The Xmas Grind

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This is The Nightmare Before Christmas

It would be unfair to say Christmas snuck up on me this year. It’s done everything to make its coming known; settling down in store shelves even before the Halloween candy could have its turn. But, despite the foretelling, my apartment remains inconspicuous, innocuous, not a trace of the holiday to be found (outside of the few Christmas cards I receive every year).

It’s not that I’m a Grinch. I don’t hate the holiday and I don’t envy those who celebrate it. I’m not Bob Cratchit either. I have the time off and I’m going to use it. This year, I am Patty Donahue (more so than any other year to date) because

“Bah, humbug” no, that’s too strong
‘Cause it is my favorite holiday
But all this year’s been a busy blur
Don’t think I have the energy

NME’s “Song Stories” dedicated an episode to Chris Butler and his writing of the Waitresses’ “Christmas Wrappings.” It was a song he really didn’t want to write and the band didn’t want to record. However, they did it anyway because they were obligated to. The request for a Christmas song came from their record company’s president. There have been a lot covers of “Christmas Wrappings” since (including one by the Spice Girls) but it’s Patty Donahue’s sardonic tone that really brings the stress and frustrations of an end of the year holiday home.

It’s not for a lack of trying. I’ve tried to get myself into the spirit of the holiday. Last weekend (or was it the weekend before) I made use of the free copy of Elf that Google provided last Christmas (or was it the Christmas before). Will Farrell is brilliant in it. Just like Patty Donahue on “Christmas Wrappings,” it’s hard for me to imagine any actor other than Will Farrell in the role of Buddy. His childlike enthusiasm and innocent inappropriateness is so sincere it punctuates the irony that we would forgive him his trespasses if he were a little kid.

That same weekend I tried to watch The Year Without A Santa Claus and Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town (the Rankin and Bass productions not the live-actions). Seth Green (Robot Chicken) and Tim Burton (Coraline) are two of the names that come to mind when I think of more recent stop-motion movies or shows. In the computer age, it’s rare. Most films choose realism over imagination.

Like the man in the monster suit in the early Godzilla movies, the story didn’t need to look real back then (the 70s) — it only had to be good. In my favorite Godzilla movie, Godzilla vs. The Smog Monster (or Godzilla vs. Hedorah in later versions), the monster suits looked worn and tattered before any of the fighting began but visually the movie worked. My favorite scene is the one in the newsroom, when its various monitors fill up the frame with images of people complaining about the monsters and the monsters themselves. I like the inclusion of animated drawings juxtaposed with real world shots. And the song always gets stuck in my head:

Animals, God’s animals
Don’t go away, don’t go
Flowers, my flowers
Don’t go away, don’t go
The sea has cobalt, it’s full of mercury
Too many fumes in our oxygen
All the smog now is choking you and me
Good Lord, where is it gonna end?

It’s the same with the Rankin and Bass animations. The stories didn’t need to be complex and the songs were just catchy enough to become seasonal earworms:

Put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking ‘cross the floor.
You put one foot in front of the other
And soon you’ll be walking out the door.

This is not to say I’m a sucker for all Rankin and Bass productions (e.g. Nestor the Long-Earred Donkey) but I appreciate the complete escape from reality every once in a while. Which brings me back to where I started: I’m Patty Donahue this Christmas. I enjoyed watching Elf, The Year Without A Santa Claus, and Santa Claus Is Comin’ To Town but it’s been an exhausting year and I just don’t have the energy “to add to my already mad rush just ’cause it’s ’tis the season.”

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