Perfect Moments: My favorite Christmas Moment

Because of the Christmas holiday, I’ll be taking a break from posting until January 3rd. But before then, I’d like to share my favorite Christmas related media. It’s not a movie or a TV special, but – of all things – a commercial for Directv.

While Christmas traditions revolve around giving gifts, celebrating the birth of Jesus, and many festivities, the one aspect of the holiday that often gets overlooked is the wish for peace on earth, and goodwill to all.

Imagine a world where there’s no evil or war. A world where everyone – including villans – are at peace with themselves and each other. It’s a dream that only gets more beautiful the older I get… but one that I know will almost certainly never happen. But thanks to this silly commercial, we can have a glimpse of what such a paradise might look like, where Darth Vader, Jason Vorhees, Freddy Kruger, Dracula, The Mummy, Chucky, Hannibal, and the girl from ‘The Ring’ celebrate Christmas with an ordinary family.

Is it cheesy? Yes. Is it goofy? Oh heck yes. There are other movies and stories that are more emotional, more heartwarming, and that inspire us to be grateful for all the wonderful things in our lives, including our loved ones. But this commercial shows us a world where peace, love, and goodwill reign, and everyone – including the most despicable of people – have turned to the light, and that’s why it’s my favorite piece of Christmas media.

Well, that, and seeing this once-in-a-lifetime image:

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(GIF from this page)

May you all have a wonderful and heartwarming holiday season.

Perfect Moments: Fighting with Gabe Logan

 

Once in a while, you come across a moment in a story that is so perfect that it stays in with you for years, or even a lifetime. These are moments that, in my opinion, are flawless; perfect gems of storytelling that cannot be improved in any way, and are a joy to treasure and revisit again and again.

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The Video Game:

‘Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain’ (skip to 8:36 to reach the relevant part)

 

Why it’s perfect:

‘Syphon Filter: The Omega Strain’, while ambitious in design, is, at best, a mediocre game since its release in 2004, due to the lack of an online mode, frustrating trial-and-error gameplay, and a story that has the unenviable task of extending a series that ended perfectly at the end of the previous installment. However, it does have one segment at the end that makes the game worth playing: The player character fighting side by side with series hero Gabe Logan.

When I was growing up and playing video games, Gabe Logan was my favorite gaming character, beating out the likes of Mario, Sonic, Solid Snake, and so many other video game mascots. I played through all three games of the original Playstation One trilogy, so, when I finally played ‘The Omega Strain’ years later, I was looking forward to seeing how the series had continued. Unfortunately, I wasn’t that impressed, due to the limitations mentioned above. Still, I trudged on, creating a digital version of myself to help fight the reformed Agency’s villains and save the world, trying to find what fun I could.

That is, until the final level.

Near the end of the final mission, I ran into a terrorist base to help stop the nuclear destruction of Russia. It’s a pretty standard mission, with plenty of running, gunning, and dying over and over again, but then something happened that made me pause the game to stop the sudden surge of my inner child screaming with glee: my in-game self was face to face with Gabe himself, who needs my help to save the day. And when I had calmed down enough, I unpaused the game and experienced gaming bliss: Gabe and me running through the base, blowing away terrorists in a fight to save millions of innocent lives.

I was fighting side by side with my favorite videogame character, and to this day it remains one of my favorite videogaming moments.

One advantage video games have over all other forms of storytelling is that they give the player to chance to actually interact with their favorite characters, but player-created characters doing so is extremely rare; the only other time I can think of it happening is ‘Sonic Forces,’ but ‘Strain’ remains special for me. I tried playing the ensuing sequels after this one, but didn’t like them, and thus, ‘Strain’ remains the series finale of the Syphon Filter franchise for me, if only for the final level. I began the series as an impressionable teenager guiding Gabe Logan in his quest to defeat the agency, and I finished the series fighting side by side with him, a treat that no movie, book, or tv series has ever come close to duplicating.

Perfect Moments: ‘Combat Rangers!’

