Sunday, October 12, 2014

Jingle Bell Rocks!

Last Friday, the 10th of October (we'll just call that the official kickoff to my Christmas season this year), I had the pleasure of attending a screening of "Jingle Bell Rocks!", Mitchell Kezin's documentary film about the world that we all know and love - Christmas Music collecting.  The film was screened at the Kansas International Film Festival in Overland Park, KS to a small but very appreciative audience.  I attended with Christmas music collector buddy Greg (of Greg's Swank Pad Lounge) and two other dear friends.  It was a great, great evening.

I and the readers of this blog are not only the target audience for this movie, we are the bull's eye.  There was no way outside of utter, abject failure in the art of filmmaking that I was not going to like this movie, especially having followed the movie's progression over the past several years on Christmas Music I-net.  And like it, I did.  Love it, I did.  Astounded, I am.

Mitchell Kezin has created a multi-dimensional journey across the spectrum of Christmas music.  It's about obsessively collecting Christmas music, the thrill of the find, both the yin of completing your quest for a certain song and the yang of discovering the unknown and finding the unknown to be great.  It's about Christmas Music as a super-genre, spanning and crossing pop, jazz, blues, calypso, uplifting, soul-scorching, and just plain weird.  It's about the songs - Miles Davis and Bob Dorough's "Blue Xmas",  Run DMC's "Christmas in Hollis", Akim and Teddy Vann's "Santa Claus is a Black Man", and The Flaming Lips' "A Change at Christmas (Say It Isn't So)".

Most of all, the film is about the power that Christmas music has on us.  Nostalgia merely scratches the surface of the range of emotions on display.  Spousal love of an artist and the tidal wave of emotion that comes when there is realization of not only appreciation but the acknowledgement of that the artist is truly heard, years later.  The impact of a Christmas song on a child, returning full circle in adulthood.  There is amazing depth to "Jingle Bell Rocks!"  Mitchell has given us much more than just a movie about Christmas music collecting.

Beyond the subject matter, the film is a wonderful example of documentary film making.  It skillfully moves from song to song, topic to topic, and person to person.  It's funny, and it's sad, and it's uplifting, and it flows with an expert pace.  It's a beautiful piece of cinema for us Christmas music lovers, and it will be a wonderful surprise to those not quite as into the Xmas music scene as the rest of us.

Those of you lucky enough to be able to catch a film fest screening with Mitchell in attendance, please go.  Following the screening, Mitchell took questions from the audience and shared stories about the making of the film.  Some of his stories about what did *not* make it into the film were as fascinating as what did make the final cut.  Now I'm equally excited about the Director's Cut version, which will be released next year.  Until then, the DVD coming out later this year, with lots of extras, will have to do.

To make the evening complete, Greg and I had the pleasure of spending some time with Mitchell at a local saloon to talk more about the movie, music, Mitchell's travels, all while watching the Kansas City Royals win game one of the ALCS!  Spending extra time an having a beer with Mitchell capped the evening perfectly.  Mitchell shared many stories with us, dropping a few familiar names from the Christmas music sharity community.  As the saying goes, fun was had by all!

So, go see this movie, either at a theatre near you, or buy the DVD, or get it through iTunes, or whatever your preferred media is.  "Jingle Bell Rocks!" will be widely available in early December.  You'll love it!

Thursday, October 9, 2014

Movie time, new music, what's happening this season, and more!

It's October 9th, cool and rainy (yeah - we've had seven inches or more or rain at my house this October), and the holiday season is gearing up.  It's time for a post full of random thoughts.

-  Tomorrow night at the Kansas International Film Festival I'm going to see "Jingle Bell Rocks!".  I've been looking forward to this ever since it was announced as a selected film.  Greg of Greg's Swank Pad Lounge and I are going to the screening and hope to meet up with director Mitchell while we're there.

- Lots of new Christmas music coming out this season, as diligently cataloged at Stubby's place, but this year there are just a few that I'm excited about. Elizabeth Chan's new release, "Christmas in the City" tops my list.  Idina Menzel's "Holiday Wishes" is also way up there.  After that, it's a lot of re-releases (The Williams Brothers, Frank DeVol), and indie artists (Kat Tingey, Road 23).  I'm sure I'll add several new albums to the collection, but overall this year's new releases seem a little underwhelming.

- This season at Merry and Bright! - another CD giveaway contest!  I have a couple promotional CDs from an artist, so I'll be doing another fun little contest.  Stay tuned...

- Gotta get busy to provide at least a few album shares this season.  I have a few ready to rip down in the Merry and Bright studio (aka the room downstairs aka The Elvis Room).

- And, a random thought to close - this week marked the closing of The Maelstrom ride at Epcot in Walt Disney World.  On our family's last two trips to WDW, we must have ridden the Maelstrom 15 times.  We really loved it - not for a thrill ride, but really as a perfectly executed little ride full of character.  Although it will be immensely popular when it reopens as a "Frozen" theme ride, it won't have the same charm as The Maelstrom.