every other time of the year.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, number 2, kept off by Stay Another Day.

Is The Video Terrible: No, it’s probably one of the best videos on the list. Back before Mariah was a dick, she was incredibly hot, supremely talented, and crucially – not a dick. Her frolicking about in the snow should be watched at least once during the holiday period and it makes me, again, wish I lived somewhere with actual seasons – warm summers, freezing winters, not this endless grey shite we deal with 90% of the time.

2. Merry Xmas Everybody – Slade

IT’S CHRIIIIIISSSTMAAASSS! There’s isn’t much else to say about the song – it’s great, and you need it in your life in December.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Yes, Christmas Number 1 in 1973

Is The Video Terrible: Absolutely, but it’s great too. Laughing at the hair and the fashion and the Noddy, but then remembering that whatever you are wearing, however you are dancing, is going to be ridiculed in 10 years time. Not me though – my look is timeless. It’s another live performance video so you can’t say much about it.

  1. I Wish It Could Be Christmas Every Day – Wizzard

My favourite, and it has mostly always been that way – all those memories I’ve mentioned before about my own childhood are most perfectly recalled by this, it’s probably the song I listen to most at the time of year, and it’s definitely the song I find myself singing or humming most. It’s perfect. I think it’s the only Wizzard song I’ve ever heard.

Did It Reach Number 1 In The UK: Nope, kept off the opt spot by Merry Xmas Everybody.

Is The Video Terrible: Well, yes. The band, in all their bizarro, glam, glory prance around in a semi-frightening manner while a bunch of kids arse about with them.

There you have it, my favourite Christmas songs. I’m sure you have plenty of your own. As I was typing the list, I remember the Gary Glitter classic – Another Rock ‘n’ Roll Christmas – a song I always kind of liked, but then… Gary Glitter. Let us know in the comments what your favourites are and if you have any fond memories of Christmas music!

Bonus – Sexy Christmas USA – yeah, best watch this one alone. Or Never.

Nowhere To Run

*Originally written in 2003

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Van Damme was on a roll in the late eighties and early nineties, making some of the most fun, simple action movies of the era. His ability to get a laugh while being renowned for his nice-guy qualities have ensured his continued success, even if most of his movies now are straight-to-DVD capers.

In Nowhere to Run, a mid echelon movie in terms of his output, he stars with an established cast as another misunderstood nice guy – an escaped convict who decides to help a young widow and her family who are struggling against a local developer who is forcing them out of their home. There is plenty of action, some strong performances, and some very funny moments. Van Damme plays Sam, a mysterious convict who has escaped from prison. He sleeps in a tent outside a small town where two local young kids find and befriend him. Eventually their mother Clydie, played by Rosanna Arquette, finds out and invites him into their home cautiously. Of course they fall for each other, much to the distaste of local Sheriff and love interest Lonnie, who decides to look into Sam’s background. Franklin Hale, played with typical malevolent relish by Joss Ackland, is the main bad guy, but his side-arm Levine is the main threat. Sam helps the family, foiling Hale at every turn, but all the while his own unspoken past is catching up to him…

Arquette, Culkin, Levine, and Taubman as the daughter are particularly good, and the story tries to be light-hearted yet moral. It’s another attempt to achieve a wider audience for Van Damme, and it is definitely one of his most accessible thanks to the good cast and humour. The various discussions on Van Damme’s naked body are always humorous. Overall another good Van Damme film which will please fans, and may interest a few others.

Let us know in the comments what you think of Nowhere To Run! 

Academy Awards 1972 – An Introduction

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The 45th Academy Awards were marred by multiple controversies – The Godfather having it’s nomination for Best Score removed, Brando boycotting the whole thing, and Cabaret getting the most nominations without winning Best Picture. It was another year where lessons from past years were seemingly forgotten, with strange nominations in the face more obvious and deserving choices. There were even some strange choices for the wins. Both of the two aforementioned led the way for wins and nominations meaning other films were unrepresented, especially in the wins category. Edward G Robinson and Charles S Boren received Honorary Awards.

Carol Burnett, Charlton Heston, Michael Caine, and Rock Hudson hosted the show, which also saw James Coburn, Billy Dee Williams, Julie Andrew, John Wayne and other presenting. Meanwhile, Michael Jackson, John Williams, and a host of Disney Characters all performed music.

At least one of the two big winners will also be a big winner in my picks while the other may be sorely disappointed. There will be plenty of surprise nominations in some of the major categories and the usual mix of personal favourites popping up. Join us in the next few weeks to see what makes the cut!