Posted Tue Dec 7, 2010 at 12:00 PM PST by Dick Ward
The holidays are here and it's time to pick up some Blu-rays to match some unusual December milestones! Unlike most December gift guides, we're not going to worry about Christmas movies. Instead, we'll take a look at some of the overlooked holidays and occurrences that make the month of December so great.
Everyone seems to focus on the North Pole this month, but way back in 1911 a crew of Norwegians led be Roald Amundsen were the first to reach the South Pole. Of course, when I think of the Antarctic there's only one movie that comes to mind - John Carpenter's underappreciated sci-fi horror classic ' The Thing.' A fair warning though - 'The Thing' isn't quite the tale of human achievement as is the tale of the Amundsen crew.
The man who brought us the mouse, the parks, and the classic animated features was born on December 5th and died on December 15th. It's a month to remember the man, and while his favorite Disney movie moment - the Cinderella transformation scene - isn't yet out on Blu-ray, another movie on which he had tremendous influence is. Walt Disney stopped production of 'Pinocchio' halted the production midway through and made sweeping changes, giving us the film we know and love today.
Back in 1884 the world of roller skating changed with the invention and patenting of skate wheels that used ball bearings to reduce friction and increase speed. The patent was filed by a man named Levant M. Richardson, who revolutionized the pastime. That's all great and all, but when I think about roller skates my mind inevitably drifts to Heather Graham's performance as Roller Girl in ' Boogie Nights.' It's a great film detailing the rise of the porn industry and as Drew Taylor puts it, "BEST SOUNDTRACK EVER." I'd like to think mister Levant M. Richardson would approve.
Alright, it's time to get a little serious. December 10th marks not only the day that the Nobel Peace Prize is awarded, but it's also Human Rights Day. With that in mind, we turn to a man who symbolizes both and a film that captures him wonderfully. Clint Eastwood directs Morgan Freeman as a post-prison Nelson Mandela in the wonderful 'Invictus.' It's a great film and well worth watching.
The solstice marks the time when the Earth's axial tilt is farthest away from the sun and the first day of Winter. It's also the time where some parts of the world stay dark for an incredible amount of time. It seems like a no brainer, but ' 30 Days of Night' was the first comic book to see how vampires could use this to their advantage. David Slade's film adaptation is excellent as well, and a perfect way to welcome winter. Unless you live in Alaska anyway - then it might hit a bit too close to home.
Alright, so Boxing Day is a day celebrating… something. At least it might be. It could be a day about donating to churches, but it might be the day servants got off for Christmas. No one is really sure about the whole thing, so here on High-Def Digest, we're using it as another excuse to watch ' Rocky.' In fact, may as well throw in the rest of the series too , though stopping at IV might be advisable.
Two tremendous occurrences on one day, what are the odds? National Chocolate Day is, as you might expect, a celebration of chocolate. I can't think of a single movie that celebrates chocolate better than ' Willy Wonka & the Chocolate Factory,' and who can forget the incessant gum chewing of Veruca Salt? And yes, for the purposes of this list we're going to be sticking with the great Gene Wilder as the Willy Wonka of choice.
As much as I'd like to call out the 1996 comedy 'Kingpin' featuring Woody Harrelson and Bill Murray, the movie sadly hasn't made its way to Blu-ray quite yet. Neither has 'The Big Lebowski,' 'Mystery Men' 'Uncle Buck,' or even 'A Streetcar Named Desire.' Luckily, there's one bowling movie that hasn't let us down and it's the second Paul Thomas Anderson movie on the list. That's right, the milkshake drinking classic ' There Will Be Blood.'
Dan Aykroyd and Eddie Murphy are a fun pairing in 'Trading Places,' which just so happens to take place - at least on part - on New Year's Eve. It's a comedy well worth watching, even if it does feature a man in a gorilla suit. It's also somewhat relevant again considering the recent financial crisis. Merry New Year!
For those of you that don't mind taking an extra day in December to snuggle up with your loved ones around the fire, cut out paper sausages and wait for the Hogfather - also the name of the best movie on the subject. Sadly, ' Hogfather' hasn't yet been released on Blu-ray, but it's the only movie you'll find on this incredibly underappreciated holiday.
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