SHITMAS IN JULY 2020:
A TIME TO REMEMBER (1988)
& A CHRISTMAS DREAM (1945)



Ho Ho Howdy Folkses and welcome to this very special, not-quite-a-holiday edition of Shitmas in July!

I meant to have this article posted a little sooner, but our CEO & Grand Poo-Bah Pam suddenly returned home last week from her "Sweaters for Ferrets International" fundraising tour with only a few hours' notice. I had to bust my ass to get the place cleaned up and presentable before she arrived and it really threw me off my game. I'd been stuck here self-isolating at Million Monkey Towers since mid-March and frankly I'd kind of let the place go. I did manage to get it all cleaned up in time, and I don't think she noticed anything unusual. Except the smell, of course, which I'm ashamed to say I blamed entirely on Mr. Blackburn.


Still, it's not like he's never farted and then blamed it on me.

Now, as some of you may know my day job is at a mental health social center. As the "Member Ambassador" my desk is located just inside the main entrance, adjacent to a spacious living room area with a big honkin' TV that's generally on every minute of every day the center is open. At the beginning of July that TV is faithfully tuned to The Hallmark Channel, and it stays there unceasingly for the entire month because our members just can't get enough of the sappy original movies they show for their "Christmas in July" celebration.

I've seen wizened, weary old homeless men spontaneously revert to wide-eyed six year-olds watching this stuff, so I recognize that for some people the treacly brand of sentimental hokum Hallmark offers can have a deep emotional resonance and an almost mystical power to entrance. For me, though, let's just say if you've seen one Hallmark Channel Original Movie you've pretty much seen them all...and sadly I have.


The protagonist is invariably an attractive, thirty-something New York/Los Angeles/Chicago-based ad executive/finance specialist/commodities broker, possibly played by Jennifer Love Hewitt, possibly by someone else whose career floundered after the cancellation of a successful TV show on which they appeared, who's given up on love and dedicated herself completely to her high-pressure but emotionally unsatisfying career.


About five minutes in, after a character introduction where we meet her boss and some of her coworkers, she confides to her sassy best friend at the office how much it sucks that she must go back to her tiny New England home town after a decade-long absence because she's just inherited a specialty shop/hotel/bed and breakfast from an aunt/uncle/parent and that the business and building is on the verge of bankruptcy and/or badly in need of repairs.


By the fifteen minute mark she's swooping into town for what's supposed to be only a week or so to get things in order so she can sell the place to an out-of-state developer, despite the local townspeople's frequently-voiced, almost pathological attachment to it.


Somewhere about twenty-five minutes in she meets a dreamily handsome, handyman/gardener/single dad with whom she will inevitably fall in love, and after overcoming a few poorly contrived obstacles she eventually decides to ditch her hard-won, lucrative career in the big city and eke out a barely-clearing-the-poverty-line living at the beloved but economically untenable local business with her newfound love.


Christmas variants may include a florist shop, Holiday Village or tree nursery, but the formula is always the same, and it's non-stop freaking torture. It's a full month of saccharine, candy cane-flavored pain and jingle bell-festooned misery, during which I can barely get any work done due to the constant drone of mediocre Christmas music and awkwardly sweet, poorly-written, meeting-cute love-talk.


This year I've decided to fight back in the only way I know how: by writing a review of a shitty Christmas movie and a bonus short subject. Also I had so much fun writing those Shitmas reviews last year I'm not sure I can wait another five months to do it again.



A Christmas Dream (1946)


A Christmas Dream combines live action with stop-motion and traditional animation to tell the age-old tale of a young girl who drops some peyote in her bedtime cocoa and trips balls, hallucinating that her dolls have come to life to prove both their worth as playthings and their fealty to her sovereign reign as the Queen of Christmas toys. It's like Timothy Leary wrote a rejected first draft of Toy Story (1995) and added a hint of Child's Play (1988) to make the lead doll just a little bit creepy.

We open on an elaborately decorated Christmas Tree and slowly track out to reveal a comfortably-appointed living room with lace curtains and some tasteful mid-century decor. A little girl enters carrying a gawky little rag-doll, followed by a couple of well-dressed, European-looking parents. The little girl's eyes widen as she notices the cache of toys and dolls that Santa has left for her under the tree.


"Carl said this peyote was really sweet, but I don't feel a thing..."


"...ah, there it is."

Aside from a bunch of small wrapped gifts (the contents of which we will not be shown) there is a cute teddy bear, a lanky giraffe and a pretty little baby doll with a porcelain face.


Yuletide pay dirt.

The little girl takes one look at this delightful assemblage of brand-spanking-new Christmas joy and tosses her little rag doll aside in disgust, leaving him in a crumpled heap by the piano. The fickle little brat then scoops up her three new favorites and holds them jealously to her perfidious breast.

A candle set on one of the Christmas tree branches burns down in time-lapse, bringing us to Christmas night. We see the little girl asleep in bed right there in the living room. It's set atop a raised platform with white shag carpeting directly across from the tree.

By this point I was extremely curious as to where this short film was made. The decor is unidentifiably generic, but the parents' clothing, the fact that the tree was festooned with candles and sparklers rather than electric lights and the bed being in a shared living area all made me wonder whether A Christmas Dream might have been made in Europe. A quick Google search revealed that this was the very first film by legendary Czech director, animator and special effects artist Karel Zeman. He co-directed this film with his brother Borivoj.


"Vanocni Sen" sure ain't no 'Murican talk.

Zeman was a pioneer in stop-motion and miniature effects and important enough to Czech cinema to have a museum dedicated to his work. I've seen quite a few of his other films, including Journey to Prehistory (a.k.a. Journey to the Beginning of Time) (1955), Invention for Destruction (a.k.a. The Fabulous World of Jules Verne) (1958) and Baron Prasil (a.k.a. The Fabulous Baron Munchausen) (1962) and found them thoroughly enjoyable. If you enjoy vintage animation and practical effects his films are definitely worth seeking out.

After watching the U.S. version of A Christmas Dream the first time through I tracked down the original Czech version. It's slightly longer and there are some ostensibly minor differences that make a huge impact in terms of tone and overall quality. I'll point them out as we go along.

The first big change in the U.S. version is that Santa Claus gets shoehorned in, clumsily superimposed by the girl's bedside, ludicrously out of physical scale and nattering on about how sad it is that she's tossed her creepy rag doll away in favor of the new stuff he's presumably just brought her himself. I'm not sure why he would take this rather self-defeating position. If children never grew tired of their old toys they'd rarely need new ones and he'd be out of a job.


Santa suffers deep-seated feelings of inadequacy due to an undiagnosed eating disorder and obesity-related physical health issues. He frequently engages in self-sabotaging behaviors, and routinely blames the elves for his own failures.

