Kimar: Dropo, you are the laziest man on Mars. Why are you sleeping during working hours?

Dropo: I wasn't sleeping, chief. It's just that I haven't been able to sleep these last few months. I forgot how. So I was just practicing.

     Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
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December Issue

Classic Film

The Christmas Break

While we're taking a break from film screenings until January, the Xmas period is still a good time to revisit or discover great old films.

There are a limited number of really good Xmas films, and there are some that are excruciatingly bad... like Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (image above).

In this month's eZine we'll try to point you in the right direction for what is worth watching. And we'll also take a look at the life and work of Woody Allen who celebrates a birthday in December (but only just).

Enjoy the break!
Classic Film Writer/Actor/Director
Woody Allen
Woody Allen was born Allan Stewart Konigsberg on December 1, 1935 in Brooklyn, New York, to Nettie (Cherrie), a bookkeeper, and Martin Konigsberg, a waiter and jewellery engraver. His father was of Russian Jewish descent, and his maternal grandparents were Austrian Jewish immigrants. As a young boy, he became intrigued with magic tricks and playing the clarinet, two hobbies that he continues today.
Allen broke into show business at 15 years when he started writing jokes for a local paper, receiving $200 a week. He later moved on to write jokes for talk shows but felt that his jokes were being wasted. His agents, Charles Joffe and Jack Rollins, convinced him to start doing stand-up and telling his own jokes. Reluctantly he agreed and, although he initially performed with such fear of the audience that he would cover his ears when they applauded his jokes, he eventually became very successful at stand-up. After performing on stage for a few years, he was approached to write a script for Warren Beatty to star in: What's New Pussycat (1965) and would also have a moderate role as a character in the film. During production, Woody gave himself more and better lines and left Beatty with less compelling dialogue. Beatty inevitably quit the project and was replaced by Peter Sellers, who demanded all the best lines and more screen-time.
It was from this experience that Woody realized that he could not work on a film without complete control over its production. Woody's theoretical directorial debut was in What's Up, Tiger Lily? (1966); a Japanese spy flick that he dubbed over with his own comedic dialogue about spies searching for the secret recipe for egg salad. His real directorial debut came the next year in the mockumentary Take the Money and Run (1969). He has written, directed and, more often than not, starred in about a film a year ever since, while simultaneously writing more than a dozen plays and several books of comedy.
While best known for his romantic comedies Annie Hall (1977) and Manhattan (1979), Woody has made many transitions in his films throughout the years, transitioning from his "early, funny ones" of Bananas (1971), Love and Death (1975) and Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex * But Were Afraid to Ask (1972); to his more storied and romantic comedies of Annie Hall (1977), Manhattan (1979) and Hannah and Her Sisters (1986); to the Bergmanesque films of Stardust Memories (1980) and Interiors (1978); and then on to the more recent, but varied works of Crimes and Misdemeanors (1989), Husbands and Wives (1992), Mighty Aphrodite (1995), _Celebrity_ and Deconstructing Harry (1997); and finally to his films of the last decade, which vary from the light comedy of Scoop (2006), to the self-destructive darkness of Match Point (2005) and, most recently, to the cinematically beautiful tale of Vicky Cristina Barcelona (2008). Although his stories and style have changed over the years, he is regarded as one of the best filmmakers of our time because of his views on art and his mastery of filmmaking.

Click on the image below to watch a relatively recent interview with Woody Allen
TIME interviews Woody Allen
Great Xmas Movies

There are a number of ways to slice and dice Christmas films... be they films set at Christmas time, films that explore Christmas or films featuring Christmas characters.. like Santa or his elves. To avoid confusion, we'll cover them all

Talking about Xmas films would be tedious, so we'll cut to the chase. Given the time and the motivation what are the Xmas films to watch over the festive season?

Below is a selection of some classic choices.

  • We're no Angels (1955)... but don't watch the 1989 remake it's the equivalent of getting coal in your stocking
  • The Apartment (1960) ... Academy Award winner, Billy Wilder film, and chosen by David Stratton for our screening last year... how many more reasons do you need? It's worth watching again no matter how many times you're seen it
  • Groundhog Day (1993) - actually Groundhog day is in February, but the film has lots of snow and it feels very festive and I think any time of year is a good time to revisit this classic
  • White Christmas (1954) - Bing Crosby, Danny Kaye
  • Holiday Inn  (1942) - Fred Astaire and the Binger again
  • The Shop Around the Corner  (1940) - a charming film starring Jimmy Stewart which mixes in a bit of comedy and romance
  • It's a Wonderful life (1946) - a flop when it was a first released but a perennial favourite since the film entered the public domain
  • Meet John Doe (1941) 
  • Joyeux Noël  (2005) - I think this is the best Xmas film ever made
  • Bush Christmas (1947)
  • Wake in Fright (1971) - easily the worst Christmas holidays a teacher has ever had
That ought to keep you busy, but if you're desperate try:
  • Santa Claus Conquers the Martians (1964)
  • Anything with Macauley Culkin, Jim Carey, Arnold Swarzenegger,  Tim Allen or Will Ferrell
Have a great Xmas and new Year.
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