heavymetalmage Goes All Christmas (And New Year's!) On Your Ass!
This is the big one folks. Christmas is beloved and hated by all kinds of people. I happen to be both. That's right, you heard me. I hate Christmas...for not being every day of the year! Oh man, that was a bad joke. Christmas is a time to forgive, right? Well, whether you hate Christmas or you start dragging out your poinsettia tablecloth on the Autumnal equinox, I'm here with the media you need to enjoy, or get you through, the holiday season. I've added one single line for all you Grinches and Scrooges with a nice suggestion that is absolutely not Christmas related. Everybody wins! Also, New Year's is only a week away so we might as well piggyback that sucker on here too.
Apparently, this so called "Christmas" is some sort of Christian holiday. Being that less than 1% of the Japanese are Christian, that should mean that Christmas isn't celebrated in Japan. However, like me, the Japanese celebrate Christmas for strictly commercial reasons. It's not a national holiday there but many traditions are celebrated anyway. One of the more bizarre ones includes a tradition of eating chicken on Christmas, thanks to a marketing campaign by KFC. Yep, the Japanese believe that Americans go to KFC for Christmas. I'm gonna open some presents, grab a double down, and watch these fine anime selections.
I'm not entirely sure what this anime is. I mean, here I am claiming to be the expert on holiday anime and I'm suggesting this so-called Toradora! Am I even saying this right? Torrraaaaaaaaadooooooorrrrrrrrrraaaaaaa...! Well, thanks to myanimelist.net, I can surmise, that yes, you should watch this show. Two high school pals, Ryuuji and Yasaku end up in the same class along with a couple of girls, Minori and Taiga. Well, guess what? Ryuuji is mad crushin' on this Minori girl. Well Taiga has her own crush to deal with so she and Ryuuji team up to tackle their respective crushes. This is a recipe for a Tora-dorable good time. Plus, Taiga is a total TILF. Yep, a tsundere I'd like to fraternize. (MILF jokes are still cool, right?) This rom-com anime is really starting to get my approval. Oh yeah, Christmas! What does this show have to do with Christmas? In episodes 17-19, there is Christmas party going on. That's all it takes to get on this list, but it's a good watch any time of the year. Unfortunately, this show has not been dubbed at this time...that is, until decoy octopus finishes his one-man fandub.
2. Tokyo Godfathers
Satoshi Kon made great anime. Few will dispute that. In his third film, Tokyo Godfathers, he succeeds again with the story of three homeless people who find an abandoned newborn baby on Christmas Eve. As the trio searches to find the newborn's parents, each of the three's past is cleverly revealed and connected to the heart-warming, sometimes comedic tale. Perhaps the strongest theme in this fine film is coincidence, which gives this story its twists and turns. I often give away a lot of spoilers in these mini-reviews but I'll leave it up to you this time to take in this wonderful story about remembering that even the lowest on the rung of society are people too.
3. 5 Centimeters Per Second
This entry doesn't have a whole lot to do with Christmas. However, being the Makato Shinkai fan that I am, I'm gonna make it work. This three-part movie involves the relationships of Takaki and Akari. In the first of three parts, Takaki and Akari become great friends until Akari has to move. They keep in touch through letters and their relationship develops even more. As they say, absence makes the heart grow fonder. When Takaki finds out his family will soon move even farther away from Akari, the two of them decide to meet up one last time. In one of the most beautifully animated segments I have ever seen, (and the same can be said of most of Makato Shinkai's work,) the two meet up one late, blizzardy night at a train station. They spend the night together there and then go back to their lives, without each other. This movie peaks early with this first part, but the entire work is worth a watch, as are all of Makato Shinkai's masterpieces. One of these days I'll put together a nice retrospective of those but hey, it's Christmas; I'm busy as hell!