Santa decides he's going to use his secret Kringle powers to make the little girl have a dream about her old doll being super fun and cheeky so she'll decide to take him back into her ever-changing, duplicitous heart. In the original version Santa isn't involved at all, meaning it's just her own guilt working on her subconsciously, which I find more effective narratively.

We get a slow zoom into the little girl's face which then dissolves into the dream. She sits up in bed just in time to see the creepy little raggedy bastard come to life, jump up and do a little jig. He tells her "I'm still lots of fun" then Cossack-dances over to the bed and tugs on the coverlet until her three new dolls tumble onto the floor.


"Hi, I'm Chucky! Wanna play?"

The remainder of the dialog consists mostly of the doll telling the little girl exactly what he's about to do just before he does it, saying things like "I can play the piano," and "Now I'm gonna skate for you," and "Peyote's a hell of a drug, let's take some more!" The original Czech version on the other hand offers an experience akin to a silent film, featuring relatively subtle music and no dialog at all. I found this far more enjoyable than the redundant falsetto chatter and bullhorn approach to the music in the U.S. version. Then again I don't like it when a movie explicitly tells me things I can clearly see for myself then musically telegraphs exactly what I'm supposed to feel about those things with the subtlety of an air raid siren mounted to a telephone pole and bolted on the hood of a bulldozer. I'm just quirky like that.

So the spindly little trickster schleps up a magazine rack and onto one of those stools that spin like a lazy susan to make them taller, and he runs on it until it's high enough for him to reach the keys.


He's on a road to nowhere.

Now he plays the piano a bit by dancing and cartwheeling over the keys. If you're already familiar with Karel Zeman it won't surprise you that the animation is remarkably good, though not quite as polished as his later work.

All of Chucky's shenanigans throughout are intercut with shots of the little girl's erratic reactions. Sometimes she stares blankly ahead in a near-catatonic torpor, sometimes she wildly gesticulates in a sugar-fueled frenzy, like she just freebased 20 ounces of Karo syrup.


"I'm winded...jacked out...feelin' dead."


"I'm a windmill! I'm a jackhammer! I'm a drummer for The Dead!"

After his recital Chucky climbs on top of the piano and uses an ashtray as a unicycle for awhile, then the lights dim and a spotlight shines on him as he performs an Olympic-style ice skating routine on the glossy black surface. The U.S. producers cut out the first half of this, jumping straight from Chucky climbing up from the keyboard to the beginning of his ice skating spiel.

The skating sequence ends with Chucky crashing into a basket of yarn, and in his struggles to escape he gets himself wrapped up like a mummy. He manages to stand up, knocking the yarn ball off the piano and straight onto the Teddy Bear's head.

Teddy seems annoyed at first--after all Chucky did pull him off his cozy perch on the bed where he was snuggling with his new pals--but when Chucky calls for help Teddy dutifully pulls on the yarn, eventually un-spooling him and leaving him free to inflict more psychological damage on the bipolar moppet currently decompensating beneath the duvet.


I'd have kept him restrained until the police arrived, Ted, but you do you.

Chucky gets dizzy from being spun around and falls backwards off of the piano and directly onto the giraffe's back. He lands facing the tail end but turns himself around and decides he's going to ride the giraffe around the room.


"Ride the giraffe" sounds dirty.

They don't get far before the lanky quadruped bucks Chucky off, sending him flying headfirst into a shoe. As he struggles to free himself the Giraffe walks over to the base of the tree and starts eating the branches and decorations.


"Don't do it! You'll be shitting tinsel for a week!"

Chucky climbs out of the shoe and tries to pull the Giraffe away from the tree by the tail. Mr. Giraffe doesn't take to kindly to this and starts chasing the little scamp across the room, much to the little girl's delight.

The plush hellion manages to clamber up the front of a bookcase and escape. He prances cheekily over to a photo of the little girl, stares disapprovingly with his little arms akimbo, then very pointed looks back at her, whistles and deliberately knocks it off the shelf onto the floor.




He learned it from watching Tizwin.

Behind the photo he finds one of those old-fashioned desk fans with blades like Arabian scimitars. When I was a kid I always used to wonder why in old movies you'd see paper streamers tied to the grilles, but I now believe it was to warn you the damn thing was running so you wouldn't absent mindedly grab it and lose a finger. I don't know when they started making grilles you couldn't fit your entire hand through but whoever first thought of it deserves a Nobel Prize.

Chucky switches on the fan and points it towards the bed, causing gale-force winds that send the girl huddling with her face against the wall. He then turns it up towards a painting of a three-masted sailing ship and there's a neat little bit where the water in the painting churns and the ship sails away beyond the edge of the frame.




"Thar she blows" sounds pretty dirty, too.

Chucky turns the fan towards a stack of papers which have all clearly been cut from a book and stacked in a neat pile for no other reason than to be blown around the room by the pint-sized, cotton twill Til Eulenspiegel. All hell breaks loose now, with pages flying, curtains billowing and the little girl dancing and gesticulating like crazy King Lear in the storm, waving her arms and laughing in delight at the chaos and destruction she has summoned from her psyche through reckless dabbling in hallucinogens.


"Blow winds, and crack your cheeks...spout til you have drench'd our steeples, drown'd the cocks!" Hehe...Shakespeare said "cocks!"

Chucky makes the mistake of stepping too close to the blast and is blown off the top of the bookcase onto a side table. He loses his footing here, too, grabbing a lace tablecloth as he falls. The little girl sees that he's slowly pulling a vase towards the edge and leaps down to secure it, scooping Chucky up in her arms and kissing him repeatedly as she returns to her now-becalmed bed.


"And I will love him and hug him and kiss him and call him George!"

We see a final dream-shot of the fan suddenly spinning to a halt, then we fade to the little girl still asleep in her bed. As we track away from her and across the floor we see that Chucky is still lying in the heap where she threw him that morning.


"We're friends to the end, remember?"

The Czech version ends with a vertical pan from the girl's face to a sconce lamp above her bed and a fade to black, but the U.S. version dissolves from her face to the low-rent, low-energy Santa Claus, who breaks the fourth wall with a half-hearted "Merry Christmas...Merry Christmas...to you."


He's been on a low-carb diet and his blood sugar is low.

A Christmas Dream actually has a pretty decent reputation and is considered something of a holiday classic in some circles. It even won the Grand Prix for Short Fiction Film at the inaugural Cannes Film Festival in 1946. Now I'm not going to say I didn't like it. I did. It's a corny but enjoyable little trifle with some fine moments but it's ultimately pretty forgettable. All I can say is 1946 must have been a pretty lean year for short fiction films.


The End.


