Chad Comello

libraries, culture, typewriters

Tag: Christmas (page 1 of 2)

Chad’s Christmastime chronicles, 2018

My season of celebrating Christmas has begun. This year I thought it would be fun to document exactly how I usually get into the spirit of the season, through music, movies, and rituals. I’ll update this post as I go.

Friday, November 23

  • Listened: Season’s Greetings by Perry Como, Christmas Party by She & Him, Bing Crosby Sings Christmas Songs by Bing Crosby, At Christmas by James Taylor

Saturday, November 24

  • Listened: Let It Snow, Baby… Let It Reindeer by Relient K, Christmas Songs by Jars of Clay, A Jolly Christmas from Frank Sinatra by Frank Sinatra, Christmas radio
  • Watched: Grumpy Old Men
  • Did: put up decorations at my parents’ place

Sunday, November 25

  • Listened: Christmas with the Rat Pack, Songs for Christmas by Sufjan Stevens, Under the Mistletoe by Justin Bieber, Christmas radio
  • Watched: Elf (first 30 minutes)
  • Did: put up decorations in our apartment

Monday, November 26

  • Listened: Songs for the Season by Ingrid Michaelson, Christmas is Here! by Pentatonix
  • Watched: A Charlie Brown Christmas, remainder of Elf
  • Did: enjoyed the first Chicagoland blizzard of the season, first ceremonial snow-scraping of the cars

Tuesday, November 27

  • Listened: Christmas Portrait by The Carpenters, Snow Globe by Matt Wertz, Come On, Ring Those Bells by Evie, The Hotel Café Presents Winter Songs

Wednesday, November 28

  • Listened: “All I Need Is Love” by Cee-Lo Green & The Muppets, Light of the Stable by Emmylou Harris, Merry Christmas Good Night by Morning And Night Collective.
  • Watched: Holiday Inn

Thursday, November 29

  • Listened: Blood Oranges in the Snow by Over the Rhine,  Merry Christmas Good Night by the Morning And Night Collective
  • Watched: Rudolph the Red-Nosed Reindeer

Friday, November 30

  • Listened: Christmas with Johnny Cash by Johnny Cash, Ella Wishes You A Swinging Christmas by Ella Fitzgerald

Sunday, December 2

  • Listened: Christmas Favorites by Nat King Cole

Tuesday, December 4

  • Watched: The Family Stone

Friday, December 7

  • Listened: Home for Christmas by Hall & Oates, Songs for the Season by Ingrid Michaelson

Sunday, December 9

  • Listened: Jingle All the Way by Bela Fleck & The Flecktones, Advent Christmas EP by Future of Forestry, “Mittens” by Carly Rae Jepsen, Stan Boreson Fractures Christmas by Stan Boreson

Monday, December 10

  • Listened: Advent Christmas EP Vol. 2 by Future of Forestry

Thursday, December 13

  • Listened: Christmas Collection, Volume One by Sleeping At Last

Friday, December 14

  • Listened: Oh For Joy by David Crowder Band, Pretty Paper by Willie Nelson

Sunday, December 16

  • Listened: Christmas Party by She & Him, Snowfall by Tony Bennett, Songs for the Season by Ingrid Michaelson, The Songs The Season Brings by Beta Radio, Ultimate Christmas Collection by The Jackson 5

Highlights from #XmasMusicBinge2017

As I near the end of my annual Christmas music binge, a few songs have stuck out. Check them out while the mood is right and the spirit’s up:

“Mvmt II: Begin and Never Cease” by The Oh Hellos, The Oh Hellos Family Christmas Album. You really ought to listen through the whole (short) album in one go, which is like one long medley, but the second movement’s ecstatic exuberance echoes Mumford & Sons mixed with Anathallo.

“Snow” by Sleeping At Last, Christmas Collection. O’Neal explains on a recent episodes of his podcast that it’s heavily inspired by It’s A Wonderful Life but also about the concept of home during the holidays.

“Silent Night” by Rosie Thomas, A Very Rosie Christmas. Rosie’s bouncy original “Why Can’t It Be Christmastime All Year” is always a fun listen, but don’t sleep on the rest of the album’s dreamy, riverine covers like this one. Great for a cozy nights staring at a twinkling Christmas tree.

“All I Need Is Love” by CeeLo Green & The Muppets. For successfully turning “Mahna Mahna” into a Christmas song.

“First Snowfall” by Over the Rhine, Blood Oranges in the Snow. Leave it to OTR to capture a different kind of Christmas, ramshackle and real, far from the Norman Rockwell scenes traditional Christmas songs paint.