4. Itsudatte My Santa!
I'm pretty sure this anime is stupid. Here's the plot according to MAL: Mai, a Santa in training, appears in front of an unlucky boy named Santa on Christmas Eve, promising him that she will make him happy for one night...yeah, this two-episode ecchi OVA doesn't get very good reviews. Funimation did release a dubbed version but on the other hand, the idolized Aya Hirano voices Mai in the original. That's something, right? Really you should just watch the first three entries of this list. That should be good enough.
And if you hate Christmas...Serial Experiments Lain
Wait a minute. You hate Christmas? Oh man, are you serious? I can't believe I'm even typing the words "hate" and "Christmas" in the same sentence. If you insist on hating Christmas, why not go watch Serial Experiments: Lain. This is the tale of a young girl named Lain who discovers "the Wired" (essentially, the internet but not exactly) and becomes entangled in its going-ons. I don't want to give away any more than that. I will give away these facts: Lain does not put up Christmas lights. Lain does not drink eggnog with friends. Lain does not go caroling. Lain does not open presents under the Christmas tree. There is absolutely nothing Christmas related going on in this spectacular anime. So go watch it, you Christmas-hater.
New Year's: Azumanga Daioh
While this entry could have easily been filed under Christmas, I've chosen it for New Year's for one particular reason. The eighth episode in this stellar series features some New Year's dreams of four of the main characters. Osaka dreams of Chiyo's pigtails; Tomo dreams of being the best at everything; Sakaki dreams of cats; Kaorin dreams of...Sakaki. This is one of my favorite episodes in one of my favorite anime series. Anyone who knows anything about anime knows that this is a great series. Anyone who doesn't like this series, *cough*Polly*cough*...I better stop there.
Video games are a great gift to get during the holiday season. Between Amazon and Steam's specials cleaning out my wallet and every other expense during the holiday season, I was only able to get you all each one gift...my guide to the exploitation of Christmas by the video game industry!
1. Home Alone
Clearly, this is a great game. Fine, don't believe me. Why not read Master of AFTER's review?
Where can I get my hands on this game? I would pay top dollar to relive my holiday SkiFree memories. I distinctly remember firing up A Mannheim Steamroller Christmas on my Windows-95-toting Packard Bell and playing Ski-Free. This simple game involves skiing down one of three courses that offer different challenges in order to score points. After completing the course, you can continue skiing downhill until an abominable snow monster comes out and eats you. As a youngin', I tried for weeks, months, and possibly years to get past these monsters; I had almost deemed it impossible. Apparently it can be done but the level just loops back to the beginning. Oh well, I'm not sure what I was expecting. I highly suggest visiting The Most Officialest SkiFree Home Page! where you can read a bit about the history of SkiFree, learn some neat trivia about it, and yes, even download this classic Windows game.
3. Christmas Seaman
There are definitely other Christmas games out there. Heck, there are definitely better games out there that are more Christmas related. But if you think that for one second I would pass up writing about a game called "Christmas Seaman" you obviously don't know me one bit. Here's the gimmick, the Dreamcast game Seaman was released as a special edition known as Christmas Seaman and I'm still giggling this whole time. Let me collect myself. Seaman is a virtual pet video game released for the Dreamcast in '99 at the height of the Tamagotchi/Gigapet fad. As the owner of a new pet "Seaman", an enigmatic fish species with a human-like face, you must learn how to care for this very creepy-looking creature. While Seaman is more likely to bring you Christmas nightmares than Christmas joy, it is worth noting that it was the third bestselling Dreamcast game in Japan, and had a fair amount of sales, and even a sequel, on PS2. It's also worth noting that this game actually made use of microphone attachment for both the Dreamcast and PS2, probably less for interacting with the creature and more so it can really hear your screams of horror and disgust. For similarly frightening creatures, please see Transmutate from Beast Wars.