A Time to Remember (1988)

We're all familiar with that old, worn stereotype of the evil, shrewish mother-in-law who makes her daughter's husband's life a living hell, right? Well, thankfully that has not been my personal experience. I won the mother-in-law lottery. The woman is an absolute delight and I'm proud to say she's one of my closest friends. She's full of love, positivity and boundless intellectual curiosity, and at 81 years old she still has a level of vitality that puts those of us who are merely middle-aged to shame.

Being as I was probably already about fifty years old on the day I was born, Mom and I have plenty in common. From our love of Johnny Mathis, classic movies, and old time radio shows to a shared interest in mythology, astronomy and science, we never fail to find something to bond over or chat about. She also loves to cook and I love to eat, so it's quite the symbiotic relationship.

There's one particular thing she is, however that I quite pointedly am not. She's highly religious, more specifically she's a lifelong, deeply devout Catholic, and her faith is one of the central, defining foundations of her life. Faith is a difficult and complicated subject for me, but I can certainly admire it in others if it's honest and genuine. I've never met anyone more honest and genuine in their faith than my wife's mother.

I'm sure you're all on tenterhooks wondering where the hell I'm going with this. The point is my mother-in-law's faith, as good and pure as it may be, indirectly led me to today's absolutely dreadful feature presentation.

There's a cable channel Mom watches called Eternal Word Television Network, founded in 1981 by a Poor Clares Catholic nun named Mother Mary Angelica. The network features both live and pre-recorded daily Masses, readings from scripture, recordings of Mother Angelica praying the Rosary, and episodes of a talk show she hosted until 2001. It also features a Catholic-centric news program and occasional faith-friendly movies.


Mother Mary Angelica looking remarkably like Pulitzer Prize-winning film critic Roger Ebert. If only she'd had his taste in movies.

It was shortly before Christmas, but just after I had finished the last of my 12 Days of Shitmas reviews, that my wife accidentally encountered A Time to Remember, playing on EWTN in the background as she wrapped gifts and helped her mother bake cookies.

When she arrived home that evening she could barely contain her disgust, and for once it wasn't because of me. She breathlessly described in exquisite detail an infuriating cinematic cluster-fuck of terrible acting, horrible singing, dreadful editing and sanctimonious religious cliches. She was shaken and traumatized, ruefully complaining that she had just endured what was quite possibly the very worst Christmas movie ever made.

Of course I had to see it immediately, because when it comes to horrible films my ravenous, masochistic hunger can never be sated.

A Time to Remember did not disappoint, It's everything my wife promised me and so much more, a sort of exponentially inferior inversion of The Jazz Singer (1929) where instead of a Jewish cantor's son the nominal hero is a slight, timid Italian Catholic boy who just wants to sing sacred music and opera-inflected pop like his idol Mario Lanza.

It's the cinematic equivalent of Awkward Family Photos: completely earnest yet utterly misguided, and with insufferable artistic pretensions far beyond the capabilities of anyone involved.

That's a sure-fire formula for Shitmas magic.


Not to be confused with "A Thing that Happened" or "A Day I Once Had."

We open with a syrupy-sweet, bi-lingual Christmas ballad called "Santo Natale," which is sort of like a glacially-paced, soporific Anglo-Italian take on "Feliz Navidad." This aural anesthesia is paired with a bit of nighttime flyover footage of New York City, which first shows first the Brooklyn Bridge then cuts to an absurdly long circling shot of the top of the Empire State Building decked out with festive holiday lighting. I'm just going to assume that this was stock footage or something shot for another film because the rest of this movie is way too cheap to have afforded a helicopter rental for a single establishing shot.

After being lulled to near-unconsciousness by the dulcet tones of this mystery tenor for almost a minute and a half we cut to the exterior of Lincoln Center, that hallowed bastion of art and culture where the best of the best of American entertainers perform for the wealthy, the elite and the powerful. We see a cheesy flyer for a Christmas performance by one Angelo Villano which looks like the title card from a Liberace special from the mid 1950's, with text informing us that Mr. Villano "may indeed boast the best voice since Mario Lanza."


For those of you who have never seen a movie before this is called "ironic foreshadowing."

The song ends with a flourish and the sound of a cheering audience, and we get the first of writer/director Thomas Travers' fruitless grasps at artistic merit.


A creative solution to not being let inside Lincoln Center for a proper shot of the stage.

Now we get the opening credits, set to seemingly endless shots of an enormous Cadillac ambling over the winding, snow-girt roads of the upper Northeast. Travers does an admirable job conveying the tedium of a four-and-a-half-hour drive to New Hampshire with nothing but a broken radio and one easy-listening 8-track tape of "Mantovani and his Orchestra: Music for Tiresome Automotive Journeys." It's uncannily visceral, and by the time we reach the quaint little town of our destination you will feel you have actually made the entire trip yourself.

As the ostentatious luxury barge of a sedan drives through the icy hamlet the camera lingers first on a modest Victorian house with gingerbread trim, then on a quaint gothic church, both of which will figure prominently once we eventually get to the actual story.

The car parks outside a cemetery and we see Angelo Villano himself step out and plant himself in front of a conspicuously fake gravestone bearing his surname.


I kept waiting for it to tremble in the wind but unfortunately it was a calm day.

The pensive crooner stands before the marker, quietly contemplating some reverb-laden dialog from later in the film including his own voice as a child saying "I can do it, papa, I can be a good singer."

As he pulls a prayer card from his pocket we hear a boy soprano singing "O Holy Night," and we get an iris-wipe transition from Villano's present musings to the Time he'll be Remembering for the remainder of the film, starting with a church choir practice sometime in the 1950's.


That Nativity illustration is artsy as shit, but since it serves as more ham-handed ironic foreshadowing it's also shitty as art.


12 year-old Italian boy or 10 year-old Hispanic girl? You decide!

I'm not big on Christmas songs, or Christmas generally, but "O Holy Night" is an exquisite piece of music and probably my favorite song of the season. Unfortunately this kid butchers it with his shaky phrasing, flat tone, and clunky, off-key notes. It's a tenuous, unassertive performance that sounds like he's in his bedroom at 1 am, singing in a half-whisper because he's afraid he might wake his parents.

When choir practice is over the Irish priest, Father Walsh, asks young Angelo to stay behind so he can give him some good news. He tells him that he's arranged a meeting with an opera impresario who's very interested in hearing Angelo sing.

He gravely tells Angelo that God has given him a very special gift, which is a sentiment we are going to hear repeated ad nauseum by various characters throughout the film despite the plainly audible evidence to the contrary. Of all the hurdles this film sets up for itself--and there are many--this is the highest, and the one it fails to clear most spectacularly.