“12 Days of Christmas” by Relient K, Let It Snow, Baby… Let It Reindeer. There aren’t a lot of great versions of this song because it’s such a pain to make 12 repetitive verses interesting. But Relient K pulls it off with verve.

Entertaining ‘Angels’: which ‘Home Alone’ fake gangster film is the filthiest?

home_alone_filthy_animal-1

Here’s an important question for the Christmas season: which is better, Angels with Filthy Souls or Angels with Even Filthier Souls?

Both share a template: character walks in, gets threatened/insulted by Johnny, gets blown away by Johnny, and gets a memorable kicker. Kevin McCallister also enjoys a smorgasbord while watching both of them, and gets scared by the violence (which is ironic given his casual sadism toward the Wet/Sticky Bandits later in the films). Let’s dig into them to decide:

Angels with Filthy Souls

From Home Alone, it features Johnny and Snakes, who wants his money for “the stuff”:

(Vanity Fair wrote a cool feature on the making of this one.)

Johnny’s Threat/Insult: “I’m gonna give you to the count of 10, to get your ugly, yella, no-good keister off my property, before I pump your guts full of lead!”

Tagline: “Keep the change, ya filthy animal.”

Angels with Even Filthier Souls

From Home Alone 2: Lost in New York, it has Johnny confronting Carlotta, his two-timing smoocher of a gal:

Johnny’s Threat/Insult: “I’m gonna give ya ’til the count of 3 to get your lousy, lyin’, low-down, 4-flushin’ carcass out my door!”

Tagline: “Merry Christmas, ya filthy animal. And a Happy New Year.”

Verdict:

I gotta go with the original. While I like the seasonal application of the latter tagline and reference to four flushing, the threat/insult and tagline in Filthy are perfect ersatz gangster noir lines. I also like how Johnny jumps right from 2 to 10 and that he has a typewriter at his desk.

Little Women

I was a good amount into a post celebrating the 1994 film Little Women when I discovered I was basically writing Alissa Wilkinson’s appreciation of the film at Vox from last year. It’s one of many movies I watched a lot with my sisters as a kid, in rotation with other female-focused ’90s films like Ever After, Never Been Kissed, Return to Me and You’ve Got Mail. (Also the Ace Ventura duology.)

In my mind it was a Christmas movie, but after my latest rewatch I realized it’s not. Its Christmas and winter scenes might be the best ones, but they are only part of the story that follows the passing seasons and growth of a Civil War-era New England family.

This time around I understood more historical context than I could have as a kid, context that grounds the story in its particular time. Jo mentioning the March family’s adherence to Transcendentalism, for instance, and the gravity of Beth contracting scarlet fever in a time of epidemics and poor medicine, which forces uninoculated Amy to be sent away. And despite living in what looks like a nice, big house, the March family is struggling through trying times. Writes Wilkinson:

The Civil War is still taking place when the story begins, Mr. March is away with the military, and money and rations are tight. Meg is embarrassed about her clothing, Amy doesn’t have the faddish pickled limes that her peers trade and eat at school, and things are actually quite difficult.

Navigating these challenges while cohering as a family is what makes the film a delight, and much more than just a Christmas movie. A big part of this is its soundtrack by Thomas Newman, who also scored The Shawshank Redemption in the same year and got Oscar nominations for both films. (The Lion King beat them and Forrest Gump.) The score even sounds like Christmas, writes Wilkinson, with Newman’s

strings, bells, oboes, and some joyful melodic patterns. There’s a hum of happiness to Newman’s soundtrack that reminds me of the season, a buoyancy that portends a new year, new surprises, new life.

In addition to capturing a nostalgic Christmas feeling, the score is exactly what it needs to be moment to moment, throughout the seasons and circumstances. Lush and triumphant at a climactic encounter, tender and dramatic when Jo sells her hair to pay for Marmie’s train ticket to visit their ailing father. (Sidenote: Susan Sarandon was nominated for Best Actress for The Client that year, along with Winona Ryder for Little Women, but she could have earned a nod for that scene alone:)

In one sense: Duh, a good soundtrack should appropriately underscore moments and moods. A great soundtrack like this one, however, makes its film better.

Favorite Christmas song lyrics, ranked

I’m terrible at remembering lyrics. Even for favorite songs I’ve heard dozens of times. It’s an annoying deficiency when I try to sing along as so often I end up having to mumble certain lines.

But now, my yearly Christmas music binge in progress, I’ve started paying attention to the lyrics that have peaked my interest over the years. A phrase, a couplet, a stanza—whatever somehow embodies the Christmas season with lyrical grace.