4. A Very Commodore 64 Christmas
Carrying the title of being the best-selling personal computer of all time comes with a lot of things. Among these things is a surprising amount of Christmas-themed games for the good ol' Commodore 64. Sure, the PC and iPhone have more, and so does the 360, but the little keyboard that could (complete with 64 KILOBYTES of RAM, wowza!) had its holiday-hijinks heyday too. Most of these games, like Father Christmas, Ferris Christmas Caper, Merry Christmas, and Special Delivery: Santa's Christmas Chaos, are your standard adventure fare for the time. If you long for pixelated holiday fun, straight out of 1982, there are emulators available. If that's not good enough, you can buy a desktop PC built by Commodore that exactly resembles this fine piece of hardware, only with modern specs. Yes, you can now get 16GB of RAM instead of 64KB. I don't know about you but 64 sounds a lot larger than 16.
And if you hate Christmas...Final Fantasy X
If you hate Christmas so much, where do you get your video games from? You don't actually go out and buy them, do you? Since you hate Christmas, I got you a copy of Final Fantasy X. I like this game. I like this game A LOT. This game doesn't involve Christmas and I guess that's what counts. There's even that Yevon religion which I'm sure has its own ridiculous holidays (that I would also celebrate.) Sure, this game has a lot of words-not-matching-mouths and some kind of incomprehensible love story. On the other hand, you've got pretty awesome graphics for the time, a solid soundtrack, the amazing Sphere Grid and the Condition Turn-Based Battle System for lazy people like me that get up for half an hour in the middle of a boss fight. What's that? You hate this game too? You would, Ebenezer Scrooge.
New Year's: Chrono Trigger
It's constantly a new year for Crono and I'm gonna call that close enough. I think most SMPSers can agree that this is one of the greatest games ever made and Mr. Patrick Q. Pitchfork already wrote a nice little article about this near perfect game. I'm outsourcing this one since I'd like to spend at least a little of the holiday season doing something other than typing this article.
It seems as though every year, a new "holiday classic" comes out. Most of those are junk animated for kids so moms have a place to park them while they buy the rest of the gifts. However, there are a lot of great Christmas movies out there and I've seen every single Christmas movie ever made, just to find the best for you folks to watch this holiday season.
1. The Santa Clause
For one magical week in November 1994, Tim Allen was on top of the world. His show, Home Improvement, was the highest-rated show in the country. His book, Don't Stand Too Close to a Naked Man, was #1 on the New York Times Bestseller list. Finally, The Santa Clause, was on top of the box office. In a modern tale of yuletide murder, businessman Scott Calvin (played by Tim Allen) inadvertently causes the death of the real Santa Claus. Kinda messed up for a kids movie eh? Well, under the urging's his son, Charlie, Scott hops in Santa's sleigh and delivers the rest of the toys to save Christmas. That's just the beginning of the movie! Scott meets the head elf, Bernard, who informs him that by finishing Santa's route, he is now the new Santa Claus under the "Santa Clause". The rest of the movie deals with Scott trying to wrestle with the idea of fantasy in a factual world as he physically and mentally becomes Santa Claus. He also must deal with his ex-wife and Charlie's step-dad (hilariously played by Judge Reinhold) as they try to keep Charlie away from Scott, a man they think is going nuts. This movie features a bit of Tim-Allen-style slapstick and plenty of holiday humor. I've seen this one so many times I think I know the script by heart.
2. National Lampoon's Christmas Vacation
I'm going to start this one off with a bold statement: I am Clark Griswold at Christmas. (See! I bolded that statement! Hahaha!) Lame jokes aside, if I had the time and resources, I would completely cover my house with Christmas lights, cut down a Christmas tree that is too big for my living room, and sled down a giant hill at 200+ MPH. Oh yeah, all these things happen in this movie, along with horrible relatives and Christmas disasters. Whether you love Christmas or bear the horrors of it every year, Christmas Vacation, has a laugh for everyone. If there's one movie that I have to watch every year, this would be it. To finish this review, I will throw out a few phrases to intrigue you: Squirrels. Yuppies. Kidnapping. Skinny dipping. Sewer gas. SWAT team. Yep. That should do it.