If your entire plot hinges on a child possessing a miraculously angelic voice you need in that crucial role somebody who can really sing, but every time Angelo opens his mouth you want to slap a piece of Gorilla Tape over it. It doesn't help that his acting is somewhere south of middle school quality, and that he can't even convincingly lip-synch to his own unbearable voice.

So Father Walsh tells the kid what an amazing gift he has and cautions him to use it wisely, like it's some kind of Spider Man-style superpower. He says "The voice is like life, it's God's to give or to take."

Have I mentioned that Thomas Travers really loves his ironic foreshadowing?


Father Walsh is played by Donald O'Connor, who seems befuddled by the steep, downward career trajectory that could bring him from his Oscar-nominated, Golden Globe-winning performance in Singin' in the Rain (1952) to pulling an equity scale paycheck in this piece of shit.

Angelo says "I hope that some day my dream will come true, and I will be able to sing like Mario Lanza," which is exactly how 12 year-old boys talked in the 1950's, by the way. Father Walsh sends him off to go play with his friends, and mutters under his breath that gosh darn it he believes that little scamp will sing like Lanza someday and maybe even like the great Enrico Caruso, if he has anything to say about it.

Something absolutely bizarre happens at this point that I have never, ever seen in a film before. Midway through a line of Father Walsh's dialogue, without any context, transition or warning, this movie cuts to the middle of a scene from a completely different movie. It's as if you were watching A Time to Remember on TV and somebody picked up the remote and changed the channel. It's that abrupt.

The footage is black and white and shows what appears to be a young girl singing on the square of some provincial town surrounded by a bunch of smiling 19th century rustics.


At least this one can actually sing.

This scene plays out for an entire minute without any explanation, then suddenly cuts to midway through a later scene from the same film where the girl, whom it turns out is actually a boy, is telling his mother how he lost his job because he was singing instead of working again. The mother tells him "It's alright Enrico, you'll find another job soon."

These are clips from the 1951 Italian production The Young Caruso a film about the childhood antics of the famous opera star, who is widely considered the greatest tenor of all time. Mario Lanza was born just five months after Caruso's death and was thought by some to be his "second coming." Lanza portrayed his predecessor in The Great Caruso, made the same year as the Italian biopic.


Lanza (r) had impressive hair but Caruso (l) wins the day with his magnificent butt-chin.

I can acknowledge that it makes sense in terms of the narrative that if everyone is going to compare Angelo to Mario Lanza they might compare him to Enrico Caruso too, but surely there was a better way to get that point across than clumsily dropping a couple of hacked-up scenes from another, better film into the middle of your own crappy movie. It sullies all involved.

Just as suddenly as it appeared, and once again smack in the middle of a line of dialog (from Caruso's mother this time), we cut back to Father Walsh, who if you piece together his line from before and after the minute and a half long interruption says "God love him, he will sing as good as Lanza, or maybe even Caruso if I have anything to say about it...if we have anything to say about it."

He looks up piously to direct that last bit of dialog to God.


As it turns out God loves shitty editing. Who knew?

As Angelo walks home a trio of neighborhood bullies ambush and pummel him with snowballs, teasing him for spending his time singing instead of doing manly stuff like playing football. Although they're presented to us as antagonists they also serve the insidious purpose of seeding the film with a socially conservative, homophobic subtext that will play out with varying degrees of offensiveness throughout. They accuse Angelo of being a "sissy," which seems a reasonable enough plot conflict given the time and place in which the story takes place, but subsequent scenes will show exactly where writer/director Travers stands on the subject of homosexuality and it's clearly not on the side of tolerance or acceptance.


The bullies also call him "meatball," a little-used racial slur against Italians Travers wistfully recalled from the halcyon days of his own boyhood bullying.

Angelo goes to the big yellow house his adult self drove past during the credits. He hangs up his coat and runs crying to an old lady who's sitting in a big, comfy chair listening to the radio.

This is Angelo's grandmother, played by singer and actress Morgana King, best known for her role as the matriarch of the Corleone family in The Godfather. Here she spends most of her screen time mumbling inaudibly and attempting to hit every "Old Italian Lady" stereotype imaginable. She clutches her rosary, knits in her armchair, talks with her hands, slips in and out of Italian, berates people for not eating enough with the word "mangia," and shakes her head in silent admiration of the curly-headed little grandson who is the apple of her eye. Even her name, Mama Theresa, is about as dime-novel Italian Catholic as you can get.


"There, there Angelo. You want I should make-a-you a nice-a rigatoni?"

Angelo complains that the neighborhood boys and even his dad all think he's a sissy. Mama T comforts him by saying "I don't know what a sissy is but you're no sissy," which is about as useful as saying "I don't know what this 'herpes' is that they're talking about on TV, but I'm sure those spots on your dick are just festive holiday decor."

I cannot adequately express how terrible the dialog is in this film. Angelo sounds like an earnest, weepy drunk, over-annunciating each syllable to try and prove he's sober and Mama T. only barely emotes her responses to him in half-intelligible half-sentences. Several lines are obviously flubbed, which happens at least once every few minutes throughout the film, and all that's really made clear in terms of plot from the entire rambling conversation is that Angelo is a whiny little milksop his Grandma has coddled into an emotionally regressive state of learned helplessness.

Much to my chagrin, the conversation ends with a request to "sing for grandma," so Angelo puts on a record and does a number in Italian called "Mama." It's just like Mario Lanza would do if he were twelve and gormless and utter shit.

It's like one of those mawkish, semi-operatic bits of sentimental treacle they'll sometimes stick in the middle of a Mafia movie to "build character," where some 300-pound gorilla named Fat Tony who you just saw garroting a guy at a bar until both eyes popped out into a martini glass a few minutes ago is suddenly blubbering like a child, mouthing along to the lyrics, shaking his head slowly and daintily daubing his tears away with a gingham hanky.


Angelo loved the Bob Ross home perm kit he got for his birthday that year.

I was gonna make a joke here about how Angelo doesn't look a thing like Mario Lanza but he sure could pass for the youngest member of Menudo, because 35-year-old cultural references to a half-remembered Puerto Rican boy band is the sort of thing that passes for "topical humor" here at Million Monkey Theater.

Well I did a little digging. It turns out Reuben Gomez actually was a member of Menudo, right around the same time as the young Ricky Martin, and roughly a decade before the latter became an international superstar with Livin' La Vida Loca.

Sadly Gomez was kicked out of the band in 1990 when he and band-mate Sergio Blass tried to smuggle marijuana through Miami International Airport by hiding it in the crotches of their jeans.

I know I make up a lot of weird shit for a cheap laugh here, people, but this one is absolutely true.