So, to separate the cookies from the coal, here are my top 20 Christmas lyrics:

20.
Oh the weather outside is frightful
But the fire is so delightful
And since we’ve no place to go
Let it snow!
— 
“Let It Snow”

19.
The Child, the Child, sleeping in the night

He will bring us goodness and light
— “Do You Hear What I Hear”

18.
Deck the halls with mistletoe

Let all your heavy burdens go
Up the chimney in a cloud of smoke
The fire’s burning bright
— “Merry Christmas, Here’s to Many More” by Relient K

17.
It’s that time of year

When the world falls in love
Every song you hear seems to say
“Merry Christmas
May your new year’s dreams come true”
— “The Christmas Waltz”

16.
Then comes that big night

Giving the tree the trim
You’ll hear voices by starlight
Singing a Yuletide hymn
— “Mistletoe and Holly”

15.
Later on we’ll conspire

As we dream by the fire
To face unafraid
The plans that we’ve made
Walking in a winter wonderland

— “Winter Wonderland”

14.
These wonderful things are the things

We remember all through our lives
— “Sleigh Ride”

13.
May your days be merry and bright

And may all your Christmases be white
— “White Christmas”

12.
Light and life to all he brings

Risen with healing in his wings
— “Hark! The Herald Angels Sing”

11.
Above thy deep and dreamless sleep

The silent stars go by
Yet in thy dark streets shineth
The everlasting Light
The hopes and fears of all the years
Are met in thee tonight
— “O Little Town of Bethlehem”

10.
A thrill of hope
The weary world rejoices
For yonder breaks
A new glorious morn

— “O Holy Night”

9.
Faithful friends who are dear to us

Gather near to us once more
— “Have Yourself A Merry Little Christmas”

8.
Snowflakes a-fallin’

My old heart’s a-callin’
Tall pines a-hummin’
Christmas Time’s a-comin’
— “Christmas Time’s A-Comin'”

7.
Radiant beams from thy holy face

With the dawn of redeeming grace
— “Silent Night”

6.
Repeat the sounding joy

— “Joy to the World”

5.
But what is this music

That falls on my ear
It’s the very first snowfall
Of a very long year
— “First Snowfall” by Over the Rhine

4.
Angels we have heard on high

Sweetly singing o’er the plains
And the mountains in reply
Echoing their joyous strains
— “Angels We Have Heard On High”

3.
Christmas Eve will find me

Where the love-light gleams
— “I’ll Be Home for Christmas”

2.
Like the petals in our pockets

May we remember who we are
Unconditionally cared for
By those who share our broken hearts
— “Snow” by Sleeping at Last

1.
Oh tidings of comfort and joy

— “God Rest Ye Merry Gentlemen”

With special mention to:

We’ll take a cup of kindness yet
For auld lang syne
— “Auld Lang Syne”

Yes, it’s not really a Christmas song, but it’s in It’s A Wonderful Life and it’s the song I want played at my funeral, so it gets grandfathered in.

The Christmas Songs

It’s that time of year
When the world falls in love
Every song you hear seems to say
Merry Christmas
May your new year’s dreams come true

— “The Christmas Waltz”

For a while I only listened to Christmas music in December. This rule kept that music fresh, even sacred (something I like to do), and tethered to the season it’s meant for. But as a compromise to my wife—a Yuletide hedonist if there ever was one—a few years ago I bumped up the unleashing of my Christmas collection to the day after Thanksgiving. This allowed me to enjoy Thanksgiving before switching gears to the Christmas season.

This year we kicked things off, as I always do, with Christmas With the Rat Pack, followed by She & Him’s Christmas Party. It’s not even December and I’ve already listened to the Christmas albums of Nat King Cole, Relient K, Perry Como, Hanson, The Oh Hellos (quickly becoming my favorite), Count Basie, Marty Robbins, and the Charlie Brown Christmas soundtrack. But I’ve got plenty of stuff left to accompany me to the end of the year, when I send them back into digital storage to await their annual calling.

Family Video to the rescue

Home for Thanksgiving weekend and in the market for a Christmas movie to watch, my sister suggested Die Hard. A great choice for many reasons, one of which being I hadn’t seen it in a while and was due for a seasonal rewatch. Plus my wife hadn’t seen it. (Perish the thought!)

The problem was we didn’t have a copy of it, the library was closed, and it wasn’t on Amazon Prime or Netflix. Instead of picking another Christmas movie, we did something I haven’t done since high school: rented the DVD from Family Video.

Until about ten years ago this was commonplace. I have many fond memories browsing the shelves of Blockbuster, Family Video, Hollywood Video and the like, taking too much time to decide as the evening’s movie-watching time dwindled. Frankly I’m surprised Family Video is still around, but this weekend I was happy for it and for its continuing presence in the cultural landscape.