3. MST3K: Santa Claus
A lot of people who are MST3K fans might wonder why I didn't choose the "Santa Claus Conquers the Martians" episode. Well, I rather like Mike Nelson and I do believe this episode is available to watch on Netflix. This fine riff is of "Santa Claus", a dubbed-over Mexican film where a demon, Pitch, tries to corrupt children so that they will be naughty and Santa won't bring them any presents. Well, good ol' Santa uses some FREAKY technology to combat Pitch and well, wow, what a bad movie. Thankfully, Mike Nelson, Crow T. Robot, and Tom Servo are there to serve up a stocking full of laughs.
4. A Christmas Carol
There are about 4,703 movie versions of A Christmas Carol. Some are much better than others. I could probably have written an article just on this story. I love the book and I've seen many, many film versions as well. First off, which ones should you avoid? I don't really care for the musical version starring Kelsey Grammar. I didn't even get past the first 20 minutes and I love this story. I would also avoid most cartoon versions, including Mickey's Christmas Carol. It's cute but weak on content. Now, for the good ones! If you're looking for a fun adaptation, A Muppet Christmas Carol is the way to go. Michael Caine was born to play Scrooge and the Muppets fill out the other major roles quite nicely. This one includes singing but the songs are catchy and will get stuck in your head. (I will occasionally find myself singing them outside the Christmas season.) If you'd like a faithful adaptation, the 1951 film Scrooge is perhaps among the best. This one frightened me as a child and this is probably because it remembers exactly what Charles Dickens called his great tale: "A Ghost Story of Christmas."
And if you hate Christmas...Whatever is in the Theatre
Well, you'll probably end up at a movie theatre this Christmas seeing as you'll be avoiding anything and everything Christmassy. There's not a heck of a lot in the theatre right now I can recommend, which is perfect for a Christmas-hater like you. So go see something crappy; you deserve it.
New Year's: End of Days
Arnold Schwarzenegger is always good for a chuckle, whether he means to or not. No, I'm not talking about Jingle All the Way. We're past Christmas now and although you should watch that movie, we're here to discuss New Year's. End of Days revolves around the final days of the past millennium and how Satan comes to Earth to make a baby on New Year's Eve. That actually sounds like a fairly normal New Year's Eve except that Arnold shows up to stop him. What a buzzkill.
The best part of watching TV during the holiday season is finding out what all the best toys to ask Santa sales are for buying gifts for people. 'Tis the season to be advertised to. You could always relive those days of advertising's past and find your VHS tapes of your favorite Christmas specials. As for these fine holiday selections, you might have to try and find them on DVD instead.
1. A Garfield Christmas Special
When the SMPS crew put together their top cartoons of all-time this year, I noticed that Garfield & Friends made its way onto more than one list. I remember loving this show, especially the Christmas special. Garfield, Odie and Jon all head to the family farm for a Christmas with the fam. Garfield quickly forms a special bond with Grandma, the only other person as grouchy as Garfield. Well, Garfield learns the true meaning of Christmas and whatnot. Between Odie's heartfelt gift and a very special gift from Garfield to Grandma, this funny Christmas special is also a bit of a tearjerker.
2. Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer
If you're ever in the mood for a misogynistic tale of a misfit, flying reindeer, told through 1960's Claymation, then Rudolph, the Red-Nosed Reindeer is the TV holiday special for you! Now Rudolph is not an alcoholic or anything like that; he is simply a freak of nature that happens to have a famous daddy. Well, Santa's a giant dick and tells Rudolph to go to hell and Rudolph ends up with a gay dentist elf and a precious-metal-crazed miner who together find a bunch of broken toys and just when everyone is totally screwed over, THEN Rudolph is a hero because of his deformity. By the way, this is for kids. Favorite line: "No! This is man's work!"