Angelo finishes his crappy song and hugs his grandma, and we fade to a big house elsewhere in town where an impresario named Mr. Niccoli is talking with Father Walsh about how he will help Angelo. He wears a cravat and says things like "I will work with this young voice, then if it becomes a big voice Rosetti will polish it." Which is odd because there's no one named Rosetti in this movie. He also claims that he's doing all this for the sake of "the voice" and doesn't care at all for money, but the size of the house and the swanky furnishings tell a different story.

Meanwhile Angelo is snooping around in another room looking through some photo albums that just happen to contain pictures of both Enrico Caruso and Mario Lanza.

Walsh and Niccoli finish making their arrangements and come looking for Angelo, who asks the impressario if he really knows Mario Lanza, telling us all again, in case we totally missed the frequently repeated central conceit of the film, that Lanza is, in fact, his idol and how it is, indeed his dream to someday sing just like him.


"We know Angelo. Everyone knows."

Niccoli says he does know Lanza and teases that perhaps someday Angelo might meet him. too.

We cut now to the steel mill where Angelo's stocky, lard-gobbling brute of a father works. His job, it seems, is to sweep up the floor and aimlessly shift ashes arounnd with a shovel while everyone else is doing the really heavy shit, but the music and the lighting make it clear that this is hard, dirty, sweaty labor and the kind of honest, breadwinning man's work Dad is anxious for his son to be a part of.


The lighting really shows off his impressive collection of chins.

Angelo stops by with his Dad's lunch and gets right into his spiel, saying "Papa, I gotta sing!" He tells him how Mr, Niccoli and Father Walsh are going to coach him, but dad insists that what he really needs is a football coach to toughen him up. He tells him he'll never win that bread if all he knows is how to sing, although I can't imagine how dedicating his dainty and delicate 55 pounds of Nivea-scented boy-flesh to football is going to help him earn a living, either.

This scene lays out for us the central conflict of the film, which is that everyone around Angelo except his father and a sadistic trio of pre-teen hooligans thinks he's a once-in-a-generation vocal talent sanctioned and marked for stardom by Jesus himself. Dad flat out opposes his singing, and thinks the priest and the Grandmother and the impresario are all conspiring to make his son a sissy. The movie half-heartedly attempts to portray the Dad as a decent, hard-working single parent with a limited worldview but an honest desire to do what's best for his son, but the subtext that emerges again and again through his dialog, and what he is in fact most afraid of, is that singing is going to somehow turn Angelo gay.


I hate to break it to you, Dad, but that ship has already sailed.

That's the constantly reinforced purpose of all the "sissy" talk throughout the film, and because it's being passed through a conservative Catholic lens Travers and company must go out of their way to insist Angelo is merely a sensitive child because he's so gosh-darned gifted. In fact the word "gay" is never uttered, because to the audience for whom this film was made homosexuality is a Godless horror that dare not even be named.

Most people seeing this today (not that I'm endorsing it) wouldn't care less if Angelo ended up being queer or bi or questioning or non-binary or voluntarily living in a closet in someone's basement, zipped up in a submissive gimp suit waiting for his feeding time. The central dissonance of the film is that we're given a character who is plainly gay but then we are implicitly yet clearly told he cannot actually be gay because Thomas Travers' belief system casts homosexuality as having no moral, biological or cultural legitimacy, as something that is enacted on a person by sinister external forces rather than representing who a person really is.

As part of Dad's hopeless efforts to force Angelo to "butch up" he gives one of those "these hands" speeches. You know the kind. He attempts to explain the dignity of manual labor to a kid who is constitutionally incapable of picking up a wrench or getting a dollop of grease under his fingernails. Even the most brick-headed viewer can see this is a lost cause, but the movie has a whole lot of pain yet to inflict on us before Dad comes to realize it himself.

Hey, remember what I said about Awkward Family Photos? Well we now we get an 35-second transition shot of Angelo walking home in slow-motion with still images of his sad, mopey mug superimposed over it. It's a cinematic variant of that one "artistic" print you'd get with every set of class photos your parents ordered when you were growing up.


It's like a Leo Sayer album cover come to life.

Now we have a scene in the local malt shop, because we can't have a film about a singing kid set in the 1950's without a scene or two in a malt shop. Angelo laments his shitty relationship with his dad to a girl who's meant to be his girlfriend and who's doubtless been included just to reassure all the Catholic moms in the audience that Angelo isn't going to eventually become some burly Latin sugar daddy's live-in boy toy.

She's so perfunctory to the plot her name isn't even mentioned onscreen for another forty minutes, so I'm just going to call her Angelo's Beard.


Here she is, wondering if Angelo will ever try to kiss her. The answer is no.

Beard insists that Angelo should have Father Walsh talk with his dad and smooth things over for him, but Angelo insists that Dad just too thick to listen. She responds "you're making a federal case of it!" which, oddly, didn't come up when I Googled "popular tween catch phrases of 1951."

The scene concludes with Beard telling Angelo that even if his dad puts the kaibosh on his singing career he's not allowed to hate him because he's still his father. I'm pretty sure only half of that statement is true.

We cut to the church rectory where Angelo is having his final private lesson with Father Walsh. He's just finishing up a song called "Christmas Can Be Every Day" which was written by Donald O'Connor himself some decades before. It genuinely hurts watching O'Connor pretend Angelo's doing a bang-up job of it when he's obviously dying a little with each and every note.

Father Walsh tells Angelo how much he's going to miss working with him now that Mr. Niccoli will be teaching him, and Angelo confides that Dad wants him to play football instead of taking lessons. He says he's afraid Dad might eventually forbid him to sing entirely. Walsh declines to intervene, telling him "If the good Lord wants you to sing, he'll make your father understand," which is kind of a boss-level cop-out, actually. I'm maybe a little impressed.

There are so many things in this film to make you genuinely pity Donald O'Connor, but the worst of them is the absolutely skin-crawling moment now where Angelo reaches out and caresses the priest's cheek, staring at him longingly and asking "why do you love me?"


It's "all over icky," as The Great Gabbo would say.

Okay...I know back in 1988 we didn't know quite so much about the Catholic Church's complicity in protecting pedophile priests as we do today, but still...hell no! This is disgusting no matter when this film made. I have to wonder if Thomas Travers had something he was trying to work through here, because otherwise why would he even think to write this? Why would anyone think to write this? It's incredibly uncomfortable to watch and poor O'Connor looks like he'd rather be stuck in the Amazon having his flesh torn off his bones by a swarm of pirhanas than looking up into this kid's face and having to pretend any of this is normal or acceptable.


Stop looking at me like that, Angelo. Seriously. Stop.

Now Father Walsh tries to break the tension by singing the entirety of "Christmas Can Be Every Day," and Angelo moons at him like a love-struck teenie-bopper and places his hands gently on his shoulder. I suppose the song is an improvement over anything we've heard Angelo sing, but the creepy dynamic happening as Father Walsh performs it is so distracting it's hard to focus on anything else.

