Wednesday, December 15, 2010

Some Favorite Christmas Entertainments

Some things I eagerly anticipate every Christmas:

Die Hard
Never was I happier than last year, Christmas 2009, when I came home from doing our final Christmas Eve service (probably around 11:45pm) to find my family wrapping presents and just starting Die Hard in my living room. Nothing puts me in the mood more than hearing Run-DMC starting "Christmas in Hollis" as De'voreaux White exclaims, "This IS Christmas music!" And then, of course, brilliance ensues. Villains are villainous, heroes are heroic, and the Nakatomi building is saved. Just the way Jesus would do it.

"The Night of the Meek" - The Twilight Zone
As a child, we'd watch this episode of the classic TV show every year, as we tried to put needle and thread through popcorn...a tough job. In the episode, a laid-off (and alcoholic) department store Santa comes across a bag of gifts lying in an alley. Moved to give the gifts, he is as happy as he's ever been until they're gone. Depressed again, he slumps back into the alley...where elves and a sleigh await. They say that they've been waiting for him, and that they've got a lot more work to do. He is Santa Claus. The act of giving has, in fact, turned him into the ultimate gift giver! Just a hugely comforting childhood memory, and a reminder that a laid-off drunk can be the recipient of the greatest gift ever. You can watch the full episode HERE.

A Christmas Story
An obvious classic. And one I'm protective of. I watched this every year as a kid, sometimes more than once. I sort of hate the fact that everyone knows and loves this movie. It's mine! I feel the same way about Monty Python and the Holy Grail...I can't watch either with people who will quote along with them...they're sullying my childhood! But, whatever the viewing situation, nothing is better than Darren McGavin shouting, "Not a finger!"

A Christmas Memory
A story by Truman Capote, this is a sweet little Christmas tale. Capote narrates, and is wonderful. Again, just a warm memory from my own childhood. Mismatched misfits care deeply for one another, and commiserate over terrible Christmas presents: socks.

Bushfire Moon
Seen on U.S. TV as "Miracle Down Under," this is another little-seen classic from my childhood. Man, Christmas really brings back the childhood memories, doesn't it? Could you guess that this is a Christmas movie set in Australia? Where Christmas happens in the SUMMER? It's just crazy enough to involve dingos, an authentic yule log shipped all the way from England, and a full helping of familial warmth.

Year-End Lists
One of the most entertaining things about the Christmas season is reading other people's year-end lists. My favorite so far is The A.V. Club's 15 Worst Films of 2010. Enjoy!

Sheltering from Christmas Music
And finally, maybe my favorite entertainment of all comes the day after Christmas (Boxing Day to you Brits) when I can finally turn on some regular music and escape the repetitive droning that is Christmas music without being called an insufferable Scrooge. Happy Holidays!

What are your favorites?

Friday, December 3, 2010

Thoughts on Some Scary Movies

I watched The Strangers the other night...very scary. I tend to not be afraid of monster/supernatural horror movies...I'm more afraid of things that might happen to me. That said, as I made the list below, there is an embarrassing supernatural horror movie on there. Oh well. Anyway, below is a list of movies that have scared me, either in the theater, or walking home afterwards...

Three home invaders terrorize a young couple in a rural home. That's it. I think the movie goes a little far with what people could actually do (at one point, we see the boyfriend get physically touched on the shoulder while leaning into his car in the driveway, and when he turns around, no one is there...) but it's scary as heck. We never see the villains' faces, even when they take their masks off to make the final kill. The girlfriend asks, "Why are you doing this to us?" And one of the home invaders, almost puzzled, responds..."Because you were home." Jeez...

Sort of a funny one. I saw this in my campus movie theater while in college, and really enjoyed it. It's not particularly scary, although it fits my "Things-That-Could-Actually-Happen" Corollary. It wasn't until I was lying in my bed late that night that I started to get scared. It's a little embarrassing to be afraid of Skeet Ulrich and Matthew Lillard (although not the most embarrassing thing on this list...) but I couldn't help myself. Freaky kids with no compunction? Scary.

I talked about the Blair Witch in my Greatest Movie Villains discussion. This movie is scary. If you can handle the shaky-cam business, which I blessedly have never had a problem with, this one will make your hair stand on end. It's just three kids lost in the woods...and scary stuff starts happening at night. Aren't we all already afraid of this? Also, this movie has one of the greatest endings of all time. Even years after seeing it, I would RUN from my car to my apartment if I got home too late at night. And this was when I lived in the desert. But hey, maybe the Blair Witch is a snowbird.

Okay, this is the really embarrassing one. Scared by Neve Campbell, Robin Tunney, and Fairuza Balk? Well, Fairuza Balk maybe. But the idea of four sexy teens who accidentally get wrapped up in the truly dark arts is just too humorous to be scary, right? I mean, the unintentional comedy potential is huge. But when the lights came up in the theater, and I tried to stand up and leave, I realized that my legs ached...from my muscles having been clenched THE ENTIRE TIME. It's the Me, Myself, and Irene Corollary: You must trust your body when judging a movie. I didn't think I particularly liked Me, Myself, and Irene when I saw it in the theater, but as I walked out, I realized that my face hurt from smiling for 90 minutes straight. Must have liked it, right? So The Craft? Must be scary.

Now, I know this is not supposed to be a scary movie. In fact, quite the opposite. It's a triumph of the human spirit. But the idea that a competent, intelligent family man can end up homeless...that's something that I (hopefully irrationally!) worry about all the time! When we find Will Smith sleeping in a San Francisco subway station, that's just as scary as when Tom Skerritt turns around in the ventilation shaft and the alien is right there. And I'm terrified I wouldn't have the resourcefulness (like a great phone manner and the ability to solve a Rubik's Cube in five minutes) that Smith needs to get back on his feet. Triumph of the human spirit? Hardly. Abject terror? Definitely.

So what scares you?
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