Sunday, November 16, 2014

Trailer Play by Play: Saving Christmas

Let's see how this new possibly recurring segment goes. I decided to give it a shot after seeing the bizarre trailer for Kirk Cameron's Saving Christmas. The plot centers around Cameron's efforts to cheer up his brother-in-law, who is down in the dumps and apparently committed to no longer enjoying the Christmas because the holiday has gotten too commercialized and because it has some connections to non-Christian things.

Before I start, I figure I should link to a few other posts. One is at Timblerig's Ark, a blog that had this comment on the trailer and this post about how Christian films fall flat because they are pretty much required to be safe and predictable while only appealing to people who already agree with their message. The other post is the ever-amusing Onion A.V. Club, which had this hilarious article on the trailer.

All right, let's begin.

Over cheery seasonal music and the opening studio information, the narrator (Kirk Cameron of CamFam Studios, of course), asks just as cheerily, "Do you ever feel like Christmas has been hijacked?"

Um, that's kind of a jarring question, Kirk. But since you bring it up, there do seem to be some people who want to make the holiday about an imagined "War on Christmas" and reserve the holiday only for Christians, ignoring the fact that its larger recognition encourages charity and togetherness and such, no matter how you choose to celebrate it. But that's just me.

Hey, this family seems to be having a good time. Their decorations are maybe a little secular for some people's tastes, like the giant candy canes and nutcrackers and such. But oh no! A woman tells Kirk that a character named Christian, because symbolism, is "just not into Christmas this year."

This is Christian, but he will hereafter be referred to as Holiday Hipster. He picks at his face for awhile while Kirk elaborates that the people who are really forcing Christmas to fly to Cuba at gunpoint are those who over-commercialize it and "want to replace 'Merry Christmas' with 'Happy Holidays' or 'Season's Greetings,' whatever that means." 

Doesn't it mean that you're wishing your fellow man, Christian or non-Christian, good blessings and cheer? And isn't it commercializing the holiday just a wee bit to release a Christmas film on November 14 and ask people to buy tickets to it?

Kirk and Holiday Hipster have moved things to a parked car. Kirk asks Holiday Hipster if he's OK. " not...what Christmas is all about," he replies. Are you referring to heavy-handed CamFam Studios movies?

Hold onto that thought, Holiday Hipster; Kirk's not done yet. He further elaborates that the holiday hijackers want to "pull down every manger scene" and tell Christians why their holiday traditions are wrong. The ensuing montage is of holiday decorations and does not include a manger scene. Oh no! Did the atheists make Kirk take down a manger scene? In his own home? Those holiday secularists are just the worst. I'll bet they don't even have an Advent wreath.

OK, now it's Holiday Hipster's turn to rant. He complains about how Jesus wasn't born on December 25 and how some Christmas symbols apparently have their roots in paganism, whining that "it's like a carjacking, but like, of our religion." What is it with you people and the forceful takeover of ground or aerial vehicles? 

Holiday Hipster apparently can't decide whether he is more concerned about the non-Christian aspects of Christmas or about commercialism and secular symbols. He thinks Santa Claus was the perpetrator of this particular carjacking, throwing Jesus out of the Chevy Impala that symbolizes religion and peeling off while singing the opening theme to Rawhide.

"Isn't it time somebody spoke up?" Kirk asks.

Then the trailer cuts to that image. Yeah, let's get that guy to speak up! The one who stole Jesus's car!

No wait, I guess Kirk is going to do the speaking, like he has for this entire trailer. He tells Holiday Hipster that everything you can see inside his house is all about Jesus. Are you surprised?

A montage of Jesus-y images follows, including Mary and the manger and one of the wise men. Just one? And why does he look like he's on his way to Too Many Cooks to kill everyone? 

Kirk knows that Holiday Hipster loves Christmas and "wants it to be about what it's all about." What rousing oratory, what finesse! Or at least Holiday Hipster thinks so, since the next scene is of him dashing back into the house with a giant grin on his face. I think Kirk may have just given up trying to convince his mopey brother-in-law to love Christmas and snuck a bit of crystal meth into his eggnog instead. Kirk smiles in angelic light in the doorway, because he is nothing if not humble.

Kirk invites us to "dive headfirst" into all of the Christmas celebrations. Without a hint of irony, he pairs "imagination" and "traditions" together in the list. It's all to "glorify the true reason for the season," so if you're celebrating Christmas without a giant manger scene in your house you can just leave this party right now.

And because that Kirk is such a cutup, the diving invitation is accompanied by an interrupted shot of Holiday Hipster celebrating his renewed faith by, for some reason, jumping onto the floor and sliding headfirst into the presents. I think he's attacking commercialism with his face. Either that or, you know, the meth.