3. It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia: A Very Sunny Christmas
The gang from It's Always Sunny in Philadelphia are always rude, self-absorbed, and borderline sociopathic. The holiday season is no different. Mac and Charlie, the Christmas-lovers of the gang, try to relive some of their favorite Christmas memories. They quickly discover that their neglectful parents had some very non-traditional ways of celebrating Christmas, including robbing people's houses and having several Santas come over for...cookies. Meanwhile, Dee and Dennis track down an old business partner of Frank's in order to teach him a lesson for not buying them presents when they were kids. As always with the Sunny crew, no one comes out a winner.
4. The Simpsons Christmas Special
To true Simpsons fans, The Simpsons Christmas Special is not just another TV show doing a holiday special. This special marked the Simpson family's leap from a short on The Tracey Ullman Show to a primetime, half-hour show. Not only that, but this fabled special includes the introduction of the Simpsons' long time pet, Santa's Little Helper. Other notable events include Homer working as a mall Santa, Bart getting a tattoo, and a Simpsons-style sing-along at the end.
And if you hate Christmas...Flight of the Conchords
I can't believe I'm going to recommend such a great show to a holiday loather. But if you insist...why not spend a couple of seasons with "New Zealand's 4th most popular guitar-based digi-bongo acapella-rap-funk-comedy folk duo"? The Flight of the Conchords is the HBO series featuring Bret and Jemaine, the two members of the titular band. Bret and Jemaine seek fame and fortune in New York City while avoiding their stalker, Mel, dealing with their mismanaging-manger Murray, and finding ways to pay the rent. Mini music videos and hilarious parody songs mesh perfectly with deadpan humor and a supporting cast of underground comedians to create one of the funniest shows of the past decade. If you've missed out on this show, why not catch up while avoiding Christmas?
New Year's: Friends
Well I really had to rack my brain on this one. I could have gone with the "Y2K" episode of King of the Hill but I already used that show for Thanksgiving. Other than subjecting yourself to Dick Clark's New Year's Rockin' Eve, I distinctly remember seeing an episode of Friends where Joey and Chandler end up kissing at midnight on New Year's. Also, Ross adopts a monkey in that episode. To quote Homer Simpson on David Schwimmer, "Yes, he is handsome in an ugly sort of way." Like I said, there are worse things to watch this New Year's.
In case you've gone deaf between November 1st and now, I can confirm that yes, Christmas music is everywhere. I love Christmas music and why shouldn't I? I'm crazy enough about this holiday that I'm singing "Sleigh Ride" the second it drops below 50 degrees. However, not all Christmas music is created equal. There is A LOT of crap out there. I've picked a few of my favorites in order to save you from such hateful junk as "The Christmas Shoes".
1. Santa's Coming - CKY
Finally, a chance to plug my favorite band of all-time, CKY. Besides being an excellent rock band, CKY has been known to do some hilarious side projects as well. Among a few other Christmas song parodies, "Santa's Coming" riffs off the classic "Santa Claus is Coming to Town". This version, however, suggests that Santa is a little more than pissed off and it's probably because kids are all brats nowadays. I couldn't agree more.
2. Last Christmas - Wham!
This song is terrible. I will be the first to admit it. However, I love it. Every time it would come on the radio I would cringe and wait for my next holiday favorite. However, I heard this song so much that it is now nestled in every Christmas playlist I put together. This song's notable features include: An overly-syncopated drum-machine beat, some jingle bells, and George Michael ragging on whichever dude broke his heart last Christmas. This song has achieved a lot of odd sales records, like being the highest-selling song never to hit #1 in the UK and the highest-selling in Japan to never hit the top 10. It also has a terrible association with one of my least favorite Christmas pop hits, "Do They Know Its Christmas?", the awful Band Aid song, which was released the same year and also features George Michael. I recommend turning up this hit just a little bit louder this year and belting those lyrics out.
3. Christmas Sing-Along With Mitch
This was my favorite Christmas album growing up because I was the weirdest, Christmas-obsessed kid you could have ever met. This is an album for old people who like Christmas hymns and having them sung by a weird chorus. I guess I'm just that kind of guy. If you're a closet psychopath like me, I'd check out this album. It's about as classic as you can get. Also, check out the goatee on Mitch. Satan himself would be jealous.