Yippee-ki-yay, movierenters!

The Family Stone

The-Family-Stone-Man-Repeller-Feature-copy.jpg

The Rotten Tomatoes critics consensus of The Family Stone is that “This family holiday dramedy features fine performances but awkward shifts of tone.” Which, yeah. That’s why it’s so good.

I didn’t come away loving it when I saw it in the theater. Too mercurial, I thought. And that excruciating dinner scene… But upon further viewings, I’ve come to realize it’s one of the greater Christmas movies, precisely because of its mood swings. Perhaps your family was different, but “awkward shifts of tone” should be one of the definitions of family.

Not only does the film capture a particular kind of cozy, Hallmark-approved Christmastime—and one that’s distinctly New England—but it also captures what it’s like to go through any kind of Christmas with the people you love but who are also most adept at driving you crazy.

An immediate familiarity sets in as we’re dropped into this year’s Stone Family Christmas, which feels like it could be any of the many Christmases they have shared together. The family members gradually arrive at the Stone home and start chatting as if continuing an ongoing conversation. There’s hardly any backstory, no “remember last year when…” or other expository filler that can weigh down family dramas. As we meet each Stone, we can deduce at once their role in the family, though not yet what role they will play in the unfolding story.

Little things stuck out during my most recent Christmastime viewing. Like the random assemblage of characters piled into a car to go get pizzas, a reminder to me of how driving to places around the holidays with the people you don’t usually drive to places with feels a bit more special. Or Amy and Sybil pestering Everett about taking his tie off, which at once told us that was something Amy and Sybil cared enough about and that Everett was the kind of person to wear a tie at a family get-together.

Everyone starts out on a certain trajectory, but writer/director Thomas Bezucha does a great job of steering the key characters into unexpected directions. These trajectories are just as varied as the film’s tone. Sybil’s terminal breast cancer is alluded to but never exploited, and is the impetus for the brief but powerful moments of reconciliation she experiences with her adult children before the end of the movie. Amy’s prickliness, which bleeds into outright hostility at times, gives way to brief moments of vulnerability. And though the partner swap revealed in the one-year-later epilogue is borderline preposterous—Meredith’s totally cool with her sister dating her former fiancé? really?—the circumstances that led to each character’s moment of clarity were sold well.

I’ve found my opinion of The Family Stone is in the minority, but there are others out there who see what I see in it. I absolutely understand the counterpoints as well, but ultimately I don’t care whether you like it or not!

Hark Noel! My 2011 Advent Playlist

It’s simple: no Christmas music until December. That’s my rule. So every year after Thanksgiving ends and the Advent season approaches, I’m thinking about three things: snow, eggnog, and what music will help me enjoy them. Some songs here are old classics, others modern takes. Heard as a whole, they’re but a slice of my Advent aural feast. (I’ll be updating as I hear more and better Christmas music – let me know your favorites in the comments.)

“Why Can’t It Be Christmas All Year?” by Rosie Thomas, A Very Rosie Christmas
“Darlin’ (Christmas Is Coming)” by Over the Rhine, Snow Angels
“Sleigh Ride” by She & Him, A Very She & Him Christmas
“Only At Christmas Time” by Sufjan Stevens, Songs for Christmas
“Winter Song” by Sara Bareilles & Ingrid Michaelson, Hotel Cafe Presents
“Frosty The Snowman” by The Ronettes, A Christmas Gift for You
“Joy to the World” by Future of Forestry, Advent Christmas EP: Vol. 2
“Little Drummer Boy” by Bob Dylan, Christmas In The Heart
“Let It Snow!” by Dean Martin, Christmas With the Rat Pack
“I Celebrate The Day” by Relient K, Let It Snow, Baby…Let It Reindeer
“Come Thou Fount” by Sufjan Stevens, Songs for Christmas: Vol. 2
“O Holy Night” by Sleeping At Last, Christmas Collection 2011
“Marshmallow World” by Darlene Love, A Christmas Gift for You
“Merry Christmas, Here’s To Many More” by Relient K, Let It Snow, Baby…
“Snowed In With You” by Over the Rhine, Snow Angels
“White Christmas” by Bing Crosby, Bing Crosby Christmas
“Hark! The Herald Angels Sing” by Frank Sinatra, Christmas With the Rat Pack

Song: ‘Christmastime Is Here’

“Christmastime is Here” – Chad Comello

This is a demo I made last October, using only my guitar and GarageBand. May it bring tidings of a merry holiday.

« Older posts

© 2018 Chad Comello

Theme by Anders NorenUp ↑