I hope everyone had a great—and SAFE—Christmas this year. Mine was...interesting.
Living in the south usually has its benefits, particularly around the holiday season. While we have the occasional “White Christmas”, that usually just means a slight dusting of snow or maybe some dirty sludge left over from a very rare December snowfall. The worst I can remember was having to leave Mike’s house early on Christmas because of a treacherous ice storm. This year took the cake, though.
The last couple of years, Suzanne and I have been apart because we both want to spend Christmas with our own parents. We used to do Thanksgiving with my family and Christmas with hers. But Mike’s passing changed things and I couldn’t bear the thought of my parents spending Christmas alone. This year, with Toonces needing daily medication, my parents decided to bring Christmas to my house and came up Friday morning. Mom brought all the fixin’s for a great Christmas dinner and we exchanged gifts next to our beautifully decorated tree. One problem. The storm hit bigger—and sooner—than predicted and Mom and Dad left after lunch on Christmas day to beat the snow home. So I ended up spending Christmas weekend snowed in, alone with the cats.
Granted, it was kind of neat at first. I spent Christmas evening doing things I would never get away with if Suze was home: watching a MOBSTERS marathon on the Biography channel, eating huge slabs of Mom’s chocolate cake for dinner, playing LEFT FOR DEAD 2 on the Xbox. But by Sunday morning, it had gotten old and even watching the Packers destroy the Giants while sitting in front of a roaring fireplace with a dinner of cake and eggnog left me feeling a little down. Suze had gotten stuck at the beach with her family and couldn’t come back until Monday. I was really missing her.
Suze got home about the same time I got off work yesterday and we hugged in the driveway for about 15 minutes. I was so glad to see her back home and safe. After three days apart, it really reinforced what’s important in life. PRESENTS!
After unloading her car, we finally exchanged gifts. Suzanne had read my mind (or, at least, my Amazon wish list) and had gotten me some truly wonderful gifts. Since, these days, it seems to be an online tradition to tell “what you got”, I guess it’s okay to post this:
A few months ago, Screen Archives released this re-recording of the CONAN THE BARBARIAN soundtrack. I usually don’t go for re-recordings but when I found out the story behind it, I had to have it. It turns out that composer Basil Poledouris was never happy with the recording used in the film because he had written the score with a much larger orchestra than the one that was hired. It had always been his dream to re-record the score with an appropriate orchestra. This was not to be as he passed away several years ago. (Remember the tribute drawing of Conan Mike posted on his blog?) His daughters Alexis and Zoe (A to Z...cute!) never forgot and Alexis engineered this new album to honor her father. It’s a terrific package and I’m sure I’m going to wear it out. Listening to it makes me feel like for the last twenty years or so I’ve been hearing his brilliant music through earmuffs. It’s a real revelation. I wish Poledouris was alive to experience it.
I’m a nut for Hammer Horror films. This book just came out this month and features hundreds of digitally cleaned-up posters from the ‘50s, ‘60s and ‘70s. There’s some really great artwork in here and some brilliant designs. A must for any Hammer fan.
SLEEPING BEAUTY has always been my favorite Disney film (followed closely by THE LION KING.) It’s not held in very high regard by Disney buffs because the story is a little simple and Prince Charming is considered a bit of a cipher. But the character design on Maleficent and the art direction of the film in general is just mind-blowing. It’s a real feast for the eyes. Somehow, my niece and nephew found out I wanted it (Suze swears she didn’t tell them and I certainly didn’t) and it ended up under the tree last night. Thanks, guys!
Having recently devoured all six volumes of the SCOTT PILGRIM graphic novel series, I had high hopes for the film adaptation. I’d had it on rental from NetFlix for a month but hadn’t had time to watch it. That changed when the snow hit and I watched it Sunday morning in front of the fire. From the very first few seconds when the Universal Pictures tag came up tricked out to look (and sound!) like an ‘80s-era Atari video game, I knew I wouldn’t be disappointed. The casting is perfect all-around (I’m coming around on Michael Cera as Scott) including heart-breaker Mary Elizabeth Winstead as Ramona Flowers. The problem with NetFlix (other than the annoying 28 day wait for new releases) is that now they’re sending out “rental copies” that don’t include any of the bonus features you get when you buy the films. WTF!!??? After that, they had the gall to raise their prices. But when I discovered the SCOTT PILGRIM blu-ray under the tree last night, all that flitted out of my head. Now I can watch the film in hi-def...and the bonus features too!
I’ve been concentrating on writing...and rewriting...my story and have let myself get rusty in the drawing department. So I’ve been trying to loosen up by working on model sheets of my characters. That led me to rediscovering a love of the old Disney animators and I remembered seeing these two books at SIGGRAPH last year. I put them on my wish list for later and Suze surprised me with them. They’re packed with the wisdom of a true master of gestural drawing, Walt Stanchfield. I can’t wait to dig into these.
Suzanne and I have had a decade-long tradition of buying each other calendars for Christmas but, for some reason, Suzanne forgot this year. Good thing Todd and Sharon stepped in and managed to get me exactly the calendar I’ve been hoping for. There are some great pieces in here and, best of all, the tops are perforated so you can take them out and frame them when the month is over! Thanks, Todd and Sharon!
Lots of other stuff from Suzanne, her family and mine including lots of warm shirts (thank you!) and gloves. Also some great DVDs (Foghorn Leghorn and Droopy Dog!) and books (BATMAN: STRANGE APPARITIONS from Todd, David Wellington’s werewolf sequel OVERWINTER and Michael Slade’s CRUCIFIED.)
Hopefully, you realize I'm joking about presents and that the best things I got this Christmas were time with my parents, however brief, and getting my wife back home safely. Other than that, everything else was just icing on the cake. (I hope you all got...and gave...some nice icing too.)