Now we cut to Dad and Mama T eating dinner, and Dad's being pissy because Angelo is off having his singing lesson. Mama tells him if he doesn't let Angelo sing God is going to punish him for it, which may seem a bit over the top dramatically, but were in Thomas Travers' twisted world now, so it's safe to assume that Dad will eventually forbid Angelo to sing and God will literally punish him for it.

Dad tries to make a case for what is, to the audience at least, an easily discernible reality: this kid is clearly no Mario Lanza. It's as plain as a brown paper wrapper, and Dad being the only one who notices it makes me wonder if he's the only major character in the movie who doesn't have some degree of hearing loss.


I'll bet he's wishing he had some hearing loss right now, though.

This and many subsequent scenes just rehash the same conflicts and themes we've already seen multiple times without adding anything new or pertinent to the plot. This variation ends with Mama getting upset and Dad storming out in a huff.

I'm beginning to think Angelo is actually supposed to be the Devil in disguise, come to Earth in the form of a child to sow conflict and discord throughout the rustic hamlets and burgs of snowy New England.

Next up is another endlessly drawn out transitional shot, this time of the town's main drag, replete with an old-fashioned movie house marquee featuring a certain film about a certain singer starring another certain singer, both of whom may have been mentioned once or twice earlier in the film.


These names can never be hammered into our heads forcefully enough.

Dad sulks along the avenue, stopping here and there to look at window displays, and in one of these he gazes yearningly at a couple of football helmets. Give. It. Up. Man. This image dissolves into a cheesy montage of Mr. Niccoli giving Angelo his daily lessons while poor lonely Dad brings home a Christmas tree and shops for presents alone.

Dad comes home one evening with an armful of parcels and asks Mama where Angelo is. She tells him he's at his lesson but will be back soon, and Dad mumbles under his breath yet again that all this singing stuff has to stop. This time he means it.

Dad bursts into Nicolli's house and demands that Angelo immediately get his coat. He tells Niccoli that he's taking Angelo home to "make a man out of him" and that "singing is for sissies who sit around pianos with nice clean hands."


That's not so much a homophobic dog whistle as a homophobic dog alphorn.

We cut to Mama T sitting despondently in church, telling Father Walsh all about Dad's oh-so-butch, spittle-flecked assholery. She begs the priest to talk to him, to try to knock some sense into his triple-chinned, sissy-hating head.

The editing is bad throughout, but particularly horrendous in this scene. Although there are some two-shots of Mama and Father Walsh together, there are also indications that other parts of the scene were shot separately with only one of the actors present and possibly even from different drafts of the script. It's a wildly disjointed exchange. At one point it cuts jerkily to Mama T earnestly saying "God's gift!" but the utterance has nothing to do with what preceedes or follows it. It's as if Travers put on a blindfold, cut up a ten minute scene into little pieces then pasted it back together leaving eight minutes on the floor.

After much confusion Father Walsh manages to shuffle the mumbly old windbag out the altar door, and we cut back to the movie Marquee, because it's just so nice we get to see it twice.


Just to be clear, that's MARIO LANZA and ENRICO CARUSO.

Angelo and the Beard are standing in the ticket line to see the movie, probably for the eight-hundreth time, and Angelo makes a point of telling us, definitely for the eight-hundredth time, that someday he's going to sing just like his hero Mario Lanza. Beard suddenly gets the bright idea that if Angelo could just get his Dad to see this wonderful movie he'd suddenly see the error of his ways, realize that singers are valued members of society and that not all of them are sissies. Maybe then, she says, he'd let Angelo start taking lessons again with Mr. Niccoli.


"Girl, you must be trippin'."

Angelo decides to try it, so he skips over to the bar where his dad likes to go for a drink after work, just on Fridays, you understand, and just one or two, or maybe four or five when he's really strung out from a long, hard week of shoveling ashes and worrying that his son might be gay.

Dad is not happy to see him there, insisting that a bar is no place for a child. I don't know what that's all about. I grew up in the 70's. By the time I was two or three my dad was dragging me out to bars with him two or three nights a week. Sometimes he'd even leave me there by myself for the weekend. Never did me any harm.

Angelo stammers that he just wants to talk, but Dad says if it's about singing business he can fugeddabout it. One of the derelicts there shouts "Let the kid sing," and soon all of the drunks are joining in, urging and cajoling and slobbering until Dad has no choice.

Angelo steps over to a crusty-looking fugitive from the old accordionists' home and whispers a title in his ear. Sadly it's "Mama" again. If he's going to realize his dream to sing like his idol Mario Lanza someday he's probably going to have to expand his repertoire a bit.

It's an even worse performance than last time, but the drunks are all really into it. It's glaringly obvious that the extras were just told to act like they were hearing music without actually having anything played to them, because not one single person is swaying or tapping their hands on the tables to the same tempo as anyone else, and not one single person's movements match the funerary pace of Angelo singing.


This guy doesn't even know where he is, let alone what he's listening to.

During the song Dad looks about as comfortable as a chicken at a fox convention. He fidgets, looks furtively over his shoulder, checks his non-existent watch repeatedly, stares into his empty shot glass and tugs anxiously at his collar for a verse or two, when suddenly Father Walsh shows up and the room goes silent.

Walsh asks Dad what's going on and Angelo tries to explain how he came in looking for his Dad, but then everyone there wanted him to sing, because everywhere Angelo goes people justhave to hear him sing. The kid spreads his aural love around town like glitter at a drag convention.


A priest, a hispanic boy and a steel worker walk into a bar...

If you guessed that Father Walsh and Dad were going to have the same fruitless discussion we've already seen between Dad and Angelo and Dad and Mama T, and Mama T and Angelo and Angelo and Father Walsh and Father Walsh and Mama T...well clearly you've been paying attention to the review thus far and I thank you.

Father Walsh takes off back to the rectory and finds another priest sitting at the piano. This is Father Halloran, played by the legendary Irish folk singer Tommy Makem in one of only three acting roles he had in his entire career. It's impossible to overstate Makem's importance in helping to disseminate Irish and Celtic traditional music across the globe during both his solo career and decades-long collaboration with Liam Clancy and the Clancy Brothers. How he ended up in A Time To Remember is a mystery, but he's the only thing worth watching in the entire production, adding a couple of decent songs and giving a fully believable performance that elevates the film whenever he appears on screen.


He's a beacon of hope in a murky haze of sanctimonious manure.

On a side note, if you have never experienced live Irish folk music in a crowded pub you have deprived yourself of one of life's greatest joys.

So Father Halloran has come to help Father Walsh through the holidays, and being a couple of music lovers they immediately get to talking about the choir and Angelo and Angelo's voice and Angelo's father and I can't help but think that this may be the thinnest I've ever seen a plot spread over the surface of a movie in my entire life.