4. The Bpwner Christmas Album
The Bpwner Christmas Album is the single greatest album ever to be conceived. Featuring such songs as "Family Tech Support", "Steam Ride", and "Suck a Reindeer's Dick", Bpwner's golden vocal chords will lull you into a false sense of security and then entertain you to your very core. This album WILL bring you, and your loved ones, a "Bpwner load" of holiday cheer this year.
And if you hate Christmas: Static-X - Wisconsin Death Trip
This is one of my favorite albums of all-time. Industrial metal at its finest. Also, it doesn't feature "Jingle Bells", "I saw Mommy Kissing Santa Claus", or "Silent Night:. IT DOES have "Push It", "Bled for Days", and "Fix". Again, it does not feature any holiday hits like "All I Want For Christmas is You", "We Wish You a Merry Christmas", or "It Came Upon a Midnight Clear". So go spike your hair two feet in the air and work on your best guttural OOOOOOOOOOOOH! because it's Static-X time for all you Yuletide cynics.
New Year's: Old Anye's what?
What is up with this song? I don't think anybody knows the lyrics, much less understands the title (Auld Lang Syne), or even what is going on in this song. I guess it has something to do forgetting your regrets and forgiving transgressions or some shit. In reality, it was either this song or "Millennium" by Robbie Williams which I only remember because it sampled "You Only Live Twice" by Nancy Sinatra. Long story short, I think I made the only correct choice.
If it exists in real life, it exists on the internet. Also add a Rule 34 caveat to that as well. Eeek. In order to keep you off some of the more uncouth websites out there, I've selected some of the best Yuletideness the internet has to offer. On the other hand, you are on this website; I've already failed.
In case you missed my Celebrity Bric-a-Brac entry for Thanksgiving, go back and watch that. Then watch this. There's no shortage of Christmas Bric-a-Brac in the world; just check your local thrift store around this time of year and you'll find all the worthless holiday knickknacks a person could want. Well, these trinkets have been put to good use with some superb John Madden, Morgan Freedman, and Bill Cosby impressions. Also, who could resist a lake made of pudding?
This video is so funny it'll MAKE. SANTA. PUKE. In a stroke of genius, SNL decided to parody such rap and rock festivals as the Gathering of the Juggalos. Well, in a series of these videos, "Crunkmas" makes an appearance. This festival features such awesome things as a first aid kit full of snakes, a mayonnaise fight with former Surgeon General C. Everett Koop, and a 2-D screening of The Owls of Ga'Hoole. Umm, what? Yeah, just have a watch.
Another SNL entry, this skit aired for several years, each time featuring a fairly simple melody and stupid lyrics. That's exactly what makes it so hilarious. Tracy Jordan's dancing, Horatio Sans' guitar solos, and Jimmy Fallon, (hardly able to keep from laughing) crack me up every dang year. There are a few versions around so you'll want to be sure to catch them all.
SMPS regular contributor FreezingInferno was kind enough to give the internet a little taste of Christmastime in Newfoundland. I don't know about you but I think I'm gonna send off for some Purity syrup and go mummering so I can scare the hell out of people.
Every gosh dang year, website X comes out with a list of "The Best/The Worst/The Funniest/Most Awkward Blah Blah Blah of 20XX!" Even the perfectly pink perfection that is SMPS will have the "Best Games of 2011" this year. There are a ton of these lists and there's probably one out there that you would enjoy. Whether you'd like to see "The Most Ironically-Dressed Corgis of 2011" or "The Worst-Looking Food That Tastes Awesome of 2011" or, maybe, "The Most heavymetalmage Going All Christmas (and New Year's) on Your Ass of 2011", well, you just read that one!
By the time you're done watching and playing all these fine media selections and checking out all the cool crap you got for Christmas, it'll probably be Martin Luther King Jr. Day. From there it's only a hop, skip and a jump to Valentine's Day and I'll be back with more holiday cheer than Cupid can shoot an arrow at.