Sunday, December 13, 2009

Obscure Movies that I watch during the Christmas Break

I mentioned earlier how one of my favourite things to do during the Christmas Break is to watch obscure movies that aren't on during the year. These are movies that usually aren't on during the year, for a reason, but some of them are actually quite good. I doubt you won't have heard of the ones listed here.

So let's go.

5. Flash Gordon (1980)

There really are only three groups of people who truly appreciate what this film is. I'm not sure if any of them are actual "fans" of the Flash Gordon comic strip (yes, there is one, in case you're an idiot), but they deserve recognition, nonetheless. I would ascertain that roughly 70% of the people who like this film are bondage-fetishists and general ultra-softcore-porn fans. This film is chock full of suggestive scenes including this fine piece of cinema:

So...yeah, there's that.

The second group of people who would typically make up the fanbase would undoubtedly be Queen enthusiasts, as the soundtrack is famously performed by them. That song really, really, really gets on your nerves by the time the film is over.

Lastly, there is a tiny, almost infinitesimal group of people who like Flash Gordon as a kitschy space opera, which is so-bad-it's-good on purpose. Throughout the film, the special effects are lacklustre, the acting is wooden and the plot is ridiculous. Why? Because they were paying tribute to the matinee serials in which all of those elements played a part in making them so loveable. There's a reason you can see the strings in the final battle.
It's a little-known fact that George Lucas originally sought after the rights to Flash Gordon, while trying to make a science fiction epic in the 70s. When he failed, he decided to make something called Star Wars, instead. When that turned out to be the biggest high-concept movie of all-time and space, every similar property was churned out into the cinema (see: Star Trek: The Motion Picture, The Last Starfighter, etc.). And so, the Flash Gordon movie was born. However, instead of trying to go head-to-head with what Lucas had created, the makers instead made it into a loveably stupid movie that is good for all of the wrong reasons. This is why I like it. It's perfect, lazy, brain-off watching, but I could never really see myself buying the DVD; which requires a whole new level of appreciation.

4. Supergirl (1984)

Ah, Supergirl. The ultimate in cash-ins.

The Supergirl movie was made after Superman III (but before Superman IV), because the Salkinds (the producers of the Superman movies, up until this one) didn't think Christopher Reeve would want to do any more of them (which he eventually did). It truly is one of the more obscure superhero movies to the point where a lot of people don't even know it exists. It's the ultimate example of a film that I should really buy on DVD, given how much of a completist I am when it comes to Superman; but I just can't really be bothered, because it's just this weird little black sheep of a movie.

(There's so much to say about this picture. So very much.)

In a lot of ways, it feels more like a TV movie pilot than an actual theatrical release. The plot isn't particularly big and the scenes never have much of an epic feel to them, the way they did in the first two Superman movies. But to its credits, it's a fun little movie if you like Superman or even just if you can't sleep and want to watch something that isn't Shakespeare. Plus, Helen Slater is mind-numbingly hot (even today).

3. Jingle All The Way (1996)


One of Schwarzenegger's infamous forays into the realm of "Family Comedy" and certainly the most well-received (although not necessarily for the right reasons). This film benefits from the supporting cast, all of whom are unintentionally hilarious (with the exception of the late, great Phil Hartman, who isn't really given anything funny to do). The plot is the typically clichéd, yuppie father trying to reconnect with his son by fulfilling his Christmas wish. However, unlike most of these kinds of films, where the kid wants something like a house or a new mom or a best friend or something equally corny, this kid (the tragically funny, utterly talentless Jake Lloyd, who would go on to polarise Star Wars fans in a single film, three years later) just wants the "must-have" toy of the year; in this case, a superhero doll.

(This photo is of a 'little person' who once played a character named 'Mini-Me', dressed as Santa Claus, sitting on the shoulders of a man who is well-known for playing The Terminator in three films. Said man is now the Governor of California. Well done, Universe. You win.)

This film is classic Schwarzenegger in that he clearly thought it was the best holiday family comedy, ever while making it. His stock expression of "Oh crap." (see: the poster at the top of the post) is pure, cinematic gold.

2. Muppets Take Manhattan


At this point in the list, I'm willing to admit that I actually wish I owned this film, because I reference it throughout the year and it is certainly one of the funniest films I've ever seen. To be fair, this film is probably my favourite on the entire list; the only reason it's number two and not number one is because as a Christmas movie, it's not as ideally placed in this list as the one in the number one slot.


Sadly, like a lot of pre-Pixar kids' movies, this gets shoe-horned into that very genre and nobody bothers giving it a second look. The movie is comedic gold and packed full of excellent "WTF" deadpan moments. It's hard enough to do this kind of comedy with people and Jim Henson managed it with puppets. I would post some videos, but it would ruin the surprise when you actually do watch the movie. Please watch this.

1. The Santa ClausE (1995)


The fact that so many people misspell 'Santa Claus' and add the 'e' at the end, is testament to this movie's effect on popular culture. Indeed, it's yet another movie that I wish I owned on DVD.

Funnily enough, while I do hate Christmas for the most part (mainly due to my own self-contained experiences with it), I actually love the idea of Santa Claus. In a lot of ways, he's pretty much the greatest superhero ever and he's certainly the most popular. Cynics look at him as just "lying to your kids," etc, but I sort of look at him as a metaphor for faith, trust and believing in something that you can't necessarily see. If your parents do a good enough job of instilling the values and spirit of this icon, by the time you realise that there pretty much isn't a fat guy with flying reindeer who gives you presents every year, you still realise the importance of self-sacrifice and of giving to others. In that respect, Santa Claus really is real. And that's why this movie is awesome.

(This is a screencap from the sequel. It was impossible trying to find images for this particular film, because of the aforementioned, mass misspelling)

The reason it works so well is because for the first two acts of the movie, everything that the two protagonists believe could well have just been a dream. They don't have any proof that they visited the North Pole or that Scott (the dad) became the 'new' Santa Claus. All they have to go by is a weird little snow-globe that could just as easily have been some trinket they picked up, anywhere. Naturally, being an American movie, their belief is paid-off in full by the end of the movie and all of the cynical supporting characters are left with their jaws slacked and their spirits soaring, but at that point, you're having so much fun that you don't really care. I can't wait to watch this again, this Christmas.


  1. This blog is becoming very readable. Good job.

    (Damning with faint praise? Perhaps...)

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