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Tuesday, November 27, 2012

November 27, 1985

It seems hard to believe, but there are only four weeks left until Christmas, and only thirty-four days left until we ring in 2013!  I can’t believe how fast this year has flown by!

As we enter the month of sparkling lights, freshly fallen snow, carolers singing on street corners, and shopping malls being filled with shoppers looking to cross off the last details on their lists, December is looking like it is going to be a busy month.  And, that’s not even taking into account the hullabaloo that is surrounding the uncertainty of what could happen on the twenty-first of December...though if you ask me, the worst thing that will happen that day is that we have a blizzard...and I’ve survived loads of blizzards!

Before we enter the month of December, we have to wrap up November.  And beginning with this edition of the Tuesday Timeline, the next few entries will be Christmas themed.  In fact, each day that we’ll be flashing back to for the next five weeks will have some sort of link to the holidays.  And that’s your only clue.

So from November 27 until December 25, all the Tuesday Timelines will have at least one reference to Christmas.  It could be a small reference, or it could take up the whole blog entry.  Either way, I think we’re going to have a lot of fun with this feature the next five weeks. 

So, what are we waiting for?  Let’s begin the series of holiday themed Tuesday Timelines with the November 27 entry. As it turns out, November 27 has a lot associated with it.  Some of the happenings throughout history on this date include the following events...and yes, they are written in red and green for a reason.  J

1095 – Pope Urban II declares the First Crusade at the Council of Clermont

1703 – The first Eddystone Lighthouse becomes a casualty of the Great Storm of 1703

1727 – The foundation stone to the Jerusalem’s Church in Berlin is laid

1807 – The Royal Family of Portugal flees Lisbon to escape from Napoleonic troops

1815 – Adoption of the Constitution of the Kingdom of Poland

1839 – The American Statistical Association is founded in Boston, Massachusetts

1856 – Luxembourg unilaterally adopts a new and reactionary constitution following the Coup of 1856

1868 – United States Army Lieutenant Colonel George Armstrong Custer leads an attack on the Cheyenne living on reservation land, sparking the Battle of Washita River

1895 – Alfred Nobel signs his last will and testament, which sets his estate aside to establish the Nobel Prize after his death

1901 – The United States Army War College is established

1924 – The first annual Macy’s Thanksgiving Day parade is held in New York City

1934 – Bank robber Baby Face Nelson is gunned down during a shootout with the FBI

1940 – At the Battle of Cape Spartivento, the Royal Navy engages the Regia Marina in the Mediterranean Sea the same day that martial artist Bruce Lee is born

1941 – Country singer Eddie Rabbitt is born in Brooklyn, New York

1942 – American guitarist Jimi Hendrix is born in Seattle, Washington

1944 – Seventy people are killed in an explosion at a Royal Air Force ammunition dump at Fauld, Staffordshire

1954 – Alger Hiss is released from prison after serving a 44-month sentence for perjury connected to the allegations that he was a Soviet spy

1965 – President Lyndon B. Johnson is told by the Pentagon to increase American troops serving in Vietnam from 120,000 to 400,000 soldiers if he wished the planned operations in the country to succeed

1968 – Penny Ann Early becomes the first woman to play professional basketball

1971 – The first man-made object, the Soviet made Mars 2 orbiter’s release of a descent module, reaches the surface of Mars

1973 – The United States Senate votes 92:3 to confirm Gerald Ford as the official Vice President of the United States

1975 – The Provisional IRA assassinates Ross McWhirter after a press conference in which he announced a reward for those responsible for multiple shootings and bombings all over England

1978 – Harvey Milk, the first openly gay city supervisor of San Francisco, as well as San Francisco mayor George Moscone are assassinated by Dan White

1983 – Avianca Flight 011 crashes near Madrid’s Barajas Airport, killing 181 people

1989 – Avianca Flight 203 explodes in mid-air above Colombia, killing 107 on board, and three on the ground

2005 – The first facial transplant is performed in France

2006 – The Canadian House of Commons endorses Prime Minister Stephen Harper’s motion to declare the province of Quebec a nation within a unified Canada

2009 – A bomb explodes on the Nevsky Express, causing 28 deaths and injuring 96 people

Okay, so that’s a lot of history.  And there happens to be a lot of celebrity birthdays as well.  The late Buffalo Bob Smith and Chick Hearn were born on November 27, as are these current living celebrities; Les Blank, Gail Sheehy, Dave Giusti, Henry Carr, Nicole Brossard, Barbara Anderson, James Avery, Jayne Kennedy, Kathryn Bigelow, Sheila Copps, Daryl Stuermer (Genesis), Curtis Armstrong, Kimmy Robertson, Bill Nye, Pierre Mondou, William Fichtner, Caroline Kennedy, Michael Stackpole, Mike Scioscia, Charlie Burchill (Simple Minds), Ken O’Brien, Fisher Stevens, Robin Givens, Michael Vartan, Myles Kennedy, Brooke Langton, Samantha Harris, Twista, Kirk Acevedo, Jaleel White, Hilary Hahn, and Domata Peko.

So, what is the date that we’re flashing back to this week?  November 27, 1985.

(Like the Christmas colour logo?  I decided to add a little holiday spice to it.)

Anyway, November 27, 1985 was a day of new releases in the movie theatres.  Two movies were released on this date in history twenty-seven years ago.  The first one was the fourth sequel in the popular Rocky series.