Father Walsh offers Father Halloran a glass of whiskey, but doesn't join him, confiding "I abuse the privilege." So we can add "Irish priest with a drinking problem" to the movie's growing list of offensive stereotypes.

Father Walsh encourages Father Halloran to repeat the song he was playing as he entered, and Makem sings his own lovely composition "Sing Me the Old Songs." The performance is something of a rarity as it's a song that's far more familiar to folk fans through recordings by other artists. Sadly there's no isolated video of this scene online, and I'm certainly not going to link to the whole movie because that would just be cruel, so instead here's Makem's most famous song instead.

Unfortunately we go straight from what is easily the highlight of the movie back to the malt shop where Angelo pops a nickel in the juke box and sings Beard an evil song written by evil people specifically for this evil movie. I won't even tell you the name of it because I'm afraid if I say it out loud it might crawl through my mirror and murder me in my sleep.

Thankfully the three bullies arrive to spare us all the horror of a second verse. When one of them pushes Angelo into a chair, Beard gets all mama-bear angry and pours a milk shake over the perpetrator's head.

Angelo meanwhile runs away like a frightened rabbit, straight out the door and into the street, directly into the path of an oncoming car.


Actually he nudges himself gently against a car that is clearly parked and the noise of a wrecking ball hitting a concrete bunker is dubbed in, but you get the idea.

By an astonishing coincidence Father Walsh chooses this exact moment to have a near-fatal heart attack.


He'll do anything to get out of this movie and more power to him.

So now we dissolve to a hospital corridor where Mama T is berating Dad, saying this random accident that Angelo caused himself by running headlong onto a busy thoroughfare is somehow all his fault and that this, at long last, is God's punishment for not letting Angelo sing. I'm not sure why God also decided to punish Father Walsh with a coronary, and punish the driver with the guilt of hitting a young pedestrian, and punish Beard with the lasting trauma of seeing the boy she loves get whacked out cold by a Buick, but as they say, He works in mysterious ways.

The argument between Mama and Dad devolves into another "sing or no sing" litigation, and eventually a grandiose doctor who thinks he's playing Hamlet stops by to tell them Angelo "took a good pounding" but that he'll be up and about in a few days. The Doctor lets Mama in to see Angelo but stays outside to speak with Dad.

Mama tries to comfort Angelo by assuring him he will be able to resume his choir singing and private lessons with Mr. Niccoli, something she has no reason to believe and no authority to decide. She doesn't understand why Angelo isn't speaking to her and becomes absolutely frantic when he indicates that because of the accident he has completely lost his voice.


Hallelujah! It's a Christmas miracle!

We cut to another of Travers' patent-pending uncomfortably long establishing shots, this time of Mama T's house, shown at dusk while a not-insignificant chunk of "Carol of the Bells" plays in the background. We cut to Angelo's bedroom, where Dad tucks him in for the night and has a wavy flashback to that time a few weeks back where they were playing in the snow together and he impulsively tried to strangle his son for the insurance money.


Good times, golden memories.

The following day we see Dad absent-mindedly arranging and rearranging some little "Christmas Village" figurines at the base of the Christmas Tree. The doorbell rings, and Dad answers to find Mr. Niccoli.

Niccoli comes in and Mama T tells him their tale of woe, that Angelo is very sick, never comes downstairs, doesn't speak to anyone and will never ever sing again. Please, God. Let it be true!

Dad, after a half-assed apology for bursting uninvited into Niccoli's home and essentially calling him a "faggot" to his face, explains that there's nothing physically wrong with Angelo, but that they're going to have to drive to the city to see a psychotherapist after the holidays in the hope it might somehow help him regain his voice, and maybe they'll get him some of that conversion therapy they've heard the preachers talk about on TV.

Niccoli suggests they take Angelo to see Father Walsh. He informs them that the Father has been extremely ill since his heart attack, and posits that it might do both of them a great deal of good to see each other. He also leaves them a gift he's brought Angelo and asks them to tell him that he hopes to see him again very soon.


"I would also like to continue his indoctrination into the gay liberal agenda, with your permission, of course."

Mama heads upstairs and gives Angelo the gift, which turns out to be a photo of Mario Lanza autographed and with a personal message to his young fan.


What a relief! No one had mentioned him for awhile and I was beginning to wonder if the film was starting to lose its focus.

The gift doesn't restore Angelo's voice, but it does rouse him off his lazy, malingering ass long enough to go see Father Walsh, who's become a bedridden shell of his former self. He apologizes for not being able to come to see Angelo in the hospital, but says he has a present for him. It's the little prayer card we saw grown-up Angelo holding in front of his father's grave at the beginning of the film. Father Walsh explains that he was born on the day after Christmas, and that his dear old mother gave him this prayer card on the day he was ordained a priest to remind him of his own birth and the birth of the Lord.


The plot may be thin but the schmaltz is mighty thick.

Father Walsh makes Angelo promise to help Father Halloran as much as he can over Christmas. He puts his hand on Angelo's meatball perm he thanks God for letting him "share in this precious boy's gift." Then he whispers to Angelo "Why do you love me?" and keels over dead.


Thomas Travers, you've got some issues.

We dissolve to Father Halloran fulfilling his duties with the choir. He gives a genuinely sweet and comforting little speech about Father Walsh's passing, then tells them he he's taught them the particularly happy song they've been practicing because he wants them to focus on the joy that Father Walsh is now experiencing as a Godly man gone home to heaven. That song is "A Place in the Choir" by Bill Staines, an American folk singer-songwriter with a career spanning almost six decades. It's a well-known and well-loved composition in folk music circles, and it's a welcome change from the dour goings-on we've been subjected to for most of the past hour.

The choir sings it about as well as you'd expect, but Makem takes a couple of verses solo and for a brief moment he really brings the movie to life.

Then sad-sack Angelo shows up again and it all goes back to shit.


When Angelo goes walking by smiles fade and babies cry.

Father Halloran figures the mood has pretty much been shot, stabbed, drowned, hanged, poisoned and dumped in a ditch by this point, so he tells the chorus to take a break while he puts Angelo to work down in the rectory basement. His job will be to unpack and clean up one of those tacky painted plastic Nativity sets American Christians love to decorate their lawns with from November to January each year. It doesn't seem like a big job, but Angelo makes a conpicuous show of taking off his coat, carefully rolling up his sleeves and rubbing his hands together before he even starts, so it looks like he's planning to make a full day of it.

Back upstairs Father Halloran gets the choir practice up and running again, but they're not at it very long before they're interrupted again, this time by a woman with news of a parishioner whose just been rushed to the hospital with a heart attack and who's probably going to need last rites.


