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A "Christmas" Full of Cheer

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  • Rob
    Indian Comics Irregular #131 Back in 2002, I wrote about Christmas in the Clouds, a Native-themed movie then still in production. I described it as a
    Message 1 of 1 , Dec 6, 2005
      Indian Comics Irregular #131

      Back in 2002, I wrote about "Christmas in the Clouds," a Native-themed
      movie then still in production. I described it as "a low-budget,
      high-quality independent film with its heart on its sleeve" and noted
      its strong reception among Indian people:

      At venues such as the National Museum of the American Indian
      and the National Indian Gaming Association, audiences have
      cheered the movie's celebration of Native humor and compassion.
      "Christmas" shows Native people as they see themselves:
      contemporary, self-reliant, enterprising.

      (You can find this article at
      http://www.bluecorncomics.com/pechanga.htm .)

      Now that it's finally finished, "Christmas" is appearing in selected
      theaters nationwide. It has a unique fundraising model, with part of
      the proceeds going to school districts that book it. Writer/director
      Kate Montgomery deserves praise for persevering and getting her movie
      made.

      Meanwhile, here's what critics are saying about the first Native movie with no overt political agenda. First, the setup:

      "Christmas in the Clouds" pokes fun at stereotypes through a
      tale of mistaken identity, tribal enterprise, bingo and true
      love. The plot focuses on the Ute tribe, which runs a luxury
      ski lodge in Utah that desperately needs to stay in business.
      The enthusiastic lodge manager, played by Tim Vahle, goes into
      overdrive trying to impress one of the lodge's guests (Mariana
      Tosca), who he believes is an anonymous travel writer from New
      York. (Mercury News, 11/12/05)

      The Pretty Good

      I wanted to hate Christmas in the Clouds.

      Not only because it is a Christmas movie, but because as the
      story unfolds there are no surprises: You will see the end
      coming roughly three minutes into the picture. Everything that
      happens is predictable, from the pairing up of young lovers to
      the mistaken identity that drives the plot. All tired, old
      stuff.

      Yet the film has two things that redeem it: It's genuinely
      funny and it has heart without the obvious calculation the word
      "heart" usually means in a Hollywood film. Its heart feels
      genuine because the characters in the film feel like real
      people, not cardboard cutouts making plot points. (Arizona
      Republic, 12/2/05)

      The Not-So-Good

      Reason enough to root for the film's success is given in the
      production notes. Montgomery said she chose to go the
      independent route after studio executives told her to rewrite
      her script and "lose the Indians." Instead of kowtowing to the
      pressure, Montgomery stuck true to her vision.

      Maybe she should have taken the advice on a rewrite, though,
      not to change the ethnicity of her characters but to smooth out
      the many rough edges and insert some snappier gags. Her film
      too often seems like an amateur production, likable but not
      compelling.

      "Christmas in the Clouds" consists of mistaken identity
      screwball nonsense, slapstick gags and yawning sentimentality.
      The feel is close to that of a weeknight sitcom, with jokes
      that seem as though they should be accompanied by a laugh
      track. (Arizona Daily Star, 12/1/05)

      Conclusion

      "Christmas in the Clouds" may not be destined to be as beloved
      as such classics as "A Christmas Story" or--dare I say its
      name?--"It's A Wonderful Life," but as holiday-themed,
      family-friendly entertainment goes, "Christmas in the Clouds"
      is an enjoyable, spunky little holiday movie. (Santa Cruz
      Sentinel, 11/4/05)

      As for me, I agree with all of the above. I rate "Christmas" a decent
      7.5 of 10. For more information, visit
      http://www.christmasintheclouds.com .

      Rob Schmidt
      Blue Corn Comics
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