Warning: this post contains content that non-nerds probably don't give a crap about
November 17 marked the fortieth anniversary of the worst film of all time. "What?" you may be saying. "'The Emoji Movie' isn't that old!" No, I'm talking about "The Star Wars Holiday Special". What can I say about "The Star Wars Holiday Special" that I or someone else hasn't already said? Just that I arranged a viewing of it and had one person show up, who said that it fully lived down to his expectations and that he might make all his friends and family watch it. This was my fourth or fifth viewing, but my first time with the commercials included, which certainly spiced it up. I learned, for example, that Tobor is robodT spelled backwards and that pantihose with real panties in them are superior to pantihose without real panties in them. The version without commercials that I watched last year has been removed from YouTube for a copyright violation. Why anyone gives a crap about a copyright violation on a film that hasn't been broadcast or released in any format in forty years is beyond my comprehension, as is the fact that the version with commercials was allowed to stay up. But I downloaded the non-commercial one last year so I still have both.
My favorite part is still Bea Arthur's big musical number in the cantina, but my favorite part to show someone else was of course the part where virtual reality Diahann Carroll makes it seem like the film is transitioning into a bizarre Wookiee porno. Neither of these scenes make much more sense in context than in the previous sentence. Also, he said that the Jefferson Starship scene gives him hope that the crappy music playing on the radio today won't be remembered in forty years. "Jefferson Starship has two good songs," he said, "and they went with this one instead." As I said to him and as I've probably said elsewhere before, it really is amazing that this film didn't kill the Star Wars franchise in its infancy. Make no mistake, the film is far worse than anything Disney has put out, yet "The Last Jedi" and "Solo" have somehow done more damage. It's the darndest thing.
The Legend of Zelda franchise has its own version of the Holiday Special - three terrible third-party games for a forgotten piece of hardware called the CD-i that resulted from Nintendo backing out of a deal that led to Sony developing the Playstation and becoming its primary competitor. Nintendo doesn't have as healthy of an attitude about these games as Lucasfilm does about the Holiday Special. While the Holiday Special has informed several other Star Wars projects, especially those involving Wookiees, including "Revenge of the Sith" and even the upcoming TV series "The Mandalorian", Nintendo wants you to forget that the CD-i games exist. They are absent from official sources like The Legend of Zelda Encyclopedia even though it includes a section on non-canon spinoff games, and "Spirit Tracks" was advertised as the first time you could play as Zelda even though she's the protagonist of two of these three. The first one came out the year I was born and had its twenty-fifth anniversary sometime this year that I can't be bothered to look up. But that's not what I came here to talk about.
Ocarina of Time, widely regarded as the greatest video game of all time, turned twenty on November 21. Conveniently I was at my grandparents' house for Thanksgiving and they have a copy and I celebrated by playing it as much as possible. That's where I was introduced to it in the first place. Let me back up: I was introduced to the Legend of Zelda franchise via an ad in the back of a Super Mario Advance choose-your-own-adventure book that I got through the school book order in second or third grade for another choose-your-own-adventure book based on Oracle of Seasons. Of course, this being the first time, I viewed it through fresh eyes that I never could again. "Legend of Zelda"? Zelda was a person's name, so it was Legend of some person. Who the crap was Zelda? What was this about "Link's latest quest"? That made little or sense to me, since Link isn't a name. I didn't give it another thought until we went to visit my grandparents and on the way we stopped at my mom's friend's house and I watched my mom's friend's kid play Majora's Mask.
So I still didn't know who Zelda was or that the little guy I saw running around mostly as a Deku Scrub was named Link, but I saw what the franchise was and so the mystery I didn't really care about was solved. And more to the point, I was entranced by the fascinating world, plot and characters. I had so much fun just watching my mom's friend's kid play, and that obviously indicated that it was a darn good game. So when we got to my grandparents' house, and my aunts (they're twins) who I guess technically own the Nintendo 64, or maybe it's one of their brothers' (my uncles'), I forget, asked if I wanted to use it, and I asked if they had any Legend of Zelda games and they said they did have one, and though I didn't know it at the time, it happened to be the best one. It also happened to be the rare original release with some glitches and details that were almost immediately changed (e.g. the atmospheric Muslim prayer chanting in the Fire Temple). Since I wasn't allowed to have a Nintendo 64 and could only use this one for two weeks every two years, I spent every second I could playing it. On Sundays when I couldn't, I pored impatiently over the Strategy Guide.
The second thing that struck me about this franchise was how unapologetically weird it was. Why were chickens called "Cuccos"? What the crap did "Deku" mean? What was an ocarina? It's originally based on medieval Europe, but I didn't notice that. I saw it as just a pure one-of-a-kind fantasy land. It's interpreted through a Japanese lens and evolved beyond its roots and it's got words and creatures and mythical elements with little or no basis in medieval Europe. The weirdness was a huge part of the appeal for me. I was a weird kid who thought outside the proverbial box, and this world matched. I still have that attitude and it extends to Tingle, a character who in Japan is loved but in the U.S. is the Legend of Zelda franchise's version of Jar Jar Binks. I don't understand the hate at all. He's weird. So freaking what? I don't escape into fantasy worlds because I want to make small talk with boring people. Sure, I'd keep him away from my children if he existed in real life, but this isn't real life. That's the point. Tingle isn't in this game, but he made his debut in Majora's Mask, so that's kind of still relevant.
Again, I don't want to recap stuff that's already been said about how groundbreaking and influential Ocarina of Time was on its own franchise and video games as a whole. That can hardly be overstated. Some people will say that the game is overrated. Those people are wrong. True, it's obviously a product of its time. The vast and expansive game world of 1998 is small and linear in 2018, some of the graphics now look like they were drawn by a seven year old, and the tinny MIDI arrangements of Koji Kondo's impossibly good music pale in comparison to almost any orchestration or cover version. None of these things, in my judgment, make it any less enjoyable (and the graphics were vastly improved in the 2011 3DS remake anyway). I'm sure the fact that I was able to play it within a few years of its release helped me see it the way it was intended. I rarely find Navi annoying and I think most people who claim to are just regurgitating what they read on the internet so people will like them. I do concede that the Water Temple is a massive pain in the butt (though it was vastly improved in the 2011 3DS remake anyway).
Two polar opposites - the worst film and best video game ever. But I'm grateful that they both exist. In closing, here's the best song from "The Star Wars Holiday Special" (among not many options) and the best song from Ocarina of Time (among literally dozens of strong contenders). May they keep bewildering and entertaining us, respectively, for decades to come.
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C. Randall Nicholson
This is where I occasionally rant about life, the universe, and/or everything. I'm a white cisgender male and a Latter-day Saint, so you can hate me without guilt, but I'm also autistic, so you can't. Unless you're an anti-vaxxer, in which case the feeling is mutual.