She delivers her lines like she's reading them to her half-blind, half-deaf husband off a distant billboard somewhere in New Jersey.

As Father Halloran exits to fulfill his priestly duties we see the three Bullies put down their missals and sneak out of the church. Despite spending the entire film heaping shame and disparagement on Angelo for singing in the choir, it seems they actually sing in the choir themselves.

The miscreants sneak over to the basement door and wedge a plank of wood under the doorknob, essentially locking Angelo in, then they head back into the church and shut out all the lights.


If he fled in terror from a spilled milkshake this'll probably render him catatonic.

Night falls, and we see Angelo sitting on the basement steps, whining and whimpering helplessly in the dark. The dim light of a distant street lamp struggles to penetrate the grimy window at the top of the basement wall, managing to just fainly illuminate the Nativity.

Suddenly the light turns bright as a sunny spring day and Angelo turns his head to see a heavenly, radiant vision of Mother Mary, vacantly staring with pious indifference somewhat in his general direction, but perhaps just slightly past him to his left.


"Help me Obi-Wan Kenobi. You're my only hope."

Let's not forget our old pal St. Joseph, because he's there, too.


Or it might be Kris Kristofferson from 1975. It's kinda hard to say.

Of course no miraculous, life-changing vision of the holy family would be complete without Baby Jesus himself, so here he is, looking mighty Caucasian, and wondering just what the hell he's doing in the middle of this God-awful film.


When I learn to talk my agent's gonna get an earful."

So they all stare awkwardly at each other for awhile until finally Angelo reaches down and picks up Jesus in his swaddling cloth. As he holds the Baby he's encircled by a bright, heavenly aura, and glycerine tears of ecstatic joy moisten his cheeks.


As it turns out Baby Jesus is radioactive. Who knew?

Father Halloran finally gets back to the church rectory some hours later and finds Dad there, anxiously pacing and awaiting his return. Dad explains that Angelo hasn't been home and Father Halloran realizes the choir boys might have left him in the basement. They run to the door, frantically remove the plank and run down the stairs...to find Angelo peacefully asleep on the floor between Plastic Mary and Plastic Joseph, clutching Plastic Baby Jesus in his arms.

Father Halloran looks down at the boy's peaceful slumber and says "Look at that! That is Christmas! That's what it's all about!"


I respectfully disagree.

Oh, and remember how the three Bullies turned the basement lights off from up in the church? Well Father Halloran turns them back on via a switch at the top of the stairs, so dumbass, lazy Angelo could have turned lights on himself at any time if he weren't so busy blubbering in the dark like an emotionally stunted little snowlake.

So we cut to the Christmas Eve service the following evening, and the church is absolutely packed with grim-faced townsfolk dressed in their holiday finery, listening to their cranky stomachs and trying to decide what they're going to eat for lunch when the service is over. Of course Mama T, Dad and Angelo are there, too.


How'd they score front pew seats?

As Father Halloran gives a spirited retelling of the birth of Christ, Angelo's attention is instinctively drawn to the Nativity display he had helped to prepare the previous day.


That's an awful lot of hay.

I know what you're all thinking. "Pshaw, Bradley! I'm not impressed by just one miraculous spiritual vision. Anybody might have one of those just walking down the street, squeezing the avocados at the grocery store to see how ripe they are or getting a hot oil massage at a Turkish bath."

Well, that's all fine and dandy folks, but what would you say if Angelo now had another miraculous spiritual vision, exactly the same as the first, but about five times as long and right there in the church on Christmas Eve?


He's totally pinned, dude. There must have been some peyote left over from A Christmas Dream.

Father Halloran completes his Homily and the vision continues, and he gives his Christmas blessing and the vision continues, and the organ begins to play and the choir stands up, and the vision continues. It's a very long vision, and Angelo just stands there frozen in a hallucinogenic haze, wearing his natty little bow tie and looking like the world's least appealing ventriloquist's dummy.

With his gaze still locked on the Nativity set Angelo slowly rises, and just as the choir is about to begin singing he opens his stupid mouth and out comes "Ave Maria."

Everyone--the choir, Mama T, Dad, Father Halloran, Mr. Niccoli, some guy behind Mr. Niccoli who might be the mysterious "Rosetti" who was gonna polish Angelo's voice if it became big, and all the other people who happen to be in the church--stares in tearful wonder at this great miracle, this God-granted restoration of Angelo's God-given gift effected on the eve of our Savior's Birth.


There's about five solid minutes of this.

Then we get another cheesy iris-wipe to the pivotal prayer card in grown-up Angelo's hand and see him still standing in front of his father's grave.

He gazes wistfully out across the cemetery and we get a series of misty-eyed flashbacks of scenes we didn't like the first time around and certainly aren't interested in seeing again. These conclude with Father Walsh's declaration to God that Angelo will sing like Caruso and Lanza "if we have anything to do with it."

God, for his part, had a jolly good laugh then went about his business.


The End.

I found some footage of Mother Mary Angelica's EWTN talk show, Mother Angelica Live!, where she interviewed Thomas Travers about A Time to Remember. She used it as a rhetorical example of the wholesome, faith-friendly, God-fearing entertainment Hollywood was just toot afraid to make, while at the same time using Martin Scorcese's The Last Temptation of Christ (1988) to demonstrate mainstream cinema's alleged anti-Catholic agenda. She even went so far as to assert that Scorcese's film was "made to destroy people's minds," while praising Travers' film as an attempt to uplift people and spread God's word. The more she ranted about it, however, the more obvious it became that she had never seen either of the films she was discussing.


Pray, tell me again how Martin Scorcese destroyed my mind, Mother Angelica.

A Time to Remember is an almost unbearably cheap, amateur and simple-minded bit of sentimental fluff that says far more about Thomas Travers' unresolved personal demons than it does about faith or Christianity. The Last Temptation of Christ on the other hand is an artfully made, beautifully acted and deeply philosophical meditation on the central sacrifice that forms the very foundation of the Christian faith. I've always been slightly bemused by the way conservative and evangelical Christians have persistently demonized it without even bothering to watch it, simply because they were told to do so, while at the same time rapturously fetishising Mel Gibson's The Passion of the Christ, a shallow piece of torture porn masquerading as religious art, simply because one of their own directed it.

Gosh darn it, it's almost as if they're afraid of anything that makes them think critically or challenges their beliefs.

In conclusion, that's why when it comes to priests, I prefer Jesuits.

As always, Cheers and thanks for reading!

Written by Bradley Lyndon in June, 2020.

Questions? Comments? Expressions of disgust? Why not skip the middleman and complain to me directly?



comments powered by Disqus

Go ahead, steal anything you want from this page. That's between you and the vengeful wrath of your personal god.