The second one was widely considered to be one of the worst movies of the 1980s, if not of all time.  And it is this second movie that we’ll be focusing on.

Throughout recent history, there have been some fantastic holiday themed films released.  “It’s A Wonderful Life”, “Miracle on 34th Street”, “A Christmas Story”...even “Home Alone” and “The Santa Clause” could be considered true holiday classics today.

And then there’s “Santa Claus: The Movie”, which was released on November 27, 1985.

The movie was one that I believe started with good intentions, and did have an all-star cast...but for whatever reason the whole movie was an exercise in complete failure.  Here are just a few of the statistics surrounding this film.

The film’s budget was between thirty and fifty million dollars.  It only made $23 million at the box office.  Ouch.

On the website “Rotten Tomatoes”, the film only has an 18% rating.  Double ouch.

Film critic Vincent Camby stated that the film was “elaborate, but tacky”, and that Santa’s workshop must have been the world’s largest purchaser of low-grade plywood, and that the flying sequences weren’t all that great.

Another film critic, Alonso Duralde, even went so far as to list “Santa Claus: The Movie” as one of the worst holiday themed movies ever made, claiming that the film is a “train-wreck of a Christmas movie that’s so very wrong that you won’t be able to tear yourself away from it.”

In other words...people hated it.  Even the trailer for the movie looked lame.  Take a look for yourselves, if you dare.

I thought about posting a link to the whole movie (believe it or not, it’s currently posted in nine parts on YouTube), but I thought the trailer was more than enough.

Here’s the thing though.  The movie may have turned out to be a bit of a poor execution...but there really was a lot of planning involved in the creative processes behind the movie.  The cast featured such stars as Dudley Moore and John Lithgow (who both made their roles work given the material), as well as Burgess Meredith, Judy Cornwell, Jeffrey Kramer, Christian Fitzpatrick, and featured David Huddleston as the title role of Santa Claus.

The film was actually the final project by the French father-son duo of Alexander and Ilya Salkind, and was directed by Jeannot Szwarc, and the plot of the movie tried its best to try and explain to young children how Santa Claus originated.  It made an attempt to try and answer some of the most commonly asked questions by children in regards to how Santa Claus flies all over the world every December 24th to bring toys and games to billions of kids.  How does Santa's reindeer fly?  How does Santa ascend up and descend down chimneys?  How did Santa Claus and his wife settle down in the North Pole?

Again, I do applaud the filmmakers for creating an innovative and elaborate story, and certainly they did appear to try their best.  It's just that the execution wasn't the best.  If anything, I found that the 1993 film "The Santa Clause" did a much better job.

Of course, that's just my opinion.

Anyway, I won't really go into too much detail about the plot because I don't like revealing too much about movies (even if they were generally regarded as being overly terrible), but there are a few main plots that intertwine with each other.

We are introduced to Santa and his wife in the early 14th century, where Santa (or Claus, as he is first introduced) works as a woodcutter.  He and his wife, Anya (otherwise known as Mrs. Claus), deliver gifts to children in a nearby village.  One night, two of Claus' reindeer are rescued from certain death in a blizzard, and are transported to the ice mountains.  There, Claus and Anya end up meeting several elves (known in the movie as the Vendequm), and learns that it is his destiny to distribute toys to children every Christmas Eve.

Flash forward to 1985 and Santa Claus is unable to keep up with the demand, leaving Anya to suggest that he get an assistant.  Although several elves want the position, Patch (Dudley Moore) ends up winning the coveted prize position.

But Patch is soon thrown into a huge test of trying to discover what is right and what is wrong when he meets up with greedy toy developer B.Z. (John Lithgow), whose company is failing amidst allegations that they make shoddy toys.  Patch suggests that he help B.Z. make the toys after seeing that all of the store shelves that are supposed to be carrying his toys are empty (unaware that his toys were actually recalled).

Patch also ends up making a series of lollipops using a secret ingredient in the reindeer feed that Santa feeds them to make them fly.  These lollipops also make people float in midair, and Patch ends up marketing them to children, which causes a bit of a rift between Patch and Santa.  B.Z. meanwhile begins to manufacture candy canes laced with the ingredient, at the time unaware that it has a nasty side effect.  It isn't until the candy canes are manufactured that B.Z. realizes that they have the tendency to explode in extreme heat.  With the candy canes being laced with this ingredient, the discovery would shut his company down for good.  But what happens when a little homeless boy named Joe happens to eavesdrop on his plans to flee North America to escape federal charges?

Does this plot seem like a mess to you?  It does to me.  I suppose that's one reason why it failed at the box office.

But, since I try to find at least one positive point in each subject, I will say that Roger Ebert wasn't nearly as harsh with the critique of the movie as others were.  He did say that he liked the way the film envisioned Santa's workshop and the elves, and believed that young children would really like and appreciate the movie.  And since I was four when the movie came out, I probably would have liked it had I seen it for the first time at that age.

Instead, I was in my teens...and the magic just wasn't there.  However, I still think that it could have been a great film, and some people do genuinely like it despite all of its flaws.  I suppose in that aspect, "Santa Claus: The Movie" wasn't all that bad.

But I still wouldn't care to watch it again.

So, that's what happened twenty-seven years ago...on November 27, 1985.

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