Once in a while, you come across a moment in a story that is so perfect that it stays in with you for years, or even a lifetime. These are moments that, in my opinion, are flawless; perfect gems of storytelling that cannot be improved in any way, and are a joy to treasure and revisit again and again.

***

The Video:

Fedex’s ‘Combat Rangers’ commercial.

 

Why it’s Perfect

There are some moments in media that beg for deeper explanation, moments that causes us to pause and think deeply on why they move us, prompting lengthy soul-searching in an attempt to better understand ourselves and our desires, our frailties and vices. From such deep prompting, growth and understanding can result, and possibly even enlightenment as we come to understand our place in the cosmos, and what we can do to contribute to it… Or we can just laugh at the sight of muscular toy soldiers going into war wearing tutus and wedding dresses while wielding handbags and umbrellas.

I remember watching this commercial as a kid back in the mid 90’s; back then, I had little comprehension of shipping, manufacturing, and the unseen side of the retail industry, but I didn’t care, as I thought the Combat Rangers were hilarious. Over twenty years later, they still are, and this remains one of my favorite commercials for its use of humor to illustrate what could happen if a mistake is made in shipping goods from overseas. Most of that humor comes from the sheer absurdity of warriors charging into battle wearing attire and weapons so inappropriate it’s absurd, making it an excellent example of ‘fish out of water’ comedy that I love so much: Someone or something taken into a situation that they have no experience or business being in, and doing their best to make it work. In this instance, men dressed in women’s clothing, yet still charging into battle.

To take this idea to it’s logical extreme, imagine how ridiculous, yet hilarious it would be for any modern war movie to have it’s soldiers wearing wedding dresses into combat. ‘Hunter Killer’ may have gotten triple its box office revenue if Gerard Butler and the Navy SEALS were wearing pink ballerina outfits as they battle to save the Russian president. It would be a comedy goldmine.

The very best commercials stay with you years after you’ve seen them, and long after their products have left the market. ‘Combat Rangers’ easily earns its place among those hallowed ads… and I have to confess, that squishy mud sound effect six seconds in never fails to make me laugh.

Perfect Moments: Korn’s Special Powers

Once in a while, you come across a moment in a story that is so perfect that it stays in with you for years, or even a lifetime. These are moments that, in my opinion, are flawless; perfect gems of storytelling that cannot be improved in any way, and are a joy to treasure and revisit again and again.

***

The Show

‘Korn’s Groovy Pirate Ghost Mystery’, a ‘South Park’ episode where the band KORN teams up with the kids to solve a groovy pirate ghost (ghost pirate?) mystery.

The Moment

Why it’s perfect

In South Park’s 21 year run, it’s produced countless funny moments, but none have made me laugh harder than seeing KORN turn into actual corn to fight pirate ghosts. It comes out of nowhere, adds nothing to the story, but is so funny that it’s stuck with me since I first saw it back in 1999. The question is, why? I’ve spent years trying to figure out why seeing KORN turn into corn-related products is so funny, and I think I’ve figured it out:

*It is completely unexpected, with no foreshadowing beforehand.

*It takes place during the climax, so the audience is fooled into believing that something amazing is going to happen.

*What happens is so pathetic and ineffective that even the characters in-show are dumbfounded, including the villains.

In other words, the unexpected is presumed to be amazing, but fails so hard that everyone, including villains, are dumbfounded. This comedic formula could be applied to any situation and it would be funny:

*Luke Skywalker activates his X-wing’s special ability during the Death Star Trench run, and the craft turns into a shark balloon.

*James Bond, during a final fight with a villain to save the world, activates a suit of nano-armor that Q gave him, only for it to create something that looks like this, and has no fighting abilities whatsoever.

*In a bid to stop Godzilla from destroying Tokyo, the military sends out and impressive looking mech bristling with death-dealing weaponry. Problem is, it’s actually only 6 feet tall, and useless against Godzilla, who promptly crushes it.

What’s the takeaway here? When our heroes are facing the big bad of a story, having someone use a useless power/ability to try and save the day can – if pulled off well – be hilarious.