The party grinds to a halt, because some maniac just dove into all of the commercialism. Kirk Cameron's Black Friend takes charge. For some reason, he doesn't ask, "Are you all right" or shout, "You idiot, you just destroyed my son's Playstation 4!" Instead, he puts on his best priest voice, says something about workin' on the spirit and scales falling off. He also demands an amen from party-goers who thought this was going to be more about feasting and dancing.

And then Kirk flat-out orders you to go see his movie and "put Christ back into Christmas." Personally, I'd recommend something like It's a Wonderful Life or A Christmas Carol. They're classics, they're spiritual, and I'm sure they have a better than zero percent favorable rating on RottenTomatoes

Monday, November 3, 2014

I Make Fun of State Quarters: Delaware

I feel a little bad making fun of Delaware. I mean, isn't the poor state a punchline already?

Yes. Yes it is.

Still, I must persevere.

It's not like there's any reason to dislike Delaware. I'm sure it's full of wonderful people and quaint little downtown areas and affable grinning Vice Presidents. But it just seems so...plain. Something tells me there aren't too many newlyweds saying, "Hey honey, lets get away to scenic Delaware and climb to the Ebright Azimuth. We'll be higher up than anyone in the entire state!"

And when Mom and Pop load up the station wagon for a family vacation, are they really going to say to the kids, "Come on, children! We're going to visit Felton. We can see the Thomas B. Coursey House. He got the right to stock a mill pond with bass carp in 1883 and tell other people they couldn't fish there. They call their townships "hundreds," and Felton is in South Murderkill Hundred. Doesn't that sound nice??"

Behold, majestic Felton. (Source)

It's almost too much to handle, all these sights and sounds. How can one simple state quarter hold all the excitement that Delaware has to offer?

Well, that does pack it in pretty well. Everyone loves a horsey.

Wondering why Delaware was the place that kicked off the state quarter program instead of one of the states that sits at the cool table, like Massachusetts or California? It's because it was the first of the original 13 colonies to ratify the Constitution, giving it the honor of being the first state in the Union. Thus the big "First State" label on it like some 14-year-old's YouTube comment. There were other colonies established before Delaware, of course, but it still gets to brag about how it was a state before the United States existed.

So now is the time to tell the story of Yankee Doodle, riding through a quarter on a pony. No wait, that isn't it. It's Paul Revere, right? He's heading off to say that the British are coming. Except that was in Boston, not in Delaware. Um...who is this guy again?

Ah yes, Caesar Rodney. Delaware chooses a truly interesting fellow known for being a sheriff, register of wills, recorder of deeds, clerk of the Orphan's Court, and justice of the peace. He's held more public offices than anyone else in Delaware. Hooray for competent county-level politicians?

Actually, Rodney is best known for riding 80 miles through a thunderstorm while ill to get from Dover to Philadelphia. This was in July of 1776, and he made the trip after finding out that Delaware was split on whether or not to go along with the Declaration of Independence. Although his constituents were chiefly Loyalist, Rodney cast the deciding vote in favor of independence.

Delaware might want to forget that his constituency rewarded this patriot for his bravery by throwing him out on his ass. Once it became clear that he had supported the Declaration of Independence, voters in Kent County opted not to include him in the state's constitutional convention or general assembly. They did come around again in 1778, electing Rodney to a position that somehow manages to sound both impressive and embarrassing: "President of Delaware."

It also helps that the quarter's design keeps Rodney's face tiny enough that you can't really make out any detail. No one painted a portrait of Rodney when he was alive, since his face was ravaged by cancer. John Adams described him as having a face "not much bigger than a large apple," perhaps because Adams didn't realize that Rodney wore a facial covering to hide the disfigurement.

Pictured: Caesar Rodney (Source)

All things considered, Rodney is a good choice for the quarter design. He put country before self, and he achieved greatness despite his young age and physical ailments. Maybe some people were disappointed that the quarter didn't have the Delaware Memorial Bridge or something, but it never hurt anyone to pick up a book or do a bit of Googling and learn an interesting story.

Besides, it's certainly better than the alternate designs. Like this one:

That would be Lady Liberty blazing a torch into the future and boldly proclaiming, "Behold! A new nation is born, and the first member of this glorious country shall be this odd misshapen lump of a state!" And then Lady Liberty would presumably pause for a few seconds and say, "Um...Aubrey Plaza is going to be born here in another 200 years and change. That's something, right?"

And even that's preferable to this finalist:

That design recognizes the fact that Delaware has a chicken breed named after it. Had the Mint gone with this design, we'd all have to sarcastically thank Delaware for starting out the state quarter series by showing us their cock.