Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale

"If you see only one fiendishly bizarre Finnish film about an evil Santa Claus and his naked band of marauding elves this holiday season, make it Rare Exports: A Christmas Tale. - Rotten Tomatoes Review

Last night, TG and I went to see this quirky little film called Rare Exports: A Christmas Story.  Our 2 year anniversary was Friday and we wanted to go see something but nothing was grabbing our attention: We'd already seen Tangled and Harry Potter, I didn't want to see Black Swan, neither of us had any desire to see Unstoppable or Burlesque and we weren't sure about The Tourist.  That left Rare Exports.  

So we watched the trailer and read the synopsis and really couldn't figure it out.  Was it a spoof?  Were they making fun of action or horror movies?  Was it based off something or was it an original screenplay?  All the lines seemed campy and forced and it seemed like a big joke.  My only real dealings with Scandinavian film was Ingmar Bergman's The Seventh Seal starring Max von Sydow and the MSTK ribbing of Sampo or The Day the Earth Froze, so I was a little skeptical.  I kept thinking, "It'll be filmed in some cold place, it'll make little sense but I'll leave feeling like I should have learned something about my place in the universe."

No way, José.  Rare Exports takes itself very seriously and yet brings with it the charm and humor you find in every day life.  It's not forced or practiced, it seems very real at times.  At others, it seems like something Guillermo del Toro dreamed up.  From the opening with the harmless geological survey team to the fiery explosion at the end, the film builds suspense and emotion meticulously but leaves you feeling raw and exposed as though you were in the cold and in the dark.

The story begins with the owner of a mining company being shown by the lead geologist that a core sample has come back with sawdust.  In the old days, you would keep ice frozen by covering it in sawdust.  (To me this was hilarious as the film takes place within the Arctic Circle.  Who has trouble keeping ice frozen there?)  So what was being frozen under this giant mountain?  The owner of the company knows, but he's not telling anyone just yet.  It turns out, he believes that Santa is being kept in some kind of icy prison and he's going to dig him out.  Things go awry when something falls into a local man's wolf trap, however, and young Pietari is forced to face his fears about a real life Santa who steals children.

Santa Claus as depicted by Macy's and Coca-Cola has only been around for some 60 or so years, but it's based in some older legends from Northern Europe, specifically the Lapland region of Finland.  Santa, or Joulupukki, lives  not at the North Pole, but on Korvantuturi Fell; a place from which he can hear all the children from around the world.  The name Joulupukki means "Yule goat" and Pietari sees a lot of images of Santa with horns or with a goat head.  Rare Exports has its roots in Finnish Yule traditions but doesn't linger.  The bleak landscape immediately makes you tense, waiting for something to jump out.  There's talk of Russian wolves and there aren't any women in the film.  You get the feeling right away that something isn't right, but you don't know what and the characters don't know either.  You and Pietari and his dad and the potato farmer and the reindeer hunter all find out together what's been buried in the mountain.  And it's not even what you think.

We missed the opening night at the Alamo where you could get your picture taken, holding weapons, next to a grizzled old Santa in a cage.  Instead we saw The Chronicles of Narnia: The Voyage of the Dawn Treader (which gets my vote as among the top longest movie titles.)  It wasn't bad, better than the second, but it was maybe unfairly discounted as not being the movie we'd intended on seeing.  And now that I've seen Rare Exports, I feel right in saying it's the better of the two.

It's not a kids movie.  It's not a first date movie.  It's not a feel good Christmas hit.  If you like movies that are surprising and exceptionally made, I would highly suggest it.

Carry on.


Lego Lego Lego

LUG Showcase 2010 Austin
Originally uploaded by xadrian.
I think some folks may get tired of all the photos and posts I do about Lego, but that's what my life is about right now. And it's in Austin, hence the title.

Moving along.

This little scene wasn't built entirely by me. In fact, the only thing built by me was the big read truck. Another TexLUG member, Will Heron, built the winter wonderland. Tiger Lily helped with the big tree on the front and we spent an evening at Will's making trees and ensuring all the components worked together.

It's now on display in Barton Creek Mall's Lego Store. The Lego Group has restarted its community program by allowing a showcase of models by area LUGs (Lego User Groups.) Tiger Lily is also contacting them to see if UTLUG can participate as well.

We've still been buying Lego as often as we can afford it. Gas and food and some bills come first. I try to find deals on Craigslist but some times it's hard not to go to that store and buy something. We've got boxes of brick to sort and I have a feeling we'll need bigger bins very soon.

That aside, the family is still holding together Ms. A and her lady friend are still together and seem to be having a lot of fun being around each other and are both graciously involved in the other's life and activities. I have my time split between P-ville and TG's place in Austin but I do get most of the weekends with LMA and G-man which is nice.

Individually there have been some problems. G-man officially has been diagnosed with asthma. He also has some boy part problems that have made both Ms. A and I really question our skills as parents. It was something we didn't know about and don't remember our pediatrician ever talking to us about. Needless to say it's something he'll again grow out of, but in the mean time there's antibiotics and steroids involved.

LMA is still trying to skate, but the darkening days means the outdoor practices have all but stopped. The new league is, honestly, floundering and hasn't secured either a good place to practice nor enough people to warrant its continued operation. That's my opinion and I'm sure it'll try to pick up again after the holidays. In the mean time, she's taken up knitting. Her grades have been stellar this semester and that coupled with her improved attitude and responsibilities, should result in a pet fish all her own soon.

Ms. A suffered a concussion last week and has been unable to function. She had accidentally hit her head and spent the next day and a half with some classic symptoms. Unfortunately, her history of migraines really prevented anyone from seeing that and it was a few days before she went to the doctor. They did a CT scan yesterday and the tech was unable to give her a diagnosis. However, they didn't call right away which is good news, or at least news that there isn't major trauma. She's not allowed to drive or go to school which sucks because it's finals. Hopefully she can talk to her professors and work something out.

TG is also nearing the end of the semester and indeed the end of her time at UT. All her courses are now senior level. It's unknown yet whether she'll go to UT for her graduate studies or if she'll go right away. There's talk she might move back to Louisiana to finish that out, which would mean a bit of travel for us back and forth.

I have to get some drawing done soon. I have a few portraits to get done as well as this year's Christmas card. I have no idea what to do with it so it could be anything. Suggestions?

Hope everyone had a happy Thanksgiving and was able to get most of their shopping done. I hopefully have a five year bonus coming that will be used for that and fixing my car. (That's my holiday gift to myself.)

Carry on.